Loyola University Chicago

Quinlan School of Business


The business behind football's big game

The business behind football

"It’s not about who is throwing the pass; it’s about the marketing and the operations of the sporting event," says associate professor Keith W. Lambrecht, PhD. (Image: Getty Images)

By Adriana Geday | Student reporter

With this year’s championship football game around the corner, what are some of the things football fans and commercial lovers can expect to see?

Keith W. Lambrecht, PhD, associate professor and director of Quinlan’s Sport Management program, discusses prominent trends surrounding the big game and the direct impact politics will have.

What are the new trends in 2017?

The first is the commercials. This year, companies are more competitive than ever, attempting to buy the best slot to air their commercials. The cost of a 30-second commercial is between $5 and $5.5 million, so it has doubled since 2007.

However, there’s another side to that question. Commercials this year don’t seem to be as important to fans as in years past, and I think that has a lot to do with the political arena right now. In the last 5 to 7 years, commercials were released prior to the game on the Internet so companies could gain exposure for their brand.  This year, there is access to only a limited number of commercials before the game.

Companies are not airing the commercials ahead of time, but are spending more in hopes that fans will tune in to see them on game day. I believe the delay is because of the presidential election and the issues happening around the country and world. People seem not to be as involved in football this year, especially if their team is not involved in the game.

There seems to be a disconnect between the price of attending a game for the average family or FCI (Fan Consumer Index) and what an average American can afford. Game tickets are becoming more and more expensive and may not be an option for average fans.

Another interesting trend is the NFL’s strategy to market towards women. This has been a trend for the past few years, where commercials are targeted to women and attracting them in order to increase viewership of and attendance at football games.

What marketing/advertising challenges does the NFL face this year?

One of the big issues this year is the relationship between politics and sport. Viewership of the game is expected to be down this year. It has becomes even more of a challenge to get people involved due to the political situation.

There are two main fan scenarios. First, the avid football fan who either loves the sport or whose team made it to the championship. In this case, the fan is likely to tune in and watch the entirety of the game and its commercials. Scenario two is the more casual fan may be more interested in what’s going on elsewhere. This is someone who is more likely to be switching from the game to the news for updates on what’s going on with protests and other news headlines.

One of the challenges the NFL is facing this year is walking the politically correct line while not upsetting or offending their conservative fan base. That’s got to be a tough job.

Why should the business and Quinlan communities follow these trends?

Sports is big business. The sport industry is over a $489 billion industry and the 4th largest growth industry in the U.S. It is part of the entertainment industry.  

As educators and students, we need to understand the “business behind the game.”  It’s not about who is throwing the pass; it’s about the marketing and the operations of the sporting event. Students and business professionals can find many career opportunities in the field of sport management, but they need to understand the latest trends in the business of sport. 

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