Unexpected Brand Partnerships Touch Down For NFL’s 100th Season

The National Football League’s centennial season just touched down and with it a bevy of activations from brands new and returning are rolling out. This year, 32 sponsors and licensees are launching experiential activations and social initiatives including Pizza Hut, Oakley, Roc Nation and Bud Light. Ahead we’re spotlighting the largest brand partnerships of the football season so far.

Roc Nation

A newcomer to the NFL brand partner roster is Roc Nation, the Live Nation-owned music label that rapper Jay Z is signed to. The NFL announced a long-term partnership with Roc Nation before the start of the season, naming it the league’s official “live music entertainment strategists.” Roc Nation will consult on artist selections for NFL tentpole performances, including the Super Bowl, and help create and distribute music across music streaming services for a variety of initiatives including a potential live visual album.

Roc Nation is also helping the NFL launch a new social enterprise, its Inspire Change apparel line, available later this year. The new phase of the initiative will help fund programs of NFL platform “Inspire Change,” which was created to help players and owners support various education, police-community relations and criminal justice reform initiatives. 

Additionally, the partnership will also produce “Songs of the Season,” a season-long initiative that showcases musicians and their work via NFL promotions and digital streaming platforms worldwide.

Pizza Hut

Back for its second year of NFL sponsorship and the official pizza sponsor replacement for Papa John’s, Pizza Hut has created an interactive collect-and-win game called “Hut Hut Win” that runs all year and gives fans the chance to win over 10 million instant prizes including merchandise, trips to the Super Bowl, Draft Weekend tickets and more. To enter, fans must spend five dollars at Pizza Hut then head to the site to register for the game. The more virtual game pieces fans earn—a total of 32, the number of NFL teams—the higher their chances are for scoring grand prizes. Pizza Hut is engaging consumers by asking them to vote via the brand’s Twitter poll on one of three NFL-related prizes, which will be up for grabs in the Hut Hut Win sweepstakes.

“The first year of the partnership helped us increase awareness and reach more fans across the country, which was a big priority for us. This season, we’re making our partnership with the NFL work harder for the everyday fan, bringing them closer to the game as possible. We’re looking forward to continuing the momentum we started last year by bringing this partnership to life and delivering unforgettable, unexpected fan experiences all season long,” Marianne Radley, chief brand officer, Pizza Hut, told AList.

Additional immersive prizes include making pizzas with Pizza Hut NFL player partners such as making pizzas with Juju Smith-Schuster at Pizza Hut global headquarters, unlocking an escape room with Tyler Lockett and having a ping pong pizza party with Pizza Hut’s newest brand ambassador, Aaron Donald.

Pizza Hut will also highlight its player partners in four new television spots airing this season.


The most unexpected activation of the football season has to be Oakley’s four-year partnership as the NFL’s official on-field partner and licensee. Oakley will provide all 32 teams with its shields and eyewear, and for the first time in history, players will have the option of wearing Prizm Clear shields, which were engineered to provide more color, contrast and clarity for detail recognition on the field. The product is highlighted in a 60-second video spot Oakley created from the point of view of players during a football game. Oakley has produced football shields for helmet for more than 20 years.

To celebrate the partnership, Oakley hosted an event at Times Square where the center’s giant billboards went pitchblack before displaying a video spot showing New York Giants players followed by the announcement that Oakley is now a partner of the Giants.

Fans can also rep their favorite teams with the new customizable NFL eyewear collection from Oakley, available for all teams in two men’s styles and seven teams in one women’s style.

“There is obviously a tech and player safety component to the deal which makes for great storytelling, and Oakley has made investments in athletes and teams before as that is their sweet spot. What the ROI on the consumer side will be is in the future; they inserted themselves into a narrative on player health and innovation which, in addition to their logo, will drive great awareness,” sports and entertainment marketing consultant Joe Favorito told AList.

Bud Light

Bud Light is teaming up with the Cleveland Browns football team to open a pop-up store in Cleveland called “B.L. & Brown’s Appliance Superstore” that sells Bud Light Victory Fridges. The fridges created a local pandemonium last year when Bud Light installed them in bars around Cleveland. Now the company is selling a limited number of various-sized fridges, ranging from $200-$600, on September 3 and 4 from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

WWE pro wrestler and Browns fan, The Miz will star as the pitchman in an infomercial about the appliance pop-up that began airing on Cleveland television August 30.


Longtime partner of the New England Patriots, Dunkin’ is giving DD Perks Members added incentives for using a Dunkin’ card or mobile ordering. On the home opener night, September 8, members will receive six times the points, or 30 points per dollar spent—as opposed to five—on any hot or iced coffee. Through the 2019 season, DD Perks Members will also earn twice on any size hot or iced coffee when paying via Dunkin’ card or mobile app ordering. The promotion will be valid at participating Dunkin’ locations in the Northeast. 

Anheuser-Busch InBev

The NFL recently adopted new guidelines on alcohol sponsorships that allow beer brands who partner with teams to use images of players to advertise their products. That includes NFL beer sponsor Bud Light and also extends to brands who have existing team relationships or wish to establish one. The updated policy could be one reason why craft breweries owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev have created branded beers with teams this season such as the Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams, Denver Broncos and others. Still, brands are barred from using the likeness of active players for these beers.


To launch its 17th consecutive sponsorship of the NFL, Pepsi launched a campaign called “Always Be Celebrating.” Activations include a national television ad that features dynamic animation elements and touchdown celebrations, and the introduction of the “Pepsi Cause for Celebration” program. For every touchdown, Pepsi will donate funds equivalent to 100 meals to the team’s local United Way Worldwide.

Jersey Mike’s Subs

Now through November, Jersey Mike’s is going on a 14-week college tailgate tour across the country with a branded trailer placed in high traffic locations on college campuses. Fans can enjoy a free sub sample when they download and show the updated Jersey Mike’s app or sign up for the newly launched MyMike’s rewards program. The pop-up tailgate party will feature an outdoor lounge area where guests can play lawn games, enter giveaways and use the custom Snapchat geofilter.  At each event, tailgaters can enter to win four tickets to a football game scheduled for 2020 including airfare for the winner and up to three guests.

“Because of the unique 18 game structure of the NFL, brands that invest are usually about big spend, big engagement. It’s not a place on a national level for small budgets with the expectation of a big ROI. It is much more structured in terms of assets and access than the other big five leagues in North America, but if you can find the niche, and the narrative that makes sense to cut through the clutter, the voraciousness of the fan base can be a big win,” Favorito added.

Amazon Lures Ad Dollars Away From Duopoly With New Social Ad Measurement Update

Amazon announced updates to its Amazon Attribution console, an advertising tool brands use to attract consumers via Amazon marketplace. The new addition offers advertisers a click-based solution to measure the impact of social media ad campaigns based on consumer discovery and research. 

Brands that sell products on Amazon have utilized the Amazon Attribution since it launched in beta last year. The console enables on-demand access to conversion reporting on sales attribution and return on investment (ROI), making it easier than ever to receive and analyze metrics on and ongoing basis. With streamlined access to sales impact analysis, brands can optimize their full digital media portfolio and live campaigns.

The recent social ad measurement update allows marketers to understand shopping impact across search, social, email, display and video media. The in-app tool will give brands insight into how shoppers are buying their products on Amazon.

In addition to enabling social measurement, Amazon is introducing bulk operations for Google Ads, which simplifies the tag generation and implementation process for these ads. Through Amazon Attribution, brands can automatically produce up to 100,000 attribution tags when they upload a single file with campaign information. After generating the tags, brands can download a file that contains all tags, reducing the time necessary to set up Google Ads campaigns.

Amazon Attribution launched with limited availability to vendors in the UK earlier this year, thereby now giving access to both the UK and US.

Prior to the Amazon Attribution update, the company’s advertising platform released a new directory in the US to help marketers discover agencies and tools that offer a range of advertising specialties. The “find-a-partner” directory offers two categories, managed-service providers and tool providers.

Amazon’s behavioral data offerings give direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands even more incentive to shift ad dollars away from Google and Facebook. Despite their revenues growing, the combined share of the duopoly dropped this year, according to eMarketer. Amazon’s US ad business is expected to grow 50 percent this year, with its share of the US digital ad market reaching 8.8 percent. 

In a new study, “Amazon Will Disrupt The Advertising Ecosystem,” Forrester predicts that Amazon’s explosive growth in 2018 will cause steeper demands from clients of the duopoly, as reported in Forbes. Forrester also sees consolidation of the ad tech landscape as one result of Amazon’s force. 

Excessive Notifications Are The Primary Reason People Delete Apps

Smartphone users are multiplying but that may not improve brands’ chances of engaging with their customers given that apps are being deleted at a dizzying rate. Today, the primary reason people delete apps is that companies send excessive and irrelevant notifications, according to a study from Leanplum.

To win the hearts and wallets of consumers, brands must adopt an omnichannel strategy, one that prioritizes convenient and seamless communication with its customers. Yet brands are struggling to find the balance between keeping their users informed and ensuring they don’t over-communicate. More than 75 percent of millennials and more than half of baby boomers and Gen Z delete apps that annoy them with unnecessary notifications. 

To counter this, the research indicates that brands must be mindful of the number of notifications they send while also considering the time at which they communicate with customers. About two-thirds of respondents said they have a preference for when they receive notifications, though the findings are split between the morning, afternoon and evening. 

The data also shows that users who consistently disregard notifications find that financial and social media brands send the most useful notifications. Among a list of popular brands, respondents considered Facebook, Wells Fargo and Bank of America the best communicators via apps. Over 30 percent of those surveyed said they like to receive notifications for financial alerts and 87 percent said they don’t mind financial app push notifications.

Still, the survey revealed that email is the most-liked communication from brands across generations. Forty-six percent of people said they prefer notifications in the form of email while only 15 percent prefer push notifications. Moreover, 43 percent of millennials want to receive emails from brands compared to 28 percent of Gen Z. As for the type of companies people most likely open emails from, the majority selected messaging companies (54 percent) and financial emails (41 percent). A separate Survey Money study spoke to email’s good reputation among consumers when it revealed that in the past 12 months, 65 percent of people said they used email to communicate with organizations, compared to 60 percent the year prior.

“At Leanplum, we know that everyone has a personal preference on how they’d like brands to engage with them,” said Athena Koutsonikolas, vice president of marketing, Leanplum. “As evidenced by the survey results, there are even specific differences among demographics, including preferences on timing and frequency for email, in-app and push notifications. Brands that ignore these differences will ultimately not be able to engage with and retain their customers.”

From Airbnb To TwentyFirstCenturyBrand With Alexandra Dimiziani

During this episode of “Marketing Today,” I interview Alexandra Dimiziani, co-founder and global managing partner of TwentyFirstCenturyBrand. Dimiziani’s previous career experience includes working at Airbnb as first the head of EMEA marketing, based in London, and then as the brand’s global marketing director in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dimiziani’s prior role at Coca-Cola was as global creative director for still beverages, new products and corporate social responsibility based in Atlanta and then as the marketing content director for Northwest Europe and the Nordics. Dimiziani talks about how her career has benefitted from shifting between advertising and marketing, as well as among other pursuits and interests like working in Rwanda and Burundi, getting her masters in investigative journalism and writing a novel that led to death threats.

Dimiziani discusses graduating from university at the young age of 19 with a bachelor’s in business administration and working at the ad agencies Bozell and DDB. She learned about extreme poverty while backpacking by herself through Ecuador, East Africa, India and Southeast Asia. Her trip also helped her gain global awareness and compassion for underprivileged communities, which coincided with her own feelings of being an outsider. Dimiziani shares the vast commercial marketing-meets-community responsibility insight she learned and applied while at Coca-Cola, Airbnb and most recently while launching TwentyFirstCenturyBrand.

We talk about how she is driven by personal growth and regularly tests her own limits. She also discusses the advantage gained by standing out from the crowd and being a lateral thinker because she’s had such varied real-life experiences. “I believe that the most innovation truly occurs in this sort of mash-up of insight and understanding across subject areas,” Dimiziani shares. 

Why do companies need a tight brand narrative centered around purpose? “So, the world understands why it needs the brand. It’s also how consumers know how to hold the brand accountable. So when that narrative goes out into the world and is molded, rightly so, by the community, it is still recognizable.” 

Finally, we discuss TwentyFirstCenturyBrand’s most popular offering called the ‘brand blueprint.’ This, she notes, is “what a brand aspires to stand for in the hearts and minds of its communities. And that result is a brand narrative that unites the vast and various stakeholder communities, from consumers to employees, partners and investors. It also acts as the foundational reference that helps the workforce make better, faster decisions that deliver on-brand consistently.”

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • When Alexandra Dimiziani isn’t advising brands, does she work as a C.I.A. agent? (01:38)
  • Alexandra introduces herself and her early work experience. (03:12)
  • What was the novel about that Alexandra wrote?  (08:50)
  • What inspired her move to Coca-Cola? (09:25)
  •  Alexandra discusses moving to London to get her degree, meeting her husband and joining Airbnb. (10:56)
  • How was Alexandra shaped by getting her degree at 19? (14:28) 
  • In what ways does Alexandra take strength from her variety of experiences? (17:55)
  • What did she learn while working for Airbnb? (21:45)
  • How did TwentyFirstCenturyBrand get started and what does it offer? (29:28) 
  • What are the values of TwentyFirstCenturyBrand? (38:32)
  • Is there an experience in Alexandra Dimiziani’s life that has defined who she is today? (43:43)
  • What advice would she give to her younger self? (46:23)
  • What fuels Alexandra to keep going in her career and life? (47:40)
  • Are there brands that she thinks we should pay attention to? (48:35)
  • Where does Alexandra see the future of marketing going? (51:07)

Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on opportunities around brand, customer experience, innovation and growth. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies, but he is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine startups.