NFL Network content will reach twice as many mobile users, which could benefit regular advertisers like Under Armour.
The National Football League's signed Verizon as its new wireless sponsor, nearly doubling the league's potential mobile audience reach compared to what it had with previous sponsor Sprint.
Verizon's 91.2 million wireless customers towers above Sprint's 48.1 million, according to the companies' Q4 statements. In addition, Sprint has suffered significant customer attrition over the last year.
"We had talked to Sprint, the incumbent, but went in another direction," said Brian McCarthy, spokesperson for the New York-based NFL. "[Consumer reach] was part of it, as was the marketing commitment and the philosophy to help push our content even further."
A Sprint representative told KansasCity.com, the Web site of the Kansas City Star, that cost was a big factor. The new deal ends a five-year exclusive relationship between Sprint and the NFL.
While the relationship officially begins April 1, it will kick off in earnest a few weeks after that, during the league's college draft event - an annual TV ratings winner. The NFL Network's draft coverage from New York's Radio City Music Hall will be streamed live via mobile and exclusively available to Verizon's wireless customers. Content from the league-owned cable/satellite network will also be streamed 24/7 for the duration of the firms' four-year contract.
While it's still too early to state whether the league or Verizon will oversee mobile ad sales for the event, McCarthy said, it's fair to assume current and past NFL Network advertisers are candidates. Available formats will include display ads and pre-roll video spots.
One natural prospect would be athletics gear brand Under Armour, which regularly sponsors live and archived content at NFL.com and NFLNetwork.com. In particular, the Baltimore-based company has sponsored the NFL Network's televised pre-draft events such as the Senior Bowl and the player athleticism showcase known as "the combine."
Meanwhile, the Verizon announcement marked the second time in two days that the NFL has made interactive news. On Monday, the league announced a partnership with Hulu to make content from NFL Films available on the videos site. The agreement included more than 600 videos featuring about 400 hours of content, including NFL Films shows like "Game of the Week," "Hard Knocks," "Team Highlights," and "America's Game: The Super Bowl Champions."
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
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