As another NFL season draws to a close, with the Kansas City Chiefs taking on the San Francisco 49ers at Super Bowl LVIII, the league’s sponsorship revenue has seen significant growth from the year prior.
According to Sponsor United’s annual NFL Marketing Partnerships report, the 2023-24 season saw sponsorship revenue increase by 15% from the previous year, accruing $2.35bn overall from $2.05bn in the 2022-23 season.
While the Dallas Cowboys maintained the top spot for total team sponsorship, three franchises experienced exponential growth in this field.
The Cincinnati Bengals (64% growth), Cleveland Browns (47% growth) and the Denver Broncos (42% growth) all climbed in sponsorship revenue from the year prior, whilst the Jacksonville Jaguars topped the rankings for most team sponsorships for a seventh consecutive year with 200 deals.
Innovative partnerships were the way forward in 2023
Much of the Cowboys’ credit as the leading revenue franchise has been attributed to innovative partnerships and deals, such as the one highlighted in the report, when the Dallas team opened up a Cowboys-themed restaurant in partnership with Raising Canes.
The restaurant was inspired by music artist Post Malone’s love for the Cowboys, which has since seen a 300% increase in store volume and 700 customer drive through car orders per day.
Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys President, General Manager and Owner, commended the innovative partnership: “We’re very proud to be part of this innovative new store and concept, and seeing that big Cowboys star in position to greet everyone will be a great reminder and reflection of how much we value and celebrate our continued collaboration.”
Elsewhere, Sponsor United highlighted the Philadelphia Eagles bringing back the ‘Kelly Green’ legacy jerseys for the first time since 1996, a fan favourite in collaboration with Bud Light.
This partnership extended into multiple avenues, such as Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts marketing the Kelly Green jerseys in an exclusive mobile app deal which saw Marvel and Verizon collaborate to garner more than 123,000 impressions on game days.
Other partnership successes throughout the year were the Seattle Seahawks and Amazon teaming up to deliver faster shopping experiences, and the Buffalo Bills integrating CrowdySync’s LED-NFC wearable technology for fans to create luminous light shows on game nights in a new form of fan engagement.
Ticketing remains a vital part of NFL revenue
Whilst constant innovation remains at the forefront for the NFL and its teams, it can not be understated how important ticketing remains as a predominant revenue growth driver.
According to the report, ticketing revenue was number one above all else in sponsorship revenue ($253m) for 2023, with a 95% increase. Financial ($225m), beverage/alcohol ($180m), healthcare ($160m), and technology ($120m) came second, third, fourth and fifth respectively.
The sponsorship areas which garnered the most growth over the past year was ticketing (95%), followed by gaming (18%), healthcare and auto (10%).
The NFL cemented its status as the US’ richest and most valuable league as the combined spend of the top 10 sponsorship areas surpassed the sponsorship revenue of the NBA, NHL and MLS.
‘Swifty-Mania’ helped make Travis Kelce NFL’s most marketed man
Despite already being regarded as one of the best NFL tight ends of his generation, Travis Kelce’s relationship with Taylor Swift caught the attention of the world over.
The Chiefs tight end became the number one most searched NFL athlete for 2023 and the third most followed NFL athlete, adding 5.4 million social media followers overall. This has also led to Kelce attracting six new brand deals to become the NFL athlete with the second most brand deals (25) in the league.
With the new eyes and hysteria surrounding his relationship with Swift, as she regularly attended Kelce’s games, it brought new ears to his ‘New Heights’ podcast which he co-hosts with fellow NFL athlete and brother Jason Kelce.
The New Heights podcast skyrocketed from 158 to number one on Apple’s Podcast Charts, whilst also having the most sponsorships of any NFL-related podcast with 28, with deals including the likes of DraftKings, Accelerator and Buffalo Wild Wings.
Kelce’s boom as a marketing star bore fruit for the league as well, as his jersey sales ballooned by 400% when Swift attended her second Chiefs game against the New York Jets, ultimately becoming the second-most watched game of 2023 (24 million viewers) behind last year’s Super Bowl.
Mexico & the UK remain key markets for NFL’s internationalisation push
Whilst the world would have been drawn to Swift’s attendance at NFL games, this is not solely the reason for the league’s continued growth across the globe.
Through the NFL’s Global Market Program, the league has regularly set up games across the world to attract more fans to the sport, with London and Mexico City hosting games as part of its international series since 2007 and 2016 respectively.
Furthermore, Mexico (nine) and the UK (six) rank first and second, respectively, with the most team partnerships, with the 49ers agreeing deals in Mexico with the likes of casino brand Foliatti Casino, and the Jets partnering with Manchester-based Sportsbreaks.com.
The two countries which experienced the biggest internationalisation growth were Austria and Switzerland, who both saw three new partnership agreements with NFL franchises last year. Germany also remains a key market with five partnership agreements, whilst also hosting two regular season games in Frankfurt last November.
The Sponsor United report also outlines the top most active brands, fastest growing brands, and highlights initiatives being made to branch the sport out to young women.