Guerrilla Marketing Lessons You Can Learn From the NFL

Admittedly, I am not the biggest NFL fan. I watch a few games here and there, and I follow a few coaches and teams. But it definitely takes a back seat to sports like baseball, college football, basketball, and soccer.
However, as a writer whose every conversation is subject to becoming a content campaign or blog post, I do pay enough attention to notice peculiarities in NFL advertising. Recently, two interesting marketing campaigns have come from both off and on the football field.

And it just so happens they aren’t from the advertisers spending millions of dollars on an corporate sponsorships.

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1. Beats Headphones

So, if you pay attention to the sidelines, you have probably noticed that all the coaches and players using headphones are using Bose. That’s because Bose has a corporate sponsorship with the National Football League, paying a lot of money to be the sole headphone sponsor of the NFL.

However, Beats has become adept at hacking the NFL and finding new ways to get around the official Bose sponsorship.

You have also probably noticed very subtle endorsements of the Beats headphones by many players. Most often you will see photos from the sidelines (post-game) or from the locker room of players wearing Beats brand headphones around their necks. These players include superstars like Colin Kaepernick and Richard Sherman, among others.
This doesn’t mean the NFL isn’t trying to stop Beats from subverting their sponsorships. The NFL has cracked down on personal endorsements both on the field and off (when players are on camera related to the game). Colin Kaepernick has even admitted to being fined $10,000.
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2. Captain Morgan

Probably one of the most interesting, quietest, and shortest-lived advertising ambushes in sports history occurred in 2010. During the Dallas Cowboys matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles that Sunday night, a game with 21.9 million viewers, Eagles tight end Brent Celek caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb.

After the catch, Celek aligned himself in front of the television cameras and mimicked the Captain Morgan’s pirate pose.

This was part of a larger, planned guerrilla marketing campaign from Captain Morgan. Their plan was to raise brand awareness through encouraging players to make the pose during the games, which are broadcast to massive, highly engaged audiences. Captain Morgan even intended to offer significant charity contributions for each time a player made the pose on camera during a game.
Celek was given a 15-yard penalty for the demonstration. The NFL also responded by banning the pose after the league finally learned of the larger planned campaign on the part of the Captain Morgan.
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Why does this matter?

Both of these guerrilla marketing campaigns end with the NFL coming down hard on these two brands. We may even see that the NFL’s reactions to these campaigns stops much of the marketing tactics these two companies have used.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them.

Both Beats and Captain Morgan have found new, exciting ways to get their products in front of their audiences, implying brand associations with high-impact, popular football players. The number of dollars they spent, even though they are still large, are much lower than what an official sponsorship would have cost.

These companies found creative ways to subvert sponsorships and get their products in front of a massive national audience.

We talk a lot about the different channels you can use in your campaigns, but that doesn’t mean that every campaign is limited to the same channels. As a marketer, it’s important that you find new ways to get your product in front of your target audience. There are always exciting new ways that you can reduce your campaign spend and improve your marketing performance.
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