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Learning from the NFL – Expanding Your Audience

As I was writing last week’s article on cause marketing, the NFL and the American Cancer Society, it occurred to me that we haven’t discussed how to expand your target audience and your brand’s reach. Each and every brand has a specific target audience, a demographic that has been determined with a high degree of confidence to relate to the overall brand message. But, as the NFL has clearly shown us, there are ways to expand your reach and attract an entirely new demographic.


The NFL’s New Target Audience

Since the beginning of time, football has been a man’s sport. The target demographic was easy to establish; men, fathers, sons, brothers, grandfathers, singles, all incomes, all ages. Of course, as we all know, things get a bit more complicated when you segment each demographic and determine the best brand message to send to each segmentation, but simply put; men love football.

In 2010, the NFL took a risk and invested over $10 million into a new campaign that aimed at expanding audience reach to female fans. The budget was spent on an entirely new clothing line and products targeting women, new commercials, and a new website. It was integrated marketing at its best.


Why did they do it? Analysts took a look at who was watching football and found that just over 40% of fans were women, and the NFL wasn’t doing much to target this huge opportunity. According to this research conducted by the NFL and Nielsen, more women watched Super Bowl XLIV than watched the Academy Awards in 2010. They also found that over 45 million women watch NFL games each weekend. These are amazing numbers, and the single reason why the NFL decided to expand their marketing efforts.


How did they do it without losing their male audience? This is the genius of brand equity and creating brand advocates. Not every brand can get away with doing a complete 180 on who they’re marketing too like the NFL did. However, as they evaluated their demographics and analyzed the numbers, they realized there was already a huge demographic there, they just needed to target it more effectively.


Brand equity, as we’ve discussed before, is the ultimate goal of any marketing campaign. When you have brand equity, you have some leniency. For example, Chrysler might be in trouble for running the advertising campaign “Imported from Detroit” when their featured vehicle is made in Canada, but because of their brand equity, their audience will probably overlook the controversy. Starbucks has amazing brand equity, so when it tweaks its logo, as it recently has; advocates continue to enjoy the brand. Netflix, on the other hand, might not have held the amount of equity in their brand that they thought when they increased prices and lost millions of customers.


With that said, the NFL has been resonating with its target audience for so many years, developing such a bond with generations of advocates, that marketing to a new demographic was barely a stepping stone.


How can you expand your reach? The key element in targeting an entirely new demographic is determine how much brand equity you have. Be realistic, sit down with your marketing team, conduct some research, ask your audience what they think, and lay out a well planned strategy. The new strategy must retain equity with current brand advocates and fans while expanding reach to the new audience. The worst thing that you can do, as we’ve seen from Netflix, is alienate your overall brand message and thus estrange all of your audience.


If expanding your reach is something you want to look into, contact us today.