NFL broadcasting advertisers are getting nervous about the protests and putting the networks on notice about their discontent. NBC Universal, the parent company of NBC, reports advertisers don't like what's going on with the anthem protests and are threatening to pull the plug on pro football advertising.
Papa John’s pizza already removed the NFL logo from some of its marketing because the protests are hurting its sales. Papa John's has not yet pulled its television ads from NFL broadcasts, but founder John Schnatter is not happy with the sideline antics of social justice warriors. His sales are down.
MoneyWatch reported a week ago: ”Sales growth at Papa John's is slowing, and the pizza chain is blaming it on the outcry surrounding NFL players kneeling during the national anthem and falling NFL ratings." Brandon Rhoten, chief marketing officer with Papa John's, said, "The NFL was eighth of the top 10 prime time shows. So it's experiencing a significant decline, which is leading us to have to look at other investment to create that consumer preference of our brand."
It would be naive to think Papa John's is alone in this situation. Linda Yaccarino, the chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships for NBCUniversal, said during a recent AdAge chat that additional sponsors are indeed threatening to yank their advertising from NFL broadcasts. Awful Announcing blog's Alex Putterman reported her saying:
A list of advertisers have made themselves very clear: if you continue covering the political coverage of the issue, we will not be part of the NFL. Because think about it: they have half the country that is cheering about that, and they have half the country that is emailing them, saying, don’t do that. So that’s a real thing.
Yaccarino suspects that the protests have hurt television ratings. She said, according to Putterman's report, that the story of the protests has morphed from social justice to patriotism. That's affected the TV ratings and the ripple affect is skittish advertisers.
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CBS CEO Les Moonves is taking a relax, there's nothing to worry about approach, though. AdAge reported he's seen no hint of dissatisfaction from his NFL sponsors. “I don’t know of one sponsor that has pulled out of any spot that they had, Moonves said. “I don’t think it’s affecting advertising or their desire one iota.”
Putterman wrote there is "clearly a lot of posturing going on here. Advertisers apparently aren’t ready to take the dramatic measure of yanking their spots, but they hope to pressure the league by making noise about doing so. And TV networks don’t want stockholders to think they’re bleeding advertisers, but they too figure they can turn up the heat on the NFL by making the situation seem somewhat dire."
Additionally, Putterman thinks the protests are fading from front page news to a scenario in which the NFL game broadcasters hang on to their advertisers.
So far, some advertisers in local markets have discontinued advertising for NFL broadcasts.
Whether or not advertisers stay or walk, there is no disputing the fact that the NFL has inflicted much permanent damage on its product by allowing activist players to severely damage the brand and drive away countless fans. Some of those fans will never come back.