Labor Day is in our rearview mirror, summer is over, and for most of us that can only mean one thing: FOOTBALL. We again have an excuse to gorge ourselves with fried finger foods, over-consume Bud Light (gross!), and spend our Sundays parked in front of the television for hours on end.
NFL preseason began and advertisers cashed in early, much to some fans’ dismay. Big names like Toyota are taking in-game advertising to a whole new level with disruptive, on-field branding. As avid sports fans, we’re not strangers to brands aligning themselves with sporting events to reach a passionate and captive audience. Wells Fargo Center is branded by GEICO; we all know that Adidas was a major player in this year’s World Cup. And that’s okay because we can still see the ball moving on the court and we caught Tim Howard’s 16 saves from every angle in the game against Belgium.
But in the San Francisco market, Toyota has taken this tactic a step further with the ‘Toyota Red Zone,’ an intrusive ad appearing anytime a team is between the end zone and the 20 yard line for games. This is just one piece of their multi-million dollar, exclusive auto partnership with the San Francisco 49ers. Individual teams are responsible for their own TV partnerships during the preseason and, as a result, there are fewer restrictions placed on advertising. Not to worry, the NFL has confirmed that these ads are not allowed as part of the NFL’s contracts with regular-season TV partners.
Disgruntled fans took to social media outlets expressing their disdain for the obtrusive, in your face, shameless branding. The backlash has paid off. Well, not for Toyota, but you know what I mean. They have since pulled the Red Zone sponsorship.
While this only appeared on the local San Francisco KPIX broadcast of the 49ers – Ravens preseason game, we have to imagine that this might just be the beginning of a new era of in-game advertising. Hopefully the backlash will temper this trend.