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Sponsorship Activations at the NFL Experience

NFL ExperienceAs we know, the Super Bowl is one of the greatest spectacles in the sports world and fans from all over make a pilgrimage to experience it. The NFL has done a fantastic job of making it possible for the average fan to experience the Super Bowl, even if they don’t have a ticket to the game. They have done this by creating the NFL Experience for every Super Bowl. The NFL Experience is a giant NFL theme park of sorts that makes even grown men giddy with excitement. It has tons of exhibits about the history of the Super Bowl, a replica NFL draft stage where you can get “drafted” by your team of choice, the Lombardi Trophy on display, free autographs & kid’s clinics, and of course a plethora of games to test your football skills.

Naturally, such an event is a breeding ground for sponsorship. Brands desperately want to be a part of the NFL and the Super Bowl in some capacity, and the NFL Experience is a unique arena for brands to reach a wide variety of fans. This year’s NFL Experience in Indianapolis broke every attendance record to date with over 265,000 fans over the 10 days leading up to Super Bowl XLVI.

Here’s a recap of the major sponsors that made their brand known at the 2012 NFL Experience and their unique activations.

Major Sponsor Activations at NFL Experience


NFL ExperienceGMC was the presenting sponsor of the 2012 NFL Experience and certainly made their brand known. The GMC logo was on all volunteer and manager shirts along with a scattering of GMC vehicles on display throughout the convention center. GMC also brought in several big time players including Antonio Gates, Joe Montana, Maurice Jones-Drew, among others to sign autographs for a select amount of fans. In order to be eligible to receive an autograph, fans had to register ata kiosk within the area and proceed to answer questions about GMC vehicles that were on display. The idea was for fans to pay attention to the facts about each car, but this ended up being a huge hassle and fans just quickly browsed the information presented in order to get the answers. The idea that fans were going to “learn” about these cars didn’t work at all.

However, GMC had a very cool opportunity for fans to create their own “touchdown moment” as they captured a 3D photo of you lunging into the endzone. Fans could then share their 3D action shots on Facebook, Twitter or email at another kiosk in the exhibit (check out my amazing shot!). Great way to integrate social media as people love to share their cool experiences – I mean c’mon look at my shameless plug.

Verizon Wireless

NFL ExperienceVerizon had a major presence at the NFL Experience this year as they had one of the largest displays and interactive areas.They utilized Green Bay Packer, Clay Matthews, in many of their advertisments and even recorded a video of him introducing fans to the Verizon exhibit. Verizon naturally also pushed their NFL Mobile app and the ability to watch Super Bowl XLVI from a Verizon mobile device, which was a perfect opportunity to educate this demographic in an intimate atmosphere.Upon entrance of the exhibit, fans were required to register at kiosks in order to play the interactive games they had in their area. Fans were given replica quarterback playbook sweatbands where it displayed a unique barcode for each person to scan in order to play games. A pretty awesome giveaway and proved to be an effective way in order to gain customer data.


NFL ExperienceBridgestone was another major sponsor, but their display was tucked back in an odd corner where there wasn’t a ton of traffic. They were giving away mini foam footballs to fans and had a similar picture station that GMC had, but not nearly as cool as theirs wasn’t a 3D picture. Their activation was definitely overshadowed by GMC and was ultimately pretty weak and not memorable – which is one of the goals of every sponsorship.

Under Armour

NFL ExperienceUnder Armour had another sponsor exhibit that was tucked away from many fans. I’m not sure if this was just the luck of the draw due to the different set-up of the NFL Experience than in years past or if it was due to the cost of the sponsorship. Regardless, their main exhibit area was pretty lackluster as it was small and only featured a few combine type drills where fans could test their skills (i.e. vertical jump, broad jump, agility ladders, etc.).However, Under Armour sponsored a few games in the main activities area called “Run to Daylight” aka the 40 yard dash and the “QB Quick Release” which were actually a big hit. But Under Armour really missed the mark as they didn’t display their new product lines anywhere. Besides the Under Armour and GMC employees who wore UA shirts and shoes, there was no product to show the customer anywhere.


NFL ExperienceThe Pepsi/Doritos exhibit featured product samples of Pepsi Max and Doritos and an area in which fans could view and vote on their favorite entries from Doritos popular “Crash the Super Bowl” commercial contest. Other than that their exhibit also got lost in the fray of the others and didn’t really present anything unique to fans.

Minor Sponsor Activations

Gillette and Head & Shoulders are both apart of the P&G brand and these products were displayed in the rep
lica NFL locker room featuring a player’s “locker” from each team.They were also joined by Gatorade and Wrigley Gum products inside the locker.*Ambush Marketing ALERT*: Suave for MEN, a direct competitor of Head & Shoulders, was giving away Suave branded jerseys and wigs to mimic Clay Matthews’ hair (a Suave for MEN endorser) immediately outside of the NFL Experience in the NFL Village. Coincidence?  I think not. Here are a few more:

  • Castrol Oil sponsored an agility drill
  • Topps/Panini sponsored the official autograph stage
  • There was also the NFL Rush Zone where there were mini-versions of games catered to kids. Cartoon Network, XBOX Kinect and Play 60 had exhibits targeted at kids and their families.
  • MARS Candy (Snickers and M&M’s) sponsored the Field Goal Kick and the Punt/Pass/Kick station which always had the longest lines and was in prime position in the Experience. Also handed out free samples.
  • Bud Light had beer pouring rights and branded several bars within the NFL Experience

Who Were The Sponsorship Winners At The NFL Experience?

Brands like Verizon and GMC used their sponsorship dollars wisely as they provided some solid activations and memorable experiences for fans. But once again several brands like Bridgestone, Pepsi/Doritos and Under Armour didn’t capitalize on their opportunity to capture the fan’s attention. It shows that some brands really need to develop their activations in order to get the most out of their investment and not just throw money at something branded with the NFL logo on it.

Did anyone else find some unique sponsor activations at the NFL Experience or at any of the other Super Bowl XLVI festivities? Leave your comments below or feel free to tweet us!

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