Don’t Watch US Football. Just Don’t.

buy everything

Don’t Watch US Football. Just Don’t

Or how I learned to stop worrying and love #brands

The average NFL game lasts three hours from start to finish but contains only about a dozen minutes of action. TV broadcasters have become expert in filling the gaps between outbreaks of sport on the field with an intoxicating mix of anticipation, apprehension, and advertising. The drama and magic of football as a collective spectacle intermingles with branding messages urging me to buy more stuff. This past week I decided to find out exactly how much it would cost me to be the perfect consumer and buy everything I’m prompted to acquire during a game. Every car, every pizza, every beverage.


While embarking on my imaginary shopping spree, I also recorded every brand name that made an in-stadium appearance, both during the TNF game and in highlights from previous games. Here’s the full list: Bud Light, Jack Daniel’s, Cambria, Kia, PNC Bank, FirstEnergy, Comcast Xfinity, State Farm Insurance, Fifth Third Bank, Pepsi, Bridgestone, Gatorade, Medical Mutual, Tostitos, Microsoft Surface, FRCH, PCM, Time Warner Cable, Geico, Miami Valley Gaming, Coca-Cola, Walgreens, John Morrell, Formica, Chicago Tribune, Chase Bank, MetLife, and Toyota.

Pepsi had a one-minute commercial starring Andy Dalton and was also featured as part of promotional bundles from Papa John’s and KFC. The Pepsi and Gatorade brands, both owned by PepsiCo Inc., could also be seen on the scoreboard and elsewhere around Paul Brown Stadium. That’s what being the NFL’s official soft drink gets you: constant brand exposure in the pronounced absence of your most direct competitor (there were zero Coca-Cola ads). Microsoft was similarly the only game console advertised, with nary a peep about Nintendo or Sony.

All of this excludes the NFL’s own promo skits for the NFL Network, NFL Mobile, and NFL Shop. The paid ads and NFL video reels are intentionally designed to overlap rapidly and seamlessly. The commentators casually transition from talking about the history of the Ohio rivalry to the excellence of Mazda cars. It becomes difficult — or, if I’m not paying close attention, impossible — to distinguish between the sporting excitement most people tune in for and the paid messaging that has been laced into the broadcast.

nfl commercials

By the end of the night, the constant reminders to buy something new to drive were replaced by well-timed advertising for a Sleep Number bed and Act Restoring Mouthwash.

Those were some of the final items on a shopping list that ultimately amounted to a staggering $785,216.96.