The lack of fans in stands across stadiums and arenas across North America presented teams and brands with a challenge of how to most effectively reach as many fans as possible without the luxury of having fans in venue. With this challenge came the opportunity to come up with new inventory and push social and digital harder than ever. Arguably the most notable and universal addition to venues across the big four leagues was seat cover branding.
The NFL received the bulk of the media coverage around this new asset since it represented an opportunity for brands to have significant presence around the field, a rarity in the NFL. While the NFL’s introduction of seat cover branding may have been talked about more than the other leagues’ implementation of the new asset, SBJ Atlas took an objective look at the data to identify how each league stacked up.
Starting with the simplest metric – the number of teams taking advantage of seat-cover signage – we found that a majority of teams across each of the big four leagues took advantage of this new inventory:
- In the NFL, all 32 teams jumped at the opportunity to feature their corporate partners prominently.
- The MLB similarly had widespread usage tarp signage with 29 of 30 teams featuring it – the Colorado Rockies were the lone exception. The more unique and varied designs of MLB parks led to varying degrees of effectiveness, and it remains to be seen how prominently it will be featured in the new season given varying regulations on capacity limits across the country.
- So far this season, the NHL is at 27 of 31 teams while the NBA is at just 22 of 30 teams featuring partners on seat covers. While in some cases this is impacted by the presence of fans or the inclusion of large video boards — as seen in the NBA’s Orlando Bubble — in other cases, there are seat covers that teams have elected to brand with team logos rather than feature corporate partners.
Digging into the data behind the partnerships and observing which brands struck these types of deals highlights a few interesting takeaways.
- For instance, the NFL, with 43.1% of all seat cover opportunities sold to new partners, clearly utilized the asset most heavily with brands lining up for the first true opportunity for significant inventory within close proximity to the field. The popularity of the inventory combined with fewer opportunities for make-good advertising and the size of NFL stadiums led to teams averaging 14 seat-cover partners.
- With limited fans in attendance and less real estate across their respective arenas, NBA and NHL teams have averaged the fewest seat-cover partners per team.
- Financial services have dominated the inventory. But despite being a leading category in three of the four leagues, no individual brand had more than five deals, which helps demonstrate the regional nature of many of these contracts.
- Gatorade, in part because of league-level relationships, led all brands with 29 seat-cover partnerships across the four leagues. Other top brands included Ford, Toyota, Verizon, and Blue Cross Blue Shield.