10 key quotes from the FOX NFL Town Hall at Advertising Week 2016: How fans view ads, advertising in a two-screen world and more


Today’s NFL landscape is vastly different than it was a decade ago, and that has many implications for the attention and engagement of the football league’s viewers. On Wednesday, FOX play-by-play announcer Joe Buck moderated an in-depth conversation about that topic at an Advertising Week 2016 Town Hall session. The panel included Fox Networks Group President and COO Randy Freer, Pro Football Hall of Fame member and FOX NFL Sunday analyst Michael Strahan, Fox Networks Group President of Advanced Advertising Products Joe Marchese, NFL CMO Dawn Hudson, and Magna Global SVP of sports investment Kevin Collins.

Here are 10 key quotes from the discussion, which focused on what advertisers, content providers and the NFL itself must pay attention to in order to achieve the best engagement with viewers:

Michael Strahan on the power and engagement of the NFL fan: “Fans now are so engaged with the show. They know everything in and out and they’re not afraid to voice their opinion. They’re not afraid to let you know they have an opinion on issues or things you may say during the show. I love that engagement with the fans because it shows that they are interested in this sport, that football is strong, that football continues to be strong, and that the fans feel like they’re really a part not [only] of the sport and of what we do at FOX, and I think that’s important because we speak to such a large audience.”

Kevin Collins on the enduring strength of live sports: “Ninety-eight percent of sports is viewed live, and 95 percent of that being the NFL… It’s a safe environment. We want to be there. The ratings are consistent… Live sports is there. It’s not going away. Five years from now, people are still going to watch the NFL in particular on the big screen.”

Randy Freer on the NFL’s year-round engagement: “The NFL is an incredible product. In the world of engagement and attention, it really is a great match for advertisers. It’s not just the live games, but when you think about the conversations over 12 months– the draft, fantasy sports, the Super Bowl, week to week to week it is an incredible platform for an engaged audience.”

Dawn Hudson on how American NFL fans view ads: “American fans…view the advertising as part of the game. They really like it when the ads have something to do with football and relate to sport — it makes it part of the presentation.”

Dawn Hudson on the nature of the NFL fan base: “The fan base in the NFL is 55 percent male and 45 percent women. But the growth in the NFL over the last seven years has seen 10 percent growth in the female fan base. They love the players, they love the sport, etc., but one of the reasons why they’re coming to the sport is as life gets crazier and crazier – you have dinner an hour later, you don’t have time to sit around and eat together at the table, you do come together to watch a football game. It’s not something people particularly like to do in isolation… Football’s a campfire. It seems to get people to gather round, whether you’re in a stadium or you’re sitting at home.”

Randy Freer on adapting ad messages to out-of-home viewing: “You think about watching football with your family, but you also think about the communal aspects of watching outside the home, whether it’s in bars or hotels or wherever it might be. There’s a huge opportunity there for brands to come into the sport and grasp the attention and the engagement of the fan in a different way, because obviously if you’re watching the game out of the home with a big group, your advertising message probably should adapt.”

Dawn Hudson on marketing to build the football experience: “So much of marketing…is about experience, and I think that’s one of the opportunities for football – to make sure that as you do something in the ecosystem of football, you’re not doing, ‘I’m just going to run the same old ad I run every other time,’ but you do something that somehow relates to the game and ties your product or your service to what’s going on at that time. And that builds the experience. That’s what our fans say: ‘We love the ads that tie into football because it just adds to the experience of watching the game.'”

Joe Marchese on the opportunity for advertising in football in a two-screen world: “You probably hear a pitch a week on the advertising side that says, ‘[It would] be good to have the phone match up with what’s happening on the TV screen.’ And maybe the only place where that’s totally natural is sports, especially in football. One, because we’re listening along as [Joe is] announcing the game, and then you’ll also get the commentary from your friends flying through your Twitter feed, and then you’ll also get the clips in Twitter, and then you’re checking your fantasy football team. It’s one of the only times when that second screen is truly connected [with] the first screen. So it’s a fascinating opportunity… There’s a bunch of stuff that’s possible in football that isn’t possible in a lot of time-shifted viewing environments.”

Joe Marchese on Twitter’s live-streaming of Thursday night NFL games: “The experience looks fantastic. It streamed very clear…but the average viewership was about 243,000 at any given time. The average viewership on CBS and NFL Network was 15 million at any given time. The length of tune-in was longer on the television screen. What it showed us is that we can actually expand the audience. If you’re sitting in your home and you have the ability to turn on your TV, you’re going to turn on your TV. Why? Because then you can get your phone back so you can do other things with it. But if you’re outside of your home, this is an additive audience. And the commercial load that runs in it, which is most important to the advertisers, can be the same.”

Randy Freer on bringing attention back to brands and their messages: “I think we all have to get back to thinking about: How do we really bring attention back to our brands? How do we bring attention back to our messages? And how do we focus on the great content that’s around us, whether it’s the NFL or shows like ‘The Simpsons’ or ‘Empire’ – these big, bold brands that can garner that kind of attention? And then, most importantly, how do we create the delivery mechanism that’s something other than just a commercial interruption?”

Read about “Football Families,” a joint initiative between FOX Sports and the NFL that will give families the opportunity to attend their first NFL game.