NFL Ties Road Races to Start of Season

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(from Sports Business Journal, September 3-9, 2012)   With the onset of football season, teams and organizations surrounding the NFL are looking for the opportunity to expand their fan base. This year the NFL has decided to team up with Competitor Group, the largest U.S. racing company, to create a league wide series of running events tied to the beginning of the season. Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s vice president of fan strategy and marketing says, “It is a way to engage a broader set of fans, we love the idea of building a series of runs tied into everything we are doing with health and wellness and Back to Football.”

Four teams including the Tennessee Titans, St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers, and New Orleans Saints are set to be pilots for these events. The NFL is not dictating that the 32 teams in the NFL must participate in the races or that the Competitor Group should be used for every race. They are only encouraging a way to widen the fan base and help support some of their philanthropic events. Each of these four scheduled pilot races will end at the fifty yard line of the participating team’s field and offer local sponsorship opportunities for the clubs.

This program could be a way for team and the league to continue in its efforts to combat obesity, which has been part of the league’s philanthropic missions. The NFL’s health and wellness efforts, which include programs like Play 60 and Back to Football, mesh well with the goals of Competitor Group, a company owned by New York equity fund Falconhead Capital. The company introduced the concept of these race series during the league’s team marketers meeting in Glendale, Arizona and is now promoting and sponsoring them with the NFL using websites like NFLrunseries.com.

The introduction of these races could be the beginning of new means for promoting the NFL and a healthy, active life style. This introduction could spread from the NFL to every other major sports league, like the MLB, which have already initiated 5K charity runs and fun run events as part of the All-Star Games for the past few years. With top sponsors like Nike and Gatorade entering the mix it seems that running may catch the NFL and Competitor Group a lot more than cardio.