The NFL’s 10% Ratings Drop in 2017 Is Killing Sponsors

“Papa” John Schnatter has been vindicated.

Back in November, the eponymous founder of the Papa John’s pizza chain blasted the National Football League for failing to get the controversial anthem protests under control. Now, Nielsen is reporting the television ratings for the 2017 NFL season were down 9.7% compared to the previous year.

Schnatter, whose company is the “Official Pizza Sponsor of the NFL,” said, “The NFL has hurt us. We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this.”

Cutting to the heart of the issue, he added, “[this] should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago.”

ESPN reported at the time that Papa Johns would be continuing its advertising during NFL games; however, the future ads would disassociate from the NFL brand. The NFL also offered additional advertising spots to make up for the lost advertising value due to lower viewership.

With the final numbers in from Nielson, the numbers appears to support Schnatter’s position that the NFL has hurt his company financially over.

In 2016, Papa John’s announced the extension of its sponsorship deal with the NFL. While the value of the sponsorship remains undisclosed, the original deal was reportedly worth $5 million a year. Also in 2016, Papa John’s spent almost $32 million on advertising during NFL games. Obviously, the most recent deal would have been negotiated under the assumption of certain expected viewership levels.

The Wall Street Journal reports Papa John’s spent $156 million on television ads in 2016, so $32 million spent during NFL games would amount to 20% of overall television advertising budget.

Yet, the NFL’s 10% ratings drop in 2017, comes on the heels of an 8% drop in 2016 for a total decrease of 18% since the Papa John’s sponsorship deal was negotiated. In other words, the most significant part of the company’s marketing plan has lost 18% of its value in only two years.

Last year, the NFL blamed presidential election coverage. This year it was hurricanes. However, sponsors like Papa John’s, DirecTV, and Anheuser-Busch have all shown what the league won’t admit: advertisers who spend big bucks on NFL games are suffering because fans are fed up with the anthem protests and tuning out.

With the Super Bowl, the most important night for NFL advertisers, just weeks away, will you be tuning out? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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