Published on November 30, 2016 by Sara Griffith  

In a previous blog post “How Much Do Sponsorships Really Matter?” the effect of a company sponsoring Major League Baseball on consumers’ decisions was examined. Consequently, the same data is available for the National Football League (NFL), so do sponsorships seem to matter any more or less for fans of the NFL?

League-Wide Sponsors of the National Football League

According to Sports Business Daily, some of the 2015 official sponsors of the NFL were Pepsi, Gatorade, Verizon, Visa, TD Ameritrade, and Microsoft. In 2015 Sports Business Research Network (SBRnet) conducted a study on which soft drink, sports drink, cell phone service, credit card, brokerage firm, and tablet brands were most popular among NFL fans. How did the NFL sponsor brands measure up in their respective categories compared to the MLB?

Measuring Up in the Beverage Industry

Like the MLB, Pepsi is the official soft drink sponsor of the NFL. When asked which soft drink consumed most often in the past year, a combined 29.6 percent of NFL fans responded Coca-Cola and Diet Coke. Ten percent of NFL fans consumed Pepsi most often, while 7.3 and 5.6 percent of fans consumed Pepsi products Mountain Dew and Diet Pepsi, respectively. MLB fans had a similar response with Coke and Diet Coke taking the top two spots and Pepsi taking the third. With Coca-Cola having an overall upper hand on the soda market, it makes sense that more people overall would drink Coke products. However, Pepsi sponsoring both the MLB and NFL could lead to more sports fans choosing Pepsi over Coca-Cola compared to an average person in the general population who was not a fan of the MLB or NFL.

Soft drinks % of fans drank most often in past 12 months

Gatorade is also the official sponsor of both the NFL and MLB. A whopping 56.4 percent of NFL fans consumed Gatorade most often in the past year compared to a similar 55.9 percent of MLB fans choosing Gatorade. Being an official sponsor of the NFL and MLB seems to be a smart move for Gatorade, a Pepsi-owned product, as it dominates the fan market over Coke-owned Powerade, which has only 17.6 percent of responses in the NFL.

Sports drinks % of fans drank most often in past 12 months

Is Verizon Leading Cell Phone Service NFL Fan Market?

As the official sponsor of the NFL, 31.5 percent of NFL fans surveyed use Verizon as their cell phone service provider. Surprisingly, the same percentage of MLB fans uses Verizon. T-Mobile, the official sponsor of the MLB, actually has a higher percentage of usage among NFL fans (9.7%) compared to MLB fans (10.1%). This could demonstrate that Verizon may just be the most preferred cell phone service provider among sports fans in general, and a provider sponsoring a specific league does not affect consumers’ decisions to choose one brand over another.

Phone service for cell phone % of fans using brand most often

Visa Usage among NFL Fans

55.4 percent of NFL fans use Visa, an official sponsor of the NFL, credit cards. Much like the cell phone service data, Visa is also the most used brand among MLB fans, and official MLB sponsor MasterCard has a higher percentage of usage among NFL fans than MLB fans. This further supports the argument that sports fans have the same preferred brands in general and sponsorship of one league over another does not affect consumer decisions.

Credit cards % of fans using brand most often

Brokerage Firm NFL Sponsorships

TD Ameritrade is the official brokerage firm sponsor of the NFL and is the fifth most frequently used with 6.1 percent of NFL fans using the firm. The top five brokerage firms for the NFL and MLB are the same and have similar usage percentages between the leagues.  While the MLB does not have an official league-wide brokerage firm sponsor, it appears that the trend of sports fans preferring the same brands between leagues remains the same regardless of who the official sponsor is.

Brokerage firms % of fans used most often in past 12 months

Technology Sponsorships in the NFL

While the MLB does not have an official league-wide technology sponsor listed, the NFL is sponsored by Microsoft and uses the Microsoft Surface as its tablet. However, among NFL fans that own a tablet, only 2.9 percent surveyed own a Microsoft tablet with 57 percent of the market owning either an Apple or Samsung tablet. The Microsoft Surface may receive more advertising because of Microsoft’s sponsorship, but it does not appear to be leading fans to buy the product.

Tablet % of fans that own a tablet

What Can We Learn from Comparing MLB and NFL Sponsorships?

As seen in many examples above, sports fans seem to prefer the same brands in many categories regardless of who sponsors their preferred league. The NFL appears to have more popular sponsors than the MLB (i.e. Visa, Verizon), which could say something about the league itself, but the sponsorships themselves do not appear to be the reason why most fans choose one brand over another.

Written by  Sara Griffith
General Editor: Macy Marin


Sports Business Daily. (2015). NFL Has 32 League-Wide Partners This Season, Including New Auto, Yogurt Brands. Retrieved from < Sponsorship/NFL-sponsors.aspx>.

Sports Business Research Network. (2015). NFL Market Research/Demographics. Retrieved from < 4>.