The last several years have been tough on the NFL brand. Starting with Deflategate and running all the way to this past week’s continued anthem protests by players, the league has managed too many controversies. While the looming question of the NFL’s relevance may haunt journalists, sports bar operators know the NFL remains the 500-pound gorilla in the room. A key feature of the continued presence of the NFL is its passionate fantasy football fans. This sets it apart from all of the other sports in terms of consistent interest, even when teams are eliminated from contention.
Whether it was their handling of domestic violence incidents or their response to claims of indifference to CTE, the NFL has been under constant fire these past few years. With a player settlement done on CTE and an improved approach to player discipline, the league has hoped to put those challenges behind them only to have the President of the United States thrust their most controversial issue back into the spotlight. The leagues handling of their player protest policy has been ham handed and not particularly thought out. The problem is that your guests ARE affected by these issues and the others.
The NFL vs Sports Bars
Many operators have complained that the NFL’s handling of these sticky situations has driven down interest and kept guests at home on Sunday. The most famous of those complaints came from Papa John’s Pizza founder, John Schnatter. He was famously rebuked and eventually lost his job for his public comments, but rank & file sports-themed operators have revealed to us their opinion that he wasn’t completely off base. There has been a clear erosion of the base and interest. But is it from the NFL’s handling of their myriad issues or because the demographics are changing?
The Thursday Night Football Schedule Boom
One thing that is not changing is the tepid Thursday Night schedule. The NFL Network will host 15 games this season and don’t look for them to be a power ranking bonanza. The real problem the NFL has is that there are a lot of lousy teams (see: Cleveland, Miami, NY Jets, NY Giants, Tampa, Chicago, et al).
With three primetime games weekly, it’s almost impossible to feature a great matchup for every slot. That’s why fantasy football is more important than ever.
The 2018-2019 NFL Football TV Schedule
Are You Leveraging Fantasy Football?
Too few of our subscribers put any real energy into fantasy football. Sure, you all host draft events, but that’s exactly where it ends. Because there are three days of games weekly and folks play in multiple leagues, now is the time to commit to your own fantasy program. With all the free hosting platforms, you can do a free weekly fantasy program that your guests can embrace. They can only play if they visit on an NFL game day, because you give them the code to draft their team.
The NFL isn’t going anywhere as compares to the other sports, but it also isn’t the runaway train it’s been previously. It’s up to you to make the NFL pay in your location. Whether you leverage fantasy or find some other method to drive excitement and traffic, the NFL simply doesn’t market itself anymore. That job now falls squarely on you.