Football and Thanksgiving Marketing


Marketing tactics have created and maintained the rituals and myths we run into on a daily basis. From the diamond engagement ring to health and wellness trends to even our best-known holidays, advertising has promoted and pushed these tendencies. Even Thanksgiving itself has become commercialized through marketing.


Sports and holidays have also been able to shape the way that marketers do business. Thanksgiving Day football has become an integral part of the holiday, and advertisers have been capitalizing on this for years.


Let’s take an in-depth look at how sports and marketing—especially Thanksgiving football— have an impact on society today.


The societal impact of sports

A business owner will take a client out to a round of golf to get out of the office and connect on a more intimate level. A group of friends will get together at the local bar to watch March Madness. A mom and daughter duo will go play tennis together so they can stay in touch and in shape.


Sports bring people together in a unique way. Since the dawn of civilization, sports have been an acceptable excuse to get away from the hustle and bustle of civilization.  


Look at Rome’s Coliseum, one of the most famous structures in human history.  It has been standing since 80 A.D. and is the ultimate display that organized sports have been massively important to society for thousands of years.


Even today, we value the entertainment that sports afford us almost as high as we value our businesses. In fact, professional athletes are paid similar salaries to some of the top CEOs in America.  


Apple 1984

Image via ( / Property of Apple Inc. (


Marketing impact of sports

So where and when did sports become such an integral part of our modern, digital society?


Advertisements and public opinion.


The popularity of a given sport often has to do with how people feel about the organization, based on what they’re seeing in media. For example, the NFL has become America’s most beloved pastime over the past three decades. However, when players began to take more vocal stances on issues that matter to them such as police brutality and patriotism, the NFL began to divide the country.


Some people stopped watching football altogether, while others picked it up for the first time. While this hasn’t drastically changed viewership, it impacted society’s opinions of the sport.


It’s not just media. Athletic marketers are changing our culture as well. Nike’s “Just Do It” advertisements have pushed more sports participation in schools. Athletic wear companies have used their advertising to give hope to aspiring athletes of all sports, genders, backgrounds, and abilities, which has helped shape a culture of determined dreamers.


"Athletes have become some of the greatest marketing influencers of our time."  -Click to Tweet-


The athletic marketers’ purpose of this is twofold:

  1. Get more athletes in society, so they have a wider target audience to sell their clothes to.  Change the definition of “athlete” to include the average jogger or pick-up ballplayer.

  2. Be the inspiration that drives athletes—which also drives repeat purchases and brand loyalty.


Nike and other companies know that if they can hit on the emotional side of sports, they can capture a passionate fan for their brand.


If you take a look at 2017’s best sports advertisements, you’ll see that they all have some sense of morality or subconscious push that works to change society. Gatorade’s Sisters in Sweat empowers young girls to push their lives to the next level—in sports and in business. UNREAL’s Tom Brady campaign is pushing to make food healthier and cleaner.


These companies know that they can utilize sports figures to get their message and mission across. In fact, athletes have become some of the greatest marketing influencers of our time. Athletes have become the “faces” of our society. Influencer marketing uses these beloved faces to make a statement or promote a business. Like the Tom Brady campaign, people will listen to and follow athletes that they know, love, and trust.


Sports’ impact on marketing

Consider the Super Bowl. Advertisers spend millions of dollars for ad space ($5 million for a 30-second ad) during the Super Bowl. That’s because they know they’re gaining access to 113+ million viewers nationwide. They also have in-depth data about what kind of advertisements Super Bowl watchers want to see, which can help them create and target their ad effectively.


Despite these advantages, Super Bowl advertisements used to have one major problem: only companies with the biggest budgets could gain exposure. That meant smaller businesses couldn’t compete during the holiday so the big guys constantly won out. With the advent of social media marketing, every business now has the opportunity to capitalize on the Super Bowl and other big games.


Now that every business can cash in on football season, the door has been opened for smaller companies target audiences and engage them through their favorite past-time.


Group of people cheering on a couch


Sports / Brand fans

Companies love tapping into the emotion of sports. Did your favorite team just win the big game? A local coffee shop might offer free coffee to anyone wearing a jersey from their winning team. This associates the positive feelings of winning the game with the coffee shop to create loyal brand fans.


People who are loyal to sports are loyal to the businesses that support their teams.


This is the kind of customer that companies want to attract. They want to grab those “fanatics,” because they already have that “obsessive” loyalty to them. If a customer can be loyal to a team, they can be loyal to the experience of your brand as well.


It’s also easier for marketers to understand the avatar of the sports customer. They can gather deep demographic data about their audience by understanding who watches that sport and that team. Marketers can effectively find out what drives their customers, what their pain points are, and how to leverage emotion when marketing to that particular fanbase.


This is the game plan that marketers use for Thanksgiving football. They play on the positive emotions associated with Thanksgiving as well as the passion associated with football. They know that their customers are gathered around the table or hanging out on the couch, surrounded by good food and good company. If a business can even get a piece of this emotional holiday pie, they can convert customers for the long haul.



Sports, holidays, culture, and marketing are intricately tied together. Marketing and sports impact society, and cultural values determine the way that marketing goes and sports popularity flows.


This year, you can enjoy Thanksgiving football knowing just how much marketing finesse goes into the creation of this cherished American custom.

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