Microsoft's NFL sponsorship featuring Surface Tablets as the centerpiece has certainly has certainly seen its ups and downs.
Sponsorship Buddy's Take:
1) Microsoft's surface sponsorship has been a disruptor by opening up a new sponsorship category as "the official tablet of the NFL." The product placement has been evident and provides credibility by way of its association with the most valuable shield in sports. The brand impressions are through the roof during broadcasts as any casual NFL fan will attest - and during live action vs. often-ignored commercial time.
2) Compared with the $400 million price tag for the partnership, the estimated value paid for commercial spots is $700k per. So far in 2016, NFL ratings are notably down 10% due to National Anthem protests, cord cutting and what-have-you. The digital trend is upwards with content being streamed and shared at an accelerated clip. Regardless what the math looks like, the broadcast fee bubble has quickly expanded toward to breaking point meaning non-traditional media sponsorship strategy gains emphasis.
3) SportTechie has covered the trials and tribulations of the deal and picked up on Patriots' Head Coach Bill Belichick publicly coming out against the tablets in relentless fashion. While Belichick goes out of his way to not give any bits of note pertaining to the team, he certainly had no qualms about speaking out against the services provided by a key NFL sponsor for over five minutes. Belichick has uniquely carved enough of a competitive advantage and niche that he doesn't need to give a care in the world about NFL corporate policies. While the coverage of this episode will certainly churn up more valuable press for Microsoft & Surface, the question is, will the damage control strategy be effective enough to renew a key sponsor?
Clearly Microsoft is no Apple from a marketing perspective. The sales data on the Surface is mixed. Regardless of the occassional "iPad" mistaken mention or Belichick tirade, there is considerable value in locking out Apple and maintaining attention of fans of (still by far) the most popular sport, whether Belichick prefers paper to tablets or not.