How the NFL plans to connect with fans

The National Football League is being rejuvenated and its leaning on the players to make that happen, according to NFL Executive Vice President Tim Ellis. 

“They don’t connect with logos – in fact, they don’t even connect with the league … They connect with their clubs, their teams and their players and they connect with people,” he told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo on Wednesday. “So we have a bit of a disadvantage at the NFL compared to other leagues because they have their helmets on, right? So our audiences actually don’t see most of our players.”

The NFL’s TV ratings bounced back in 2018 after two consecutive seasons of decline.

Ellis, who previously served as the chief marketing executive for Activision Blizzard, joined the NFL during a tumultuous time, after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked debate during the 2016 season when he refused to stand for the national anthem to protest social injustice. After digging through data, Ellis found that the entire NFL ecosystem consists of about 750 million people,  and he embarked upon a strategy to shed its negative image and “refocus and rejuvenate” the league by creating programs and content through the players.

“We really embarked upon a strategy to get helmets off and humanize and personalize these athletes because they have incredible stories to tell, they have wonderful lives, they’re super-cool to younger people and we knew that we had a chance to really connect in a very, you know, authentic and passionate way.”

Ellis said the NFL is using four pillars to draw a bigger and younger fan base.

“The more I dug into the data when I first started, the more I understood that there are basically three things that our fans really care about – it’s music, fashion and video games,” he said, adding “and to some degree the fourth was fitness … it just so happens our players care about the same things.”


The 2019 NFL season kicks off on Sept. 5.