A series of syrupy spots highlighting the softer side of pro football. In one ad a teenage boy stays home to watch a game with his grandmother rather than cruise for chicks with his buddies. In another a Titans fan gets ready for a game while Lionel Richie croons "I'm easy like Sunday morning" in the background.
After dropping its long-running "Feel the Power" ads, the NFL turned to ad agency Young & Rubicam for a new approach. "The league wasn't connecting to casual fans," says Y&R chief creative officer Jim Ferguson. "The NFL already has the hard-core fans in its pocket. All it has to do it the game on TV, and it's got them hooked. But the untapped market is those casual fans, who enjoy the social aspects of football more than the game itself." Indeed, in 90 seconds of the new ads, only six seconds are of game footage. Says John Collins, the league's senior VP for marketing, "The underappreciated power of the NFL is its ability to bring people together."
Reaching out to new fans makes sense, given that the NFL's ratings have dropped in five of the past six years. Still, the kinder, gentler spots might be met with criticism from die-hard fans. After all, Lionel Richie?