How The NFL, Verizon And Tide Are Selling Football To Women — On Women’s Terms

Credit: NFL
Credit: NFL

It’s easy to burn out on repetitive commercials during the first couple of weeks of the football season — if I never have to see the Cadillac ad that suggests the main virtue of the car it’s selling is that you can use it to blow the doors off of other people’s cars, it will be too soon. But one I haven’t gotten tired of yet is the spot for the NFL 2013 Women’s Apparel Collection:

The ad wouldn’t be at all remarkable if it were for a shoe store, or for Kohl’s, but I think I appreciate it because the ad doesn’t feel any need to pretend that women are concealing their fandom, or are learning about football, or are putting on their enthusiasm as a way to humor their husbands. Ads like the terrible Bud Light commercial that presents a man who’s totally befuddled by the Quinoa burgers that his wife keeps throwing in their tailgate cooler, and that treats a feminine impulse as antithetical to the Truth Of Football act as if men are birthright citizens to the nation of the NFL, while women are befuddled immigrants. The Women’s Apparel Collection ad, by contrast, sees no contradiction between being a woman and being a massive fan: for these women, their team apparel is as indispensable to them a snappy yellow blazer, or a high-fashion vest that looks fresh off the runway, and it goes just as well with a skateboard, a catwalk, or a baby. And all the things women do in that ad are announced, by a grave, male voice, as if they’re as weighty as the gridiron contests that get the same voiceover treatment.

There’s something similar, if more subtle going on in this fall’s NFL Mobile ad from Verizon, which features two fans staying connected to a game on the go. But instead of having a man showing the game to a woman, it’s the woman who’s holding the phone, presumably showing the game to her date:

The NFL, of course, has a significant financial interest in convincing women, who wield enormous purchasing power, that NFL gear is a desirable fashion item. The league started a print campaign to that effect in 2010 with slogans like “Style Is The Best Defense” and “It’s My Game.” But it’s nice to see that the sport, which still hasn’t gotten rid of scantily-dressed cheerleaders, has no visible female executives (the idea of Condi Rice as commissioner has always seemed more like fantasy than a viable reality, and who knows what she’d be like on labor and concussion issues), and which still largely confines female reporters and commentators to the sideline rather than the broadcast booth, at least wants our money enough to try to sell to us on terms that don’t treat priorities like fit and fashion as if they’re frivolous.

And I appreciate that other brands have started following suit, as was the case with the Tide commercial that was among the best in this year’s Super Bowl:

It would be nice if more companies followed suit — and if someday, at least, the networks started developing women as talent who could rise up the ladder to the broadcast booth. It’s nice to be thought of as a market. It’s even better to be considered an equal participant, as far as that equality is possible.