DirecTV Inc. next Sunday (Aug. 4) plans to kick off its annual "NFL Sunday Ticket" promotion with a national advertising campaign that features four National Football League stars.
In new TV spots that feature the recurring "Dan the DirecTV Installer" character, the football players appear on the shoulder of new DirecTV customers and offer whispered words of advice.
In the humorous ads, the miniature football players are not visible to Dan, who raises an eyebrow or two as he watches the seemingly one-sided conversations.
"Every year we've had great success with the creative, and we set the bar higher with each successive year," said vice president of marketing Jayne Hancock of the campaign that supports the out-of-market pay-per-view package. Creative work is by Los Angeles ad agency Deutsch.
NFL players participating in this year's campaign include Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart and St. Louis Rams running back Marshall Faulk.
PLAYERS LOVE IT
Because the ads are seen as fun and as great exposure for the football stars, "we have players call us in the spring saying they want to participate," Hancock said.
DirecTV will air the spots on national broadcast and cable networks, including runs during NFL games. Print ads are slated for USA Today, Parade, USA Weekend
and local newspapers in 41 markets. Radio spots will run in 27 markets.
As part of the promotional campaign, new customers who buy a new DirecTV system for $199 between Aug. 4 and Oct. 12, buy the NFL Sunday Ticket and commit to a year's worth of Total Choice programming will receive four free months of
DirecTV's top-tier product, Total Choice Premier.
Total Choice Premier typically sells for $81.99 per month and includes 31 premium movie channels from Home Box Office, Starz Encore Group LLC and Showtime Networks Inc.
"Customers who sample Premiere at the outset are far more likely to stay on and are more likely to take premium channels," said senior director of marketing Chris Brush.
LAST SOLO FLIGHT?
This NFL season might be the last in which DirecTV holds the sole rights to Sunday Ticket. (Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League offer their out-of-market packages on both digital cable and DirecTV.)
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league is exploring all of its options and has no firm timetable for which to announce a decision on a new contract.
It's "too early to say" how talks will proceed between DirecTV and the NFL on next year's contract, or whether the NFL might allow cable operators to offer the package, said Hancock.
Direct-broadcast satellite rival EchoStar Communications Corp. last fall announced a deal to merge with DirecTV parent Hughes Electronics Corp., pending government approval, which could be determined by the end of this year.
Neither the merger nor the expiring contract with the NFL have influenced DirecTV's fall marketing plans for Sunday Ticket, Hancock said.
"It's business as usual," she noted, adding that DirecTV continues to execute both NFL Sunday Ticket customer acquisitions and upgrades.