In a sport defined by matchups and midgame adjustments, the National Football League's official auto sponsor has made a game plan tweak of its own.
Hyundai, looking for a more visible game day presence during football telecasts as it kicks off the final season of its four-year league sponsorship deal this week, secured sponsorship rights for NBC's "Sunday Night Football Kickoff" pregame show.
The Sunday play gives the brand exposure before prime-time matchups that averaged more than 18 million viewers and were among the most-watched programs on network TV last season. But it also highlights the difficulty Hyundai has had in making the most of a big-league sponsorship with a small-time ad budget.
Even with the official sponsor title — valued at as much as $140 million, sources close to the deal told Automotive News last year — Hyundai has had to spend millions of additional dollars to keep up in the ad race with deep-pocketed competitors.
The 2015 deal came with a bevy of perks, including permission for the brand and its dealers to use the logos of the NFL and its 32 teams. Hyundai also can use the term "Super Bowl" during promotions around the big game.
But the arrangement didn't offer much direct advertising exposure during NFL games on mainstream networks such as Fox, CBS and NBC, which disappointed some in Hyundai's dealer community. Neither did it confer official-sponsor rights for individual teams, which are negotiated separately.
Meanwhile, football fans have continued to get heavy doses of car marques and metal on game days from the likes of Ford, the NFL's truck sponsor; GMC, a "Monday Night Football" sponsor; and Toyota, which previously sponsored the Monday halftime report in addition to its ongoing sponsorship of Sunday night's halftime show.
Toyota also picked up the halftime show slot for "Thursday Night Football" on Fox this season as it directs most of its TV budget to NFL programming. Such live sports programming has helped advertisers reach consumers who increasingly gravitate to commercial-free streaming services or fast-forward through recorded programs.