The NFL is one of the best known organizations as it garners millions of fans every year. However, it’s important to consider the societal impact of such an organization. The following sample research paper outlines the NFL’s impact on society and focuses the dedication the league has to its constituents (viewers). T
The National Football League is comprised of 32 teams that are divided between two specific conferences: the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference. The NFL has a profound effect on the sport of football because of its events such as the NFL playoffs that culminate in the Super Bowl. There is a consumer devotion to the sport of football and therefore the NFL is compelling in the realm of both sport and in societal culture.
Who is the NFL?
Initially known as the American Professional Football Association, the National Football League has resonated as a league since its foundation in 1920, however, history has noted it to date as far back as 1892. Two teams, the Decatur Stanleys, now known as the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Cardinals, now known as the Arizona Cardinals, were the founding members of the American Professional Football Association. The Green Bay Packers, founded in 1919, are the oldest franchise within the National Football League with the same name in the same location. In 1921, the NFL’s membership increased to 22 teams. In 1923, all of the franchises associated with football were considered to be a part of the field teams under the NFL umbrella. The following year, the league had a total of 18 franchises, which included newer ones in cities such as Kansas City and Kenosha. By 1925, the NFL had expanded its franchises and thus was gaining much recognition (“NFL”). Much of the early history of the NFL has echoed through the sport of football when it is discussed today.
How does the NFL operate?
The National Football League is “considered an unincorporated nonprofit 501(c)(6) association, translating to mean that its league office is not subject to income taxes due to the fact that no revenue is produced. Each individual team within the league, however, is subject to taxes because they incur a profit. The National Football League itself has been noted to consider it a trade organization that is financed by the 32 teams that make it up. The league has three distinct officers: the Commissioner, the Secretary and the Treasurer. Each conference also has one officer, the President. The Commissioner is elected by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of 18 of the members of the league, while the president of each conference is selected by an assenting vote of three-fourths of the conference members. The Commissioner has the opportunity to appoint the Secretary and Treasurer and has the power and influence in disputes that occur between the players, their coaches and the employees” (Wilson).
Between 1933 and 1966, the National Football League operated in a two-conference setup where the winners of each of the conferences would meet up in a particular competition game. This would lead to the determinacy game known as the playoffs. With the addition of the AFL teams in 1970, the NFL would divide into two distinctive conferences with three divisions in total. As of 1970, there were 26 well-known teams that were a part of the NFL. In 1978, the league started adding what were known as wild card teams, which were teams noted to be the best win-loss percentage teams from each individual conference. By 2002, the NFL had officially expanded to the aforementioned 32 teams and the league would alter its division formation into four specific divisions within each conference. As a result, each division champion would be allowed a playoff bid. The National Football League season format “consists of a four-week preseason, a seventeen-week regular season and a twelve-team, single elimination playoff” (“NFL “) which ends with the league championship known as the Super Bowl.
Media coverage of the NFL
The National Football League is known for its media coverage. In the United States, the NFL “has television contracts with four networks: CBS, ESPN, FOX and NBC. AFC games are usually broadcast on CBS, while NBC broadcasts the NFC games. NBC has been noted to carry the primetime Sunday Night Football games, including the Thanksgiving game and the NFL Kickoff game, which is the event that marks the beginning of the NFL season. A solitary game is typically held and is usually preceded by a concert as well as other festivities. The kickoff game was introduced in 2002 on ESPN. The conceptualization of the NFL Kickoff game was introduced by John Collins, a marketing executive and the Senior Vice President of Special Events at the time, Jim Steeg. The NFL has also been shown on other broadcast networks such as the Spanish companies, ESPN Deportes and Telemundo. ESPN currently carries the Monday Night Football games, which originally aired on ABC from 1970 to 2005. Monday Night Football has been considered one of the highest-rated television series ever on television” (“The tradition continues: NFL to remain on broadcast TV”).
At the close of the regular season and before the Super Bowl, is the Pro-Bowl, which is the NFL’s all-star game. The Pro-Bowl was played in Hawaii for years until being relocated to Orlando in 2017. The game is actually held the week before the Super Bowl but is considered to be postseason because of the fact that it is an all-star game. It has come under fire in recent years due to players on teams who make it to the Super Bowl opting to sit out not to risk injury. The NFL presently consists of 32 clubs that are separated into two conferences of 16 teams a piece. Each conference is then subdivided into four divisions of four clubs. During the regular football season, each team is allowed a max of 53 players on their roster, with 46 of them being noted as active on the days where games are played. Each NFL club is generally allowed a franchise, which is a particular authorization for the team to operate within their city. The franchise usually covers the surrounding city limits. Each team within the NFL is based in the United States. Certain teams are more valuable in money than others (“NFL”). One notable team that was stated to be the most valuable is “the Dallas Cowboys registered at $2.1 billion. Two other franchises, the New England Patriots and the Washington Redskins are valued at about $1.6 billion or more” (Ozanian). As a result of the franchises, football, then especially in the United States is the prime sport for media marketing as well.
Consumerism, NFL & fan devotion
There has been an astonishing renovation within the last 20 years or so with regard to the presentation of athletes and the commodities associated with the sport of football. The spectacle of the NFL has become mainstream and the profitability has been substantial to say the least. Entertainment focused around the sport of football has been heavily developed and is remarkably central to the United States. Management has continued to seek to identify audiences with the players and their respective teams through many different avenues such as video games, music and proliferation of commercialized products such as t-shirts, jerseys, hats, and other fear. Football has become the consumer pursuit of esteem and mobilized unprecedented focus and enthusiasm for the sport.
Gambling, both at sports books and online has even “become associated with the NFL as football has become a contextual commodity.” It is the epitome of cool within the cultural society that is the United States and therefore, intersects with the everyday lives of each and every one of us. Media culture has “captured the hearts and minds of consumers through the cultural meaning that is football”(Oates). So it then can be said that the NFL is a business that is noted for its creation of products and services.
Martin (2011) contends that the business world has been saturated with football and the game of the field. The NFL is relentless in its persuasion of consumerism and the substantive profits that are created from it. The sport has been able to “establish an opportunity to build long term sustainability” since its inception and influence everyone from the layperson to the “shareholder to understand why it is useful and exclusively substantive” (Martin). The success of the National Football League is nothing short of amazing. While the marketing of the NFL has been a substantial triumph that can be noted, much of the game of football’s success has been a result of fan devotion to certain teams and players on those teams.
While it is usually the case to denote a relationship of devotion between two individuals, devotion can be the result of a perpetual activity and the genuine respect for and, “acknowledgement of something that is not necessarily romantic.” Consumers do not necessarily become devoted to all objects or entities [such as the NFL] but psychology suggests that there is a feeling of unity within the arena of sports and thus a feeling of relationship building and reciprocity. Consumer behavior literature “has touted a strong relationship between consumers and their activities” and rituals.
That is to say that once consumers build relationship between entities and objects, they tend to be emotionally strong and long-lasting. Further understanding of this devotion has lent itself to the importance of activities [like sports] that has shown to be extremely influential in the consumer’s lives (Pichler and Hemetsberger). Football, or to put it plainly, the NFL is psychologically wrapped up in the consumer.
The fulcrum of football and its dimensions is the relationship that consumers have to the identities that are presented to them. Football is gleaned to be universal and [the NFL is associated with football, therefore, it is likened to football in the psychology of the consumer] seen to be apex of interactions between individuals in society. Football brings “people together and is able to provoke a social consciousness of globalization.” While football is not as popular on a global scale as it is in the United States, there is general characterization of football that can be rendered towards the cultural identity of all individuals who participate in the sport (either through play or viewing).
Perhaps, consumer devotion then is based on the fact that consumers can relate to the national players on some level both psychologically and sociologically because they played football when they were younger or in their early adulthood. The most prolific part of consumer devotion to football is related to the “economics of the NFL and its corporate aims to dominate the way consumers spend money” (Giulianotti and Robertson). The consumer is devoted to football and the NFL because they can relate to both the sport and the league of teams. Consumers understand on a subtle level the game of football and are generally concerned with the success of the teams in the NFL. Consumer devotion to football is due to an indisputable admiration for the sport and those that encompass the sport (i.e. players, mascots, managers, owners, coaches, etc). Consumers then devote themselves to certain teams depending upon the players that are in the area where they live or for a variety of purposes. One such team that has often been a fan favorite is the San Francisco 49ers.
Case study: The San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers are known to be one of the most respected and well-known teams in the Western Division of the National Football Conference in the National Football League. The team was founded in the late 1940s, and its name is derived from the name that was usually given to gold prospectors during the California gold Rush. A noteworthy fact about the team is that it has never changed its name and has always remained in San Francisco. The San Francisco 49ers as it stands currently has two specific uniforms: red and gold for home games and white and gold for away games.
The color groupings have shifted, however, throughout the history of the team. The logo for the San Francisco 49ers was initially a mustached forty-niner gold miner from the California Gold Rush. The miner was dressed in plaid pants, a red shirt and was displayed jumping in midair with his hat falling off while firing pistols in each hand. Alternative logos also exist for the team such as the shield shaped crests that forms the number 49 with the letters SF exhibited in the upper right (“49ers “; “San Francisco 49ers Logos”).
The 49ers “were the first major league sports team based in San Francisco. They came to existence in 1946 as part of the All-America Football Conference. San Francisco joined the National Football League four years later and began playing in the NFL in 1950. Led by quarterback John Brodie, San Francisco won its first NFC division title in 1970. The Niners won the NFC West again in 1971 and 1972.
All three seasons ended with a loss to the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC playoffs” (Coon). The San Francisco 49ers’ prominence came during the 1980s primarily. In addition to the success of the 49ers during this decade, the NFL also expanded its affinity with fans. In 1978, the coach of the 49ers, Bill Wash, would draft Notre Dame Quarterback Joe Montana. Montana had enjoyed a series of successes and was known to be a top prospect as he was a notable player for his moxie. Walsh would implement a variety of strategies and game play that while initially was unsuccessful, (“49ers”) allowed the team to establish themselves tremendously in the 1980s.
Notable History of the 49ers
Between 1981 and 1984, the 49ers would consistently play well as they became even more well-known for their dramatic plays and turnarounds. NFL history notes this team as being one of the most impressive in their history as far as Super Bowl championships. By 1984, the San Francisco 49ers had one of the best seasons in the team’s history; however this would not even give way to what would happen next. In the NFL draft of 1985, Walsh selected Jerry Rice after many trades and swaps. Throughout the course of the next few seasons, Rice began to show development after playing as rookie. Rice would establish himself as the elite receiver by 1986 and the 49ers were known by fans as one of the most insightful and prolific teams in the NFL (“49ers”) thereby changing the dynamics of football; especially in the Western Division.
Due to the almost historic fluctuations of the San Francisco 49ers in the 1990s, the scope of football has been changed. The team is often noted as having their glory years during this decade due to Montana and Rice. 5 of their championship wins were in the 1980s: 1981, 1984, 1988 and 1989. The coach, Bill Wash, along with Montana would lead the team to their first Super Bowl win in 1981. “The Niners won another Super Bowl with Montana, under rookie head coach George Seifert, in 1989 and with Montana’s successor Steve Young in 1994.
During this era, Jerry Rice became the primary target for both Montana and Young. Rice played with San Francisco from 1985 until 2000 and retired as the all-time NFL leader in receptions, receiving touchdowns and receiving yards. All three players are counted among the all-time greatest NFL players” (Coon). Consumer devotion to the 49ers is then to be expected. Why? Three of the teams’ players as aforementioned are counted to be great NFL players and most people even if they are not familiar with the sport of football, have heard of Montana, Rice and Young.
The authenticity of the brand that is football is that it contributes to re-enchanting the respect and concern of the proverbial relationship. Consumers are able to feel enriched by the engagement of sports and the forms of devotion that it produces. Sports hold a centrality in our lives and this devotional dedication is the sole extension of the passionate embrace that football has on consumers. As previously noted consumers find self-identity with the players on the sports teams such as the San Francisco 49ers, even if they have never met them nor played as well. The sport of football in its psychological element extends a thread of connectedness with the habitants of society. The proliferation of sports in society is a testament to the NFL and teams such as the San Francisco 49ers. Societal culture has been bettered as a result of the game of football.
Coon, John. “San Francisco 49ers NFL Team Profile.” Yahoo Sports. Yahoo.Com, 23 Aug. 2012. Web. 4 Apr. 2013. .
Giulianotti, Richard, and Roland Robertson. “The globalization of football: a study in the glocalization of the ‘serious life’.” The British Journal of Sociology 55 (2004): 1-24. Print.
“49ers.” Forty Niners Football Company LLC, 2012. Web. 3 Apr. 2013. .
Martin, Roger L. Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes, and What Capitalism Can Learn from the NFL. Harvard Business Review Press , 2011. Print.
“NFL.” NFL. NFL Enterprises LLC. , 2012. Web. 3 Apr. 2013. .
Oates, Thomas P. “New Media and the Repackaging of NFL Fandom.” Sociology of Sport Journal 26 (2009): 31-49. Print.
Ozanian, Mike. “Dallas Cowboys Lead NFL With $2.1 Billion Valuation.” Forbes. Forbes.Com LLC, 5 Sept. 2012. Web. 3 Apr. 2013. .
Pichler, Elisabeth A., and Andrea Hemetsberger. ” ‘Hopelessly devoted to you’ – Towards an Extended Conceptualization of Consumer Devotion.” Advances in Consumer Research 34 (2007): 1-21. Print.
“San Francisco 49ers Logos.” The Sports Logos.Net. Chris Creamer Properties, Inc., 2013. Web. 3 Apr. 2013. .
“The tradition continues: NFL to remain on broadcast TV.” NFL, 14 Dec. 2011. Web. 3 Apr. 2013. .
Wilson, Duff. “N.F.L. Executives Hope to Keep Salaries Secret.” The New York Times. 11 Aug. 2008. Web. 3 Apr. 2013. .