Apart from a flurry of viewer interest when the nascent Channel 4 covered the game during the 1980s, American football has largely failed to find a TV audience in this country.
It does not help that the sport's showpiece event, the Super Bowl, is scheduled in the early hours of the last Monday each January, when the duvet and thoughts of work are prominent in most minds. The European arm of the sport's organising body, the NFL, approached Hill & Knowlton to devise a campaign which would communicate the dynamism of the sport to a UK audience, creating anticipation for the match itself.
To position the Super Bowl as a major sporting event for a UK audience and deliver a TV audience of one million for terrestrial TV channel five's coverage on 26 January. To achieve news and lifestyle coverage, as well as sports column inches for the event.
Strategy and Plan
H&K liaised with the sports editors of several papers, notably The Times and The Sun. In addition to working with five, it linked with BSkyB, which was also carrying the match live.
Explaining the athleticism and power of American footballers in terms familiar to UK readers was deemed vital.
H&K commissioned some sports science research showing that the impact of a tackle in the US game was equivalent to being crunched by soccer stars Roy Keane, Patrick Viera and Lee Bowyer all at once. England rugby union stars Ben Cohen and Martin Johnson were enlisted to pose in gridiron gear and talk about the sport - Cohen with a supposed eye to being snapped up by an American football team.
There was a deliberate touch of the exotic to the PR team's ideas. It arranged with the Daily Star to run a promotion called Cheerleader Idol, in which a (female) reader had the chance to train and perform at an NFL match in Florida with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In The Sun, it set up a free year's pass to major world sporting events, culminating at the Super Bowl in 2004.
Measurement and Evaluation
The campaign garnered more than 50 pieces of editorial in the national press over three weeks, with virtually all outlets covering the event on the final weekend in January during the lead-up to the broadcast.
NFL Europe was satisfied that combined viewing figures for five and Sky Sports One hit the one million target (1,032,009), especially as this was a programme that began at 11.30pm on a Sunday night.
The Daily Telegraph ran a full-page fitness piece around cheerleading, while The Times, The Sun and the Evening Standard all used Cohen and Johnson to piggyback their coverage.
A media trip for American football correspondents also ensured additional sports editorial for core fans.