The National Football League’s hypocrisy on gambling is well documented, despite its recent decision to relocate the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, just off the Strip. But the league’s peculiar tendencies go well beyond its aversion to legal wagering.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the NFL has revamped its advertising policies to allow hard-liquor commercials on a limited basis during the upcoming season. The move was interpreted as an effort by league officials to enlarge their already colossal financial footprint by bringing in additional ad revenue from nontraditional sources.
But while viewers tuning in to see the league’s orgy of controlled violence will now be treated to 30-second spots promoting various spirits, the NFL’s list of taboo advertising categories remains wildly inconsistent and downright hilarious.
Gambling, of course, is strictly verboten — unless it isn’t. The league prohibits “ads for any hotel that features gambling,” the Journal reports, “or tourism ads for places that allow gambling.” Does that mean during Raider home games the league will ban panoramic shots of Las Vegas and its prominent gaming palaces?
Meanwhile, spots touting state lotteries, horse and dog tracks or off-track betting parlors are hunky-dory. League officials apparently have elevated slapping $10 across the board on your favorite nag to a higher moral plane than doubling down on a soft 11.
In addition, manufacturers of birth control devices and condoms are out of luck if they hope to promote their products to NFL viewers. But those ubiquitous ads for the little blue pill featuring rugged men doing manly tasks? No problem, as long as the check clears.
The banned list also includes energy drinks, the Journal reports, and the vitamin and supplement chain GNC. Apparently GNC sells certain products that are on the league’s prohibited substance list. But then again, Albertson’s and 7-Eleven sell Red Bull and Rock Star, so how did grocery stores and convenience marts evade the NFL’s advertising police?
Finally, the Journal reported, “The NFL is also worried about excessively violent movies and video games being advertised.” Cue the laugh track.
The NFL has a right, of course, to set its own advertising standards. But Adweek reports that the league’s ad revenue dropped 17 percent last November, although it rebounded during the remainder of the season. Sports leagues, even the NFL behemoth, face uncertain financial futures as viewer dynamics evolve in the digital age. Don’t be surprised in the coming years if the league’s sanctimonious sponsorship restrictions fall victim to its intense allegiance to the almighty dollar.