The San Francisco 49ers opened their preseason last Thursday, and the biggest revelation might not have been Carlos Hyde's first quarter performance. Nope, the biggest revelation has to be the garish Toyota ad connected with the red zone. If you were watching the 49ers broadcast on TV (NorCal, Nevada, Oregon people, primarily), or on NFL.com Preseason Live, you could not help but notice this ad when either team arrived in the red zone:
Hello there, Toyota! While the ad is a bit over the top, it is not a surprise. The 49ers and Toyota announced a deal back in May. At the time, I had heard the following would be part of the activation:
49ers cut a deal with Toyota. Will have the Toyota Red Zone, and then this at the Toyota Plaza entrance pic.twitter.com/NK57pAADuh— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) May 13, 2014
When the 49ers get into the red zone at a home game, there will be some graphic stuff in the stadium for the "Toyota Red Zone"— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) May 13, 2014
Apparently graphic stuff in the stadium also meant the red zone ad for television.
On the 49ers broadcast, the Toyota ad appeared when they got into the red zone, but then was removed once the play started. It is not the end of the world at this point, but I think we all know where this is headed. For now, these are preseason specific ads. Teams handle their own broadcasts in the preseason, so they can do this kind of thing. When the 49ers are on FOX, CBS, NBC, or ESPN during the regular season, we won't see the Toyota Red Zone ad.
And yet, I imagine we are not far away from the NFL cutting its own red zone sponsorship ad. At some point in the near future, we're going to see big red zone ads on the national broadcasts. Sports is one area where the viewer remains particularly captive as the event is live. Commercials are still big money, but adding more sponsorship opportunities remains the name of the game for leagues. The NFL is awash in revenue, but we know they won't stop just because they're profitable. Adding this kind of sponsorship is just one more way for the owners to cash in.