The NFL season starts this week, which is welcome news to us here in The Bunker. The authors of this blog like our football almost as much as we like our market research, so imagine how excited we were when we came across a recent article in the New York Times that deals with both subjects. (Click here to read story)

The article discusses how Febreze has become the “Official Air Freshener of the NFL” and how that corporate sponsorship runs contrary to common stereotypes and conventional wisdom that only men watch football.

According to the piece, one-third of the audience for the average NFL broadcast is composed of women. Procter & Gamble, the makers of Febreze, find that women often watch games while hosting a gathering of family and friends. Febreze’s brand manager is quoted in the article as saying, “Often when that happens, there’s food and there’s a crowded room and odors can be there, and that’s not the experience you want to have.” In that context, obviously, a product that eliminates odors is very relevant. It is also pointed out that a key target market for Febreze are mothers of young athletes who wish to eliminate odors that get brought into homes from sweaty athletic gear and shoes. To that end, Proctor & Gamble has gone so far as to hire Olivia Manning (the mother of current NFL stars Peyton and Eli Manning and the wife of retired NFL quarterback Archie Manning) as a spokesperson.   

What struck me most about this story is the amount of market research that obviously informs the decision making process and marketing strategies of both the National Football League and the Febreze brand. Through Nielsen and syndicated market research sources, the NFL has a firm grasp of who is watching and attending their games. Based on the information cited in the article, it is clear that Febreze has detailed data about who buys their product and the differences in the ways men and women use the product, important details about the lifestyles of their market, and the viewing habits of that market.

Some of the details are what one might expect based on common stereotypes (e.g., that men tend to use un-scented air fresheners to neutralize offensive odors, whereas women tend to use scented fresheners more as a way to add a pleasant new smell to a room), but others seem counter-intuitive to what everybody “knows” (e.g., that only men watch football on TV or purchase team-branded merchandise). But the key is that both organizations have obviously used market research to discover new trends, as well as confirm that some old assumptions are still valid.  

This story raises some important questions for all marketers, large and small: How much do you really know about your market? Is that knowledge based on verifiable data or just hunches and conventional wisdom? Have you tested your assumptions about the market through recent market research such as brand equity studies, customer satisfaction research, or new product/concept feasibility studies? Could you be missing opportunities because of gaps in your knowledge of the market? And, most importantly, who do you like in the Vikings-Saints game tomorrow night?