Brands line up for NFL season kickoff

(Credit: Getty Images)
(Credit: Getty Images)

“Unity” is the theme of the year.

After more than a year of unusual sports seasons marked by cardboard cutout fans, limited stadium capacities and virtual meet-and-greets with athletes, brands are diving into the National Football League season head-first. 

The highly-anticipated season premiered on NBC last night (Thursday) at 8:20 PM ET, and for the NFL itself, the theme for this year is unity. 

The NFL last week debuted its hero spot “We Run As One,” which features players including Aaron Donald, DeAndre Hopkins and Cam Jordan asking “who got our back?” and receiving “we got your back” in response.

The NFL also told PRWeek it is stressing the importance of coming together as a country to get vaccinated. Key spokespeople such as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league’s chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills have appeared on NFL partner outlets such as ESPN, CBS and Fox to share vaccine information with the public.

Brands are all for it. Ads for next year’s Super Bowl LVI are nearly sold out, NBC executives said Wednesday. Recently sold units went for $6.5 million, breaking a new record. 

Here are the brands that made appearances during the kick-off this year: 


Progressive returned to NFL football with another spot featuring Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. “At Home with Baker Mayfield” depicted the QB navigating home ownership…in a football stadium. 

The campaign, produced by Arnold, provides glimpses of the relatable, mundane aspects of homeownership, such as exchanging the WiFi password with guests and handling mis-delivered packages that belong to the neighbor. The spots will run through the NFL playoffs on both national TV and digital channels with new spots rotating in throughout the season. 


Oakley celebrated its partnership with Patrick Mahomes this kick-off, with a new spot and CGI Instagram video featuring the football player. In both the videos, the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback is wearing new eyewear that will be added to his Signature Series Collection called “Contrail.”

State Farm

In a “Drake from State Farm” twist, MVP quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes joined Jake from StateFarm to prove that State Farm has great rates that fit any budget. In two spots that aired during the kick-off game, Jake walks into a music and a sneaker store, where he finds the QBs disguised as a singer and sales associate, respectively.


Following the news that NFL quarterback Tom Brady and supermodel Gisele Bundchen were taking an equity stake in FTX, the couple made a debut in a spot for the brand called “You In?,”created by FTX agency of record dentsuMB. 

The first spot in a series, the ad highlighted how FTX can democratize the crypto category and make crypto trading accessible to everyone through humor and football rivalry, including through a cameo by famous New York Jets superfan Fireman Ed.


As the official insurance sponsor of the NFL and the NFL Salute to Service Partner, USAA honored this year’s kick-off by featuring tight-end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rob Gronkowski, a non-USAA member, as the lead talent. 

The campaign used humor and fear of missing out to demonstrate pride in USAA membership, with Gronkowski inquiring about how to become a member. In addition, USAA brought back Salute to Service NFL Boot Camps, where active-duty military members are brought to NFL training and put through drills.  


“New Team,” the anthem spot for this year’s campaign created by Deutsch LA, features legendary former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees as the general manager of the Lowe’s Home Team, along with appearances from other Home Team players Calais Campbell and Kelvin Beachum. Fans who try out for and are selected to join the Home Team will receive a limited-edition jersey, designed by professional artist and apparel customizer, Marcus Rivero.  


In an extension of its Eat Fresh Refresh campaign, in which the sandwich franchise borrowed ad time from other advertisers, Subway debuted “Bready” starring Tampa Buccaneers quarterback, Tom Brady. Previous iterations of the campaign featured appearances from Serena Williams, Little Bob from Bob’s Discount Furniture and Jacob Emrani from The Law Offices of Jacob Emrani. 

Fans ate up the first ads of the 2021 NFL season. On Twitter, fans praised brands, some touting the kick-off ads were better than the Super Bowl. 


Subscribe today for just $116 a year

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free