"The NFL sells the NFL. The NBA sells its players. The NFL markets the NFL. The NBA markets its players, and players drive who we are in the NBA. You couldn't identify 90 percent of NFL players if they were standing right in front of you. That's a big part of their core problem. If you look at the social media following of NFL players, it's not that big ... So, that's an issue for NFL players, and I'm thinking it's by design from the NFL because that's what gives them more leverage. NFL players don't make nearly as much off the field, other than the quarterback and maybe one skill position player, maybe two per team, as NBA players do, because they just don't have the brand or visibility. That gives the NFL a lot more negotiating power, and I think that's something that the NFL should be helping their players with more."
As the NBA has continued to market both new stars, like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Donovan Mitchell, and established veterans, like LeBron James and Stephen Curry, revenue for the league increased by more than $3 billion over a five-season span from 2013-14 to 2017-18.
The NFL remains king of all sports when it comes to revenue and ratings. The league made nearly $15 billion during the 2018 season. Even though ratings for Super Bowl 53 between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams were the lowest in 10 years, it was still watched by 100.7 million people in the United States.
Both marketing strategies appear to be working well for the respective leagues. The NFL is a game that's intrinsically difficult to market around stars because fans don't always know what most of the players look like because their faces are obscured by helmets.
NBA players, on the other hand, have their faces front and center on the court every single night. Everyone knows what James, Curry, Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid and many other superstars look like.
If fans can instantly identify an athlete, it's much easier for them to be used in marketing materials to help sell the sport.