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NFL Marketing Guru:
School Program Makes Fitness Fun


With everyone getting ready to come back to school, administrators and teachers are looking at improving some of the ways they bring health and fitness into the classroom. Given that it is also the start of the football season, it seems logical to highlight a program from the NFL that specifically targets kids in school.

EducationWorld interviewed Jessica Sultzer, NFL marketing manager for fan development and strategy, regarding the Play 60 program. The program strives to increase the physical activity levels of kids in school.

EW: What is the strategy for Play 60?

Sultzer: We launched in 2007 with the mission of educating people around the NFL’s commitment to the issue, the importance of the issue to our future fanbase, as well as the importance of being active for 60 minutes a day. We then began working with experts in the field of health and wellness, the American Heart Association, the National Dairy Council and other partners.

We now have an in-school piece of our strategy, which is very focused on getting kids moving and active in school. We have a very robust online content piece, so we know that our players, coaches and owners really inspire kids and can teach them about being active and healthy.

We also have a legislative advocacy piece. We’ve been active on Capitol Hill. We’ve been in support of the Fit Kids Act, so our players and coaches can speak about the importance of what we’re trying to do.

So it’s a very holistic campaign. I think it is powerful because it provides a lot of different avenues for people to get involved. So it’s not just school-based, or media-based, or promotional-based.

EW: Tell me a little more about the in-school aspect of Play 60. How do you partner with schools?

Sultzer: We have two major in-school programs under the Play 60 umbrella; one is the NFL Play 60 Challenge with the American Heart Association. There we have about 100,000 kids participating, if not more. That is active through all 32 clubs, and that is a team-based curriculum that provides non-gym teachers the chance to download materials and get kids involved in short activity breaks in the classroom, as well as give them physical education homework. So the challenge is four to six weeks and it’s to get kids moving in the classroom and outside the classroom. The teams provide incentives like player visits to spice up the program, and it’s obviously really successful.

EW: So you are not limited to the 32 NFL cities?

Sultzer: No, it’s nationwide. All of our programs are nationwide. We have a second program, and between both of our programs, we’re in about 70,000 schools. So we reach way outside of the NFL market.

The other program is with the American Dairy Council, and it’s called Fuel Up to Play 60. That’s more focused on kids creating health and wellness committees in their school and making recommendations for ways that they can make healthier food choices. They can win grant money for that. So schools can get $3,000 to implement their plan. The Play 60 Challenge with the American Heart Association can be one of their fuel-up strategies, so the programs are tied that way.

EW: How can schools get involved in these programs?

Sultzer: Schools can get involved by either going to The site is sort of our gateway to all things youth at the NFL, and schools that want to be involved can go there, learn about all of our programs and download materials. They can contact their local team and speak with the NFL Play 60 representative there.

EW: You mentioned a research initiative. How are you measuring the success of the program?

Sultzer: We have partnered with the Cooper Institute, which is out of Dallas, and their Fitnessgram Tool. We are in a three-year study with them, so we are just coming to the conclusion of the first year. We’ll be looking at data soon in terms of school participation with the Fitnessgram, their involvement in Play 60 programming and whether that will, hopefully, improve their measurements.

We also have research that we check into at the end of every school year with the National Dairy Council in terms of the effectiveness and impact of that specific program.

Then we also have a lot of fan-based research that we see and we track week-to-week, which measures what our fans think about our campaign.

EW: What type of response have you received from the schools?

Sultzer: Our response have been extremely positive from parents and teachers in terms of being able to use the appeal of the NFL to tackle an important social issue and trust that we have really gotten serious about it. We’re not just doing a media campaign. We’re not just selling Play 60 product. We’re getting serious about the issue through our partners, through investments we’ve made.

EW: What is your goal regarding combating childhood obesity?

Sultzer: Our mission is to reverse the youth obesity trend by 2015. That is in line with the American Heart Association. Obviously, Mrs. Obama’s goal is to reverse the trend within a generation. We have pretty lofty goals, and we may have to adjust them. But given the sector and where it’s moving, we feel pretty confident about that.

Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
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