The National Football League (NFL) saw its unique broadcast collaboration with Nickelodeon come to life on Sunday, featuring slime, googly eyes and many confused parents.
A collaboration on this scale between the NFL and Nickelodeon is probably one of the least surprising things to have happened in the past 12 months but the ambitious broadcasting partnership for the game between the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints has received plenty of positive feedback - and of course some negative too.
Nickelodeon has previously had an association with American sports, having featured athletes on their shows and has even made appearances at the Super Bowl in recent years. However, this time the kids TV channel went bigger than ever and secured itself a deal to broadcast a full game and of course, they did it differently than any broadcaster has ever done and probably ever will do.
Virtual superimposing onto the game was a key theme throughout the broadcast, including players being given googly eyes and hamburger hats; an orange, green and purple scoreboard placed on the field; and the infamous 'slime-zone' that saw virtual slime cannons launch the substance, that has become synonymous with the Nickelodeon brand, onto the end zone after a touchdown.
References from their current and past shows were even placed throughout the game, some subliminally and some less so. Play-by-play announcer Noah Eagle described New Orleans receiver Deonte Harris as "hotter than a peruvian puff pepper", a reference back to one of the channels most popular shows Drake and Josh and the Saints quarterbacks, Drew Brees and Taysom Hill were likened to Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick Star.
The broadcast was unlike any other seen before across any sport in the world but why was this decision made?
"This is a first of its kind presentation for the NFL together with Nickelodeon, and we are very excited to create a unique telecast that will maximise the co-viewing appeal for kids and families, while maintaining the integrity of the game and its traditions," said Sean McManus, Chairman of CBS Sports, when the broadcast deal was announced.
"Partnering with Nickelodeon to showcase the NFL Playoffs is a great opportunity to highlight the power, depth and reach of ViacomCBS, as we continue to unlock the true potential of our merged company with the first of many opportunities between CBS Sports and our ViacomCBS family."
It was clearly viewed as a chance to grow the platform further than what the NFL already sits on, as well as showcase the capabilities of what sports broadcasting can achieve. The new digital age that we find ourselves in means that now, more than ever, it is difficult for sports organisations to attract the younger generation into enjoying and participating in their respective fields. The Nickelodeon broadcast has opened up the door for many young fans to enjoy a sport, that some may not have enjoyed previously, and made it fun, quirky and targeted their demographic perfectly, not only through slime cannons and references to Spongebob, but through featuring young commentators, like Gabrielle Nevaeh Green, a 15-year-old Nickelodeon star and placing the game on a platform that kids might actually be more inclined to watch and engage with.
It remains unclear whether this could become a new-normal and permanent feature but if the NFL and its broadcasters see an opportunity that could be exploited, it would be no surprise to see it again. And who knows, perhaps other sports might join in too?
Author: Jake Wilkin