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“Turkeys and Touchdowns” Are a Winning Combination

“Turkeys and Touchdowns” Are a Winning Combination

With a dedicated viewership and prime-time match-up, NFL teams and host cities benefit from playing on Thanksgiving Day.

11.23.23
Color photograph of a person watching football on TV with remote control in hand

National broadcasts are valuable currency for all NFL franchises. [iStock Photo]

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Football games have been played on Thanksgiving Day since 1876, but it was the NFL’s first in 1934 that made this a gridiron tradition along with pumpkin pie. Beyond just fun and games, business is booming for those teams and local economies hosting a televised match-up, not to mention the national notoriety.

“Thanksgiving Day football games are deeply woven into the fabric of American culture and tradition; it’s all about turkeys and touchdowns. We pride ourselves in competition and the heat of the battle. The local economic boost where games are held, especially during high-profile events like Thanksgiving, is undeniable,” said Lorena Martin, an assistant professor of clinical data sciences and operations and expert in sports business and analytics.

While the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys hosting home games are a given, the NFL added a third prime-time game in 2006 to spread the wealth among teams. Even though overall ratings for games may be slightly declining, it’s the opposite on the fourth Thursday of November. In 2022, all three of the NFL games televised on Thanksgiving Day games posted historic viewership highs.

“National broadcasts are valuable currency for all NFL franchises as they provide an opportunity to expand their brand presence beyond their regional footprint and drive additional interest, and subsequently revenue, from that increased exposure,” said Courtney Brunious, an assistant professor of clinical management and organization and expert in strategy, sports business, and leadership.

With TV deals a major source of revenue for the NFL, teams and cities also bank on game day as a fan in attendance will spend hundreds of dollars on tickets, concessions, parking, and transportation all while wearing their favorite player's jersey.

For franchises that traditionally play on Thanksgiving Day, these games offer tremendous annual value as a result of the brand exposure and big event status that these holiday games provide.

— Courtney Brunious

Assistant Professor of Clinical Management and Organization

“These special Thanksgiving holiday games are an opportunity to boost attendance and ticket sales regardless of the team’s performance and generate ancillary revenue surrounding the festivities associated with the day,” Brunious continued.

It’s clear Americans spend time and money as they tune in, regardless if it’s to cheer on their favorite team or watch for the sport of it.

“Based on data as well as context and a sprinkle of common sense, football this holiday season is going to be a win-win for retail, hospitality, sports and entertainment industries. The remarkable athletic prowess, coupled with the elegance of the game’s strategy and fierce competition, is an exhilarating spectacle for sports fans around the world,” Martin concluded.