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Presidential Campaigns Use An Opportunity To Reach Voters As NFL Kicks Off Its Season

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Two NFL teams kick off tonight for the first time since the pandemic began. The Houston Texans take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City. It is the kind of live viewing event that many Americans have been craving. And as NPR's Tamara Keith reports, the major presidential campaigns know a lot of the fans tuning in are also potential voters.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Like everything these days, tonight's game will have plenty of reminders that the pandemic is still with us. One of them will come from former Vice President Joe Biden's minute-long campaign ad set to air during the game.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We need to get control over the virus. Donald Trump failed. Joe Biden will get it done. We need to help working families.

KEITH: The Trump campaign declined to comment for this story, but according to the tracking firm Advertising Analytics, Trump will be up with at least one ad as well. In a way, it's surprising, given Trump's longstanding active campaign against NFL players who kneel for the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality. This was Trump last month at the White House.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's sort of sad because I've been fighting for football to come back. We're trying to help the NFL as long as they stand for our national anthem, as long as they honor our flag and our country. If they start kneeling, I'm not going to be helping them much. They might come back, but I won't be watching. Neither will a lot of other people.

KEITH: Whether or not that's true, football returning is a welcome sign for the president, who is working to convince voters of an American comeback from the pandemic. John Link with Advertising Analytics says regardless of the president's complaints about players, the Trump campaign knows well the reach of the NFL.

JOHN LINK: The NFL, even pre-COVID, is the most powerful advertising vehicle. It just is. It's - in some markets, you get Super Bowl-like numbers on a Sunday.

KEITH: Link suspects tonight's ratings will be sky-high, and this is only the beginning. Politics and beer ads will mix all season. A Biden campaign aide confirms to NPR that they already have reservations to run at least one ad nationally during each NFL game between now and Election Day. Link says that's remarkable.

LINK: I've never seen that before in a presidential race. I've never seen that before, so that is the first time we've seen something of that magnitude.

KEITH: Link isn't sure whether the Trump campaign will match that, but he's expecting them to spend big on ads during football games this fall. Tamara Keith, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF YPPAH SONG, "NEVER MESS WITH SUNDAY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.