Prior to the season, Microsoft and the NFL struck a five-year $400 million deal with one of the major components being that the Microsoft Surface would become “the official tablet of the NFL” with coaches and players using the Surface on the sidelines during games.
Not a bad deal for Microsoft if you consider the exposure they will receive. The last Sunday Night game received 13.73 million viewers.
But Microsoft and the league ran into a problem during week one of the season when at least two television announcers mistakenly referred to the tablets as “iPads” and giving a huge rival unexpected exposure.
During the nationally televised Monday Night Football game, ESPN’s Trent Dilfer joked about how long it took Cardinals assistant head coach Tom Moore to “learn how to use the iPad to scroll through the pictures.”
In a separate incident, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints was spotted by Fox commentator John Lynch using a Surface on the sideline. Lynch remarked that Brees was “not watching movies on his iPad.”
Lynch did seem to realize his mistake when he later noted that players now have “iPad-like tools” at their disposal. However, at no time during the discussion was Microsoft or the Surface mentioned by name.
Luckily for Microsoft there are other forms of exposure for their new deal. In addition to the tablets, the Microsoft Surface logo is also on the replay monitors used by the officials.
As for future games, the NFL and Microsoft will likely work to inform — or more likely remind — the networks that those blue tablets are in fact not iPads.
Otherwise, this campaign is off to a rocky start and the novelty of the devices for the networks will no longer be there and they will stop being mentioned at all.
No comment from Microsoft or the NFL on whether or not there would be changes in their agreement.