Nightly News | September 26, 2010
LESTER HOLT, anchor: Finally, as we get ready for NBC 's " Football Night in America ," it's worth noting that the NFL has been recruiting more than just players lately. The league is also trying to build its fan base by creating a new generation of football lovers, and the key may be to think young. NBC 's Lee Cowan reports.
LEE COWAN reporting: The love of the game hits early, and so does its realities. The Burbank Vikings lost 20-to-zip this weekend. That didn't deter number 66. He's just the kind of mini fan the NFL is counting on, not just because of his play on the field, but his play off it. Adam is one of some two million kids now playing with the NFL online.
ADAM: It's just fun. You don't have to do any work, get to play it.
COWAN: The NFL kicked off "Rush Zone," an online fantasy game, two years ago to help broaden its fan base instead of taking its youngest fans for granted.
Mr. PETER O'REILLY (NFL Fan Engagement Vice President): Well, we tried to do was not just expect that kids would come to the NFL and that the game would be handed down to them, but that they could find the NFL in all the places where they're already spending time.
COWAN: This season "Rush Zone" the game became "Rush Zone" the cartoon.
COWAN: The hero is a 10-year-old Charger fan named Ish .
COWAN: It's all for young fans like Devine Derry . In his age group he and his friends have a lot of competing interests.
Ms. DEVINE DERRY: They have this like " SpongeBob ," Cartoon Network , all those other fancy channels.
COWAN: The NFL wants to make sure its own fancy stars, like the Cowboys' Tony Romo ...
Sports Announcer: It's an outstanding release off the line of scrimmage against...
COWAN: ...are on the same footing with kids as SpongeBob . It's not that the NFL is forsaking its baby boomer fan base , it's just to get the future Packer cheese heads or the future Redskin hogettes. Studies show that kids have to be interested in the NFL early. Is it working? At the NFL season opener there was a 30 percent jump in viewership among kids 12 and under, a small but important slice.
Mr. DERRY: If there's a game, I really watch it.
COWAN: Every second, every down?
Mr. DERRY: I just watch it pretty much.
COWAN: Forgiving and enduring young fans, the NFL hopes will mature, but not too much. Lee Cowan, NBC News, Los Angeles .