The National Football League wants to be the most youth-focused, community-driven league in the world. To reach that goal, it’s counting on its social media marketing strategy.
By Julian Cannon
From splashy announcements about the Super Bowl halftime show (the NFL cheekily temporarily rebranded its Twitter bio to “National Fenty League” as a nod to Rihanna’s anticipated performance this year) to working with influencers, the sports league is doing the most to stay trendy.
To engage with fans in constantly innovative ways, the league is turning to creators as part of its so-called NFL Content Creator Network which it launched in 2017.
The program is wide-ranging and is intended to reach a broad audience: creators are targeted in strategic verticals such as fashion, gaming, wellness and music, and by platform including TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram with channels focusing on humor, food, art, animals or football-related content.
The NFL’s social strategy was revamped during the pandemic as it forced the team to innovate, according to Trombetta. The NFL explored and experimented with new formats, Instagram live sessions, Snapchat, Twitter spaces and TikTok. Experimenting with these channels, fans were able to gain access to the players, despite not being able to be in the stadiums, and get inside information on what the players were doing.
The strategy seems to be working so far. The NFL reached 91% more Instagram unique users on this year’s kickoff compared to Kickoff Sunday last year, Trombetta said, citing internal figures without providing specifics.
The league’s marketing machine works to engage its large fan base, which the NFL cultivates carefully and collects data on extensively. Brands are doing their best to capitalize on the hype surrounding the NFL season which started earlier this month by finding creative ways to keep football fans engaged. Recent initiatives to engage fans include Shimmy’s partnership with Gillette Stadium, PepsiCo’s Instacart campaign, Dr. Squatch, and ESPN’s fantasy football campaign.
“If you look at [the] current NFL focus, it’s primarily around TV/broadcast. This has been the model since the beginning and it’s stayed relatively stable,” said Dan Goman, CEO of Ateliere creative technologies, a cloud-native digital media supply chain and distribution platform. “However, the NFL is not immune to the changes happening with the content industry as a whole as their fans are migrating to online viewing.”
As the current NFL season progresses, the football brand is also preparing for Super Bowl week, which includes a TikTok tailgate party that they started in 2021.