As ubiquitous as football is in American culture, not everyone appreciates the unbridled energy that comes from watching your team score the winning touchdown. Despite this, digital marketing has changed the way non-football fans interact with the sport, commanding the attention of 65% more non-sports fans than the National Basketball League (NBA) and 125% more interest than the Major League Baseball (MLB).
Whether you’re amongst the slew of Americans who religiously participate in fantasy drafts or the vacillating fan who is only in it for the hot wings and beer, digital marketers can learn from the NFL’s season-long campaign strategies and ancillary marketing efforts, considering the NFL attracts more interest than other sports despite having hundreds of fewer games and shorter seasons.
The National Football League owes their fledging success to its sports marketing, in part due to social media, effective branding and their strategic relationships.
Reach and Accessibility to a Wide Variety of Demographics
The majority of football games are centralized on one day a week at a time when most people aren’t working. Footballs fans gather at their local watering hole to watch their team fight to win, and the high concentration of likeminded consumers reveals important demographic information such as location or interests that can be considered for ad targeting.
A recent study even discovered that the most watched televised event by women was the Super Bowl, overshadowing viewership of the Oscars and the Emmys. Regardless of their depth of interest, it’s worthy to note that that women’s NFL apparel searches have increased by 35% over the past year.
Interactions with the NFL have become more streamlined with the introduction of the second screen, as fans rush to share their experience with the game on their tablet or look up stats on their mobile device while simultaneously watching the game on a television. As the season commenced, nearly 74% of all NFL-related searches occurred on mobile devices on the night of the first game.
Social Media and Online Presence
The NFL is now increasing visibility through an exclusive relationship with Twitter, offering a livestream of 10 Thursday Night Football games on Twitter (and viewers don’t even have to be logged in)! Back in August, the NFL publicized the resigning of a multiyear extension with a Snapchat Discover channel, having enjoyed the viewership of 70 million global users from last year’s NFL live story.
Using Data to Targeting Audiences
The NFL has one of the largest and most diverse customer databases, segmenting audiences into buckets ranging from season ticket holders to interested fans who lack time to watch games or even younger sports fans who have been recently introduced to the sport.
In March 2016, Aidan Lyons, the NFL’s VP of fan-centric marketing, stated that a fan is’ more than a data point or conversion.’ He said, “All we hear is ROI, conversion, click-throughs, impressions. We tend to think of those as success metrics, but what about that person who didn’t click or view?” The recent introduction of programmatic media buying has expedited the process of activating new audience segments throughout the NFL’s databases. In order to solve the perennial problem of converting valuable data, the NFL implemented a new strategy that leverages deterministic data sets and assesses how fans are engaging with NFL properties.
Understanding that football attracts more audiences than the typical NFL network or ESPN segment, the NFL has uncovered atypical viewer segments from insight tools, such as Facebook’s lookalike audience. In a campaign to raise awareness for its youth football foundation, the NFL discovered an unconventional, but popular audience segment: “mothers likely to register their kids for youth football after interacting with mobile ads on publisher sites like TMZ.”
The NFL has incubated and fostered highly engaged fan relationships for years, and the modern digital landscape will further contribute to the proliferation of interested football fans.