Digital Business Has Made The NFL Unstoppable

The NFL, ever heard of it? If your answer is no, you are either living under a rock or are an alien who has just arrived on earth (welcome!).

The National Football League has been around since the 1920’s and is now comprised of 32 franchises around the US. Since its founding, the league has grown exponentially into one of the most powerful entities of all time. So how has the NFL become the widely successful company/brand that it is today? And how does it continue to grow at such an impressive rate? Easy: social media and digital business. Aha!

NFL & Tech Partnership

–Amazon: Amazon, ever heard of it? Just kidding. But seriously, if you are trying to become a power-house of any industry, why not team up with the biggest power-house of them all—Amazon. The NFL recently teamed up with Amazon in order to increase their global reach. A recent deal between the two companies gave Amazon streaming rights to 11 Thursday Night Football games for the 2017-18 season. For these 11 games, Amazon plans to stream not one, not two, not three, but FOUR different feeds of the game in order to maximize the amount of people they reach, and to tap into other target audiences that have not yet caught the Football bug.giphy (1)

The first feed will be the normal US feed we all know and love—normal announcers and analysts, etc. Feeds 2-4 will have regular footage, but have announcers and analysts calling the game in different languages. These streams will be available in Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and a secondary English feed that essentially dumbs down the play-by-play for people who are unfamiliar with the basic rules of the game (Sports Business Journal). With Amazon as its right-hand man, the NFL hopes to make the rest of the world love Football as much as the US does. It is expanding its global reach and opening up even more doors for future growth.

–NextVR & Google: The NFL has strategically begun to dip its toes in the virtual reality water within the past year to further elevate its brand. Virtual reality promises to put sports fans front and center in the game without actually being at the game (Patriots.com). They have signed partnership agreements with tech companies such as NextVR and Google to gain rights to their VR technology. The League worked with NextVR to provide “immersive, super high-resolution images from advanced cameras” of game footage and commentary. VR streaming of lives games is predicted to come next. (Patriots.com)

The NFL worked with Google and their Daydream Headset to develop a virtual reality original series last football season. Episodes of 5-10 minutes were produced focusing on players, coaches, cheerleaders, fans and more.

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Through partnering with these tech companies who have virtual reality competencies, the NFL is able to reach more fans across more channels. Virtual reality gives the NFL the ability to broadens its reach, enter into new markets, increase fan engagement, and ultimately maintain its status as corporate giant.

Increased Brand Touch Points Through Digital Channels

–Social Media Platforms: Though it may seem obvious, social media platforms increase fan engagement with the NFL and are a main contributor to its overall success. Social platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook have stretched a six-month season into a year-round business. With all the social platforms, there is constant content for fans to engage with. The NFL itself has over 24.2 million followers on twitter, 16 million likes on Facebook, and 10 million followers on Instagram. This is just the League on its own—this doesn’t even get into social media accounts of specific teams or players that further increase the overall reach and engagement. To give you some perspective, Russell Wilson (Go Seahawks!!) adds another 4.4 million twitter followers, 3.1 million Instagram followers, and 2.2 million Facebook likes. I think its pretty safe to say that social media has put the NFL in another “league” (no pun intended) of constant fan engagement.

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–Fantasy Football: Fantasy Football is just one more way that the NFL has elevated its brand through increasing digital touch points. Through this channel, fans get an enhanced experience. They are essentially able to assume the role of Coach—they choose team, team rosters, and on-field players for that weeks’ games. The real life game/player results determine Fantasy team standings. Not only does this cause fans to become obsessed with creating the best team in the Fantasy league, but it also increases viewership’s of games. People people are interested to see how the players on their Fantasy teams are performing, even if they don’t play for their favorite real-life team and they might not watch that specific game otherwise.

So, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—the NFL is a corporate powerhouse. Not only this, but with its strategic use of social media and digital business, it shows no signs of slowing down. Tech partnerships with other giants like Amazon is helping the NFL reach even further and go global. Teaming up with VR companies is giving the League even more access to different markets. The use of multiple digital touch-points like social media platforms and Fantasy Football has increased the over all fan experience, engagement and viewership of games. It will be interesting to see what the League does next.

6 comments

  1. sherricheng5 · ·

    Great post! Personally I’m not a huge football fan, so I would definitely benefit from the NFL/Amazon partnership. It’s a smart move for the NFL to try to tap into viewers who are not traditionally football fans. As much as the U.S. loves football, the sport isn’t that popular worldwide. Using digital business and social media (which is accessible to many people globally) will help the NFL reach new target audiences, which shows how much potential there is! I also find the idea of virtual reality really interesting. I wonder how many football fans would be adopters and who would be hesitant to try these new technology offerings. If VR technology becomes more widely used, I wonder how ticket sales for live sales will be affected. Will people be less tempted to make it out to games if they can experience the game in the comfort of their homes? I’m not sure if I have the answer because I’m not a football fan, but I’m curious to see how receptive people are to VR. I think the NFL will continue to see increasing success if they utilize social media and digital business and adapt to changing trends.

  2. Holly! You shared some really interesting changes and projects that are going on in the NFL right now. I found the details of the NFL/Amazon deal really interesting. It’s crazy to see how digital platforms are effecting football, you normally would not put the two together. However, given the NFL is a live event that viewers try to watch in real time, it was a smart move for them to offer streaming services given that is where all other television is headed. Loved this article!

  3. chloeshepard18 · ·

    Great article! I think one of the biggest challenges that the NFL faces is that people don’t understand football and it’s not very easy to learn the rules so many people just avoid watching it. The NFL/Amazon deal that provides an easier to understand play-by-play is a genius way to capture new audiences and grow.

  4. NFL is definitely a powerhouse. Also facing social media challenges of their own with viral videos of players abusing partners, coaches snorting cocaine, and all of the concussion stuff. It’s a sword that cuts both ways.

  5. juliabrodigan · ·

    Great Post, Holly! You have amazing insight into the NFL’s beneficial relationship with social media and other technology platforms. I found the portion about Amazon and the NFL particularly interesting. It is crazy how many different industries Amazon is getting involved in. It is truly going to dominate/play a large role in every industry at some point. I think it is amazing how they are broadcasting the football games in different languages. Football is obviously extremely popular in the United States. Thus, logically, the next way it is going to grow and expand is to become popular on a global level. Amazon airing the games in different languages will be a great step into attracting fans across the world. Also, Amazon is accessible on the internet thus it eliminates the TV channel/network barrier across countries. I think that this feature will definitely lead to more people enjoying football across the world! Will football be the next soccer?

  6. andrewmanginelli · ·

    I would definitely agree that the NFL has done a fantastic job leveraging technology in order to grow (both at home and abroad). The league today is more popular than its ever been, with three games in London this season and one in Mexico. Although this goes beyond the tech side of this class, I would argue that the NFL is far from unstoppable. In my opinion, out of all major sports leagues, the NFL is most at risk due to concussions. Although it will continue to grow in the foreseeable future, I think we are reaching a tipping point where parents will not allow their children to play football because of health risks. I think that the NFL should switch its strategy from one of growing to solving what will ultimately be its downfall.

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