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.
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.
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.
–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.