It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing, coats are leaving their closets, fireplaces are burning away the cobwebs and football season is in full swing. Every sunday TV‘s, computer, and phones screens are lighting up as people prepare themselves for the most important day of the week.
The NFL has been on a mission to provide a more interactive and encompassing fan experience in hopes of increasing stadium attendance, and their global reach. Social media platforms have been quick to hop on board with the NFL, who sees social media as a great way to access thousands of new fans, while reinforcing their brand identity in their current fans. Twitter has broken through the NFL’s strict digital distribution rules, and struck a major deal that looks to provide major benefits to both sides.
The NFL has gained the ability to run promoted advertisements on Twitter feeds. These ads will be integrated in real time fashion as the games play out on television screens, featuring videos of big hits and game breaking plays. Based on Twitters current ad style, they will not interrupt the flow of the users feed. This is HUGE for the NFL as they now have the ability to reach thousands of new potential fans, while keeping their current fans satisfied with a plethora of highlight reel moments. Mobile phones are becoming an increasingly important tool to the common sports fan. Updates are now on a constant stream as content is thrown at us from the endless sea of apps that only continues to grow. The NFL has already made some moves on the mobile market by completely revamping their NFL app to make it more intuitive for fan use. From here you can watch live games and highlights, with a constant stat tracker for every game and every player so fans can find what they want when they want it. Twitter stands to gain just as much, if not more from the deal as they expand their advertising horizons. Twitter has gained exclusive rights to the NFL’s digital content, which has been a struggle for many others who have tried. They stand to gain the most financially from the deal, according to an ESPN and EMarketer Inc. estimate Twitter will double their ad revenue from $583 million to over $1 billion. It will be interesting to see if Twitter will update the way their ads stream on users feeds to make the content more visible.
However Twitter is not the only social media giant striking deals with major sports organizations. Facebook has hopped on the bandwagon, also striking a deal with FOX Sports that will allow the platform to air real time fan feeds on television broadcasts for the NFL, soccer and college football. Neither of the companies are paying each other in the deal, which is solely to increase their reach while increasing fan interaction. Facebook was able to calculate that during prime time television hours, anywhere from 88 to 100 million people are active on the book. They have also noticed a significant jump in activity during football hours, suggesting that fans are making their voices heard via the social media platform. FOX sports and Facebook are giving them a chance to share that voice in real time for an even bigger audience than simply their online friends. Facebook, which is typically not a platform associated with real time activities like this has been attempting to increase its presence in live events, similar to the ways Twitter is used. They have been adopting a number of strategies already used by Twitter such as searchable hashtags, and verified pages. As Facebook looks to increase fan interaction and activity during prime time hours, FOX Sports is looking to increase fans interaction while viewing their programs. They are going beyond simply a live stream open to comments by posing fan questions, casting real time polls, and including a major feature that monitors fan “volume” via their Facebook and Instagram activity during game time.
The NFL has a lot to gain from utilizing its social media outreach. As our society becomes increasingly adept to the multi screen lifestyle, reaching customers via their mobile devices is a necessity in this day and age. Social media platforms also stand to gain a lot from opportunities like these, and have been able to leverage their real time interaction strategies to increase user interaction on their sites. Sports thrive on their social nature. Facebook and Twitter are both great tools used by sports fans, for sports fans. As the NFL strikes deals with them, the NBA, MLB, and NHL will not be far behind as sports organizations look to find ways to increase their fan interaction, because who doesn’t want to feel like they’re part of the team?