NFL Tackles Gen Z through Social Media Platforms
5 September marked the kick-off of the 2019 National Football League (NFL) season – its 100th season to-date. This will be particularly relevant for broadcasters and sports rights holders alike, as the CBS broadcast of Super Bowl LIII back in February recorded its TV audience at an all-time low since 2008. According to Nielsen Media, the match between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams only drew 98.2 million viewers, just slightly above the 97.5 million viewership at the 2008 low.
However, so far CBS has reported streaming viewership at a record high across 7.5 million unique devices, a 20% increase from last year. Viewers have consumed more than 560 million total minutes of live game coverage, up 19% from last year. The average audience of 2.6 million live viewers during a game is occurring at the same time that streaming is gaining momentum. This historic season sees the NFL becoming aggressive in pursuing its younger audience through social media platforms. Within the first two weeks of September, the NFL announced various partnership deals with TikTok, Reddit, Facebook and YouTube.
TikTok and its one billion downloads offers a new way to engage for the NFLThe multi-year partnership deal with TikTok effectively enables the NFL to reach the platform’s global audience of one billion users. Apart from launching its official account on TikTok, the NFL will be delivering content highlights and behind-the-scenes footage on the social media video app. The hashtag #weready was created with the hope of generating virality amongst its users and American football lovers. With a younger audience like Gen Z, the power of user-generated content and all things viral is crucial for brand awareness and consumption.
The NFL gets up close and personal with RedditorsThe new partnership between NFL and Reddit enables the NFL to connect to Reddit’s 330 million active users directly with its players and legends, with a season of unique “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) threads. Established earlier this year, the NFL’s official Reddit profile, Reddit NFL, boasts a community of 1.5 million users. The AMA is a feature often used for Reddit users to connect directly with personalities and celebrities of all kinds. Previous popular AMA’s includes Barack Obama, Snoop Dogg and Keanu Reeves. AMA’s aside, the NFL will release a video content series with first-to-market advertising opportunities for brands.
Growing with the e-sports community Amazon extended its partnership with the NFL for Thursday Night Football rights in 2018, in a $130 million, two-season deal. The NFL generates 30% more annually in revenue from the extension but has also enabled Amazon to live stream games on its gaming and e-sports platform Twitch. The collaboration, which began in 2017, will see all games free to stream on Twitch from week four. This effectively allows streamers to engage with each other through live comments, further strengthening and connecting NFL fans within the community.
NFL Videos on Facebook WatchThe NFL has extended its multi-year deal with Facebook, distributing video highlights and recaps on Facebook Watch. In addition, there will also be NFL news and analysis, weekly video podcasts, and a series of NFL 100 content to celebrate 100 seasons. In its press release, the NFL states that over 22 million people watched at least a minute of an NFL recap on Facebook in 2017 and 2018, with 28% of these views originating from outside the U.S – signifying more opportunities with a global audience.
Exclusively on YouTubeNFL Game Day All-Access is a weekly show streaming exclusively on the NFL YouTube channel beginning 11 September. There will be a total of 22 episodes focusing on the game day experience for players and coaches, allowing fans to immerse themselves further into the world of the NFL. As with all major sports leagues, the NFL licenses the broadcast rights to its core product. The NFL has now taken a step further by hopping on the “original” bandwagon and producing its own original content, surrounding its players and teams.
These partnerships signify the importance of streaming for sports fans and the growing advertising opportunity to laser-target sports audiences through social media platforms. Ads underpin the value of the NFL – advertisers spent $5.25 million for a 30 second slot during the CBS broadcast of the Super Bowl LIII match. With the decrease of linear TV viewership for the most-watched sporting event in the world, advertisers increasingly need to diversify ad spend and seek online brand opportunities with the NFL and its audience.