Football season is upon us, despite all of the uncertainty throughout the offseason thanks to COVID-19. Given that the fan experience looks a whole lot different than years past, teams across the nation are finding new innovative ways to connect with their fans regardless of where they are.
No matter the size of your production or marketing team, social distancing limitations, or schedule constraints, the return of football offered a master class in interactive programming for us all. Let’s take a look at what we can learn from both the NFL and college football when it comes to the following:
- Fans having a voice wherever they are
- Engaging the audience and enhancing the overall programming with informative graphics
- Social media telling the story for you
- How a larger digital audience provides new creative opportunities for sponsors
- How football is “back,” even without live games.
Lesson 1: Pregame Programming
Pregame presents one of the best opportunities to create an immersive team-centric experience for fans as the hype builds ahead of kickoff. Across the NFL, we saw these experiences come to life in a variety of ways.
The Detroit Lions dove deep into this concept creating a custom L-Bar layout (see example below) for their Pregame Show using Tagboard Graphics. This implementation included rotating sponsors, player profiles, a social ticker, and a topical rundown of the show. The format gave fans insightful information along with a constant medium for engagement.
The Lions’ custom L-Bar layout and the flexibility of the cloud-based Tagboard Graphics system provided the Lions’ production team with the ability to incorporate several different sponsors in front of the nearly 40K viewers across the team’s YouTube channel and Facebook page. The Lion’s corporate partnership with DTE Energy went beyond a simple logo placement, with a fully integrated social campaign #DTEGameFace.
The Minnesota Vikings took a similar approach, leveraging the L-Bar format to incorporate sponsors, informational graphics, and Vikings fans through social media. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles repurposed team content for a live look at pregame warmups during their Kickoff Show.
Lesson 2: In-Game Entertainment
Whether fans cheer from the stands or at home, if they have an interactive platform, they can still have a voice and stay engaged with their team throughout the game.
For example, the Iowa State Athletics Cyclone.tv team put together one of the more entertaining and interactive second-screen experiences that we’ve seen so far this season. Tapping into their radio booth during gameplay and hosting famous alumni during stoppages, the Cyclone.tv team created a show complementary to the linear broadcast, but informative enough to live on its own.
The flexibility of Tagboard Producer, allowed the Iowa State Athletics production team to use integrated social campaigns and promotional graphics with clear calls-to-action, enabling both their fans and corporate partners to participate in the show. With integrated social campaigns, promotional graphics, and by promoting hashtags like #CYKIDS, #CYPETS, #CYHEROES, #CYTAILGATE, and #CYFARM, the Cyclone.tv team gave everyone a reason to share. It was a master class in engagement.
While a live second-screen show provides opportunities for engagement and sponsorship, the in-game experience doesn’t always have to take the form of a livestream. Utilize other digital properties like a website or mobile app to create a game day hub for fans, with information about the game and a feed of social content from the team, beat writers, and fans.
Lesson 3: Postgame Coverage
The conversation and energy of game day doesn’t stop with the final whistle. Give fans a space to regroup (and hopefully celebrate) after the game with instant reactions and team-specific content from social media and team insiders.
The Kansas City Chiefs do an excellent job of this on Chiefs Rewind as their hosts recap the game with highlights, interviews, and analysis. They also make use of the information available on social media to help tell the story of the game for them, rotating through relevant content in a lower third throughout the broadcast.
Much like the in-game experience, postgame coverage doesn’t always to be livestreamed to engage the fanbase. You can recap the game online and reward fans who interacted with team campaigns throughout game day by giving them a shoutout on your website like Oklahoma State Athletics does.
Lesson 4: Always on Programming
So far we’ve learned how to maximize the experience on game day, but what about during the week? What if there isn’t a live game to build off of like so many college football programs are dealing with right now?
Keep your fans in the loop with practice and training camp reports throughout the week. Make your own game day content using historical or simulated games. Run contests and sweepstakes for gear or future in-person experiences. The opportunities are endless.
For weekly content ideas, take a page out of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ playbook and host daily video content that includes injury updates, press conferences, analysis of the upcoming game, and much more. Similar to the Chiefs Rewind example, the Steelers production team often lets social media help tell the story, showing team updates and reactions from the players themselves.
Full Practice Report video here on Steelers.com
Another great example comes from the University of Connecticut Athletics program who dove into the archives and hosted a virtual #UConnTailgate around a historical game. Adding in live commentary from Huskies fan’s Twitter and Facebook comments along with insights from former players who played in the game, the UConn Athletics team recreated the live game day experience and gave value to sponsors without a live game to work with.
Full video here on UConn Huskies Facebook page.
The game of football brings forth excitement, both on and off the field. By using new technologies during an unusual season, football programs have captured that energy in new ways and changed the meaning of a front row seat.