3 Ways the NFL Excels at Social Media Marketing

Jaime Netzer

Any brand in any vertical can take inspiration from sports teams and their social media efforts: Sports fans are among the most passionate and loyal of all, and their devotion is usually life-long. But just because sports are inherently social doesn’t mean sports media teams inherently do a better job at social media marketing — for that, the teams need the same kind of smart social strategy your brand does. At 2018's SXSW, Spredfast (now Khoros) VP of Strategy Spike Jones sat down with a panel to discuss the secrets of cult brands like the NFL. We’ve got three of those secrets to spill with you right now — and stay tuned for three more from Glossier to come next week. Moreover, learn more on this topic in our whitepaper the Social Media Pocket Guide.

1. Show your human side

Alissa Lieppman, Senior Director of Club Media Strategy for the NFL, shared that the NFL social posts that often perform the best have the least to do with the actual product they sell. “Our product is the game of football, and none of these [top-performing] posts are about the game of football,” Lieppman said. “These are about moments, and about emotion — with these posts, we’re doing something to get all of our fans to feel something.”

“It isn’t the highlights or game analysis that takes off — it’s the personal moments,” Lieppman said. The other advantage of sharing content that’s more human? It can broaden your audience.

“That’s what we encourage all of our clubs to think about,” Lieppman said. “It isn’t about getting likes or loves or angries: you want to make sure that you’re getting someone to share your content because that means you’re exposing yourself to an entirely new audience of people.

2. Highlight your tribe

Lieppman explained that while the Eagles put up a ton of great content on Superbowl Sunday, the thing that resonated the most on Instagram was a Patriots post thanking fans for their dedication in staying behind the team for the entire season.

It might’ve been easy, Lieppman explained, for the Patriots to shut down and go quiet on social: “Our fans are upset, we’re upset, we don’t want to put that out” — but time and time again, thank you posts are the most over-performing posts from a losing team — even out-performing, often, the winning post from the winning team. In this case, the post was the number 1-performing club Instagram post of the entire season. Highlight your tribe, and thank them for their devotion, to watch the social media results roll in.

3. Make your audience feel something — or make them laugh

Lieppman advised the audience at SXSW to create some sort of emotion: “Make someone feel something with each one of your posts,” she said. One of those things an audience can feel? A tickled funny bone. The Jaguars have one of the smallest audiences on social of all the NFL Clubs, but they had the number one tweet of the year across clubs thanks to their use of humor.

By poking fun at SportsCenter and Mike Mitchell’s commentary, the Jaguar’s created content gold. “They took it a step further — they had a voice,” Lieppman said. “They took advantage of something that was already out there, responding with a little bit of humor and a little bit of banter, and the fans and the media just rallied around this post.”

Your brand can lean on humor, too, as long as you’re mindful of how and when you do so. “It’s something that you shouldn't be afraid to do,” Lieppman said. “Just pick and choose the time and place for when it’s right for your brand.”

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