Anyone with a phone can create content nowadays. In fact, global internet users post 49,380 photos to Instagram every minute of every day.
So, with so much content out there, how can one distinguish themselves?
For the NFL, that is through finding unique ways to verticalize its content through accounts like The Checkdown.
“With The Checkdown, we wanted to cover more of the surrounding football stories from youth football all the way up to college football,” said Ben Gallagher, Head of Social Content for The Checkdown. “We really wanted to broaden our content offering from the league perspective.”
Only a year old, The Checkdown has found a way to make an impact in more ways than creating content that resonates with its audience.
Two of the most recent examples include getting a young player to practice with the Buccaneers and finding a way to get a Marine veteran signatures from Eagles players on his prosthetic.
“We started The Checkdown to encompass stories like those that reach outside of the traditional storylines,” added Gallagher. “The goal for us is to ‘take the helmets off the players’ and shed light on the game in ways that are different than normal.”
Many of today’s best social accounts — team and league related, or not — are driven by either great curation or great creation.
Gallagher wants The Checkdown to be known for being great at both.
“We knew that to stand out, we had to offer best in class curation as well as original content. Being associated with the NFL, we have access that no other outlet has. I believe that’s really what is our competitive advantage and what has allowed us to tell deeper, more meaningful stories.”
Relying on a content team of five people who work exclusively for The Checkdown as well as leaning on a group of content producers of more than 30 people inside the NFL Social Lab, the account is able to capitalize on moments with furious pace and creativity.
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Outside of serialized and original content, the team at The Checkdown also produces a Snapchat show and a Twitter show — something that Gallagher sees as further proof to why The Checkdown isn’t just an average social account.
The goal of these initiatives? Find a way to recapture the youth audience that football — and the NFL in particular — is desperately trying to get in front of.
“We’re trying to kind of recapture the youth audience with our Twitter and Snapchat shows, which is another thing that makes what we are doing more than just a social media account. We’re not just putting up a one-off post; we’re coming up with serialized, original content, and we’re putting on productions.”
After US Marine Carlos Garcia lost his @Eagles autographs, the team helped his wife deliver an awesome surprise. ❤️🇺🇸
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) January 12, 2018
While creating quality content, Gallagher and the team have been able to find ways for the league to monetize their efforts, with partners like Samsung coming onboard.
The pitch? Reaching an engaged audience that skews more towards Gen Z than any other distribution channels or network partnerships that the NFL has.
“Brands know that we can help them reach a desirable demographic in a way that feels bespoke to the platform,” said Mark Pesavento, Vice President of Digital Content for the NFL. “We have a creative studio that works closely with our partners to create assets that achieve their goals while engaging the audience with unique and compelling content.”
Today’s athletes and influencers are driving more social conversation and attention than ever before, something that brands can’t replicate in terms of sheer relatability, but that doesn’t mean that a brand can’t have a voice.
For The Checkdown, that voice is derived from a personality-driven approach that places the emphasis on the account being more of a gathering place than anything else.
“We want to become a personal account,” said Gallagher. “We want people to come to the account and not know that they are on a corporate account. There are emotions involved and that is OK.”
While a checkdown during the game might be a safe play for the quarterback, the NFL is betting on accounts like The Checkdown being the future when it comes to its social strategy.