Vikings Going The Distance To Reach Fans Beyond Football

    • A 10-6 record and a playoff isn't all that Minnesota Vikings fans had to cheer for in 2019.
    • Vikings faithful also enjoyed products like the team's AR-friendly commemorative cups, Pass or Play game, and the "Where's Viktor's Mustache?" children's book.

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To better reach existing fans as well as develop new ones, the Minnesota Vikings are turning to both new and traditional forms of media to find success. 

Ahead of their Week 10 matchup versus the Dallas Cowboys, the Vikings rolled out their new “Pass or Play” game on their mobile app, said Vikings Executive Director of Digital Media and Innovation Scott Kegley. Minnesota collaborated with Sportshub to develop this game, the first of its kind in the NFL. 

Following the Cowboys contest, a wider release ensued when the Vikings took on the Broncos in Week 11, where users had to submit their lineups before kickoff.

Free to fans, Pass or Play allows users to set weekly rosters – consisting of a quarterback, running back, two wide receivers, and a tight end. These rosters are in the form of digital cards that are sent to users in the team app. 

Three cards are sent at each position, and gamers have the opportunity to either keep the player on the first card – thus inserting them into the lineup – or pass and move onto the next one. If one were to pass on all three cards, they could come back the next day for one new card.

The development of Pass or Play was long in the making, said Kegley. Early in the off-season, his focus was on adding an interactive fan component in the form of a digital game.

“We wanted to create something that would keep fans coming back to the app for something other than news or the stadium utility, to give them something to do in the app,” Kegley said. 

Along the way, users will garner points each week based on how their players perform. Gift cards to the Vikings’ online team store are awarded to the three highest-scoring participants at the end of every week. First-place winners received a $150 gift card, runner-up finishers earned $100, and the third-place participant won $50, said Kegley.

With its cumulative leaderboard, Pass or Play also keeps track of scores throughout the regular season. Heading into the Vikings’ Week 17 contest against the Chicago Bears, Kegley aimed to attract more people to Pass or Play by partnering with sponsor Mystic Lake Casino Hotel on various prizes. 

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The grand-prize winner – who was the top scorer from Weeks 11 through 17 – won a two-night stay at Mystic Lake along with $100 in both food vouchers and slot play, respectively, said Kegley. In addition to this, the top finishers in both Weeks 16 and 17 also received a $150 gift card and a Dalvin Cook autographed football.

“If you haven’t been playing until Week 16, you probably don’t have a shot at the grand prize anymore since that’s cumulative,” Kegley said. “But we’re offering some additional incentives to get some more users to sign up and have a chance at all those great prizes.”

Pass or Play isn’t the only experimental technology activation the Vikings rolled out this season. Earlier in the 2019 season, they launched a co-branded, augmented-reality inspired commemorative cup alongside partner PepsiCo, Inc.

Outside of interacting through digital and social measures, the Vikings are also using literature to reach younger fans. 

On December 20th, Minnesota released “Where’s Viktor’s Mustache?” a children’s book centered around mascot Viktor the Viking. 

It takes young readers on a voyage to find Viktor’s mustache through rhyming texts and creative illustrations that incorporate hidden letters on every page to create more activity throughout the book.

According to Brandon Clemens, the Vikings’ director of youth marketing, the idea behind “Where’s Viktor’s Mustache?” was a year in the making. It came about internally as a way to introduce Viktor to locals throughout Minnesota – regardless of age.

From there, Vikings Marketing Coordinator Tyler Birschbach was responsible for all of the copy and illustrations in “Where’s Viktors Mustache?” He also worked closely with Mascot Books, Inc. – a Herndon, Va.-based publishing company – to make sure the book stayed unique to Minneapolis.

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During the writing process, the Vikings were able to engage with numerous communities and organizations around Minnesota to include historical landmarks in “Where’s Viktor’s Mustache?” Some were Otto the Otter in Fergus Falls, Minn. and the light towers that sit in Duluth and along Lake Superior. And of course, U.S. Bank Stadium, where the Vikings play their home games. 

“This was kind of an opportunity for us to highlight those [other] landmarks,” Clemens said. “We worked with different communities and organizations to feature them prominently in this book – and not just ones here within the Twin Cities region.”

A portion of proceeds from “Where’s Viktor’s Mustache?” also go towards providing additional books around the community, said Clemens. Whether it’s disadvantaged youth who are facing challenging circumstances or schools that use it for their students, he hopes that they get to read this book and have it change the way they’re feeling that day.

“We’re excited to use this as a tool to give back that way as well and work closely with our Vikings Foundation and their goals towards youth education,” Clemens said.

Thus far, the Vikings have sold 1,000 copies of “Where’s Viktor’s Mustache?” and are hoping to reach 5,000 sales.

While it was a long creative and publishing process, both Clemens and his team are happy with the way that “Where’s Viktor’s Mustache?” came out. Going forward, there have been internal discussions of featuring Viktor the Viking in a series-style format that documents his journeys around Minnesota. If this were to happen, he wants to make sure it maintains its core principles of educating and engaging with the Vikings’ local youth fans.

“For us, Viktor, our mascot, is such a powerful tool within our entire brand,” Clemens said. “For us to be able to leverage that voice, that fun-loving nature in a unique way has been pretty powerful. We understand Victor has been around for quite a while as a costumed character, and we understand the power – and I think we’ve found another layer to the mascot and the power that Viktor has.”