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NFL Teams Tap Instagram To Promote New Merch During The Playoffs

  • Since launching Instagram Shopping back in 2017, the social media app has worked with the likes of the NBA and the NFL to grow retail sales using the service.
  • The San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers this postseason have already witnessed spikes in online sales and referral traffic, respectively, thanks to individual partnerships with Instagram.
Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
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NFL fans are known to buy official team merchandise in droves throughout the regular season. 

But when the playoffs come around, that demand only picks up amid the hope that their team will lift the Vince Lombardi trophy.

To take advantage of that, this NFL postseason franchises like the San Francisco 49ers are leveraging one of Instagram’s shopping features to market championship memorabilia to fans. As part of the user experience, fans tap product tags on individual posts shared by the companies that direct them to the 49ers’ online team store to complete purchases.

Photos of players donning championship apparel were also shared on Instagram and Facebook as part of the paid social advertising bought by the team, according to Meghan Ryan, the 49ers director of digital and social media.

The hottest item among supporters so far is the division championship hat worn by players in the locker room after defeating the Seattle Seahawks on December 29. The commemorative caps sold out just a few hours after release, she said.

“We’ve been modest about what we have done with Instagram Shopping to this point,” Ryan added. “But there is certainly a lot of opportunity with e-commerce on the service as people begin to want to shop more on their phone without the need of a desktop experience.”

Ryan noted that 49ers playoff gear accounted for 10% of total sales made by Fanatics from the night the team clinched the NFC West through January 2 – the total duration of time club merchandise was marketed on Instagram Shopping.

Championship merchandise, however, is still available to consumers on Fanatics and 49ers.com, the team said. The 49ers also continue to promote the new product line organically. This is where the franchise’s email marketing strategy comes into play, according to Ryan. While now considered an old digital technology, teams’ email lists typically drive a good chunk of ticket sales and retail activity from subscribers, she said.

“We want to capitalize on the emotion and accomplishment of winning the division,” Ryan added. “We’ve definitely seen an increase in demand and engagement across the board throughout the season. In the playoffs, it’s even more intense.”

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The Green Bay Packers are another NFL team utilizing Instagram to grow retail sales by capitalizing on the hype generated from a successful season on the field.

Hats and t-shirts featuring “The North is Not Enough” trademarks were promoted via website ads and email marketing campaigns. But in a similar strategy to the 49ers, the Packers used Instagram Shopping to tag products in photos, which link directly to the team’s official online store. Referral traffic has accounted for 68% of the Packers’ total sales so far, according to the team.

“We always use social media, Packers.com and email campaigns to boost awareness, and the message on the merchandise ‘The North is Not Enough’ celebrates our divisional championship while also serving as motivation as we begin the playoffs,” Peggy Prebelski, Packers director of retail operations, said in an email. “Fans want to be a part of that excitement, especially when they see our players and coaches responding to it and engaging with it on social media.”

Instagram Shopping debuted back in 2017 and has since undergone multiple upgrades including a dedicated tab on the social media app’s Explorer page and marketing capabilities on Instagram Stories. At one time, the company hinted it would launch a dedicated retail app as well, according to multiple reports. But it instead launched a new Checkout feature in March, which enables customers to purchase products in-app. 

To effectively sell on Instagram and capture the attention of fans, leagues have used Instagram Shopping in a variety of ways. Two notable examples include the NBA producing a 22-minute live show from its New York City flagship store showing off merchandise on sale, and the NFL creating a photoshoot during last year’s NFL Draft featuring draft day hats that were later made available for fans to purchase.

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On the team level, the Los Angeles Clippers pushed jersey releases for both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer on Instagram Shopping. The move generated 40% of total traffic to the team’s online store the first day jerseys became available.

“Instagram is the new digital storefront for retailers – a place where people can come to discover and shop from brands and creators – all while congregating with friends,” a Facebook spokesperson said. Facebook is the parent company of Instagram.

“We found that 90% of people follow a business on Instagram. As more than 130 million people tap to reveal product tags in shopping posts every month, we’re invested in making the shopping experience as easy and seamless as possible for both people who love to shop and for brands,” the spokesperson said.

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