One billion views on Instagram Reels later, the NFL has more than just figured out the quirks of the Facebook-owned TikTok competitor.
“For the first week or two, we tried putting the final-score videos on Reels,” said David Feldman, vice president of social media marketing at the NFL. “It was something our fans had become accustomed to [on other platforms]. We immediately saw it didn’t have such great success.”
The NFL was a launch partner when Reels made its U.S. debut in Aug. 2020. The league’s social media team — including Scott Koppenhaver and Bryce Gustafson — quickly pivoted to quirkier content.
“We learned Reels was going to be our destination for moments that get virality on their own, ” Feldman said.
The most-viewed Reel on the NFL’s official account isn’t even from this season — or from the gridiron: A mic’d up Marshawn Lynch talks with then-Seahawks teammate Richard Sherman about donating “turkeys in the hood,” which garnered over 14 million views.
The NFL has been the most popular Reels feed among American pro sports, and 30 of the 32 NFL teams have utilized the platform, according to a Facebook spokesperson.
There will be four content creators at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday who will supplement videos pulled off the broadcast feed, similar to how the league staffed several 2020 prime-time games.
With the rise of social media over the years, there’s been pushback from some leagues on sharing copyrighted replays.
Feldman and his team face no legal impediments because the NFL authorizes its social media accounts to use any game footage. Still, sports executives can be hesitant to put out social content over worries it could subtract eyeballs from live broadcasts.
“I’m very fortunate where the leadership at the NFL … appreciates the need for sustainable growth and fandom,” Feldman said. “Social is really one of, if not the most, pivotal verticals to help push audience growth as a whole. I think it’s a little bit of old social [media] thinking to put stuff behind a paywall. My team’s goal is to increase fandom. Full Stop.”