(imre is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)
Fans’ obsession with their favorite sports isn’t confined to the regular season. It is an affair that lasts throughout the entire year. Pro sports leagues must then find creative ways to bring consumer products to their fans through tools like social media.
The National Football League, for example, has devoted their @NFLStyle accounts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to connect fans through the latest style trends, hottest gifts, player fashion, and cultural moments that happen all throughout the calendar year.
Agaja Reddy, the NFL’s senior director of consumer products, oversees the marketing strategy for the league focused on driving product awareness and sales to the league’s retail partners.
“We see ourselves as deepening fans’ connection and engagement to their team and local community. For a fan the most physical way to showcase their team pride is through licensed products,” Reddy told FOS. “To reach our 187 million fans, we have an integrated marketing campaign that encompasses digital ads, PR, TV ads, emails, social influencers, and social media. NFL Style is one of many channels and tactics that we use to engage with fans.”
Many leagues will try to segment their fans by their interests with data sources that speak to these behaviors. This includes looking at previous purchases, fantasy game players, or subscribers to official streaming services like NBA League Pass or NFL Game Pass. Those data sources can be used to serve up digital ads to audiences that would likely respond to them. For social teams, this usually leads to higher conversions and stronger return on investment.
For this reason, social teams across all of the leagues will adopt an “always on” approach throughout the year.
“We know that the majority of our fans wear our product year-round,” Reddy said. “We execute year-round trigger-based ads on social media to serve to fans during relevant life experiences like when they’re having babies, planning weddings or celebrating birthdays.”
“Holidays are great PR and social opportunities to raise awareness of our product line, as 50% of our items are purchased as a gift. So, we focus on targeting both the recipient and gift-giver in advertising, and have seen great success.”
For the NFL and other similar leagues, these accounts see a stronger reaction from fans when they are served ads related to their favorite teams. This creates a higher click-through rate, higher engagement rates, and higher ROI.
“Our focus has been on creating engaging, celebrated content that attracts fans and stakeholders, all while generating demand for the products through targeted, trigger-based ads,” said Matt Saler, vice president of sports marketing for imre, a social media agency partner of the NFL for the past two seasons. “This formula has generated a remarkable ROI for this program and NFL Style has quickly become an inspiration destination fans across the country.”
In particular, fans tend to resonate with content that features their favorite players from around their favorite leagues. This helps grow the footprint of accounts dedicated to promoting consumer products when players reshare this content.
Moving forward, the consumer products side of the NFL expects a significant portion of their audience to continue to live and shop on social media. As such, their strategy will be adjusted accordingly.
“Close to 50% of our items are purchased on impulse,” Reddy states. “So, we’re focusing more on social shopping across our NFL Style accounts. We’re also testing new platforms like live video shopping called live commerce to see if that spurs interest, especially amongst our youth demos. We’re exploring new ways to connect with our fans and also increase the awareness and sales of our key products.”