With an NFL-best 14-2 record during the 2019 season, the Ravens have seen the team’s on-field success translate to its social media platforms.
“We tried to establish a look that fits and sets up our team brand, which is tough and gritty and hardworking,” said Ravens Director of Social Media Garrett Downing. “A blue-collar town, the underdog role – and so we try to have that come out in our content.”
While YouTube is the Ravens’ oldest social media page, dating back to January 2011, its growth in 2019 surpassed all of the team’s other platforms.
With YouTube placing more weight in subscriber numbers than follower counts, Baltimore has now more than 115,000 subscribers, increasing that number by 230% year-over-year. It has also seen over 20.5 million video views this season alone.
The wide variety of content that finds success on YouTube has helped the team on the platform, which the Ravens have leaned into.
While some people tune in to see press conferences featuring Jackson and Head Coach John Harbaugh, others want to relive the glory days and binge-watch videos starring Ravens legends like Ed Reed and Ray Lewis.
“Our YouTube presence is growing – that’s something we only started investing in in the past few years,” said Ravens Social Media Coordinator Cassie Calvert.
Catering to the younger people that frequent YouTube, the Ravens have begun producing more non-football related content. Whether it’s kicker Justin Tucker singing opera or his teammates playing a game of, “What’s In The Box?,” it’s another way for young fans to connect with the team, said Downing.
“The young audience: it has become a community,” Downing said. “[YouTube] is a library of content, where if you want to go down a rabbit hole of watching whatever it is – how-to videos, Ray Lewis highlights – you can do that. But it’s also become a place where people expect news and information and to have conversations around something that they’re passionate about – like a team – regularly. We spent a lot of time over the past year and a half, two years looking at what we do on YouTube and trying to create some content that we know is going to perform in that space.”
In recent seasons, the team has also shifted its strategy on Instagram, something that helped it hit a major milestone on the platform in October – one million followers, the 18th NFL team to do so.
When Downing first joined the Ravens in 2011, apps like Instagram and Snapchat weren’t on the team’s radar. Even when Calvert came on board in July 2017, she said that Instagram wasn’t a major priority.
Since Calvert’s appointment, two areas have helped the Ravens grow their Instagram following from 734,000 in July 2017 to now more than 1.2 million.
First, there has been a more significant emphasis on the quality of the team’s social media content. In prior years, it was not uncommon for Instagram posts to be quickly taken pictures that had no photo editing, said Downing. Now, with support from the Ravens’ video department, pictures and videos are of higher quality and possess the team’s watermark.
The Ravens’ tone on Instagram is also clearly defined. Both Downing and Calvert have decided to highlight the city of Baltimore on the Facebook-owned platform.
Whereas Twitter is the organization’s way of distributing football news both across there and its website, Instagram’s creativity has shined a light on the grittiness of Baltimore. That, alongside the success of quarterback Lamar Jackson, has helped the Ravens’ Instagram following in 2019 to grow 43% year-over-year, adding more than 362,800 followers, and generating more than 47 million impressions.
“There’s a reason that so much of the focus – not just for the Ravens, but in the sports world and the entertainment industry – is placed on Instagram,” Downing said. “It’s because of the engagement there and the way that its consumer habits are so clearly connected to that platform, you want to be in that space at a very significant level.”
On Twitter, the team has added more than 105,680 followers this season. While they didn’t experience much growth on Facebook, it’s still proven to be the Ravens’ most extensive follower base at over 2,291,700.
The Ravens have also quickly taken strides on TikTok. When the NFL announced its formal partnership with the Chinese-based social media app on September 3, the Ravens launched its own account three days later.
With a focus on player walk-ins and their gameday outfits, the Ravens have attracted more than 216,400 followers on TikTok and 1.6 million likes. More impressive than their TikTok following – which is seventh-most out of 28 NFL teams on the platform – is how they’ve been able to broaden their audience.
On other social media accounts, the Ravens tend to attract more male followers, said Downing. When it comes to TikTok, the gender split is 60-40 male to female. While it may pale in comparison to other pro sports teams, it’s a sign that the team is reaching beyond its existing fan base on TikTok.
“It’s good to be able to reach people that we may not be reaching elsewhere,” Downing said. “That could be a female audience that we’re not reaching on other platforms; it could be a younger audience that we’re not reaching on other platforms. I think it all goes back to the core philosophy, which is that we want to be where fans are.”
Regardless of how the season ends, Downing said he and his team will evaluate the Ravens’ social media accounts during the offseason. They’ll look to what works and what didn’t, but also at their competitors to see if they can replicate anything that they excelled at.
One possibility of this is TikTok. With all but four NFL teams on the platform, it’s clear that the league and its members have taken a liking to the app, said Sunny Chen, marketing associate at Sensor Tower, which provides market intelligence and insights for the global app economy.
“We can only see TikTok’s relationships with teams and leagues continue to blossom,” Chen said. “Take Instagram, for example. It began as purely a social platform to share photos. Now, major sports and sports media outlets dominate Instagram with clips of highlights, game recaps, photos, and the most up-to-date news. TikTok could follow a similar trend as the app’s popularity grows.”