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It has been a while since I dissected the content marketing efforts of a major brand, and what better subject for my first one of the year than the almighty NFL.
The 32 NFL teams generated $11.09bn in revenue between them in 2014. The English Premier League, by comparison, turned over just £3.26bn in the same period.
I thought it would be interesting to delve into the content marketing strategy of this enormous money-making machine to see how the channel supports its success.
The NFL website is a veritable ocean of content. And if you didn’t know what you were looking for you might well drown in it, too.
The homepage is laid out like a blog, with links to various articles under a number of different content categories: ‘Latest headlines’, ‘Analysis’, ‘Super Bowl’ and so on.
There’s also plenty of interactive content.
In the screenshot below you can see two separate voting options, one for ‘Pepsi rookie of the year’ and another for ‘Which two teams will face each other in Super Bowl 50?’
These voting boxes appear throughout the NFL homepage.
There’s video content, too, in the form of a little autoplay box in the top right that previews the ‘NFL Now Live’ section of the site.
Clicking on the preview takes you through to that section, where there’s constant video coverage along with live text updates on the left hand side telling you what content is coming up next.
There is an enormous amount of video content throughout the NFL site.
I’ve opened up the menu below so you can see all the options.
A lot of the video content is replays of important moments, while sections such as ‘Inside the NFL’ feature shows that have already run on NFL Network.
There’s lots of image-based content on the site, too, with hundreds of photo galleries to browse through.
The blog content on the NFL site is split into football pundit Dave Dameshek’s blog and NFL Films, the latter of which is the company responsible for producing video content for NFL commercials, TV programs, feature films and documentaries.
Finally there’s a section for podcasts.
Again there are an incredible number of these, with something to cater for any NFL fan.
Fantasy football has achieved an almost cult-like following in the US, even spawning its own TV show.
In content marketing terms, it is a phenomenal success. Creating a game that keeps millions of people engaged with your brand every day no matter what? Genius.
Not only that, but it has a huge impact on whether people engage with real sports.
Studies have found that people are watching more football on TV since they started playing the fantasy version,
The NFL doesn’t allow you to embed videos from its YouTube channel, presumably because the clips are available on its site and it wants the ad revenue, so I won’t say too much under this section.
Mostly it’s clips of game highlights, with a few interviews thrown in.
There is some good use of humor in there too, though, like this clip of Nick Mangold photobombing Ryan Fitzpatrick.
‘Is this live?’ Fitzpatrick asks after jumping in the air and screaming.
NFL’s Twitter feed contains a good mix of visual content. In most cases the tweets are a preview to a larger piece of content on the site, which they link back to.
The feed also contains some classic photo/quote combinations, which tend to be rife in sports and in this case seem to achieve plenty of engagement.
There’s also a good amount of video content on the NFL’s Twitter feed, usually in the form of short clips from games.
The NFL also makes good use of Twitter’s voting buttons, and they do seem to lend themselves well to football. As you can see, engagement is pretty high.
Which of today's #SBGoldenPlay highlights was most memorable?— NFL (@NFL) January 18, 2016
The NFL’s content team clearly understands how to market on Instagram.
Everything is visually attractive with only simple block text on some of the images.
You can see from the captions that the NFL posts live updates when something significant happens in a game.
This is an effective way to take advantage of the fact that people tend to look at their phones while watching TV, so it’s an opportunity to achieve engagement with your brand across multiple devices.
There are also further examples of the image/quote combination the NFL uses on Twitter.
And of course there’s plenty of eye-catching video content, mostly in the form of short animations.
Finally there is some great fan-focused content on there, which helps to build on the sense of community around the sport.
Last year the NFL signed a deal with Snapchat that enables it to create official NFL ‘live stories’ on the social network during games.
The move followed the two brands’ first partnership in April when they produced a live story from the NFL Draft in Chicago.
That story was viewed by almost 15m fans across the world.
What the NFL does well on Vine is providing a kind of ‘behind the scenes’ feel to the clips, something which fans can’t necessarily get on any of its other social channels.
Clips are generally before or after games, and as always the beauty of Vine is in the graininess of the clips, which gives them an authentic feel as if you were actually there watching.
Here’s a clip of Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers skipping majestically down a hallway.