The National Football League (NFL) is one of the biggest sports organisations in the world. Over the years, the corporation has managed to keep fans engaged using a range of tools and features. These have allowed for heightened awareness around the draft, pre-season, league games, the Super Bowl and the International Series.
Ever since 2007 London has hosted the NFL. This season the UK will host four games, two will be held at Wembley, the others at Twickenham Stadium. Since the NFL first started playing abroad the organisation has seen accelerated growth in audience figures globally. The fan base in the UK currently sits at around 13 million.
This past weekend saw the first international fixture of the 2018 season. The Baltimore Ravens competed against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley in front of a sold-out crowd of 84,592 fans. The question is how does the NFL build awareness towards the International Series and what tools do they use to keep fans engaged?
OFFICIAL attendence at @wembleystadium: 84,592.
A new record for @NFL games in the ????????!
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) September 24, 2017
Over the years, the NFL has worked hard to improve their fan experience making supporters feel as if they are part of the team. As a result, footage of games is more accessible than ever before. Whether you’re looking to watch live in a stadium or a broadcast at home a full package is now readily available. Teams are building new larger interactive stadiums which accommodate for rising demand. Another way in which NFL has helped build awareness is through their own network. Not only do you find highlight footage but you also receive additional back-stage images, videos and the Legendary NFL Film series.
The NFL has an extremely strong social media presence on all platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Each club in the league has their own pages. These are kept up to date with news, videos, creatives of scores and player infographics.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) September 27, 2017
2017 Rushing Yards Leaders! (Through Week 3) pic.twitter.com/Bq5jczBHX5
— NFL (@NFL) September 27, 2017
One aspect of social media the NFL does well on is engaging with fans whether this is answering comments or highlighting specific supporters, giving them the chance to win prizes and memorabilia. The organisation has led a forward-thinking approach when it comes to interacting with followers and has been the first league to try many new trends. Whether this is live-streaming, using artificial intelligence or Instagram/Snapchat stories. Clubs have used these to reveal schedules, exclusive footage or producing geo-tagged filters which allow fans to create user-generated content.
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) September 26, 2017
One of the best ways the organisation has increased fan engagement in the UK is through the award-winning NFL on Regent Street. Taking place on September 30th, this year you will find a range of activations taking place. This allows for fans, sponsors and the organisation to create content which can then be distributed over all social media platforms. Not only will supporters get to see both the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphin teams and coaches but you can also watch performances from the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders and listen to interviews with NFL legends.
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) September 26, 2017
NFL on Regent Street has been named as Britain’s best live sports experience which makes it a highlight for American Football fans. Whether you want to get involved in the NFL lab where you can measure your abilities against professionals or purchase gear and memorabilia the event makes for an unmissable day out and one of the top highlights of the International series.
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) September 21, 2017
With the NFL’s global reach they have been able to take advantage of a unique opportunity allowing them to engage and amplify their message in worldwide. This has been succeeded by building awareness through social channels, as well as their global activation strategy. Not only has this helped engagement with current fans but it has aided in attracting new supporters of the game. The series has had a significant impact on the UK growth of the sport with reports of year on year growth at university and league levels. Over 40,000 individuals are now playing American Football in the UK and we can only see this figure rising as the years go on.