May 23, 2024

How the NFL Reached New Fans This Season

How the NFL Reached New Fans This Season

The NFL has always been monumental in the world of sports, but the 2023-2024 season marked a period of particularly innovative fan engagement strategies.

From leveraging the spontaneous excitement around Taylor Swift attending games to unique broadcasting approaches such as Nickelodeon’s Super Bowl coverage, the league has expanded its reach to new audiences in groundbreaking ways.

Let’s explore some of the most successful initiatives that have not only broadened the NFL’s fan base but also enhanced the viewing experience in unique ways

Taylor Swift and the NFL: A Spectacle of New Fans

The NFL’s connection with Taylor Swift this season was ✨enchanting✨(iykyk). Known for her massive global following, Swift’s presence at several games brought excitement and new fans to the league. According to Front Office Sports, her appearances alone generated an equivalent brand value of $331.5 million for the Kansas City Chiefs and the NFL. This figure includes the value from print, digital, radio, TV, highlights, and social media mentions of Swift attending games, calculated from her first game on September 24. 

Taylor Swift content was particularly successful on the NFL’s TikTok, where the algorithm helped videos reach far beyond the NFL’s own following. 

In total, TikToks featuring Taylor Swift amassed 333 million views and 1.48 million engagements. On average, a Taylor Swift TikTok on the NFL’s channel had over 3.66 million views, according to Zoomph

@nfl think taylor had fun at the game 😌 #taylorswift #kansascitychiefs #nfl ♬ original sound - NFL
@davidbrickley The #TaylorSwift Effect is quickly evolving into The #Traylor Effect, check out these numbers!💰 The question still remains, though... How do you see this playing out longterm? Lmk! 👇🏻 ... #TravisKelce #Swifties ♬ So Fresh, So Clean (Instrumental) - Outkast

Her organic involvement created a buzz that extended well beyond typical sports circles. This phenomenon not only captivated existing fans but also attracted Swift’s loyal listeners, many of whom might not have previously tuned into NFL games. Female viewership of NFL games increased by 53% among teenage girls and 24% among the 18-24 age group. The Chiefs vs. Jets game in October drew 27 million viewers, the highest since the last Super Bowl.

The strategy proved that integrating sports with global music phenomena could create a powerful synergy, drawing diverse crowds and generating significant social media engagement.

RELATED: Breaking into International Markets: How the Big 4 Sports Leagues are Doing it

The NFL gets Slimed with Nickelodeon’s Super Bowl Broadcast

Aimed at younger audiences, Nickelodeon’s Super Bowl broadcast was an innovative blend of sports and entertainment.

This unique broadcast featured playful elements like virtual slime cannons, guest appearances from beloved Nickelodeon characters, and a kid-friendly commentary that turned the NFL’s biggest game into a family affair. 

The broadcast was designed to engage children and create a shared viewing experience for families, combining the excitement of the Super Bowl with the fun and familiarity of Nickelodeon.

RELATED: Nickelodeon’s Super Bowl Broadcast: Advertising for a Younger Audience

The integration of augmented reality and engaging graphics made the game more visually appealing to younger viewers. Nickelodeon brought their signature touch with features such as the “NVP” (Nickelodeon Valuable Player) award, where fans voted for their favorite player, and colorful graphics that highlighted key moments in the game. 

This approach not only made the game accessible to kids but also provided a fun way for parents to share their love of football with their children.

 

The success of this broadcast was evident in viewer feedback, which highlighted an overwhelmingly positive response from families enjoying the game together. 

The Super Bowl broadcast averaged 120 million viewers on CBS, 2.3 million Spanish-speaking viewers on Univision, and an additional 1.2 million viewers on Nickelodeon. This multi-platform approach allowed the NFL to reach diverse audiences and create a memorable viewing experience for all ages​.

Nickelodeon’s creative content also found significant traction on social media platforms. TikToks featuring Nickelodeon’s Super Bowl content garnered millions of views, exemplifying the viral potential of blending sports with entertainment. 

The use of interactive and engaging content ensured that the NFL could capture the attention of younger audiences while maintaining the excitement of the game for traditional viewers.

@spongebob 🚨 FIRST LOOK 🚨 Sweet sweet victory, and the big game hasn’t even started! Catch the entire game TODAY at 6:30 ET/ 3:30 PT only on @Nickelodeon #SBLVIII #NFL #SuperBowl ♬ Sweet Victory Super Bowl LVIII ONLY on Nickelodeon - SpongeBob
@nfl This @nickelodeon broadcast is awesome 😂 #nflplayoffs #slime ♬ original sound - NFL
Disney’s Toy Story Joins the NFL

The NFL’s partnership with Disney’s Toy Story brought a new level of innovation to fan engagement through the “Toy Story Funday Football” event. This unique collaboration transformed live NFL games into animated experiences, creating an immersive and family-friendly atmosphere. 

During these special game days, stadiums were animated to resemble scenes from Toy Story, complete with characters like Woody and Buzz Lightyear cheering on the sidelines.

The event was made possible through sophisticated tracking data, using player and ball positioning data along with RFID tags installed in players’ shoulder pads. This data was then used to create real-time animations that matched the live game actions, allowing fans to watch their favorite NFL players in a whimsical, animated world, according to VFXV. The broadcast featured playful commentary, special animations, and interactive elements designed to engage younger viewers and their families​​.

@nfl need every game live from andy’s room 🤯 #trevorlawrence #jacksonvillejaguars #nfl #toystory ♬ original sound - NFL
@espn “The Claw” makes its way to Andy’s room 😆 #toystory #nfl #jaguars #falcons #disney100 ♬ original sound - Txxxxxxxx

By merging the excitement of live sports with the beloved characters and stories from Toy Story, the NFL crafted an event that was both thrilling and heartwarming, attracting both nostalgic parents and their children and building a new generation of young fans.

RELATED: To Infinity and Beyond: How the NFL is Marketing to Gen Z and Gen Alpha

Paramount’s New Creator Studio: Influencing the Influencers

Paramount’s new Creator Studio, developed in collaboration with CBS Sports, represents a groundbreaking step in the NFL’s digital engagement strategy.

The Creator Studio aims to bridge the gap between traditional sports media and modern digital platforms. Influencers and content creators have access to various resources, including editing suites, green screens, and live production capabilities, which allow them to craft compelling narratives around NFL games and events.

By partnering with influencers who have a strong social media presence, Paramount and CBS Sports can reach wider and more diverse audiences, making NFL content more relatable and accessible.

A key aspect of this initiative is the focus on creating short-form content optimized for platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. This approach not only amplifies the reach of NFL content but also ensures it resonates with the viewing habits of younger generations. The studio’s innovative environment fosters creativity and collaboration, encouraging influencers to experiment with new formats and storytelling techniques that highlight the excitement and drama of NFL games.

Through this strategic investment in digital content creation and influencer partnerships, the NFL continues to evolve its fan engagement tactics, ensuring it remains relevant in an increasingly digital world. 

RELATED: Paramount’s New Creator Studio Brings the Best of Sports and Influencer Marketing Together

NFL on Netflix: A Christmas Day Game-Changer

The NFL’s decision to stream games on Netflix marks a significant shift in sports broadcasting. Starting on December 25, 2024, Netflix will be the global home for two NFL games each Christmas as part of a three-year deal. 

This partnership will continue with at least one Christmas Day game being streamed on Netflix in 2025 and 2026. This strategic move not only caters to the traditional TV audience but also taps into Netflix’s vast subscriber base, making it easier for a global audience to access live NFL games.

Netflix has been gradually expanding into live sports, beginning with the success of the series “Quarterback” in 2023, followed by the upcoming series “Receiver.” This progression into live sports broadcasting represents Netflix’s broader strategy to diversify its content offerings and attract a wider audience. 

Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s Chief Content Officer, highlighted that there are no live annual events that compare with the viewership of NFL games, emphasizing the significant audience pull of the NFL’s Christmas Day games.

The choice to stream games on Christmas Day capitalizes on the holiday spirit, inviting families to incorporate NFL games into their festive celebrations. The NFL’s Executive Vice President of Media Distribution, Hans Schroeder, noted that the partnership with Netflix is ideal for growing the global viewership of the NFL’s holiday games, given that Christmas is traditionally the biggest day for Netflix viewership. 

This collaboration underscores the NFL’s forward-thinking approach, leveraging popular streaming platforms to reach new and diverse audiences.

Touchdown for the NFL

The 2023-2024 NFL season was a showcase of how traditional sports leagues can innovate to attract new fans and create memorable experiences. 

From leveraging the spontaneous excitement around Taylor Swift’s attendance and family-friendly broadcasts to integrating with digital platforms and influencer marketing, the NFL has set a new standard for fan engagement. 

Explore our blogs for more insights into how the NFL continues expanding their reach.

 

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