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NFL Teams Are Winning Influencer Marketing

Eben Cooper
February 3, 2020

It’s hard to believe that last year’s defensive bout between the Patriots and Rams had the lowest Super Bowl viewership in over 10 years. Perhaps it’s because the only people who aren’t tired of watching the Patriots (who have played in 9 of the last 20 super bowls), are their own fanbase. Yet still, more than 100 million people tuned in. 

Although I felt a degree of disappointment that my hometown team (New York Giants) wasn't competing for the title, I was still looking to consume the content and excitement surrounding the weekend.

I believe similarly minded fans of the NFL are hungry for content and ready to engage, seeking everything from, behind the scene footage of their favorite athletes, after parties, brand sponsored events, club appearances and even fashion pop-ups.

So NFL marketers, grab your pads and helmet and get into your pre-game routine, because the single biggest weekend of the year is past us. Even if your team didn’t make it to the big game, there’s still plenty of opportunity to keep your fanbase engaged and believing in the prospect of next season. It may be off-season, but now is the time to start seriously planning your influencer marketing strategy for the Fall.

Let’s roll up our sleeves, dive into the data and take a few pages from the influencer marketing playbooks of the NFL teams who are winning influencer marketing (regardless of if they won the Superbowl).

Who is Winning with Influencer Marketing:

Of the ten-thousand influencers being analyzed, the New Orleans Saints proved they have the most loyal fanbase online. Over the course of last season, Saints fans lead the league in total number of posts and activated influencers. Much of their success was driven by their ability to utilize micro-influencers, using beat reporters such as Kay Adams and John DeShazier as outlets to give the fans the on-field experience we all covet. 

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the “White Walker” New England Patriots ranked second, just behind New Orleans for total number of influencers activated over the last season. In a true Belickenian manner, the Patriots’ influencers didn't say much as they ranked 9th in total number of posts; however when they did post, the fans were hooked. Despite Tom Brady’s sputtering offensive abilities, the Pats were still able to accrue nearly 1.6 million engagements, leaving them at third on the list. 

Despite their loss on the field, engagements alone won the San Francisco 49ers the Influencer Marketing Super Bowl. Turns out the 49ers were relying on Jimmy G to score in the Red Zone both on and off the field. In the ‘19-20 season, Garoppolo’s 13 posts drove more than 60% of the 49ers total engagements and he was able to do so at a highly efficient clip of 16.3% engagement rate. But the Kansas City Chiefs weren’t far behind on their influencer marketing activation, and just slightly ahead of their offensive game. 

Who is Losing Influencer Marketing:

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Now it’s time we shift our focus to the teams that need to elevate their influencer strategy for next season. In LA, the fans don’t have the generational association with their team. In 1994, The Rams’ moved to St. Louis; shunning their LA fans. In 2016, the team moved back and has been struggling to grapple with engaging the fanbase after a 20 year breakup. Thankfully they were able to salvage the season on the production of wide receiver, Robert Woods; who despite having a tenth of an audience size of workhorse Todd Gurley, drove nearly 40k more engagements. 

Also new to Hollywood, The LA Chargers are struggling to adapt to their new city. Football fans saw it coming, but now the news is official; QB Philip Rivers is out the door - so, who is going to step up and be the next face of the franchise? Hopefully for the Chargers, that role will be filled by someone with a good social media presence (Philip is famously anti-social media.) As they move into LA’s biggest new attraction, SoFi Stadium, a lot of question marks still remain for the team. Will Melvin Gordon be able to find his social groove again, or will they be relying on fan favorite Keenan Allen to boost the engagement of his 64 post attempts, and score the engagement points (touchdowns) the Charger fans are craving? 

No matter how it plays out, you’ll know the Raiders, who are moving from one of the most loyal fanbases in the NFL to a transient town like Vegas, will be watching the LA teams to inform their influencer marketing decision making. Needless to say, it’ll take a lot of paid and strategic influencer activations for them to develop a strong, organic fan base in their new home. 

It’s no surprise that the top performing teams on the field also killed it with their influencer marketing activations. The support of an active fan base provides the energy a team needs to succeed. While next season is still several months away, you’ll want to start working on your influencer marketing strategy now, to make sure you’re winning with your fans, as well as winning on the field.

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