The NFL and You: A Study in Marketing Tactics

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The 2013 football season is upon us, and after watching Denver absolutely destroy last year’s Super Bowl champs the Baltimore Ravens last night, it became clear that anything can happen in the NFL; anything that is, except for weak content marketing. For decades now the NFL has solidified itself as a titan of the marketing industry, and though not every business can have the luxury of millions of fans watching and tweeting about their business, there are some important lessons that can be taken from the money-marketing machine that is the NFL. Here is a list of the top five content marketing tactics that small businesses can take from the NFL.

1. Create a recognizable Brand

The NFL is a branding factory, and you would be hard pressed to find a single person in America who could not instantly recognize what this logo represents. And the NFL logo isn’t even the most important brand for their industry; every NFL team has a very carefully manufactured brand that is highly-recognizable.

What should smaller businesses learn from this: MAKE YOUR BRAND EASILY IDENTIFIABLE!! 

I can’t tell you how many companies I have come across that have either no brand/logo at all, or they have a poorly-constructed one that is mainly text-driven. Don’t let this be you. Your brand must utilize a visual-based logo that is eye-catching and easily reproduceable. Think of it like this: if a young child would not be able to remember your logo and sketch it out, then your logo is too complicated. Forget the complex; simplicity is the name of the game in logo design. Look at the picture above. How many of these logos are purely text-driven? The answer is none of them (with the possible exception of the Jets, but maybe that’s why they’ve been so terrible in recent years). Each of these logos could be drawn by a young child, and they are all colorful and engaging. Far too many companies overlook the importance of a logo, and their brand suffers because of it. Don’t let this be you.

 

2. Engage Your Target Audience 

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NFL games take place at most two times a week, yet I find myself following it every day for months on end. Why? Because it is fun for me. Football has become much more than some game that I just sit back and passively watch. Thanks to Fantasy Football, I am constantly on NFL-related websites checking scores and stats, getting player updates, and even just checking in on how practice went for certain teams. Fantasy Football is an ingenious market

ing tactic; when you play you are not just watching the games, you are a PART of the game. You are actively invested in the outcome of each game. Even if the game is a blowout (Like last night’s trouncing of the Ravens) you will still stay and watch to the very end, desperately hoping for that garbage-time TD.

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What companies can take away from this: Not every business can institute a fantasy football platform, although I think it would be hilarious if they tried (How about a Fantasy Restaurant game where you bet on waiters? +2 points for a 20% tip, -5 points for a dropped tray) but every business can use this idea to figure out unique ways to make their customers engaged in their product. I love the marketing strategy where companies offer free prizes to customers that share pictures of themselves using or displaying the company’s product in random locales. Or what about a Facebook or Twitter scavenger hunt around your local city and the first one done wins a free meal or service while everyone else gets 10% off? There are countless ways that you can make your product fun and engaging; you just have to be creative enough to find the best way.

 

3. Provide a steady stream of content

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This is one of biggest factors that Google looks at when they are deciding whether or not to raise your rankings on their search engine. Companies must provide a steady output of useful content, if they want to get to the top of their field online. This is rather easy for the NFL with constant league drama, exciting games, player injuries, and trades, but a team of people still need to sit and type all of these happenings out for their viewers.

 

What companies can learn from this: This is by far the most time-consuming aspect of a good online marketing campaign, but it is also the most important. I see so many one-page websites that have next to no text on them, and I wonder how those businesses ever thought they would be successful online. No matter what business you run, have a simple, easy to find blog stocked with useful information. If you are a plumber, write about useful tips and DIY fixes for pipe repair; if you are a restaurant, write about menu changes, behind the scene happenings, and new recipes you are trying out. It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, if you don’t have a blog you are doing yourself a disservice. Even if no one reads your blog, it will still help to raise youre rankings in the search engines which means more people will discover your business and become potential customers.

 

4. Make the most of social media

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The NFL is savvy in their use of social media. Teams use Facebook to post videos and run contests for their fans, we are constantly hearing about player’s twitter feeds and all the drama that ensues, every team has a well-designed and oft-updated Google+ page, and most teams even have a Pinterest page where you can browse merchandise and useful tips.

 

What companies can learn from this: Social media is no passing fad and it is not going away anytime soon, so businesses that are not getting the most out of it are foolish. Every company regardless of industry should at least have a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, an updated Google+ page, and probably a Youtube channel. It can be a pain to maintain all these sites and grow your online presence, but it is vital to any effective online marketing campaign. There are numerous companies out there who will take over content marketing and SEO services for you, so you can just focus on the other aspects of your business. Companies like Fringe Digital Marketing Agency will handle all your Facebook and twitter updates, your blog posts, your Google+ page, and every other social media outlet that is useful to your business for a very small price. As you see your fanbase grow and your profits rise, the small price of a good content marketing firm will seem like nothing.

 

5. Create walking billboards

It is very difficult to walk down the street without seeing at least one person decked out in some NFL or other sports-related regalia. It has become so commonplace, that many people wear hats of sports teams that they don’t even like or follow. To the money holders of the NFL these hats and shirts must just look like dollar signs walking down the street. The NFL have become masters of merchandising, and they are reaping huge profits because of it. Most people have at least one team-related article of clothing in their closet, and if you follow any team passionately, it feels almost wrong to not have an arsenal of products to don at gametime.

 

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What companies can learn from this: Merchandise your product or service, no matter what it is. Merch definitely costs money, but if you are smart about it and create merch that people will actually use or wear, then it can be an invaluable investment. Pens and traditional merchandise are great, but companies should experiment with other mediums. It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, you can create a fantastic looking hat or shirt that people would love to wear and then include your logo on it. Get a designer for this that is in touch with modern style and that has a great eye. If you have a shirt that catches people’s attention and gets people talking about it, then you have created mobile billboards and you will see your profits rise. I always think of the band “Bear Vs. Shark” who created a simple shirt with a graphic of a bear wrestling a shark. This shirt looked so cool, that one of the members of the show “Lost” wore it in an episode, and that band’s popularity skyrocketed. You can do the same, if you are creative enough.

If you follow all these steps thoroughly and efficiently, I guarantee that you will see an uptick in customer traffic and profits. The NFL is a time-tested marketing machine, and you can bet that they have the data and analytics to prove the effectiveness of their techniques. There are countless other lessons that we can take away from a thorough assessment of the NFL’s marketing strategies; can you think of any ways that the NFL’s strategies could be applied to everyday businesses? If so, please post them in the comment section below. I would love to gather together a little pool of ideas for businesses to reference.