How the NFL effectively use their digital channels to monetise American Football

By Christian Barley

3 mins read


How the NFL effectively use their digital channels to monetise American Football

By Christian Barley

3 mins read


When compared to other sports like baseball and ice hockey, the NFL season is a surprisingly short one – running from early September to mid February, where it culminates in the Super Bowl. This poses an interesting challenge for the NFL as they have a limited time period in the year to drive revenue from millions of fans across the globe… By effectively using a variety of digital channels, the NFL has created a digital ecosystem that monetises customer experiences across their entire journey and keeps them engaged with the brand week after week. So how do they do it, and what learnings can a smaller business or sports clubs take from the entertainment franchise behemoth that is the NFL? Let’s find out.

 

Digital Hub:

 

 

 

Firstly, let’s discuss the high-performance experience when using their digital product portfolio. The NFL has created a multitude of digital products for football fanatics to engage in:

 

  • NFL+ (a live-streaming / video-on-demand service)

  • Fantasy Football

  • Online communities

  • News articles

  • Podcasts

  • Videos

 

 

Inevitably with this many products, there is a risk of splitting the audience base. However the NFL has designed their website as a singular Digital Hub, where users can access all products with the same login and switch between each seamlessly. This creates a frictionless journey, allows the NFL to track data for each individual user and personalise the experience for the customer – for example, I carry my favourite team the Philadelphia Eagles across each service. The Digital Hub also means each service can complement one another; if I am reading a news article on a touchdown made by Tom Brady then I can instantly switch to the NFL+ app and watch a condensed game replay of the specific moment. The concept of the Digital Hub therefore ensures consumers are not bucketed into specific digital products and have an experience that flows between different touchpoints, improving their experience.

 

Physical Experience:

 

The digital experience also seamlessly flows into the physical experience of enjoying the sport. There is an expansive online shop built directly into the NFL website where fans can purchase shirts, merchandise and souvenirs from every team across the league. Ticket purchasing can also be done directly through the site via TicketMaster with a couple of clicks. This means that every time a user visits the NFL website for content, they are likely to make an impulsive purchase of a product or could be tempted to go to their local game.

 

 

Breadth and Depth:

 

There are four key stages in the NFL digital customer journey, each associated with increased spend:

 

  • Anonymous user who watches articles, listens to podcasts and watches videos with adverts

  • Registered user with preferences like favourite players and teams

  • Subscribed user who watches live games and replays through the VOD NFL+ app

  • Premium user who purchases Fantasy Football tips, kit, tickets and travel options

 

By providing increasingly tempting digital products, the Average Revenue per User (ARPU) is consistently increased as a customer moves up the different stages of their journey. Also, the breadth of the available content is staggeringly vast. The NFL has 13 official podcasts(!), statistics on every player, highlights of every game and a variety of fascinating written content. This means that a fan can never miss a touchdown and there really is something for everyone, whether they are new to the sport or an old-timer.

 

However, the gem of their digital portfolio is the NFL+ app which allows fans to watch all 272 NFL games live through their phone, tablet, games console or television for only $9.99 a month. This concept can be baffling for fans of the Premier League, where games are frustratingly spread across BT Sport, Sky Sports, Amazon Prime and Now TV, making it almost impossible to consistently watch your team every week. Even better, the NFL+ app then provides highlight reels of all scoring plays shortly after each game and means that you can catch up on any action you missed.

 

Off-Season:

 

All of the above is well and good when games are being played on the telly each week, but how do you engage customers during the off-season? This is when the NFL creates long-form documentary series, detailing training camps and focusing on how teams are preparing for the new season. They then combine these with an ever growing bank of podcasts and articles focusing on tips for the next Fantasy Football season, injuries and rumours. This ongoing slew of high-quality content means that subscriptions will be renewed and users will continue to engage with the content, even when touchdowns are not being scored on the field.

 

Conclusion:

 

American sports franchises are best-in-class at delivering entertaining experiences for their fans, providing a constant stream of content which is then propped up by the tentpole events that are weekly games. Although smaller sports clubs and franchises might not have the huge budgets of the NFL team, there are still some core learnings that can be taken from how they run their digital experience.

 

To achieve success, the NFL focuses on consolidating its products into a single Digital Hub and adheres to the following key strategies:

 

  • Drive a high Average Revenue per User (ARPU) by offering a variety of free, paid and premium content

  • Provide content for everyone (remember, both depth and breath!

  • Use the digital experience as a promotional tool for physical products / services

  • Challenge yourself to monetise your audience in inventive ways and at times when they might be less engaged (e.g. in the off-season)

 

Manifesto Growth Architects are experts at building fantastic digital experiences with companies across a variety of sectors that can drive value from your customers at every stage of the customer journey. We are also proficient at sports memberships, having worked with a number of leading sports brands to drive growth for their businesses. Contact us to find out more.

 

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