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NFL Uses Analytics to Address Fans on Digital, Social Media


August 31, 2016

With the National Football League 2016-2017 season nearly in full swing, many fans are excited to follow yet another five-plus months of regular season and playoffs coverage. Many fans attend games in person; others make it only to their television sets. What everyone has in common, however, is that they are the NFL’s lifeblood.

Without fans that pay for their game day tickets or their television and online video packages (and without their eyes glued to commercials during breaks of play), the NFL would not have a revenue model to speak of. Even so, a recent article at AdExchanger pointed to a quote from Aidan Lyons, the vice president of fan-centric marketing for the NFL, who said at a recent industry conference that fans are more than data points.

“All we hear is ROI, conversion, click-throughs, impressions,” Lyons said. “We tend to think of those as success metrics, but what about that

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person who didn’t click or view?”

That question is important for the NFL and for all other businesses in the U.S. and across the globe. The NFL insists that it wants to create a better experience for its fans, so it wants to address fans (the customers) with marketing that suit individuals’ tastes as much as possible. Therefore, in addition to its continued grab of TV commercial dominance, it began a partnership with Epsilon to address fans through email and mobile messaging.

Now the NFL uses the Adobe Audience Manager data management platform to determine fans’ preferences from their logins on the NFL’s website. It gathers traits and identifying data points about each person to inform the Epsilon Agility Harmony email and mobile messaging software so the league can deliver personalized messages to each fan according to their profiles.

This approach to marketing has shown NFL marketing authorities that the league’s presence can be felt in other areas of the internet. For instance, its use of data points has shown that many existing fans frequent YouTube to watch videos and follow Facebook as their primary social media outlet. The NFL now addresses parents at sites such as TMZ, a publishing giant not to be confused with TMC, and finds youth on social media who might want to become part of the league’s youth football foundation.

Lyons noted that the NFL is much more than a presence on its own network and on ESPN. It is using its new-found knowledge of customer preferences to compare impressions and make sure that a maximum number of existing and new fans see NFL and NFL-sponsored content. Lyons said the league can save hundreds-of-thousands of dollars by using a targeted approach – and that’s only in a single marketing campaign. Throughout the year, whether or not the players are on the field, many such campaigns reach out to fans. There is a lot of money to be made, and a large chunk to be saved if the analytics work well and the NFL can get beyond the data point and address the humanity in each fan.




Edited by Alicia Young

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