Marketers: Don't rule out the Pro Bowl next year - Social Media WINS the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl!

“IT’S GOOD!”

This past weekend the NFL hosted their 2017 Pro Bowl and associated events, where the top NFL players compete in a friendly all-star game before the season has its grand finale the following weekend.  I personally don’t know anyone that has tuned into the Pro Bowl or paid particular attention to the surrounding events in the past.  The game itself has no impact on the season and the actual Pro Bowl game itself had lower ratings than previous years. So what was different this year that made the Pro Bowl activities buzzworthy and potentially a stronger strategic partner for brands in the future?

EVERYTHING.

Ok, maybe not everything, but last weekend the “No Fun League” was FUN.  In fact, it was all about fun and sharing that spirit with fans through social media.  Here are a few reasons why this year’s Pro Bowl was a win-win for participating brands and players alike:

1)    LOCATION: Initially you may think “what does that have to do with anything?”, but in a world that gets their news, current events, and celebrity content through social media – the timing of shared content is key. 

In past years, the Pro Bowl was held in Hawaii, and (for those teams recently eliminated) some players might have considered it their first vacation of the off-season.  I’m sure the players loved it, and who could blame them? But Hawaii is 2 hours behind the west coast and 5 hours behind the east coast.  “LIVE” content could easily be missed by a majority of NFL fans in the contiguous United States, not to mention our newly discovered international fans in Houston, Scotland which is 10 hours ahead of Hawaii (Thank you, Skittles and Beastmode!)!

The NFL, brand partners, players, and other media outlets were able to share content in real-time with their audience and engagement was HIGH!

2)    SOCIAL MEDIA: Speaking of social media – HOLY CONTENT!  As an avid NFL and football fan who admittedly, has never followed the Pro Bowl, I was astonished by the quantity and quality of original and engaging content shared on social media.

ESPN, @NFL, team accounts, and others, were constantly posting original content and reposting players’ content.  Considering the NFL was infamously dubbed “The No Fun League” (and arguably deserving of the nickname) by The Seattle Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman, events like the “Drone Drop” and NFC/AFC Dodgeball looked pretty damn fun and kept fans checking in to see what was going on.  There was so much content accessible via social media between the league, media and brand partners, and players, it was hard to miss the Pro Bowl coverage last week. 

The Pro Bowl got a social media face lift this year and effectively leveraged NFL, media, brand, and player accounts to evoke emotions and engage with their fans.

And PS. It looked like Richard Sherman had some fun with his teammates and family,too: http://bit.ly/2k5BuPu

3)    PLAYER PERSONALITIES: Every season there are players that make a name for themselves – good and bad.  Maybe they had a breakout season, maybe they had their worst yet.  Maybe they talked the talk more than they walked the walk.  Or maybe they got in a fight with sideline equipment that ultimately got the last laugh (**cough, OBJ, cough**)?  

The Pro Bowl is another opportunity for players to engage with their fans, show their personalities, and hopefully attract even more fans!  Players shared video and pictures of their experience, from New York Giants’ Wide Receiver OBJ nailing the “Drone Drop” skills event and dancing with the Colts mascot, Blue, to Cincinnati’s Quarterback Andy Dalton playing along the sidelines with his son, to Richard Sherman taking his kids to Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. 

When players’ personalities are showcased they have the opportunity to earn fans, build a personal brand, and attract future brand partners.  It also encourages fans to follow their favorite players, team, and tune in for the following season.

What brands and marketers can learn from the Pro Bowl:

·       Use social media to evoke emotions and engage with your audience

·       Change can be good – New circumstances can mean new opportunities.

·       Be relevant – Try new technology or trends that appeal to your target demographic

·       Have some fun with it – Try things, experiment.  No one wants to be compared to the No Fun League.

 

What can players learn from the Pro Bowl:

·       Leverage additional exposure and platforms to create a brand for yourself – You won’t be able to “ball” forever

·       Be human – So you’re a machine on the field, but off the field be relatable.  It will go a long way with fans and potential brand partners.

 

What can the NFL learn from the Pro Bowl:

·       Let those touchdown celebrations go, let there be dance!