Nine Things the NFL Teaches Us About Marketing

Since its creation, the NFL has always been larger than life. With some of the most passionate and dedicated fans of any sport, it’s easy to see why football is such a huge part of life for so many Americans. Football teaches us about dedication, teamwork, and resilience, among other life lessons. But it can also teach us a thing or two (or nine) about marketing.

Here’s what the NFL teaches us about marketing:

#1 Keep Up with the Latest Technology

The NFL is active on social media, it’s widely available on multiple streaming mediums, and it has an app- does your small business? It’s important to stay up-to-date with technology when it comes to marketing. Ten years ago, you could be on the absolute top of the marketing game with the occasional newspaper press release and radio ad. Nowadays, it takes a lot more. Take the time to stay educated on what’s popular in terms of technology and, more importantly, the types of technology that your customers care about.    

#2 Winning Isn’t Everything

Football is more than a sport, it’s a life lesson. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you get hurt trying. Just because a brand has the most followers or the biggest audience, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing better than you. Having a loyal fan base that’s been with you from the beginning and actually cares about the life of your business means a whole lot more than a flashy number of followers (that could have very well been purchased). Stay true to your brand (or, in this case, your team) and the right people will find you.  

#3 Recognize How Customers Consume Your Product

The NFL does a great job of knowing their audience. They know they make much less money on physical football games than what they make via television consumption. In fact, it’s the most profitable sports league in the world, and it’s because of their TV deals. If your customers respond well to your email marketing but don’t click on your Facebook ads, don’t put all of your money into Facebook ads. Recognize what your customers like and follow that. Really think about how your audience seeks you out.   

#4 Create Your Own Press

The NFL strategically moved the draft to keep us talking about football. They wanted to take their popularity to the next level so they shook things up. “Having the draft and scouting combine in separate months allowed the league to remain relevant every month after the Super Bowl. By the time the draft was over, teams were having OTAs. This was yet another reason to talk about the league, and the two months of OTAs lead directly into the preseason,” explains 5WPR. If you aren’t getting the press you like, create your own. Host an event, invite the community and the local news stations (be sure to plan something newsworthy).

#5 Make Your Brand a Personal Identity

I’m sure you’ve heard someone say, “I’m a Whole Foods person,” or, “I’m a Nike person”- they connect with a brand so much, that it becomes a part of their identity. The NFL does a great job of this. Football is a part of who people are. They do this through ritual (watching games), and emotion (watching games with friends and family, feeling proud/happy/sad for your team, etc.). If you can, integrate your brand into the lives of your customers. Give them a ritual to look forward to (maybe every Friday every customer who stops in gets a free beer), and don’t forget to incorporate emotion into your branding.

#6 Take Risks

It’s always risky to try a new play, or switch things up on the field. But if your favorite team didn’t take risks, do you think they’d be as good as they are? High risk, high reward. You cannot stick to the same marketing game plan and expect different results- your brand won’t sky rocket to greatness by doing the same old thing. Take a risk every now and then and try something completely different. Try a shocking headline in your next email marketing push, or put some extra money towards a really great press release service. Just be sure to mark the results. You don’t want to be putting time and money into something that doesn’t ultimately benefit you, but you’ll also never know until you try.

#7 Mobilize

As I mentioned above, the NFL has an app. Not only are they meeting a need- people want NFL updates at all times, but they’re recognizing the fact that mobile internet usage now surpasses desktop internet usage. You don’t necessarily have to have an app for your business (unless there is a need for one from your customers) but you do absolutely need to make sure your website is mobile-friendly. Now more than ever people are looking stuff up online via their mobile devices. If your website doesn’t look good or doesn’t work on a cell phone, you’re already a step behind your competitors.

#8 Give Your Customers Something to Talk About

One of the most popular topics of discussion around watercoolers all across America on Monday mornings is football. Give your audience something to talk about. Keep them entertained with quizzes, contests, fun videos, and promotions that get them involved- anything that makes them feel like they’re part of a community, a community that your brand creates. Not sure where to get started? Throw a caption contest. Post a picture and ask your customers to caption it. The best caption (based on votes, to better get the community involved and grow your following) wins a prize.    

#9 Talent Acquisition

The whole point of the NFL draft is to acquire the top college players in the nation. There’s a big emphasis on the draft, and it’s hugely popular among fans. What we can learn from the draft in terms of marketing is that it definitely matters who’s running your marketing campaigns. Have your own draft when looking to hire someone to do your marketing. Think about what you need to put on a job posting and what you need to offer to get top talent. You won’t get the best if you don’t offer the best. That doesn’t mean that you have to pay your marketing team a crazy amount (if you can’t), but it does mean that if the budget is tight you need to offer other incentives, like a fun company culture or flexibility.