The NFL's Social Lab was established at the beginning of 2017 with a goal of revitalizing the NFL's social channels with strategic, high-quality graphics and video content. This includes Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter for @NFL and @TheCheckdown (a football lifestyle culture account), as well as providing original graphics for NFL players' personal accounts in our "Player Social Initiative." Our team of designers, illustrators, and writers were tasked with ideating and producing top-notch content for a combined audience of 52 million+ followers across all platforms.
By tailoring content to resonate with both the devoted and casual sports fan, a consistent stream of high quality graphics kept our fan base engaged throughout the year and contributed to growing the League's social exposure.
Consistency – Using the NFL's style guide as base, we translated its branding to fit social platforms while refining the aesthetic for a younger audience. We used the League's traditional typefaces applied in refreshed and unconventional ways. We utilized research data to visually optimize graphics emphasizing the team colors familiar to respective fan bases. While relying heavily on specific team colors, we needed one key color consistent across all brand deliverables - a bright eye-catching lime green used to accent all NFL custom content. This green added a youthful punch, and also served to separate our style from the overarching NFL brand.
Engagement – To make our graphics as sharable as possible, we capitalized on key viral moments, big storylines, major events, and relevant pop culture. Whether we prepared the content weeks in advance, or delivered content in real-time, the Lab worked tirelessly through 2017 to ensure the NFL brand channels shined with timely, aesthetically-pleasing viral content.
Creative - Our creative was driven by our desire to be youthful, eye-catching, and fun. Strategic brainstorms, optimized to foster innovation through group ideation projects and collaborative games, were held bi-weekly throughout the year in an effort to maximize productivity and inventiveness. One goal: make amazing content.
Franchises – Referencing past performance, when a single piece of content proved to be highly engaging and received positive sentiment from fans, we would turn the creative into a 'franchise' to structure how we would conceptualize and distribute future content. Some of these franchises included: recognizing great performances through HAVE A DAYS, fun illustrations of players as FOOTBALL KIDZ, ROOKIE ALBUM COVERS, MASCOT MATCHUPS, and yes, M-animorphs! Having an approach to our graphic presence that was both creative and strategic was key to our success this season.
Informative Visuals – The average user tends to mindlessly scroll through their feed at the speed of light. On average, a brand has less than 3 seconds to catch a user's attention to have a shot at keeping them engaged. With this in mind, the Lab produced aesthetically-appealing and easy-to-digest content to make the most of those 3 seconds. This would take the form of stat graphics, on-field feats, infographics, quotes and more.
Optimization - The Lab tailored graphics to be customized for each social platform's real estate, optimized for the user's mobile device. This ranged from Twitter and Facebook thumbnails, to interactive Instagram Stories, and the Instagram Carousel space.
Boiled down, our strategy was simple: Make Beautiful Social Content for Football Fans.
In today's social landscape of constantly-changing algorithms and short attention spans, to be successful, brands must rely on creative that is both visually stunning and informative. By comparing YOY results on the strongest visual and fastest growing platform (Instagram), we can quantify the Lab's efforts:
- 228M Engagements
- 520M Video Views
- 358M Engagements (+57%)
- 753M Video Views (+44%)
Graphics Produced by the Lab
- 3,000+ Original Content Pieces posted in 2017
- Average of 50 original pieces posted from @NFL and @TheCheckdown per week
If you don't believe the numbers, believe the people...
- "Ok, @NFL. Your social content is getting more creative and informative." - via Twitter
- "Love the nostalgia, creativity + design. Some of the best Halloween content we'll see" - via Twitter
- "This graphic is LIT. Love seeing the NFL step up their game" - via Twitter
- "Not really an NFL fan but that graphic is tremendous" - via Twitter
- "NFL upping its game this season" - via Twitter