Our goal was to bring to life the history of the NFL in a way suited for Instagram and unite football fans of all ages.
Prior to this season, no one had ever mined the expansive NFL archive specifically for social content or presented NFL history in a form optimized for social platforms. So, with fans' attention increasingly turning to social platforms like Instagram, we saw a significant opportunity for a brand centered around NFL history.
We engaged our fan base with a dynamic content plan of highlight videos, eye-catching images and beautiful graphics, supported by a highly interactive approach to Instagram.
Our bread and butter from a content standpoint was the highlights, presented in a variety of different formats: game highlights, player highlight reels, entertaining single plays, compilations of similar types of plays. Whereas football coverage on TV largely makes use of artistic, slowed-down shots, we leaned heavily on broadcast footage, to give fans a look at old players and moments in a raw, authentic way that felt natural to social media.
We maintained a mix of more recent stars – Aaron Rodgers, Brian Urlacher, Chad Ochocinco, for example – and older players – Barry Sanders, Joe Montana, Tony Dorsett – to appeal to fans of all ages. For the young demographic of Instagram, the more recent highlights served as a hook that allowed us to then demonstrate the amazing exploits of the stars of the past.
Throughout the season, we were very interactive with our fanbase, positioning the brand as a trustworthy source of historical stats and stories and consistently responding to comments.
Through thoughtful, dedicated research, we turned our Instagram comments section into a space where our followers could get reliable, high-quality information and anecdotes, adding an extra content dimension that almost no other sports brand is utilizing.
And because nearly all previous NFL historical content has been made for television, a significant amount of our content was different than anything fans had seen in the past – not only were we presenting stories and personalities in a different way, we also had the ability to highlight stories and personalities that had never been touched upon.
Take Ben Coates, a tight end for the Patriots in the 1990s. Coates was a very good player, but not quite Hall of Fame level. The NFL had never featured him on any digital platform. Many of our young followers had never heard of him.
We crafted a video to highlight his talents, essentially with the goal of "convincing" young fans that he was an exceptional player. Our copy tied the highlights to a present-day player, saying that "Ben Coates was basically Gronk before Gronk."
The video over-performed massively, generating 438K views, 54K likes and over 1,100 comments.
One of the top comments: "I love this page, brings the new generation and old generation together."
After launching the brand September 4, we gained 450K followers in the five months of the NFL season, generating 115 million video views and 17 million interactions overall.
We've drawn engagement from the majority of the 32 NFL teams, as well as a long list of players, both current and retired: some of the bigger names include Tom Brady, Antonio Brown, Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Lawrence Taylor, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Shannon Sharpe, Terrell Owens, and Michael Vick.
Our follower base is highly engaged: the page's interaction rate (8.2%) has significantly outpaced other pages across the sports media landscape. For comparison, the NBA's comparable account, NBA History, produced an interaction rate of 1.9% over the same timeframe.
And, though we'll tell you we believe NFL Throwback is great, you're probably better off taking it from our fans, who consistently say it's "the best sports page" or even "the best account on Instagram."
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