As a longstanding partner of the NFL, Microsoft set out to further leverage the NFL partnership to win the hearts of younger consumers through proving Microsoft’s ability to enrich the game. Heading into the ’22-’23 season, it was critical to continue creating connections and exposure with fans to further drive awareness of the partnership and showcase how Microsoft technology drives success for the NFL and its players.
Primary campaign KPIs were Brand Love and relevance for Microsoft
Microsoft knew that to reach a younger audience it was critical to pivot from previous, linear-focused campaigns to a more digital and social native program. Additionally, it was crucial to secure rights to distribute content both within a media partner’s ecosystem and within Microsoft’s paid NFL media plan to allow for usage flexibility. Lastly, to further deepen Microsoft’s partnership with the NFL, incorporation of top-tier NFL talent continued to be key.
So, Microsoft teamed up with Overtime Sports, a leading Gen Z focused social-first sports publisher, to not only reach a younger audience, but also lean into the flexibility to create a range of talent-led assets that resonated in both editorial and commercial environments.
Together Microsoft and Overtime built a range of assets to resonate within different environments and distribution touchpoints, pushing the campaign beyond a typical social-lead content campaign. The “24 Hours” editorial assets leaned on Overtime IP and were distributed within Overtime’s media ecosystem, while the commercial assets leaned more heavily on NFL IP and were distributed primarily within the NFL’s media ecosystem. This dual approach allowed us to not only overcome rights limitations surrounding NFL IP usage, but also create distinct yet related content that reinforced the same message and strengthened results. Throughout the content, Microsoft tech was woven seamlessly into the talent’s personal and professional storylines, resulting in multi-faceted, compelling videos.
Furthermore, Talanoa Hufanga joined the campaign as lead talent which proved to be instrumental in the success of the content. A charismatic rising star with the San Francisco 49ers, Talanoa is also of Polynesian descent. By paying homage to his background, the content not only captured his authentic self, but also aligned with Microsoft’s existing efforts with the Polynesian Bowl and Polynesian Football Hall of Fame.
Longform hero content was distributed across Overtime YouTube and Facebook, while unique, platform-optimized social cutdowns were distributed across Overtime Instagram and TikTok, reaching all corners of the partner ecosystem. These assets were more editorial in nature, leaning heavily into Overtime IP to connect deeply with Overtime’s millennial and Gen-Z audiences.
Creatively, the editorial content integrated Surface and key Windows features, showing instead of telling how Microsoft tech supports the NFL. Elements such as calendar, whiteboard, and Teams naturally underpinned the contents’ storylines, helping to push the narrative forward.
The partnership also yielded commercially oriented assets which, in contrast to the editorial assets, leaned more heavily on NFL IP. Carat leveraged licensed NFL highlight footage, resulting in a second group of assets that connected with Overtime’s audience in a different way. To supplement the editorial assets, these commercial assets were distributed via paid support within Overtime YouTube pre-roll and Snapchat, as well as outside of the campaign within Microsoft’s NFL paid media plan on NFL.com and NFL Network.
Overall, the campaign was live during the end of the regular season and through the playoffs, and a portion overlapped with the 49er’s playoff push, increasing the relevance, timeliness and cultural context of the content.
Key media tactics such as IG stories and YouTube pre-roll dramatically outperformed Overtime engagement and VCR benchmarks, suggesting the audience’s receptiveness to the content.
Cementing the success of the partnership overall, Overtime overdelivered on paid media goals, garnering 1.5M incremental views, representing a 25% over-delivery.
The combination of the 24 Hours and commercial assets significantly lifted Brand Love for Microsoft.
Exposure to any campaign element resulted in almost triple digit statistically significant lift to viewers’ unaided Microsoft/NFL partnership awareness, with lifts highest when audiences were exposed to both campaign elements.
Prior awareness of the Microsoft/NFL partnership had a significant impact on shaping users’ perceptions that Microsoft supports sports/athletes and connects fans with sports.
Nearly 80% of viewers believed that Talanoa was a good fit for the campaign and added to their enjoyment of the content.