The NFL is one of the biggest sports brands in the world. Research conducted ahead of the 2022-23 season found that one fifth of consumers globally have an interest in the NFL or the NFL is one of their top interests. In the US, the organization’s home market, two fifths of the population are interested in the league or the league is one of their top interests.
Besides the general excitement of the game, one of the reasons it’s so popular is that there are so many different ways to access NFL games, news and views. People can follow their favorite teams on social media. They can watch games live on TV or via streaming services. They can read about the NFL online. They can even play video games that feature their heroes and manage the teams they’re in. Below is a look at one of the media the NFL has shown an interest in: esports.
Esports Proving a hit with NFL Players and of Interest to the Wider NFL
Players may enjoy sports on the grid, but some are also into them off it in the form of esports and have entered partnerships with esports teams or other elements from the esports world. One such player is New England Patriots wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is a big fan of “Call of Duty” and entered into a merchandising partnership with the well-known FaZe gaming clan.
It’s not just players who are getting on the action, but also the wider NFL. The organization partnered up with EA Sports in 2017 to host “Madden 17” tournaments in NFL stadiums. The teams taking part in this partnership were the New England Patriots, the San Francisco 49ers, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Seattle Seahawks, the Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings.
It also seems that some teams, such as the Dallas Cowboys, have considered buying an esports team. Back in 2019, it was also announced that WISE Ventures, an investment funded by the Minnesota Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf, would become part of the Activision Blizzard “Call of Duty” league by fielding a Minnesota-based team.
The NFL: an Organization that Knows How to Grow a Brand?
When it comes to growing a brand, the NFL is a league to take lessons from. The organization’s marketing focuses on the sport as a way of unifying people regardless of their beliefs and backgrounds. The result is an exciting, inclusive brand.
Partnering up strategically with major companies has helped the NFL to promote its image and reach new audiences. Nike, Pepsi and Verizon are just some of the big names involved with the NFL.
Then there is its desire to be the most youth-focused, community driven league in the world. It’s social media strategy has been a big part of this. The league has turned to influencers and content creators in a range of verticals to help the NFL reach a broader audience. The forays of players, clubs and the organization itself into esports could be the next big brand-building move.
Benefits to Reap
Exploring esports could reap serious benefits for the NFL. Sports betting operators will also be interested to see how things pan out between the NFL and the esports world. That’s because of esports might end up visiting their websites and studying the NFL lines, interested in placing a bet on esports events.
Working with the esports industry is an excellent way for the NFL and its teams to engage with fans on a deeper level. They can create a sense of community and foster strong connections with them.
Partnerships between the NFL and esports provide the chance for cross promotion. This is a way for teams (and the NFL) to reach new fans and increase interest in their brands.
Of course, income is a benefit. The partnerships give teams a chance to diversify their income. Esports also give teams the opportunity to reach a new, younger demographic and stay relevant in a changing landscape.
The NFL and it is Initiatives and Partnerships
The “Madden NFL” game has been a key element in the NFL entering the esports world. In August 2022, EA published a press release in which it announced the organization had renewed its partnership with EA for the EA Sports Madden NFL Championship Series.
The following month, an article appeared on the NFL site reporting the organization had teamed up with Enthusiast Gaming to launch a new esports series called “Tuesday Night Gaming.” The series features players past and present from the NFL, and prominent gamers. Twelve players or greats team up with six gaming creators and take part in a competitive series of different games. This rotating roster of players go against each other in teams each week.
The NFL works hard to promote itself. Its ventures into sports are another step in this direction. The benefits to be gained are many. The NFL can look forward to attracting lots of new fans and, likely, growing even more as a brand.