Posted by: garyskidmore | October 19, 2014

First & 10: What Today’s Football Experience Teaches Marketers

From ATX - Football USA

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Fall in Texas means football – high school, college, NFL.   In fact there are many indicators that Texas is the heart of football:

  • Friday night lights – every Friday there are more than 600 high school football games. More than 1 million people will attend a game each week.
  • The University of Texas has the most valuable college football program with $166 million in annual revenue.
  • And then there’s America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys, which according to Forbes is the most valuable NFL team, worth $3.2 billion.

That also means Texas is the heart of all the controversy surrounding football these days: the need to strengthen protection of athletes from head injuries, explore and deter the incidence of domestic violence among certain players, and, at the college level specifically, why all the conference realignment and the ability of individual football players to organize and get paid (beyond a scholarship and a college education).

While these issues deserve healthy debate and scrutiny – in the interest of protecting the growth of the game – there is also overwhelming passion for the sport.

All over the U.S., fans consume, interact and share content about their favorite teams. The sport (the brand) is healthy and growing. Marketers and other brands might take note on what football teaches us about how to build a brand.

Brand Community and Engagement – Between tailgating and fantasy football, and watch sites in bars, football provides numerous channels for its fan base to come together and engage. The energy and effort families and friends share in loyally following their team, and the sport overall, may be unmatched among other brands, but that doesn’t mean brands can’t aspire to offer their own opportunities for community building and engagement.

3 Questions:

  1. Do you know who your brand’s loyalists are?
  2. Have you identified them – and do you find ways to connect with them directly and to let them connect easily with each other?
  3. Are you in all the channels where customers choose to interact – and how do you use these channels effectively to build engagement and loyalty?

Content on Demand – There is a reason why the NFL, college conferences and college teams are increasing their programming, on both television and online: public consumption for football information, entertainment and analysis is increasing, substantially. The University of Texas has its own Longhorn Network, as do all the power conferences (SEC, Big XII, Big Ten, Atlantic Coast, and PAC-12), and the NFL Network has expanded its Thursday coverage – giving 3 nights of the week in the fall entirely over to games, while filling seven days, 24 hours a day, and on-demand in video and online coverage and analysis from every point of view – the coaches, the players, the sport press and the fans.

3 Questions:

  1. Is there a narrative for your brand?
  2. Are you creating compelling content that enables your customers to stay interested and connected?
  3. Are you enabling that content to be available to customers when they want on their terms?

The Customer Experience – Why do stadiums cost so much, and getting bigger and better all the time? In short, because the experience matters: when tens of thousands assemble, it’s not just the gamesmanship on the field, it’s the entirety of the game experience – from transportation and parking, to tailgating and fan exchange, to in-stadium comfort and safety, to the ability to interact with the game on smartphones and apps (whether in the stadium or otherwise). While the economics of football are seemingly steep, the realized returns are phenomenal. No city wants to lose a franchise.

3 Questions:

  1. How is your brand investing in your customer’s experience – from path to purchase, to fulfillment and service, to loyalty and evangelism?
  2. Is there research to determine what customers enjoy most (and least) about your brand – and how this enjoyment can be enhanced (and dissatisfaction erased)?
  3. Is there an investment strategy to build on this vision – and calculate return?

Perhaps the National Football League has fumbled handling of some of the issues it faces, and the NCAA policies and enforcement actions leave some of us scratching our heads, but the public’s interest – the fans’ interest – results directly in people talking, opinion sharing and – eventually – serving the best interest of the sports’ players, their families and the fan base.

Your brand may not have as much command of the public’s imagination as the game of football – but consider the football case. Football has successfully impassioned generations of fans, and its ability to serve that fan base keeps the sport growing in the American entertainment marketplace. Football has its challenges – and there are plenty of other sports that are plainly in crisis (no democracy wants to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, for example) that may be a sort of warning – but by being deeply engaged with its fan base, football delivers – and it’s only getting better.


Chief Marketer, “Why Brands Should Pay Attention to College Football”

USA Today, “NCAA Finances”

Forbes, “NFL Team Valuations”

Houston Chronicle, “When It Comes to High School Football, Texas has no Rival”

Forbes, “2014’s Most Loyal Football Fans & How Ray Rice Abused League Loyalty”

Fox News, “Where the Real Game Is Played: NFL Cities That Do Tailgating Best”

Time, “Why Nobody Wants to Host the 2022 Winter Olympics”


“Football is a team game. So is life.”

– Joe Namath


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