Regardless of the outcome on the field Sunday night, the NFL hopes everyone wins when it comes to social media this week – and well beyond.
This year, the Super Bowl experience will take on new content viewing dimensions thanks to rapid-fire developments on the social media front this week with the NFL launching a dedicated YouTube channel and Facebook detailing a live news "hub" for Super Bowl XLIX.
Together, they can help fans connect with the game, and each other, far beyond the big screen TV.
Use of these social media venues should enable the NFL to improve the fan experience – and expand its reach across and into different age groups - by providing magnetic content to multiple non-TV viewing devices. What they get in return is (really) big data for ongoing analysis of its fan base and a solid opportunity to cultivate interest in the pro sport product here and abroad.
It's all about expanding the NFL brand by reaching current and prospective fans of America's game in new and different ways. Just last week Super Bowl XLIX TV presenter NBC announced plans to live stream the game and its frills online while Verizon will do the same for its wireless subscribers.
On the tech front, this week has been all about social media, which is hardly new to the league and many fans of America's game. Stated simply, the above-mentioned moves are designed to take fan engagement to the next level.
The game's Sunday evening, so let's cut to the chase, and analyze later.
What You Get: Official NFL Channel on YouTube
Straight from the league announcement: The official NFL channel on YouTube, and video directly viewable for Google Search users, will enable fans to view NFL video content on mobile phones, tablets and PCs.
The channel will contain "clips of many of the top plays, games, and performers from the 2014 season, as well as content featuring the sights and sounds from Arizona and previewing the matchup between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. The YouTube channel and Google search results will also contain in-game highlights from Super Bowl XLIX," the league said.
The channel is located at YouTube.com/NFL. It allows viewers to access a seven-day-a-week NFL content programming schedule. "Content posted to the NFL's official channel on YouTube will include game previews, in-game highlights and post-game recaps," according to the league. It will also contain "clips featuring news, analysis, fantasy football advice, and other select content from NFL Network and NFL.com."
Searching and receiving official NFL game highlights and content will be done through Google Search. The league says a Google search will display "official NFL video along with related news and information all delivered to the user in one distinct box at the top of the search results. Kickoff time and broadcast information for every NFL game will also be prominently displayed in Google Search."
What You Get: Facebook's Live News Super Bowl "Hub"
Claiming 50 million people "joined the conversation" during last year's Super Bowl, Facebook is giving fans one location to connect in real-time for the annual event, according to a joint blog post by Alex Himmel, Engineering Director and Dan Reed, Head of Global Sports Partnerships The duo claim the live news hub, called Trending Super Bowl, enables fans to:
- See posts from your friends and people in your network with Friends and Groups.
- See real-time reactions from people around the world with Live Feed.
- View photos and videos from news outlets as well as people at the game.
- View posts from the NFL, teams, players, NBC and other public voices with In the Story.
- View live scores, the current play time, and play by play updates at a glance.
- Join the conversation by posting about the game with the update "Watching Super Bowl XLIX"
Fans can navigate the hub by tapping on posts with the "watching Super Bowl XLIX" tag or Super Bowl-related hashtags, by clicking on "Super Bowl" in Trending, and by using Facebook Search, according to the blog.
The Social Media Plan
While some have questioned the value and ROI of social media by corporate America, the NFL views it as a viable means to extend Super Bowl engagement beyond the annual big screen must-see TV event to demographics comfortable viewing (video) on websites, wireless devices and more.
It's tough to figure out exactly how each piece fits into the league's social media strategy, which also includes apps such as this year's NFL Now, as well as Twitter, in-stadium communications and more.
The league-owned NFL Network already has a YouTube channel offering video content that well-followed. The new YouTube venture extends beyond the Super Bowl and its immediate aftermath. The Facebook news hub sounds like a one-time, event-specific creation. We'll have to wait and see.
The NFL could use social media efforts like the new YouTube channel to help fuel the drive to make America's game a year-round programming entity. That would require bridging the gap between the Super Bowl aftermath and the NFL Draft in May, and the shorter gap between the draft and training camp/pre-season.
In the meantime, be sure to enjoy the game experience, every way you can.
*Bob Wallace is a technology journalist with over 30 years of experience explaining how new services, apps, consumer electronic devices and video sources are reshaping the world of communications as we know it. Wallace has specific expertise in explaining how and why advances in technology, media and entertainment redefine the way football fans interact with the league, teams, players and each other. He's the Founder of Fast Forward Thinking LLC. *