Last year, I wrote an article about college football teams and how they rank in their content marketing efforts. Just like some of the players on those teams moved on to the greener (read: higher paying) pastures of professional football, this year I want to follow their lead and highlight 5 NFL teams that are tackling content marketing the right way.
I browsed through the websites of each of the 32 teams in the NFL, their social media presence and other aspects of their presence on the web. After evaluating the worthiness of what I found, I’ve chosen 5 teams that I feel truly embody the spirit of what constitutes great content marketing. Here’s a list of those that made the cut from #5 all the way to the #1 spot.
#5 – Baltimore Ravens
As football fans, we don’t get all decked out in our favorite team’s jersey, fire up the grill, adorn our car with team logos and get way too emotional over a sport just to see our teams lose and go home. Every year, football fans welcome the season with a fresh optimism, no matter how misguided it may be (I’m talking to you, Browns fans.) We expect our teams to compete, to make it past the regular season, and secure a playoff spot.
The desire for our teams to make the playoffs is right up there in importance with any other need along Maslow’s hierarchy. The Ravens have wisely addressed this need front and center with a brightly colored article featuring images of stars from each of the teams in their division, along with the line, “Ravens look like a playoff team.” Yes! I’m on board. Sign me up. We’re going to the playoffs!
Whether that ends up being true or not still remains to be seen. But if you want to get your fans all riled up and ready to go, fill up your 80,000-seat stadium and kick the season off with passion, focusing on the passions of your fans is a good way to go.
Another feature that stood out to me, is Ravenstown. This section of their website is dedicated to building a relationship with the surrounding community and Ravens fans from all over. It features things like Purple, a Ravens fan club strictly for women, info about a kickoff concert the Friday before the team’s first game, and lots of contests that fans can enter to win items like team jerseys, home furnishings, food and other cool prizes.
The Ravens’ website makes the list because it really engages the team’s fans and appeals to their emotions and need for belonging to a group in which they believe. The site develops a sense of community, thereby strengthening the bond between the team and its fans.
The Baltimore Ravens website: http://www.baltimoreravens.com/
#4 – Chicago Bears
The Bears’ website is another shining example of how to engage fans and build the hype around your team. By sheer accident, I just happened to click on the site one minute before the start of a live conversation with Larry Mayer, senior writer for ChicagoBears.com, and Bears’ General Manager Phil Emery. Fans asked questions of the general manager, and he answered. This type of access to the powers-that-be within the franchise is hard to obtain. This chat forum makes it possible.
The chat window is positioned directly in the center of the homepage. This wasn’t by accident. It’s rare to see this type of engagement being so prominently featured on a website. Usually it’s a link that’s neatly tucked away somewhere that it blends into the site, making it difficult to locate. Or you need to navigate away to the team’s Twitter page to be involved. The Bears made sure that neither of these were the case.
In line with the positioning of the chat window, the rest of the site is laid out in a visually appealing manner. Many of the NFL teams whose websites I reviewed for this article seemed to have simply used the same basic template, probably provided by the league, and tweaked a few colors, added a few photos and then left it at that. The Bears, however, make this list because they’ve really captured the concept of visual content marketing and made this template their own.
The Bears have effectively accounted for two of the most critical elements of content marketing. They’ve develop a website that engages with users and is visually appealing at the same time. A link to the team’s mobile app, the small, grayed-out line of team helmets with scores from the previous year’s schedule and a well-organized video section all add to the user experience. This is a great example of web content done right.
The Chicago Bears website: http://www.chicagobears.com/
#3 – Cincinnati Bengals
What makes the Bengals’ website stand out from the crowd is the storytelling. The team really shows a dedication to telling the story of the franchise and engaging site visitors with material that really develops an understanding of where they came from and where they aspire to be.
Visitors to the site can view a season-by-season report that focuses on the team’s history, as well as read some really great, albeit slightly biased, articles that discuss topics like the formation of some of the Bengals most heated rivalries and info about the team’s original uniforms worn between 1968 and 1979.
Looking to the future, the Rookie Diary series focuses on the progress of the team’s newly drafted members. Fresh out of college, the adjustment to the NFL can be a difficult road. Players are much faster, the pay is way higher, competition is fierce and there are only a select numbers of spots on the roster for each team. This series highlights the journey that rookie players face, and it allows fans to get to know the new players that will be wearing the Bengals uniform, if they make the cut, for years to come.
From the earliest years of the franchise to now, the stories of its ups and downs, the players that made the team what it is today and everything in between are told through engaging content that helps the team build a bond with its fans. Storytelling is a key factor in the success of any brand, and the Bengals’ website is a wonderful illustration of this concept.
The Cincinnati Bengals website: http://www.bengals.com/
#2 – San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers make the list for their creative incorporation of social media into the content on their website. On the homepage, you can find a link to a really fun article that offers ten predictions about the 49ers’ upcoming season. I know what you’re thinking. That’s not new. Everyone’s done that, right? Not this way. This article doesn’t focus solely on predictions of the team winning its division or one of the players breaking records. Instead, it highlights the possibility of the “air guitar” becoming a thing, Michael Crabtree’s game day shoes, sacks by 49ers linebackers helping to fight hunger and other entertaining twists on the traditional prediction article. One thing that stands out about the article is the 49ers’ incorporation of screenshots from tweets on their official Twitter account. It really brings the content to life and encourages readers to visit the team’s Twitter page by highlighting some of the content they’ll find there.
In addition to articles like the one mentioned above, the website also highlights the opening of Levi Stadium. The 49ers have played football at Candlestick Park for as long as many of us can remember. Although it was difficult on a sentimental level for fans to say goodbye to Candlestick, the time had come for the team to move on to newer digs. In order to generate hype around the opening of the new stadium, the main website links to a separate mini-site that focuses specifically on Levi Stadium. The mini-site is visually appealing, easily navigated by visitors and offers a ton of great content about the new stadium.
The 49ers have really stepped it up a notch with their content. You will find traditional pieces about players, coaches and games, but the franchise livens up its site with content that differentiates the team from most of the others in the league.
The San Francisco 49ers website: http://www.49ers.com/
#1 – Philadelphia Eagles
Ok, so maybe by now some of you have Googled my name and uncovered the fact that I grew up in Pennsylvania. You may even have noticed a few mentions, admittedly from me, of my loyalty to the Birds from the City of Brotherly Love. I confess, there may have been a bit of bias that went into moving these guys into the top spot, but they really do have some great content, and besides, it’s been since the 1960s that the Eagles have brought home a championship, and I wasn’t born yet to witness it. Just let me enjoy this minor triumph!
Looking past my admitted bias, the Eagles’ franchise really is tackling content marketing the right way. Philly fans are known as some of the most passionate fans in all of sports. Giants, Cowboys and Redskins fans might substitute the word “obnoxious” for “passionate,” and Philly fans might just return the sentiment, but in truth it’s the fans’ passion for a team that makes or breaks it. The Eagles have capitalized on this passion with some truly engaging content.
When you visit the website, you’ll find that the content really digs deep into the lives of the team’s players and personnel. You’ll see interviews with the team’s general managers, info about who made the final roster for the 2014-15 season and who did not, the team’s Twitter feed, message boards to allow for fan interaction and much more. Perhaps one of the coolest things, to me at least, is a contest where an Eagles helmet was photographed in different parts of the city and fans could guess where it was located in hopes of winning an autographed jersey from Eagles’ star running back, LeSean McCoy.
The Philadelphia Eagles website: www.philadelphiaeagles.com
You have to admit, it’s a pretty cool website, right?
Fans across the nation are counting down the hours to kickoff, and their favorite teams are busy feeding them engaging content to make sure they are ready to go when the season begins. What are your favorite examples of content marketing by NFL teams? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comment section below.
Such a timely article! Adds to the excitement of the start of the NFL season tonight. I enjoyed reading through your take on content marketing being used in the sports world. Fun fact – did you know that your #1 team uses HubSpot…
Hey, Kevin. I was not aware that the Eagles use Hubspot. That’s interesting. They are definitely on top of their marketing game, and Hubspot is a great tool that would certainly benefit them in being more effective in that area. Hope you are all set for tonight’s game. I wish it was the Eagles, but I guess I will just have to wait til Sunday. Til then, the content on the website is serving its intended purpose of getting me, and the rest of the fans, all types of excited for the season!
Great article Anthony! My dream job is to work for the Eagles. I visit their site often, and I agree it’s top notch!
Thank you, Steve. It would certainly be a fun job. They have developed a great site, one that’s really targeted the right way at creating a great experience for fans.