The NFL is an advertising and promotional powerhouse. Ten years ago, that would’ve meant that it dominated television ad revenue, which is still true today, but in the promotional landscape of 2017, being a bonafide heavy-hitter means having a commanding presence on social media, too.
For years, the Super Bowl has earned the highest TV advertising revenues of any major sports event. This isn’t surprising—the Super Bowl routinely attracts over 100 million viewers. But TV viewership is on the decline, and digital ad spend is predicted to surpass TV ad spend for the first time this year.
As the golden age of television advertising comes to a close, many organizations are making efforts to harness the power of social media. The NFL has followed this trend by building its social media empire. With huge followings and engagement rates, the NFL is well on its way to dominating advertising and promotion not only on television, but in the social sphere as well.
The NFL is king of advertising, drawing in $1.23B in ad revenue just during the playoffs. Basketball trails behind, with ad revenue of $1.13B for NCAA playoffs and $875M for NBA playoffs. The NFL’s giant ad revenue figures have helped it claim the crown for highest total revenue of any sports league, with yearly earnings over $13B.
Facebook reports that Super Bowl conversation on social media is growing at a rate of 15% year-over-year. 60M Facebook users and 38M Instagram users posted about SB50, and there were over 350M total posts, likes, and comments pertaining to the game across both platforms. The top social moments occurred when the Beyonce’s halftime show ended, when the final whistle was blown, and when Lady Gaga performed the National Anthem.
The best ads aren’t seen once and immediately forgotten, they’re rewatched and shared on social media. YouTube reports that over the past 9 years, 440M minutes have been spent viewing the top 20 Super Bowl ads on the platform. The top ad from this time frame was Budweiser’s 2014 spot, “Puppy Love”. YouTube’s report also notes that 90% of these top 20 ads were posted before the Super Bowl actually happened, indicating that many viewers never saw the commercials’ live TV broadcasts.
As social media becomes increasingly central to the way fans watch sporting events, official team accounts are expanding across all platforms.The top 5 NFL teams have a combined Facebook follower base of 29,826,631, which is larger than the population of Australia.
The New England Patriots boast the largest presence on Instagram and Twitter, with well over 2 million followers on Instagram and close to 3 million on Twitter. Facebook is dominated by the Dallas Cowboys with their staggering 8,168,135 followers. The official NFL accounts boast an enormous audience, with over 21 million Twitter followers, 8.5 million Instagram followers, and 15 million Facebook followers. Across all platforms, its follower base is more than 5 times the size of New York City.
Coupled with the NFL’s massive social media followings are high engagement rates. The NFL’s implementation of the Twitter Amplify program, which allows it to share live highlights, has been enormously effective in capturing user attention. NFL video clips are clicked on 4.5 times more frequently than the average Amplify partner’s tweets, helping the NFL interact with around 30 million users on Twitter.
This year, the cost of a 30 second Super Bowl ad rose to an all-time high of $5 million. According to AdAge, if this massive media budget were used for a Facebook advertisement package, approximately 149,000,000 people would be reached through a combination of Facebook and Instagram ads. Additionally, Facebook ads engage a broader demographic than a typical Super Bowl TV ad, and they stick around for a lot longer than 30 seconds.