NFL Uses Digital Media for Father’s Day Drive

Father’s Day falls into the National Football League’s “off-season,” but the league isn’t worried. It’s created a Web-only push for its Super Dad Sweepstakes promotion this year, ditching the radio and print push it tried last year. The reason? Fans, or displaced fans (those who root for the New York Jets but live in Arizona, Texas, or wherever), are increasingly surfing the Web. Though coming at a time when most of its teams are least active, the NFL said off-season sales are actually holding quite strong. The reason is that moms, girlfriends, wives, what have you, typically come back after the holiday season and buy more sports paraphernalia for themselves and their significant others. Here’s how the NFL is employing direct marketing, e-mail blasts, online ads and social media to get the word out. NFL Direct marketing manager Josh Feinstein spoke to Brandweek in a recent interview:
 
Brandweek: What is this Super Dad sweepstakes promotion you’re running?
 
Josh Feinstein: We’re running the NFL Super Dad Sweepstakes. We’re giving our fans the opportunity to submit real-life photos, which is what we love so much about it. [The one who submits the best photo of his/her Super Dad wearing team gear receives an NFL team sofa, a Samsung LCD HDTV and a home-field area rug, among other items.] There is nothing so authentic as your fans wearing an NFL product in a real setting. We did that last year, but this year, we’re doing some things a little different.
 
What kind of consumer are you targeting?
 
Our strategy is really to target the gift givers, which helped drive our holiday sales. You would assume that, but our research has really proven the point. The basic genesis of that is we know that men are difficult to shop for and we know that an NFL product makes a perfect gift. We want to marry the two to get that. [People often think], “Oh yeah, why didn’t I think to get him that for Father’s Day?” as opposed to a tie or socks or whatever the general joke gift seems to be.
 
Father’s Day, though, technically falls in the NFL’s off-season. Are you still seeing demand for these products?
 
During the peak of the holiday season, 60 percent of purchases are made by women. While Father’s Day is a smaller window, we see a smaller pickup in women buyers leading up to Father’s Day. We are capitalizing on that, as well as the fact that our women’s business has exploded. So, last year, our women’s business was up 75 percent in women’s apparel. In May alone, it was up to about 280 percent. And what we started to do was, we’re making sure that during the key holiday and gift-giving times, we’re promoting women’s gifts. They are there to shop for dad, boyfriend, husband or uncle, but they are picking up something for themselves as well.
 
Over the last month, 66 percent of our purchases were from repeat buyers, of which 64 percent tell us they’re buying for someone else. That hit home on the strategy of making sure we’re targeting the gift givers.

 
Who exactly are these consumers?
 
We know that about 60 percent of our NFLShop.com fan database is displaced fans. If you’re a New York Jets fan living in Arizona, where are you going to get your merchandise? We can target and cut and slice our database that way and do team-specific e-mails to make sure that information our fans are getting is relevant to them.
 
This year’s Super Dad campaign is digital only. What online components does it involve and how is it different from previous years?
 
In the past, there was some radio and a print ad in USA Today. This year, we have permanent placement all over NFLShop.com throughout the entire promotion. We have online banners running. We’ve also done some e-mail blasts. One of the other things we’re doing more effectively this year is, as a thank you [for the Super Dad promotion], everyone who signs up is going to get a discount [10 percent] off a future purchase on NFLShop.com. We saw some success with that last year. We did one e-mail blast where we batched all the names together. But that was after Father’s Day. This year, we’re sending weekly e-mails leading up to Father’s Day.
 
And, we just launched in the last month a Facebook page for NFLShop.com. It’s another way to get the word out about our sweepstakes.
 
Why the Web-only push?
 
We’re continuing to go down the road of connecting and getting right to our fans. As more fans come into our e-mail database, the more we can learn from them on what their needs are and how to connect with them. It also allows us to see if there’s more that we can do, aside from what we’re already doing, to target the gift givers.
 
What’s your goal for the Father’s Day Super Dad promotion this year?
 
We look at our sales overall. Father’s Day [Super Dad] is on pace to generate 20 percent more revenue than a year ago for the promotion as a whole.
 
And how does this figure into the NFL’s larger marketing/sales strategy?
 
The NFLShop is a 365 days a year business. We’re capturing more business in the off-season. [In fact], we are actually starting to see it get bigger. We offer over 100,000 NFL-licensed products for our fans to choose from. We are seeing a lot of the growth in areas where we’ve just recently launched. [For instance], we’re expanding our custom program where fans are able to go and design their own shirts — from the way they want it to the logo, the colors, the size. We did that with our T-shirts and sweatshirts and it seems to be a big success.