Buffalo Bills Combine Social Media and Fantasy Football to Find New Fans

Tech helps the team market outside their region

In early October, the Buffalo Bills and Independent Health issued a six-week competitive diet and exercise challenge for the football team's fans. Housed on a custom SparkPeople website, the contest home lets people monitor their results, connects them with others online who were participating and helps them get information with experts. Videos featuring star Bills players acted as extra motivation, and prizes ranged from a Fred Jackson autographed helmet to an all-expenses paid trip for two to the Super Bowl.

Perhaps what was most interesting about the campaign is that you didn't have to live in the Buffalo area to participate. While the campaign is focused on the Buffalo community, promotion for the campaign wasn't geotargeted to that area. The contest was open to all Bills fans, regardless of where they live—and thanks to the growth of fantasy football, that fan base now spans more of the U.S. than ever before. 

"Fans in Western New York used to have one favorite team," Buffalo Bills cmo Marc Honan explained. "Now they have three favorite teams: Their team and their two fantasy teams."

Instead of just focusing on a local demographic, the Buffalo Bills now have an opportunity to attract fans across the country due to digital marketing and the ubiquity of social media. When Honan joined the organization in 1997, being active online for an NFL team meant having a website. But, as the Bills enter a new era with owner Terry Pegula, times have changed. NFL teams have to be active on multiple platforms, not just for delivering information but engaging fans.

Honan said that the Bills have always been digitally minded. It was the first team to create a fantasy football league among season ticket holders three years ago, something that has become a league-wide initiative.

And, as fantasy football players outside of Buffalo began to add Sammy Watkins or Kyle Orton to their starting lineups, it's using online means to connect with them. Its free mobile app, Buffalo Bills Touch, delivers a second-screen experience where users can connect with others through various social media platforms and see up-to-date stats. It includes the digital Bills Fan Playbook, which provides a game preview, a countdown clock, an animated depth chart and opponent info—all relevant information for fantasy football players. The team also creates original video content, like the Wired For Sounds clips, where at least one player a week is miked up so fans can hear what they are talking about on the field.

"There's a lot of different avenues to get news about the NFL and Buffalo Bills, but we're the one source [where] you can get behind-the-scenes information you can't get anywhere else," Honan explained.