NFL Held Invite-Only Show Right Before SXSW Began

Panels included Twitter, Instagram, Blue State Digital and other notables

Tech players and marketers are now consuming their final drinks for South by Southwest Interactive, a five-day conference wrapping this evening. For the National Football League's digital marketers still in attendance, it's been a much-longer stay in Austin, Texas, as 160 staffers for pro football's 32 teams actually convened on March 5 to take in an invite-only mini-show before the big one began.

The NFL Digital Media Summit @ SXSW quietly kicked off before the festival erupted with some 28,000 attendees, Adweek has learned. George Scott, gm of club sites digital for the NFL, said it was actually the second year in a row the league held such a members-only meeting—though last year it tried to run the event during the hectic SXSW program.

"We had to move it up because it's too tough of a balancing act asking people to try to do both," he said today. "It worked well." Scott added that registration was up by at least one-third compared to the 2012 summit.

For three days last week, Web marketers for the league's teams took in dozens of panels and breakout sessions, including speakers from notable brands like Twitter, Instagram, Blue State Digital, Mashable, Ticketmaster, Papa John's Pizza, Apple and the University of Southern California (USC).

The thoroughly programmed summit suggests the NFL is serious about getting its geographically fragmented network of digital teams on the same page when it comes to interactive marketing. For instance, Karen North, director of the Annenberg Program on Online Communities, part of USC's journalism school, spoke to the NFL marketers on March 6 about what could be learned in social media crisis management from the recent Carnival fiasco.

Scott suggested that the NFL will likely orchestrate the private summit again next year, adding that doing it around SXSW lets the league more easily attract high-quality speakers from outside the sports marketing niche.

"There are so many smart people already coming here for the conference," he explained. "Where else can our club site managers listen to someone from Obama's agency—Blue State Digital—and see what they can learn from analytics around an election?"