Sports Teams Are Putting Instagram Stories On Jumbotrons to Keep Fans’ Eyes on the Action

The Tagboard-powered service drives massive social engagement during, and after, the game.

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While mobile continues to dominate the social media landscape, major league franchises and broadcast networks are bringing their Instagram Stories content to far, far, bigger screens.

Sports teams including the Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Sounders and San Francisco Giants are beginning to use technology that lets them show their Instagram Stories on massive screens inside the stadium. By putting content on jumbotrons and other massive displays, the teams aim to both grow their social media followings while also helping to keep the focus on field and off the second screen in everyone’s pocket.

With nearly a million followers on Instagram, the Philadelphia Eagles have expanded their content production team from being broadcast-focused to being digital-focused to being social-focused, said Eric Long, director of production for the NFL team. However, showing that content to another 68,000 fans who show up for the games on a weekly basis provide for another platform entirely.

“With our fan base, they are a pretty passionate fan base—season ticket holders and people who care a great deal,” Long said. “But in this day and age when attention is so divided, and you can check your fantasy football team or social platforms, it’s a challenge to get people to watch our social content.”

The technology is powered by Tagboard, a Seattle-based startup that has already been working with a number of teams across most of the big professional sports. Teams with Tagboard-powered screens can select any part of their Instagram Story to display during a pre-game or the game itself. Because of NFL social media policies, teams are often limited with how much actual game footage they can show on their channel, providing a change for them to focus on footage from warm-ups, tunnel entrances or fan experiences.

Ultimately, the boards will be used mostly for showing a lot of user-generated content as Tagboard is debuting a tool that will make it easier to search content across keywords, phrases, accounts and hashtags. Another new feature will make it easier to send users a document to receive their permission for displaying content—something that could be of particular use to news outlets that find themselves chasing down users across Twitter and Instagram to get written approval for user-generated photos and videos during breaking news events.

“When it goes there, that’s when it really creates unique opportunities for us,” Long said. “Because a fan in the stands isn’t governed in the same way we are for our team’s social account.”

Along with the Eagles, Sounders and Giants, Tagboard is also working with a handful of other football teams for the NFL season such as as the Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings. (It’s also working internationally with the German soccer club FC Bayern in Munich.)

Before opening up its technology to Instagram Stories, Tagboard—founded in 2012—worked with a number of teams to display Snapchat content in stadiums across the country. The displays are part responsive design and part API-based, allowing them to blow up content to massive sizes.

The displays seem to be turning big screen attention into smaller-screen followings. According to Tagboard, some teams have seen monthly follower bumps of as much as 20 percent. The New Orleans Pelicans, which used Tagboard in the recent season, saw its Snapchat following double in the course of a month.

“Once they go up in a stadium of 60,000 screaming fans, you’ve got a fair amount of interactions with them and it provides something for them to keep their eyes on the field,” said Nathan Peterson, Tagboard’s head of revenue and partnerships.

Broadcast networks are also using Tagboard to display Instagram Stories content during television segments. On Aug. 24, Telemundo became the first to syndicate content. Later this month, Golf Channel will be the second.

There also seems to be branding potential as well, with some teams looking into how to monetize content in ways already familiar to fans that see ads around stadiums. Last week, McDonald’s sponsored a board at an Oklahoma Sooners football game. In the past, Xbox sponsored a photo contest during the Seattle Sounders season while Miller Light has sponsored content shown by the Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers.

“I think sponsors themselves are going to start demanding a lot closer attachment to this content,” Peterson said. “Teams and broadcasters are going to start taking it to heart that they need to build upon those relationships.”

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.