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The social media team at the National Football League is on a mission to be “the most youth-driven and community-driven platform and league” in the world. It aims to do this by using platforms such as TikTok and Snapchat, as well as gaming platforms including Roblox and Fortnite, to build and engage with future fans and audiences as they find the sport in new ways. The league also looks to its players to contribute to that creator engagement strategy.
And because sport offers a global entry point, it can drive diverse and inclusive attitudes and behaviors, explained Sam Fink, director of content partnerships for the NFL, during a panel at Social Media Week.
Fink spoke alongside Meeckel Beecher, global head of diversity, equity and inclusion for Shutterstock, as they shared their views on developing accessible social media content strategies.
Fink outlined the NFL social media team’s “Helmets Off” strategy, which allows audiences to see and hear from players away from the game, giving them a platform to share their stories.
“It’s a global game. We have teams all over the country. We’re bringing millions of people together on a weekly basis, and a fan really can be anyone. Football is for everyone. So when we’re making our marketing materials and social content, we want our fans to see themselves,” continued Fink.
Meanwhile, media-sharing content business Shutterstock’s contributor community is also a global one, with more than a million people.
Beecher highlights the business’ Diversity Marketing Report—last published in 2021—which examines how brands are thinking about diversity in the content they produce, having discovered the insight that people are always “trying to find a connection” from the content they consumer. But marketers have admitted that their output has not been good enough in the past.
“I think, in addition to ensuring that the marketing team is diverse, one of the things that we recognize is that we have to bring our contributors to the forefront of our social space to ensure that people recognize that there is actual diversity behind the people who are creating the content, because that’s how you get authentic authenticity,” he said.
Social and diversity strategies should be the same thing
In terms of how brands can embed their DEI strategy within their comms, Beecher said that the development of any strategy should not take place separately from representation plans, both internally and externally.
“You need to ensure that how you’re thinking about your communities, that you’re catering to a larger group of people. Naturally, you’re going to have targets that you need to think about. But one of the things that we’ve been pushing at Shutterstock, in terms of how we arrange our content … let’s say instead of having ‘LGBTQ families,’ we just have ‘families.’ And within that collection of families, you have LGBTQ people, you have people with a disability, you have multigenerational families, because that’s how people exist,” he explained.
And for the NFL, a long-term creator strategy aims to reach the next generation of football fans, with “the way in” to the sport having evolved through the emergence of social media platforms and a younger audience.
To reach potential new fans, the NFL aims to work with creators across various platforms and categories including food, fitness, fashion and wellness, explained Fink.
“First and foremost, we make sure the creators that we’re working with are football fans and they have a connection, in some capacity, whether it’s a club connection or a connection to the league, and then we’re building with them. We create one-to-one authentic relationships with all of our creators and we can use our platform to support them. What do they want to do? We’re not coming to these creators with ideas. We are building with them,” she continued.
Nurturing creator relationships
They also discussed a creator trend that takes an “always-on” approach with brands. However, Fink warned that it is “really hard and time-consuming” for marketers to nurture those 24/7 relationships.
The NFL has developed a “playbook” for each club that offers them tools to work with creators. The plan invites creators to training camps, for example, to learn more about each club first-hand. Other programs work directly with the major platforms such as YouTube and TikTok, and they offer analytics around creators to help guide on the right people to partner with. This can be helpful when it comes to factoring in representation.
Shutterstock takes a more educational approach within its creator community. Through its “The Create Fund” program, it supports historically excluded artists with financial and professional support. Those who qualify are assessed through their portfolio and the “gaps” they might be able to fill through their work.
Fink also admitted that there was a lot of “trial and error” within the NFL’s social strategy as new engagement opportunities have emerged, such as gaming with Roblox.
“We always want to try what the new platform is. Some of them will stick around, others will go away,” she explained. “Gaming is also a huge passion of our players. You see it now in the offseason when they have more time. They’re calling up each other, they’re on Twitch, they’re trying to build their own personal brand. So we see creators as our players as well. And as we’re trying to equip them with the tools to reach their audience.”