Fans Tell the Story in NFL’s New Campaign and Contest

Free Super Bowl tickets will go to community group as large as 62

Nearly half of American sports fans call pro or college football their favorite sport. For the second season in a row, the NFL will invite millions of fans to share stories of why they love the game, according to chief marketing officer Mark Waller.

Waller, named the league’s first CMO in 2009, gave Adweek a preview of this season’s “Together We Make Football” campaign by the NFL and NBC that kicks off Sunday night.

A new 30-second spot starring fans who won free trips to Super Bowl XLVIII last season will air during NBC’s broadcast of the Hall of Fame game.

Among them: Lee Krost, a 75-year-old QB still “lighting up” his flag football league; and Heidi Gilbert, who was inspired to pull herself out of depression after learning of Tom Brady’s underdog journey from sixth round draft pick to Super Bowl MVP. Still in the wings are 30 new commercials/promos created by NFL Films that will run across NBC and NFL properties as well as other TV, print and digital media.

Despite being thrown together in a month, last year’s contest drew over 5,000 submissions and 1 million video views. With an off-season to prepare, this year’s contest will be bigger, better and more social-media driven, Waller said. 

The centerpiece will be a microsite, which goes live Sunday (it currently houses last year's iteration), where fans can share their stories and view others. 

The NFL’s also integrating Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to make it easier to upload existing video/photos. Fans must log in through Facebook to enter. The league will play up the hashtag #TWMF on Twitter. The goal, said Waller, is to create the NFL’s biggest “community-generated” campaign.

“We have this incredible community of people who love football, whether that’s fans, players, teams, media outlets,” he said during a meeting with vp of brand and creative Jaime Weston-Parouse at the league’s Park Avenue office in New York. “What we’re trying to do is facilitate the ability of everybody to share in that love. It goes to the core of social media at the moment: create mechanisms for people to connect on the things they share.”

The first contest riffed on the communal nature of football fandom, said Waller. This year, rather than offering five individual trips to Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona, the NFL will reward one individual and one group. The latter can range from a youth football team to a community organization, and include up to 62 people.

The league will accept entries through Oct. 19, then select three individual and three group finalists. Fans will vote for the winners online through Dec. 28. They’ll be announced during the post-season. NFL Films will also shoot a documentary about their stories that will air Super Bowl Sunday on NBC.

“It begins as a community-generated campaign—and it ends that way,” said Keith Cossrow, coordinating producer for NFL Films. “We take these six stories to America and say, ‘You guys pick the best one.’”