How the NFL Captivates the Largest Audience in TV History

When it comes to sporting events, most Americans will agree that the NFL knows how to throw the perfect party. According to CNBC, Super Bowls of 2009-2013 were the “most-watched TV programs in U.S. history.” It’s hard to imagine how the NFL has become so significant over time. However, like most success stories, you have to start at the bottom.

You start a game with hope

As most of us know, the NFL didn’t start out as big as it is today. With roots deep in the popular sport of rugby, professional football emerged with powerful stories of heroes facing adversity and challenging the odds for the impossible win. The game has changed over the years, but one idea will always remain the same: every season starts with hope.

Hope is the emotion that drives NFL fans today. The classic phrase of defeat, “There’s always next season,” highlights the very essence of the NFL: every season is a clean slate for every team.

Emotion has turned the NFL into an experience

Not convinced emotion has much to do with the sport? As if the game itself isn’t gripping enough, try watching a game preview. Or turn on ESPN and watch the announcers do whatever they can to add as much excitement and enthusiasm to a story as possible (even if there isn’t much to the story). The NFL prides itself on telling stories, and it’s really good at it.

Then there’s tailgating. This turns NFL Sunday into an entire day of festivities that fans just can’t get enough of. A day isn’t enough? Well, for the Super Bowl, the NFL has turned tailgating into a week-long event filled with concerts, food venues, exciting activities and interaction with football legends. A must-see for any fan.

Then you have the clothes and accessories. Sure, it’s pretty common to see an NFL jersey upon the proud shoulders of an adoring fan. However, the NFL has recently chosen to target the female fans of the game, who comprise 35% of the NFL fan base. With vice president of marketing and entertainment Tracy Perlman at the helm of this movement, more apparel and general market targeting is focused on the growing female fan market.

Then the NFL took it a step further with fantasy

As if watching your favorite team season after season wasn’t enough, the NFL decided fans should control their teams by drafting their own! What better way to grow more passion from fans than to give them teams they can compete with and feel proud of? Now fans research players and game stats to help advance their teams in their own leagues. Smart phone apps put fans in the driver’s seat 24/7 with instant access and control of their teams. Fantasy football has changed the way many fans watch football. They’re not just watching their favorite team anymore, they’re watching every team.

Technology keeps it growing

With powerful technology driving game stats, play-monitoring, player data and more, there isn’t much the NFL can’t track among its industry. These tools allow NFL teams to become increasingly competitive at drafts and game plays to make the games more exciting each season.

Additionally, the NFL continually seeks to expand overseas. As technology advances and continues to bring more international interest to the sport, we will soon see the NFL begin to grow exponentially with international fans.

Marketers can learn a lot from the NFL’s success. It drives its strategies on the emotions of the players, coaches, investors and, of course, the fans. How can you apply this sort of strategy to your marketing efforts? If the NFL owned your business, do you think it would do things any different?