The Five Most Popular NFL Teams: What Big Data Can Teach Us about Real-Time Marketing

September 17, 2013

In football, success is often determined not by knowing where the ball is, but figuring out where the ball is going to be. With marketing, that type of downfield vision is just as important. Predictive analysis of consumer interest offers brands a competitive advantage in planning their marketing efforts. 

As real-time marketing is becoming an increasingly important social media tool around the NFL season (think how Oreo leveraged the Super Bowl blackout on Twitter), we were curious which teams were the most popular as a way to determine which teams and games brands should prepare their real-time marketing efforts around. Just as importantly, we wanted to know why particular NFL teams are popular to help indicate the likelihood of their popularity wavering through the course of the season.

Using Kontera’s Big Data content marketing platform, we analyzed the summer and pre-season football consumption (July 3 – August 25) for all 32 NFL teams and cross referenced the findings with a number of external data points including franchise value, media market size, and on the field performance. Three key factors emerged in determining franchise popularity: Super Bowl wins, regular season winning percentage over the last five years, and size of the media market, with that being a particular advantage for teams in the number one media market.

Below are the five teams that lead the NFL in content consumption: 

1. Patriots - The team by far with the most content consumption during the summer was the New England Patriots. There's no doubt that Aaron Hernandez and his off the field issues contributed, but consumption around the Patriots continued to outpace the other NFL teams after interest in the Hernandez case subsided.

The reason New England is consistently being consumed at a higher level than the other franchises? They win the most. Aside from winning three Super Bowls in the past 15 years, they have the highest regular season winning percentage, 75.00%, of any NFL team over the past five years – and that's not even taking into account the 2007 season, when they had a perfect regular season. They also play in the Boston area, which according to the 2013 Nielsen Local TV Market Rankings is the seventh largest media market.

2. Packers - Having won four Super Bowls in their history, and owning a 66.25% regular season winning percentage over the past five seasons, the Packers are established winners both recently and historically. Where they're a little bit more of an outlier is Green Bay is only the 69th largest media market, the smallest of any NFL city. The Packers are also the only team on this list that were a top-five team on the AP Pro32 pre-season rankings, indicating that pre-season consumption has little correlation to which teams are expected to perform the best once the upcoming season begins.

3. Cowboys – Without a significant playoff run since winning the Super Bowl in 1995, America's team would more accurately be described as America's third favorite team. While the Dallas Cowboys just barely have a winning regular season record over the past five years at 52.5%, they have 5 Super Bowl wins in their rear view mirror and are located in the 5th largest media market.

4. Giants - With a 60.00% regular season winning percentage over the last five years, having won four Super Bowls in their history, and being located in the largest media market, the New York Giants have a lot going for them. That they won two of those Super Bowls recently against the Patriots, who are also probably the most hated team in the NFL, may have helped win additional fans, though they'd almost certainly be number four on this list either way.    

5. Jets - Real estate is all about location, location, location, and if you didn’t agree before, the New York Jets make a pretty convincing case. Though the Jets aren't nearly as bad you'd think opening up a newspaper over the past year -- they won a pre-NFL/AFL merger Super Bowl and have a 53.75% regular season winning percentage over the last five years -- the only reason they're on this list is because they're located in the New York area. Forbes listed the Jets sixth on their 2013 list of the most valuable NFL franchises, and our data collaborates that finding.

Leveraging Big Data Insights into Social Media Action

So, how can you leverage this intelligence into an actionable strategy? Here are some quick tips for how to target fans of these NFL teams using real-time marketing:

Pick Your Spots – As popular as the NFL is, not every game is going to merit real-time coverage by your brand. Narrowing your focus to games featuring the five most popular franchises will help, but even then real-time marketing should only be used around the most high profile matchups. 

Have a Game Plan – Improvisation is useless without preparation. Going into the game, prepare four or five different content marketing angles along with the accompany images. While you can alter the creative as storylines present themselves, coming in with a clear POV makes real-time marketing exponentially easier.

Keep it Relevant – Contrary to what a lot brands having been trying during the first couple weeks of the season, posting a picture of your product with a football next to it is not effective content marketing. For real-time to work on social media, you need to successfully make the connection between a core selling point of your brand and what’s going on in the game.

Use Regional Amplification – The best way to turn your paid media into earned media is by targeting the right people. If your content marketing creative is related to Tom Brady or the Patriots, amplify it with a promoted Facebook post or sponsored Tweet campaign exclusively aimed at New Englanders.

Review Game Tape – In online marketing, performance review isn’t as easy as sticking game footage into a VCR, but it is just as important. Make sure you have an effective way to measure your campaign across multiple platforms and clearly defined goals, so you can fully optimize future real-time marketing efforts.

When it comes to brands using real-time marketing, we’re still in the first quarter. There is an amazing amount of value in reaching consumers around an event as it’s happening, but with a seemingly infinite amount of things out there to focus on, marketers can often feel lost in a sea of possibilities. By utilizing Big Data, brands can get a much clearer picture on which opportunities will help them score a marketing touchdown, either around the NFL or any other live event.

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