In September 2015, Snapchat announced its new partnership with the National Football League (NFL). Fans can now share their individual experiences through a globally-shared Snapchat story every week during the football season. From the pre-game festivities to the touchdowns and excitement of the games, this Snapchat story provides an “in the stands” experience for Snapchat users (estimated to be over 100 million daily active users) both watching live at the game or from the comfort of their homes.
Snapchat users can add to the weekly NFL Live Story, which focuses on a different game each week, by turning on their location services and posting to the feed if they’re at that game. When users submit their snaps, they are reviewed and posted to the live feed by Snapchat staff. This live story is viewable for 24 hours after the event.
So, what’s the point of all this? Money and growth. The pilot NFL Live Story from the NFL Draft in Chicago was viewed by nearly 15 million fans, a pretty positive result (CNBC). With about 10 million viewers each Sunday, 40% of which are international viewers, calling this a positively growing project is an understatement (Contently). The NFL and Snapchat split the revenue gained from brands who pay to have their advertisements sprinkled throughout the story (exact split of revenue is unknown (USA Today)).
Snapchat is a hit with millennials, so most other Discovery features on Snapchat cater to this age group (18-26). Having a spot in the Discovery feature is coveted by companies and many are trying to edge their way in to reach that younger, profit-bearing audience. Originally, a 12-brand cap existed in the Discover feature, meaning companies like Yahoo got booted out when bigger brands wanted in. That number has now expanded to 18, not including the NFL Live Stories and local region or university’s story. Some of the lucky companies included in this divine 18 are Food Network, BuzzFeed, and Comedy Central, showing that Snapchat is clearly appealing to the millennial age group.
Even with its raging popularity, many ask why millennials even use Snapchat. Business Insider interviewed two dozen millennials to find an answer to this question. One millennial user says, “I was drawn to the social engagement loop and ephemeral appeal of the network. I like a social network that treats content as disposable. Snapchat is in the headspace of our generation." Millennials are aware that they have to be careful not to post anything on social media potentially damaging to their reputation, and because Snapchats are instantaneous, it’s more possible to do just that.
When asked if a lot of their friends use Snapchat, another millennial user told Business Insider, "Most if not all. I feel like it’s odd if people don't.” Snapchat, just like other social networks. Snapchat, like Facebook and Twitter, has the powerful, competitive feature of “network effects”. The more people on the network, the more value it has and the more millennials experience “fear of missing out,” if they are not on that network, also known as “FOMO”.
Despite Snapchat’s popularity with millennials for its ability to send pictures and videos to friends, it will be interesting to see the results of the NFL/Snapchat partnership once statistics are widely available. It is presently unclear whether millennials cared much about watching the NFL Live Stories this past football season. If no one in a millennial’s social circle is at the game and the teams playing are not personally relevant, he or she has no incentive to watch the stories. Even if this venture is overall profitable from companies paying to advertise on Snapchat, the target market may have been missed. If millennials are not watching the NFL Live Stories then all those companies trying to expose their brands to this group are wasting their money.
Millennials generally watch football games with their friends in front of a TV, so watching the NFL Live Story does not really provide anything special. Other Snap Stories focus on exotic places in the world like the streets of Denmark or sunny Mediterranean islands, or even a specific event such as The World Cup, places most millennials have not been and crave to experience. These are the stories that get the most views and generate buzz among this generation.
All in all, the NFL made a bold move by expanding its production into Snapchat, but unfortunately they may have not have hit the nail on the head in targeting their market. Perhaps the NFL should try to reach millennials in a different manner, but they are on the right track with accessing this generation through their phones. It will be exciting to see what new advertising techniques emerge by next year’s big game.