How to get NFL fans involved? We look at the very best content that teams are using to ramp up engagement.

Happy Thanksgiving from NewsWhip. We’re focusing on a very American tradition today: football.
Last week, we looked at which NFL teams had the largest social channels online. Now that we’ve identified some of the smartest social teams, we’re going into some of their most compelling content and how it captures their fans’ attention.
Using our Spike database, we investigated the content driving the most engagement across Facebook (likes, shares, and comments), Twitter, and even Pinterest. We discovered the different strategies that our top teams used to make that content work for them. Read more about our tracking methodology here.
Looking at our top performers from last week, we chose to sample the top October content from the Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos, and our stand out from last week, the New England Patriots.

NFL Teams, Highest Social to Search Traffic Ratio, and Largest Social Media Fan Bases

The NFL Social and Fan Base Ranking
We chose these teams because they had the highest percentages of traffic from social media and biggest fan bases across platforms, and they were some of the highest performers for social engagement in our Spike platform.

New England Patriots

Our top performer across the social platforms, the Patriots are creating great content that gives their fans a reason to click. October’s top posts on social media were all videos—easily shared and quickly digested. The most engaging video belonged to their “Can’t Miss Plays” series, which highlight the very best plays for fans who want to relive their team’s glory moments. Across Facebook, it received over 51,000 likes, 11,00 shares, and 4,200 comments.

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Other compelling content included their videos of exclusive locker room celebrations after wins. These inside peeks give fans a heightened and personal sense of connection to the team and its athletes.
[bctt tweet=”‘The @Patriots score huge content hits with their inside-the-locker-room sneak peeks!'”]
Both of these videos each received over 21,000 likes on Facebook. The first one had over 2,500 shares and 1,100 comments, as well as nearly 500 tweets.
Honorable Mentions:
The Patriots seek to build a close relationship between from fans to their favorite players. Two of the other most-engaging posts included a feature on Julian Edelman being the cover star of a local Boston magazine, and one about Tom Brady not knowing what memes are. These blogs share insider info about the players and give obsessed fans a more in-depth experience with their team.
These Patriots’ posts also picked up traction on Pinterest. The Julian Edelman feature had over 100 engagements on the virtual pin board platform.
Julian Edelman makes engaging Pinterest content
Athletes like Julian Edelman translate well onto Pinterest.
While 71% of Pinterest users are still women, over a third of new signups are men. According to the platform, there are now more men in the US using Pinterest every month than reading Sports Illustrated and GQ combined. More incentive for brands with traditionally male audiences to utilize the social platform.

Oakland Raiders

Though a smaller fan base than many of our other teams, the Oakland Raiders had the second highest percentage of traffic from social channels.
The Raiders know how to work their content to earn that traffic—their most engaging piece from in October used two hot social media tactics: video and throwbacks. The video was part of their “This Day in NFL History”, and featured the longest touchdown pass in NFL history. The video had over 25,000 likes, 8,200 shares, and nearly 1,000 comments on Facebook.

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Their second best post featured an interactive experience for fans. The blog post named their wide receiver as the NFL’s Pepsi Rookie of the Week. The Raiders ended with call to action by asking fans to keep voting in the league-wide competition. The engagement for this recognition was stellar. The piece brought in nearly 20,000 likes, over 2,100 shares, and 900 comments.

What’s working here? The Raiders are doing double-time on their social engagement, both by highlighting their own achievements and asking fans to participate in helping their team. The third highest-engaging content for the Raiders was another athlete shout-out. The NFL network named Raiders’ Derek Carr as the top quarterback under 25. With both of these blogs, the Raiders are building a sense of pride in their fans and audience, one that will have them eager to boast about the team and share in the accomplishments.

The Dallas Cowboys

Like many of our other teams, the top content piece for the Dallas Cowboys in October was a video. The video featured the team’s trip to visit One World Trade and the World Trade Center Memorial. This content fits in with Cowboys patriotic brand message as being “America’s football team”.

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On Facebook, the video had thousands of comments from people associating their feelings from the emotional historic event with their personal connection to the team. In total, the video received over 37,500 likes, 6,400 shares, and 1,900 comments on Facebook, and over 550 tweets on Twitter.
Comments on the Dallas Cowboys 9/11 Trip
[bctt tweet=”‘The @dallascowboys visit to 9/11 memorial prompts emotional response from fans!’ #contentstrategy”]
The Dallas Cowboys’ second most-engaging content last month was also a video. And, like the Oakland Raiders, the Cowboys used a throwback from 1994 to revitalize one of their greatest plays. Using the popular hashtag phrase, ‘Throwback Thursday’, the video was made relevant again because it featured Larry Allen, a player who was recently nominated for the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
Honorable Mentions:
Two of the top posts were news stories about general team updates and changes to the starting line-up. Despite being very straight-forward content, the content was a hit on Facebook. The team updates blog had over 20,000 Facebook likes, 2,200 shares, and nearly 2,000 comments. Fans crave instant news on every change to their favorite team.

The Denver Broncos

The two top engaging posts for the Denver Broncos were part of their weekly division roundups. The posts review how the AFC West division teams fared in their games, focusing of course, on the Broncos.
Each snippet gives the last outing score and notes any standout plays or events in the game. The post also indicates “Up Next” or what’s to look forward to for each team (not always good news for those teams that lost!). For each team highlighted, there’s either a video or gallery to go along with it. When key players are mentioned in the text, an interactive mouseover element popups a summary of the athlete. This is a nifty interactive feature that carries over through the NFL team news sites.
Denver Broncos weekly AFC West round-up
The Broncos summary includes everything you need to know if you missed the game, plus content like post-game videos and athlete stats
The more engaging of the roundups received over 18,600 likes, 3,600 shares, and 1,600 comments on Facebook. The format of the pieces encourage discussion among fans who want to rehash games, plays, and debate how their team will do against their next opponents.
Honorable Mention:
Another top post was a hype-building piece for the Broncos game against the Packers. At the time of writing, both teams were undefeated, leading to a legendary game. The blog was shared nearly 1,400 times on Facebook, with over 6,700 likes and 1,000 comments. Historical video content, expert opinions, and player quotes all make the post a captivating read.
Plus, the post identifies a very important element of the upcoming match: the fans. Anton Smith, the Broncos defensive end, said, “the crowd is going to be our biggest ally [in the game]. It’s going to be—I think—just as important as any part of the game plan that we’re going to put in…”.
Having that recognition gives fans a sense of being active participants in the Bronco’s success. This bolsters that personal connection fans feel to their team.

The Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers top piece of content in October was a Thanksgiving-themed sweepstakes. It received over 10,700 likes, 12,800 shares, and an amazing 5,300 comments on Facebook.
Green Bay Packers Thanksgiving Ticket Giveaway on Social
We’ve seen the success brand publishers have with contests on their sites—ICICI bank has been in our top brand publishers on social rankings for their giveaways. By using a promotion, the Packers cash in on Facebook engagement from the fans who hunger for more with their team. Sponsored by Levi’s, the Packers contest gave participants a chance win 10 tickets to a Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears match. (Quite a treat when Packers season tickets have a waiting list over 30 years long).
[bctt tweet=”‘Ticket giveaways are social gold for @Packers — fans crave any chance to see their team'”]
Honorable Mention:
The second top-performing piece was about Donald Driver, a retired wide receiver, being selected for the Packers Hall of Fame. It picked up over 42,300 likes, 3,700 shares, and 1,300 comments on Facebook.
The blog post deviated from the majority of pieces that revolve around game and season news. It included quotes from Donald Driver and an embedded video collection of his best moments. The feature’s success can be linked to nostalgia—Donald Driver is a Packers fan favorite. To keep fans engaged, the post concludes with a link to the Packers tribute page to Donald Driver, packed with sharable content such as wallpapers, photos, and all news mentions about the star athlete.

The Best Content Plays

The NFL teams have a lot of tools in their arsenal to capture fan engagement across social platforms. Like we’ve noted before, their product is content. Videos, game reviews, and team updates are all a byproduct of the business. Nostalgia pieces and throwbacks are another way to make old content new and fresh, and recycle what’s already in the archives.
But what do all of these tactics serve to do?
NFL's savvy social strategy for killer content
Entertain, and add more to the fans’ experience. Interactive media, like the player pop-ups from before, deepen the fan’s experience with the content. It’s not a static, boring wall of text. Giveaways also tap into our love for deals, whilst also having an entertainment and engagement for fans, away from the TV screen.
Inspire, and build pride. Nostalgia-focused content builds up fans’ confidence in their teams, when they can see their team’s athletes make football history or perform incredible moves on the field. The Patriots’ highlights of their best plays is another way to hype up a team’s victories.
Create community, and foster discussion. Commenting provides an interactive experience for fans, whether on their content pages or the social platforms. The Dallas Cowboys visit to the World Trade Center memorial prompted thousands of rapt and effusive comments about the team. What is sport, but an endless conversation?
Educate, and turn fans into brand ambassadors. A majority of posts are updates to all ongoing team changes. This transparency and level of detail transform fans into team experts. Whether at their sports bar, office, or anywhere else, these fans will have all the latest facts to share about their team.  
[bctt tweet=”How do @NFL teams create killer content? They inspire, educate, entertain + build a community of impassioned fans” via=”no”]
In the coming weeks, as the football season heads into the playoffs, we’ll bring you a definitive rankings of total content performance for NFL teams. In the meantime, we’ll start diving into the other sports, see how content engagement rates compare to football.

What’s Next

1) Check out the sports content that really works, with a free trial of Spike