The National Football League has announced a content and advertising partnership with the “social news aggregation, web content rating and discussion” platform, Reddit. As part of the deal, the league has established an official Reddit account (r/NFL, 1.5 million members), committed to hosting a year-round series of “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) discussions and will create an original video series for the Reddit community using content generated during those Q&A sessions. The Wall Street Journal reported that the league is not paying Reddit to operate on their platform. Instead, the company will share in video sponsorship revenues.
Howie Long-Short: The NFL’s decision to embrace ‘The Front Page of the Internet’ – as it has Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and most recently TikTok – signals the platform’s arrival as a mainstream social media outlet, a far cry from its early roots as a hipster outlier. Reddit may be growing rapidly, but it’s not a new company; it was founded back in 2005 by Serena Williams’ husband Alexis Ohanian and his college roommate Steve Huffman.
The NFL “wants to be anywhere fans are spending time” and with 9 million fans visiting league-related communities on the platform monthly (it has 330 million total users), Reddit certainly fits the bill. NFL vp, digital media business development, Blake Stuchin explained that it also has “a really differentiated audience. There are many users on Reddit that are not on other social channels.” According to ComScore, 43% don’t use Snapchat, 33% don’t have an IG profile, 28% aren’t on Twitter and 17% are without a Facebook page. These fans tend to be younger and are predominantly male.
Sub-reddits, which allow the user to “focus on a specific interest or topic,” make the platform ideal for storytelling. Stuchin said that from a marketing standpoint, Reddit gives the league the opportunity to showcase the players and their personalities; something it “[doesn’t] really do anywhere else.”
Stuchin described the NFL’s ongoing AMA series (at least once/mo.) as a “first of its kind” amongst American pro sports leagues. “The questions will be sourced directly from the Reddit community and players, coaches, front office executives and some of [the league’s] biggest fans will have a chance to tell their stories, in their own words.”
It’s important to point out that the behavior displayed by Reddit users during AMAs is “endemic to the platform.” As Stuchin said, “there are a lot of places where rights holders can do Q&A, but Reddit users are trained to ask questions, vote their favorite questions up or down and actively participate in the conversation daily.” That engagement-level is attractive to the NFL and presumably will be to advertisers too.
The league sees these AMAs as a “news or content engine for all of NFL media.” Stuchin envisions “quotes or topics discussed during AMAs being turned into an Instagram post, a tweet, an NFL.com article or a feature article on NFL Network.” The town-hall style discussions will also be converted into video content and redistributed on the platform (as well as on the NFL’s social channels, NFL.com & NFL Network).
The partnership’s success will ultimately be determined by three metrics. The number of people reached (and the experience those fans have with the content being produced for Reddit), the amount of revenue generated by the league’s newest advertising unit and the amount of content (from AMAs) that the league can recirculate across its various media distribution endpoints.
Fan Marino: Daryl Morey’s tweet in support of Hong Kong protestors set off an international firestorm last week, so it’s worth wondering just how receptive the NFL will be to its AMA guests taking controversial questions from fans. Stuchin told the WSJ that “generally, the participants will be representing themselves, first and foremost, and not necessarily the views of the NFL.”
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