SpongeBob, the Real Super Bowl Winner

06 March 2024

I’m a self-admitted novice NFL fan. So, as I began my research on Twitter, I didn’t expect to see SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick Star commentating every snap. 

Now I want them to walk me through every game. 

The whole gang was there too. Dora the Explorer popped up to explain the rules, asking if the players needed a map to find the end zone 💀 and Sandy Cheeks was a sideline reporter, raving about how Patrick Mahomes came from quote ‘the greatest state of them all’ (they’re both from Texas).  

That’s not all. After every touchdown the famous slime poured into the end zone, fans in the stadium were slimed (in a pre-recorded bit), and fish nets were set up in the goals to catch field goal attempts.  

The Super Bowl took over Bikini Bottom, in one of the best plays by the NFL this year. And it’s all to engage the younger generations. Let’s take a look at the strategy. 

The broadcast was a follow up from the league’s Toy Story themed dive into augmented reality earlier in the season, Funday Football, live from Andy’s Room. A fully animated real-time simulcast of the Falcons and Jaguars game in London, Slinky was the first down marker with Woody, Buzz, and the gang celebrating every touchdown.

It’s wildly innovative from the NFL, and all targeted towards capturing the attention of a new legion of fans, kids. The standard broadcast isn’t specifically kid friendly, catering for an informed and football-educated fan base.

This is something totally fresh for a budding audience. A fun, introductory production deliberately aimed at piquing the interest of youngsters. And while this has been a major hit worldwide, engaging that young audience is more difficult than you think.  

Simply, interest and viewership in sport is on the decline throughout the younger generations. Less than 1 in 5 Gen Z’ers said they attended a live sports event in the past year, and 33% said they don’t watch live sport on TV. Those numbers are strikingly low for Gen Alpha too.

There’s plenty of reasons behind this, but technology is the main culprit. Kids of today are growing up in the digital age, with tablets, smartphones and access to an unlimited stream of content that is tailored for them by an algorithm.

Times have changed – they’ll also never know the pain of texting with a 9 button Nokia or waiting for the internet to dial-up. This is instant content, at speed, whenever and wherever they want on their device.

Technology has had more of an impact than how kids choose to entertain themselves, their attention spans are becoming shorter too. It’s why we’ve seen engagement strategies for younger generations focus on snackable content.

The NBA delivers this content by the boat-load. Reels, short clips and shot highlights litter the NBA app and their social media channels to grab their attention and lock them in. 

Shortform content have been the go-to for engaging youth, and it does work as you’re meeting them where they naturally hang out on social media. But although there is that hit of engagement, kids will quickly swipe away and move onto the next big thing. 20 different videos in 2 minutes. 

That’s why what the NFL achieved is so incredible. They managed to keep kids engaged for the entirety of the Super Bowl through commentary and graphics that are both fun and familiar.

This might be the first time this generation has been exposed to the NFL, or at least the first time they’ve taken any real interest.

And therein lies the NFL’s plan laid bare: This is the beginning of their journey to engage those generations and turn them into loyal fans.

But what does the rest of that journey look like? While the Nickelodeon broadcast is the perfect introductory step, there’s more work required to turn an interested, non-committal fan into a diehard supporter of the NFL.

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When you know how your fans interact with your team and their preferences (on a CRM), you can engage with them in meaningful ways through tailored journeys and personalized communications. Building loyalty, and meeting them within their niches, drives that connection the NFL and its teams are looking for in the younger generations.

Its why data led decisions are crucial for fan engagement, and when all your data sits within a single source of truth in a CRM, that 360 view of a fan ensures you’re set for success when engaging with them. 

Nike’s strategy works so well because they offer such a great experience to athletes*, that they barely even think about how much information they are sharing.

And of course, all this first party data needs to integrate into your CRM, so you can build a single view of the customer.

By understanding how they interact with you both digitally and in-person, you can simultaneously generate new revenue streams that create incredible experiences for your fans.

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