NFL UK pivots from Facebook to YouTube to attract younger audiences

In a bid to capture gen Z audiences, NFL UK has refocused its resources away from Facebook and into YouTube, according to its UK digital and social chief.

Speaking at The Drum’s Digital Summit, Jamie King alludes to Facebook’s aging audience and says since YouTube’s audience over indexes 18-24 his team are prioritizing a shift to the video platform.

The focus toward YouTube and away from other social platforms also makes up part of the NFL’s long-form content strategy. “We want a space where we can tell better-quality stories,” King says.

King’s digital team took their time creating a YouTube strategy for NFL UK, perceiving the platform’s high production values as a “heavy lift.” For him it was crucial the investment would be worth it.

After discovering a sizable UK audience on the NFL’s US YouTube channel, a localized channel for the UK was set up. The UK channel has “leaned into music, influencers and creating food challenges as a way of bringing [in] youth audiences.”

TikTok is another platform King’s team is investing in. “When TikTok blew up we shifted toward the platform, but we took our time to make sure we had a strong strategy on it.”

King’s comments came as the NFL wrapped its first week of matches in London. He says the cancellation of last year’s football gave the team “space to look at new opportunities and how to use digital platforms to reach audiences and grow.”

As a result, King’s team created content that celebrated the games to replace canceled matches and dropped behind-the-scenes videos showing the inner work of the NFL. The behind-the-scenes idea was renewed for 2021 – but this time showing the NFL executing the live matches.

Switching to remote during the pandemic also helped open up player access for UK fans, he says. “When video call became acceptable, we managed to get opportunities with some of the biggest players in the NFL and bring content to a local audience through that.”

Elsewhere, King credited the launch of SkySports NFL for bringing new audiences to the sport and helping fulfill the NFL’s internal goal to become a mainstream sport in the UK.

“That was a real commitment by Sky to say we’re going to give you your own channel for a whole season with wall-to-wall coverage of the NFL,” King says. “Just the perception around that channel we believe is really valuable to show the growth of the sport in this market.”

Paid media running throughout the year is another tactic King deploys to capture new audiences. “We’re hyper-targeting people that we’re looking to bring into the sport and building out different segments, testing daily about which ones are really helping bring in new audiences through growth.

“There’s only a certain amount that you can see, but I think the more you test the more you can start seeing where you’re seeing conversion in fandom.”