Every year, the NFL carries out a variety of marketing campaigns that promote the new season’s complete life-cycle, from Preseason through the Super Bowl. This includes everything from ticket sales, to merchandise, broadcast and NFL Network programming, pro-social and charity causes, team and league news, fantasy football, and anything else that helps promote the league and its games to fans across the country.
One of their most effective and widely utilized tools is email marketing. The variety and volume of messaging during any given week varies greatly, with distribution in the tens of millions. And with the majority of consumers engaging on mobile devices, the NFL saw this as an opportunity to unify and streamline the consumer experience through a branding exercise in partnership with Thornberg & Forester. The result is a mobile-first, best in class experience that can flex to accommodate the needs of NFL’s email marketing team, while offering a level of personalization down to the individual fan. Touchdown.
Our first step in constructing this new brand system was to create foundational NFL-centric, ownable elements that would be used across the entire system. We introduced the color yellow to “flag” call to action buttons which also reflect the authentic geometry of the NFL shield.
For messaging, we standardized use of the NFL’s custom font families All-Pro Display and All-Pro Sans to make the system easy to read and to mitigate typographic costs.
We established a master “building block” grid as the general framework, making NFL marketing campaigns easy to construct via consistent placement of each module.
Universal Header Modules are always positioned at the top of an NFL campaign.
Hero Modules are always placed directly under the header.
Universal Footer Modules always reside at the bottom.
The area between the Hero and Footer Modules is a more flexible “zone” dedicated to handle the variety of messaging and advertising needs the NFL has during the season.
Using the vast photo archives of the NFL as a starting point, a style was developed to make image usage consistent across the multitude of marketing campaigns the league generates.
Game photography is now more emotional and active, traits that make today’s league so exciting to watch. A shallow depth of field was included in this new system so the viewer focuses on the player, the cornerstone of a league rich in athletic talent and charisma.
With the grid in place and foundational/ownable attributes identified, our next challenge was to address the additional considerations that had to be applied to this system, across all teams and offerings.
NFL-Branded Header Modules are national in nature and are only used for non-team specific campaigns.
Team-Branded Header Modules are local in nature and are customized to the team’s fan base.
NFL Hero Modules signal the primary objective of a particular campaign. They are photo-driven to attract attention to the message, while preseason campaigns are text-driven.
Team Hero Modules are built to highlight any campaign a team has developed to promote their season. This module is flexible enough to feature campaign art, player photography, or any other visual that will help generate ticket sales.
Secondary Modules support the primary objective of a particular campaign. These modules are more information focused to help drive traffic to NFL properties like Game Pass, RedZone and the NFL Network.
NFL Promo, Ad and Sponsor Modules are data-based elements that support NFL products, programs and/or initiatives which are targeted to the particular recipient.
NFL Daily is a core marketing campaign that’s used year-round. Our ‘“building block” grid allows the NFL to easily add or subtract as many stories as deemed necessary on that particular day.
The system also allows the campaign to be regional (promoting the Seattle Seahawks for example) or national, depending on the data profile of a particular recipient.
NFL Tune-In is a marketing campaign that’s used each week throughout the season to promote every Sunday’s slate of games as well as the NFL’s most important franchises: Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football, and Thursday Night Football.
Because these are information-heavy campaigns, a modular match-up system was devised for games to be arranged horizontally or vertically. Horizontal layouts allow franchise games to be featured more prominently, and vertical layouts make Sunday slates easier to scan visually. This same grid doubles for betting information to be displayed pre-game.
The volume of messaging a team generates during the season can be overwhelming, so a ticket sales template was developed to be reused every week with slight adjustments to help cut down production time.
Hero modules make promoting star players easier, while ticket buying is now faster with a revamped purchasing section. Game Pass is also clearly advertised to direct recipients where they can watch their favorite team.
Just like any responsible NFL franchise, with so many options at your disposal you need a playbook to bring it all together and help your team make the right call at the right time. Our style guide delivery laid the foundation for the system out in detail, with clear instructions on each module’s use and the rules of the game. Ultimately the system had to be integrated into their back end systems for automation, so we delivered layered Photoshop files for their team to adapt for use.
The roll out has been a success to date, and the flexibility of the architecture has allowed opportunities for the internal team to create new executions while maintaining the integrity of the system.