On October 12, the NFL launched a new rule that would fine teams up to $25,000 for using “unapproved video” on team social media handles during games. TheMMQB and Mashable obtained a leaked internal memo which outlines the incredibly specific
rules preventing teams from:
- Using GIFs from previous games of players celebrating
- Using pop culture GIFs with “tangentially relevant quotes”
- Posting video from kickoff until 60 minutes after the conclusion of the game (except for club ‘re-posts’ of League video)
The rules appear to be an attempt to curb audience attention away from team social media handles to official NFL accounts and games, likely in response to the NFL’s 10% drop in ratings reported by The Wall Street Journal earlier this month.
For many, this is just the latest example of the NFL’s arrogance and overreach. It also highlights how ridiculously out of touch the organization is with the world of new media. Recent statements from league commissioner Roger Goddell imply the league views new media as a problem to be solved rather than a tool to achieve its goals. When asked about the league’s drop in ratings, one of the first culprits named by Goddell was the consumer shift toward new media. While Goddell pointed to its efforts on Snapchat and Twitter as a way it’s addressing this shift, he failed to cite any of the positive efforts the organization is deriving and could help absolve some ratings concerns.
What’s more, the NFL’s attempts to control content ironically could lead to a further decline in audience retention. First, by limiting visual content during the time when fans are most engaged, the rule essentially mandates teams reduce reach and, thereby, engagement with their fans. In my experience, animated visuals have 5x the organic reach of static images on key social platforms. Limiting content to static images limits the potential audience to see and, thereby, engage with content.
Second, the rule has generated lots of negative buzz, frustrating teams and fans alike. Fans have taken to social media to share their displeasure with the new rule and teams are sneakily (and amusingly) defying the rules during games. Most recently, it was reported two prestigious league owners, Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Johnathon Kraft of the New England Patriots, had such a heated debate about the rule that Kraft actually walked out of a meeting.
Overall, this rule is just bad for business. It’s creating more negative press and is built on flawed rationale.
So let’s get real, NFL. It’s 2016. Your precious 18-34 year male old audience doesn’t want to be told where and how it can engage with your content. The more control you try to assert, the more you disenfranchise this key demographic (and the rest of your audience). You better wake up soon to the world of new media or this ratings decline won’t just be a bump in the road.
PS – check out some of the team’s hilariously defying these new rules:
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) October 16, 2016
TOUCHDOWN BROWNS! pic.twitter.com/RjRt9DVlpB
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 16, 2016
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) October 23, 2016