NFL Canada draws up a new marketing play

The league is aiming to build connections between Gen Z and its players in a bid to draw in a generation less connected to the sport.

The National Football League (NFL) Canada is going long with a bid to build personal connections between potential Generation Z fans and players in the league as it looks to draw new viewers into the game.

“We know that to have a healthy business and continue to grow in Canada, we need to recruit younger generations of fans,” explains Tara Chetkowski, director of marketing and fan development at NFL Canada. “We have a very strong, very passionate and engaged Canadian fanbase despite not having a team here, and that has not slowed down even during COVID, but what we have noticed is we need to recruit more.”

The league “typically runs a kickoff campaign and a playoffs- and Super Bowl-specific campaign in Canada every year,” says Chetkowski. However, this year’s campaign, developed with agency partner Trevor//Peter, is more specifically designed to connect with a generation of potential fans that is “less connected to the game and sports in general,” and more interested in the “social side of sports.”

Called “No Huddle Hot Takes,” the new effort is digitally driven, with heavy emphasis placed on social networks including Instagram and TikTok, as well as OLV.

While the league has wide reach through its partnership with Bell Media – as well as “a huge halo” from the league’s U.S. marketing efforts – the goal with this campaign is to reach Canadian Gen Z viewers where they are, which increasingly means moving away from traditional TV spots due to cord-cutting.

The campaign consists of a series of videos in which players from the NFL are asked their opinions on a wide range of topics, such as whether pineapple belongs on pizza or if you should leave someone’s text message unread.

“We know that Gen Z connects with players – that’s one of their biggest connections. Players first, and less the team and the game,” says Chetkowski. “So we wanted to get our players with their helmets off, being very real and authentic, and showcase their personalities, values and opinions. That’s where the connection to the player starts, and then maybe they’ll start watching games.”

“No Huddle Hot Takes” is launching in the first week of the NFL’s regular season and will run for eight weeks.