NFL return – the opening weekend and the novelty of the social media game

After the first weekend of the NFL regular season, excitement gives way to normality. The hype and the buzz will still be there right up until the Super Bowl in February, but there’s nothing quite like the build-up to the first weekend.

For the teams themselves, though, it’s probably a relief to get back to business. After all, off-season work often feels like the hardest. For the players, there’s always plenty to be done, but off the field it’s much easier to engage fans and create content when there are actual games to be played.

And this weekend, we saw exactly what the digital departments at NFL teams were up to over the off-season, creating new gifs and graphics for the new games to come.

This time last year, when it came to social media and NFL there was really only one big talking point. The so-called gif-ban, which placed a restriction on what teams could post to their social media accounts on gameday, meant that live or in-stadium footage of the actual game was prohibited, and teams could face fairly hefty fines for flouting the law. Cue plenty of creative, ban-busting material.

This year, things were a little more polished. But there was still a nod to last year’s resourcefulness in the build-up, as the Minnesota Vikings revealed their ‘quest’ for the year. Presumably the quest will continue over the next few months, but their victory over the New Orleans Saints got them off to a great start.

This season, there will be no return to ironic lego men, dancing gifs and hastily-arranged pseudo-descriptions of on-field action. Highlights are now well and truly allowed.

But that’s not the only thing that fans want to see on their timelines. When trying to follow the game without access to a live stream, Twitter is the next best thing, of course. But sometimes you don’t want to wait for the highlights to become available. Often, you just want to know what’s happened in the game.

That’s where live-tweeting doesn’t need to have video and access to coverage rights anyway. Just a team of people manning the social media accounts and following the game in real time. And the opening weekend is a great time to see new designs and new approaches, following more than just touchdowns, but other game situations like sacks, fumbles and interceptions.

It’s not just in-game situations and live-tweets from games that populate the twitter accounts on the opening weekend, though. If you’re a fan, there’s only one thing better than getting your first fix in months on opening weekend: waking up on the Monday morning after your team won on opening weekend.

Social media has become vital to how fans follow sport, and providing them with great online content that complements the action on the pitch is crucial for any sports organisation. That’s why, on the first weekend of the season, it’s no longer just the teams on the field that fans want to get their first look at, but it’s also the Twitter feed and its selection of images and gifs.

Next weekend, the buzz won’t be the same. Teams can still be innovative and creative, but the whole feel of the sport won’t be quite so new. By the second month of the school year, the new pens, pencilcases and lunchboxes no longer feel new and exciting. So now’s the time to make the most of it.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 480 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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