The intersection of sports and social media is an integral part of fan engagement. A NFL team we work with asked us this question recently: Is there a significant difference in social media engagement between kickoff windows and primetime slots in the NFL? This NFL customer was curious if primetime games impacted social media performance — which would put a premium on specific sponsors who activate during those games! After combing through the data, we found that the correlation between NFL teams’ owned and operated social media engagements and the schedule of NFL games during the 2022 season provides insights that teams should pay attention to.
Monday Night Football (MNF), Thursday Night Football (TNF), and the three NFL time slots on Sunday impact social media fan engagement differently. Our analysis underscores the pivotal role timing plays in shaping the ebbs and flows of online fandom during these high-stakes NFL showdowns.
NFL Game Time Windows
Primetime games averaged significantly higher engagement across NFL teams’ Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube compared to the early and late window NFL games on Sunday. Advertisers have paid premiums for primetime for decades, so this shouldn’t come as a shock. The early and late window NFL games are comparable with only an 8% difference in average engagement last season. To do this exercise, we looked at the average number of social engagements of NFL teams’ official handles that played during Sunday games.
How Primetime Kickoffs Affect Social Media Engagement
This chart looks at the average engagement on social media during the three different primetime slots for NFL games during the 2022 season: Sunday Night Football (SNF), Monday Night Football (MNF), and Thursday Night Football (TNF). Surprisingly, MNF comes out on top over the famed SNF. However, when we look closer, it is important to note outliers. The MNF game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills where Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field drove significantly more engagements than other games due to the outpour of support for Hamlin’s well-being. Intangibles such as that situation, overtime games, and games determining playoff positions happen throughout the season, and should be taken into account.
NFL Social Media Engagement vs NFL Primetime Viewership Numbers
Comparing average engagement to average TV viewership can give us more insight into how popular games affect social engagement. Interestingly enough, higher viewership does not yield higher engagement.
TNF had the lowest average viewers, but the best viewers per engagement. This could be because dedicated fans that are engaging on social media are watching most primetime games, but Sunday and Monday’s primetime games have more casual fans watching that don’t engage as often on social media.
Another variable to note is the broadcast network for primetime games: TNF on Amazon Prime Video, SNF on NBC, and MNF on ESPN/ABC. According to Forbes, “Amazon noted their Thursday night games had a median age of 47, seven years younger than NFL games on linear television. Also, Amazon reported that 49% of its audience were persons 18-49, compared to 35% for NFL games on linear television and 22% for all linear primetime television.” Younger audiences are more engaged on social media, which could be why engagement stays relatively high for TNF games despite the drop in total viewership compared to other primetime games.
Teams use social media to keep fans up-to-date on teams news and trades as well scores during a game. Younger generations might not watch every game, but teams need to stay engaged with them on game day. Check out some score graphic examples from NFL teams during the 2022 season. Throughout a game, teams keep fans aware of the score, as they will post graphics after the first quarter, halftime, and third quarter as well as a final score graphic.
Overall, the data from the 2022 season highlights the intricate interplay between game timing, viewership, and social media engagement in the NFL. These dynamics offer valuable insights for the league and teams seeking to optimize their fan engagement and content strategies.
Teams and organizations can get even more granular with their data-driven insights when they have advanced reporting across their owned and operated accounts. Tracking and valuing sponsored assets and content series can bring new insights, increase value for your organization, and drive exposure for sponsors.
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