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To kick off the new Visionaries Series, we welcomed Tim Ellis, CMO of the NFL, and Kenny Mitchell, CMO of Snap, to share how they are leveraging the new augmented reality within their smash partnership, earning them both a win.

NFL and Snap are breaking new ground in how to engage snap chatters globally and bring in young fans from multiple screens across a variety of moments.

Gone are the days of only focusing on linear TV. There is a new reality that fans demand, augmented in every way, through the simple extension of the phone in their hand and the Augmented Reality lens overlay, maps, chats, stories, and spotlights.

Read what these pioneering marketing executives had to say, and how it could influence your team, talent, and future.

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  • The Visionaries Share Their Team’s Game Plan
  • Why The Strategic Snap and NFL Partnership Works
  • The New (Augmented) Reality and How it Increases Engagement
  • Fun NFL Augmented Reality Features on Snapchat
  • How to Determine Success with Augmented Reality Trends


NFL and Snap Visionaries Share Their Team’s Game Plan

Tim Ellis:  When I first started with the NFL, developing a strong, balanced, and modern marketing organization was the most important initiative to me. We have built up an incredible social and influencer group and terrific partnerships, including Snap. We also have a brand new Marketing Sciences and Strategy group that solely focuses on data.  Our team stays balanced by focusing on today’s trends and the future of the NFL.

Kenny Mitchell: I was brought in as the first CMO to help build up Snap’s marketing practice and develop core capabilities that drive brand affinity, love, and business growth through insightful storytelling that’s relevant, fun, and inspires action.

So far, I have brought in an Insights Function team, and we also have a team dedicated to social engagements. Even though we are a digital platform, we still need to tell our story. Our biggest priorities are growing a global community to help drive education and consideration with advertising partners and capitalizing on augmented reality.


Why The Strategic Snap and NFL Partnership Works 

Tim Ellis: There is no other platform in the United States or internationally that offers the ability to carry on such an intimate conversation with so many young fans as Snap. The NFL and Snap are working together to innovate marketing strategies that have helped the NFL progress, grow its fan base, and become a more relevant brand today. As a CMO, I have never had a partnership with so much access to their executives and engineers, resulting in an opportunity for things never done before.

Kenny Mitchell: For Snap, it is energizing to have a partner like Tim and the NFL; we get to lean into innovative opportunities that surprise and delight the NFL community. If you have a storied enterprise, such as the NFL, you might want to protect it and stay conservative; however, their team has done the opposite. We enjoy how they have leaned into new ideas; they continue to push and challenge us.


The New (Augmented) Reality and How It Increases Engagement

Kenny Mitchell: Snap has been a leader in Augmented Reality for nearly a decade. I like to describe the new augmented reality as the maturation of AR from toys to tools. We have gone from lenses like Dog Ears and Puking Rainbows, which helped get people comfortable using AR at scale, to driving real utility for our community and brand partners.

Tim Ellis: Over the last ten years, I have seen Augmented Reality evolve. For the NFL, these new developments allow our fans to engage with our brand and game in ways they can’t connect on other platforms. If I just look at the array of capabilities that we now have at our fingertips, especially in partnership with Snap, it takes what used to be pure linear TV to remarkable moments across an array of options to meet fans where they are.

One of the most important things for us is focusing on the younger generations. You can’t just have a big megaphone and say, “Hey, come to us!” You have to find a way to go to your audience and meaningfully engage with them. Because the camera is at the heart of everything Snapchat does, it’s a wonderful way to be creative within our partnership.

  • Find ways to be meaningful and relevant where fans are engaged.
  • Serve content so fans can have fun.
  • Engage fans in new ways to avoid becoming complacent.
  • Focus on current fans but also future generations; they are the future of the game.


Fun NFL Augmented Reality Features on Snapchat

Kenny Mitchell: The Snapchat generation shares a common desire to communicate with pictures and videos. They often use AR to help express and connect through the map or follow things they are passionate about, like their favorite team or their favorite NFL player. Other popular features are Cameos, where you can try on your favorite team’s jersey, team highlights on and off the field, social justice issues, and much more.

What makes me most excited is the AR on the camera being central to our future. We have over 250,000 creators who have designed over 2 million lenses, resulting in billions of views this year. We are working with partners like Tim on bringing AR capabilities from the camera on Snapchat into the NFL app to drive fan engagement.

The Griddy Dance on Snap

Tim Ellis: My favorite feature is the first one we released on Snap. A lot of the players do The Griddy Dance after they score. If you saw our Super Bowl commercial last year, using puppet technology, you could go into Snapchat, and see the guys from the actual Super Bowl spot wherever you are.

A lot of younger viewers don’t know as much about the game, but now they’re finding ways to playfully engage and educate themselves about the players and teams, thanks to these new technologies.


How to Determine Success With Augmented Reality Trends?

Tim Ellis: We cannot look at our fans as only those who come to our NFL games on TV in the future. As we continue to find creative, innovative ways to serve our content, we do not want to force our audience to experience content in one way. While watching a live game is important, there are other ways to engage in that live game. In the future, a fan will be anyone who engages with our content and engages with our brand.

Kenny Mitchell: As much as we can deliver value to our community around something that they care deeply about, we consider that a major success. It is important to connect with fans and consumers in good times with fun, but also in tough times with honesty and candor. Long format also works in Snap as consumers care deeply about the world and community around them. The NFL led a lot of those important conversations, especially around social justice, and have been very transparent about the hard part of being athletes with beyond the field personal recovery moments. Snap’s audience have found personal connection and this serves as a great reminder that social media isn’t purely entertainment. It’s community building.

Visionaries, hosted by Nadine Dietz, airs every Tuesday at 9am PT and is brought to you in partnership with The Wall Street Journal. Each week, two new visionaries share their game plans and how that impacts today’s teams, talent, and hybrid work environment.

Tim Ellis, CMO, NFL: With 30+ years of marketing experience, Tim has been awarded Marketer of the Year by Ad Age, recognized as a top CMO by Adweek and Ad Age, won 4 Emmys, and created the #1 Super Bowl ad on the USA Today Ad Meter during his tenure at the NFL. He previously worked as the Head of Marketing with Activision, Volkswagen, Volvo, and several Pan-European brands.

Kenny Mitchell, CMO, Snap, Inc.: Kenny Mitchell has a reputation for building iconic brands and driving industry-leading performance through innovative, fully-integrated and award-winning marketing programs. Prior to joining Snap, Kenny led Brand Content & Engagement for McDonald’s USA and Consumer Engagement at Gatorade. Kenny has earned multiple Cannes Lions, film festival selections including Tribeca, and two Emmy nominations which led him to being recognized by Fast Company as one of the “Most Creative People in Business” in 2017.

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