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NFL and Community Engagement: Is this really changing perceptions?

Community engagement has been a subject of increased focus for NFL teams in recent months. From speculation over which team should re-locate to Los Angeles highlighting the need for the successful applicant to demonstrate “a solid track record of community engagement”, to the league’s ongoing attempts to deal with its domestic violence issues, community relations have become a primary concern for all parties involved in the sport.

Given this increased coverage around NFL community engagement programmes, alva used its comprehensive content monitoring platform to analyse the reputational impact of community engagement on NFL teams.

We monitored 88,268 pieces of US content related to the 32 NFL teams across print, online and social media. The time period analysed was January – December 2015.

The key questions addressed in this analysis:

  • Are clubs’ community initiatives visible?
  • Which sources are driving the most coverage?
  • Is there a correlation between community engagement coverage and team’s sentiment?

Are clubs’ community initiatives visible?

 

Figure 1: Top 15 NFL teams by visibility

Top 15 NFL teams by visibility

The New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys benefitted from the largest share of voice among football teams. The New England Patriots generated the largest volume of community and charity content, mostly from mainstream media coverage of its partnership with the US Attorney General aiming to prevent “youth relationship violence”.  Similarly, the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys were praised by national and social media around their charitable fundraising and donation programmes.

The data shows that NFL teams managed to benefit from overall positive coverage around their community engagement initiatives, with fund raising campaigns and donations being the most visible initiatives in 2015.

Which sources are driving the most coverage?

Over the last year, coverage around community engagement for these three teams was driven by social media (50%), which users used as a platform to thank and support teams’ charitable initiatives.

NFL community tweets

Mainstream media produced significant coverage related to community engagement, exceeding social media coverage for the New England Patriots, while blogs & forums remained the least visible sources for these teams.

The charts below show the proportion of content each media type generated on the subject of community engagement for the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys.

Figure 2: Media source split for NFL community coverage

Media source split for NFL community coverage

From the data analysed, Social Media was clearly the most effective channel for communicating community engagement initiatives. Not only did it generate the highest volumes, but it produced the largest proportion of positive content. More qualitatively, given that the target audience for this content was the community, social media provided an authentic vehicle for the community itself to discuss and praise the various initiatives undertaken.

Is there a correlation between community engagement coverage and a team’s sentiment*?

Figure 3: New England Patriots community engagement volume against daily sentiment*

Figure 3: New England Patriots community engagement volume against daily sentiment*

Figure 4: Seattle Seahawks community engagement volume against daily sentiment*

Figure 4: Seattle Seahawks community engagement volume against daily sentiment*

Figure 5: Dallas Cowboys community engagement volume against daily sentiment*

Figure 5: Dallas Cowboys community engagement volume against daily sentiment*

The charts above show a representation of community engagement coverage and daily sentiment scores for each team, which allow us to see whether an increase in community engagement coverage tends also to boost sentiment.

Most of the positivity around this issue was driven by clubs raising funds for charity. Social media amplified coverage around these events, where fans showed their support by sharing the events and urging others to participate.

alva also saw an increased interest around individual team players and team owners, who were praised for their individual volunteer work and charitable donations, as well as for the charitable events organised by the teams – for example, the New England Patriots’ “Premiere Gala”.

Negativity was seen in small volumes and was largely confined to criticisms of the relatively “small” donations made by certain teams in comparison to their overall wealth.

Overall, there was a clear correlation between proactive community engagement and NFL teams’ sentiment scores; those that were most active in this space saw commensurate returns in the form of improved perceptions. The greatest single contribution to improved sentiment came in the form of the “Super Bowl charity bet”.

Key takeaways

The analysis revealed a clear correlation between greater visibility on community engagement initiatives and a more positive public perception of NFL teams reflected in alva’s sentiment scores*.

With this correlation established, other key findings include:

  • Social media is the most effective channel for communicating community engagement initiatives and has the additional benefit of giving a voice to the community itself, improving the authenticity of the engagement. The Seattle Seahawks’ Charitable Foundation was a standout performer in terms of the levels of engagement it managed to achieve.
  • Fundraising events are the single biggest driver of visibility and positive sentiment on this topic. A great example of this working well was the “Premier Gala” fundraising event organised by the New England Patriots which led to high levels of positivity and engagement both in mainstream and social media.
  • Event-jacking. The greatest boost in sentiment was generated by the “Super Bowl charity bet” initiative which leveraged the huge interest and audience for the Super Bowl to raise awareness of community engagement work. Fans from many NFL franchises praised their teams for participating in the event and used this opportunity to promote their charitable initiatives. Aligning community engagement with other high profile events helps both boost the visibility but also the centrality of the initiatives in the public’s eyes.

 

* The alva algorithm calculates sentiment scores out of 10, where a score of 5.50 is considered neutral. The algorithm takes into account the volume, influence, prominence and relevance of real-time mentions from 80,000+ news sources, more than 3m blogs and forums, 100+ social networks. A score above 6.00 is considered strong, while a score below 5.00 is considered weak.

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