When it comes to attention spans and major sports, the National Football League has to lead the way when it comes to which fans have the shortest attention spans.
It’s well-documented that a football game has only 11 minutes of real action on the field. The rest of the time is spent in huddles, celebrating touchdowns, and cutting to commercial break. The average fan doesn’t have to commit to non-stop action the same way a fan of hockey and soccer might. Football is the one sport designed around the bathroom break.
That’s why it’s a bit surprising two N.F.L. teams have made the foray into the already crowded world of longform content marketing.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers recently published a piece on new coach Lovie Smith, titled “The First 100 Days.”
The piece, which chronicles the first hundred day’s of Smith’s tenure as head coach, clocks in at — holy shit — more than 31,000 words. While I’m sure it’s super-interesting to know what time he wakes up at in the morning, nobody is going to take the time to sit down and read that tome. (Thankfully, SB Nation broke it down for us.)
If the Buccaneers were shooting to provide an in-depth look at their new coach, they succeeded. But if they wanted people to read it, all accounts indicate a failure in reaching that goal.
The San Francisco 49ers, on the other hand, have an entire section of their website devoted to long reads.
Their new content, which tells the story-behind-the-story of the building of their new stadium, checks in at a more palpable 4,500 words. Plus, the text is broken up with Vines, photo galleries, and an infographic that rank the size of every N.F.L. team’s stadium video board, providing the reader with ample opportunities to pause and grab a drink from the kitchen.
It’s the best content that incorporates other elements of storytelling, and the 49ers have done that.
But here’s a the real question: Why?
Content marketing was created as a way for companies to tell their stories on their own, without having to use a third party. It might be less respectable on a company’s website than it would be the front page of the local paper, but it has become a serviceable workaround for a lot of businesses.
The N.F.L., however, does not need this Plan B. The league has never been more popular. And none of the teams in the league want for coverage.
But with concussions and domestic violence issues taking up quite a bit of “print” this offseason, perhaps this is how these mega-brands are trying to control the message.
A quick search of other teams’ websites does not uncover similar types of content. But the Detroit Lions, for instance, just hired a multimedia journalist. So maybe this is something other teams are exploring.
Either way, companies shouldn’t get into the content game for the sake of getting into the content game. And that includes professional sports teams.
You need a solid plan in place before you execute. Throwing thousands of words on a page shouldn’t be the goal.
If you’re writing for the sake of writing, with no desire to reach a specific audience, you’re probably doing it wrong.