Last April, we blogged about Twitter’s marquee agreement with the National Football League (NFL). The industry was abuzz: The two joining forces meant a marrying of live programming with social commentary. In its inaugural season, Twitter-NFL’s powerful partnership presented an enticing live streaming package for marketers because:

  • Marketers view social media as an attractive marketing channel. In our Forrester Data: US Social Media Forecast, 2016 To 2021 (US), social ad spend is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17% in the next five years. 
  • Live streaming captures younger eyeballs in particular. Millennials are the first to embrace streaming in all of its forms, appealing to marketers trying to capture fragmented audiences. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics(R) data reveals that 63% percent of Millennials (age 18-36) watch 5 or more hours of TV shows, films or video online. This is a significant percentage of their TV time so marketers must learn how to reach this audience outside of linear TV types of viewing. 
  • The NFL’s proven content sweetens the package. NFL games garner high viewership and in a typical week dominate the top 10 most-watched shows, especially among the coveted 18-49 age demographic. And primetime programming, especially sports content, is one of the most popular conversation topics on Twitter. 
However, Twitter-NFL live streaming wasn’t the dream that it seemed. Looking under the car hood revealed: 
  • Twitter’s in-stream ads featured 80% of the CBS or NBC broadcasters’ ads. The majority of advertisers paying for CBS or NBC spots benefited from also appearing on the Twitter live stream — whether they realized it or not. This analyst’s own tracking of commercials on the TV feed and the Twitter stream for two separate NFL games confirmed this, as did outreach to one marketer who did not realize his brand’s TV spot appeared on the Twitter stream.
  • Twitter live streaming offered a small incremental reach to linear TV. Twitter does not deliver the mass reach that TV still offers. In week two, Twitter’s NFL live stream reached 2.6 million viewers compared with TV’s 17.5 million viewers, according to NFL Communications
  • Twitter hadn’t linked in-stream ads with in-feed promoted tweets. Connecting or syncing the two would give marketers greater impact and deliver social’s promise for uber-targeting compared to TV. Hypothetical example: Serve up a generic Google Pixel TV spot in-stream that directs to an in-newsfeed promoted tweet encouraging users to explore the product.
We’re still watching the pre-game show, much less witnessing kickoff. Twitter-NFL live streaming attracted enough of an audience that we expect to see growing viewership and more advertising opportunities next season, but marketers should get back to Media 101 basics. This won’t be more than a reach-extending tactic until Twitter introduces more social elements into its ad product that can connect TV advertising’s strengths with social advertising’s strengths. When Twitter finally links in-stream ads to in-feed promoted tweets, stick to your ABCs: know your audience, know your objective, know your KPIs, and assess your media opportunity against your goal. 
Team awards to co-quarterback Jim Nail, head coach Brigitte Majewski, and general manager Stephanie Liu. “We’re going to Disney World!”