Brands understand that gaming is a powerful opportunity to cultivate the next generation of fans, but finding the right way to reach their target audience is easier said than done.
The NFL is doing its best to reach out to new audiences (see Taylor Swift) and gaming is a prime opportunity. For the last two seasons, the league has partnered with Enthusiast Gaming and WePlay Studios to build weekly original programming designed for fans at the intersection of gaming and sports.
Tuesday Night Gaming features NFL players, past and present, playing games with fan-favorite personalities. Over the last season, teams captained by SypherPK, FaZe Swagg, Fusilie, QTCinderella, Symfuhny and eventual winner TypicalGamer competed in various games alongside current and former NFL players. Each week culminated in a 1v1 Madden match between an NFL Player and Madden personality, MMG.
The program has helped the NFL cultivate an audience on the platforms native to gamers, broadcasting its episodes on Twitch, YouTube and X. Viewership has grown over the course of Season two, with livestream and VOD impressions up 24%.
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Through this program, the NFL is planting the seeds to grow its visibility with the gaming community. But perhaps more importantly, the league and Enthusiast Gaming are giving brands a safe on-ramp to expand their own reach.
Why the NFL is creating original programming for gamers
Tuesday Night Gaming was sparked by the pandemic. Like other sports leagues, the NFL saw gaming as a way to connect with fans when in-person interaction was limited. According to Erin Comella Flynn, NFL partnerships lead for Tuesday Night Gaming, the league sees the program as a long-term investment to connect with its next generation of fans where they are consuming content.
Additionally, Tuesday Night Gaming is giving the NFL an opportunity to cultivate its own stars. The program gives current and former players an opportunity to build a personal brand as a gamer off the field.
“One of our strategies is to showcase NFL players with their helmets off. The nature of the sport is they are on the field with their helmets on so Tuesday Night Gaming provides a new perspective on your favorite players,” said Comella Flynn. “Historically, rock stars wanted to be NFL players, and NFL players wanted to be rock stars. Now, they all want to be content creators.”
For example, former NFL quarterback Kurt Benkert made an appearance to show off his gaming skills. Benkert has built his brand in gaming elsewhere, joining Spacestation Gaming as a creator and an alternate for their Halo Infinite team.
“When I speak with NFL talent, there really is an age gap. For some of the older guys who are 30-plus, it wasn’t cool to be playing video games when they were growing up. But that dynamic changes for the younger players,” said Matthew “MMG” Meagher. He noted how surreal it was that Amon-Ra St. Brown of the Detroit Lions watched his Madden content growing up.
Enthusiast Gaming translates gaming for brands
Gamers are notoriously vocal, so reaching out to the audience in the right way is critical for brands. Enthusiast Gaming is positioning itself as a one-stop agency to help brands to reach gamers in the right way.
The publicly traded holding company has diversified its operations into esports, online media, gaming resource hubs, game development and more. By pooling these resources, Enthusiast has valuable ad inventory to reach a wide variety of players.
“Crafting a dynamic weekly series that seamlessly bridges the worlds of gaming, streaming and NFL stardom has been a remarkable accomplishment and has set a new standard for entertainment at the intersection of sports and gaming,” said Adrian Montgomery, chairman and interim chief executive officer of Enthusiast Gaming. “NFL TNG enables us to spotlight a vibrant synergy between gaming and sports to a broader audience, ensuring an exhilarating experience that captivates fans and brings the convergence of these worlds to the forefront.”
While the company is still searching for profitability, Enthusiast’s ongoing partnership with the NFL for Tuesday Night Gaming appears to be the key to unlocking its path forward.
“For Enthusiast, Tuesday Night Gaming champions our brand. It showcases everything we do. It’s become our crown jewel,” said Alexander Guerrero, associate director of strategic partnerships at Enthusiast Gaming. “Whether it’s production with our partners at WePlay, helping awesome content ideas come to life, building brand integrations, or managing talent, TNG brings these capabilities together.”
Funneling brands into gaming
Importantly, TNG and the partnership with the NFL is enhancing Enthusiast’s ability to find brand partners.
“Enthusiast has existing relationships with brands and we’ve been able to establish new relationships. I think that brands are more comfortable working with us because the NFL is on-board. It’s a premium product with big personalities that lets brands test the gaming waters,” said Guerrero.
Over the course of two seasons, Tuesday Night Gaming has helped entertainment, CPG, QSR, insurance brands and more reach gamers. Of the 11 partners from season one, two — Carnival Cruises and Campbell’s Chunky – returned for the second season.
“Enthusiast has been really creative about finding ways to bring these media sponsors into the program without it just feeling like it’s a logo sitting on a screen,” said Comella Flynn.
To kick off the second season, Tuesday Night Gaming kicked off with a special field day edition at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The episode highlighted the crossover between music, football and gaming – specifically Interscope Records Crowd Control EP that featured NFL players on its tracks. Grammy Award nominated rapper and XSET member Quavo hosted the event. NFL and celebrity talent like Desi Banks, Todd Gurley, Terrell Owens, J.I.D. and Rob49 competed alongside gaming personalities in teams across seven activities like tug-of-war and flag football.
Later in the season, Tuesday Night Gaming teamed up with Netflix to promote its live action adaptation of One Piece. Enthusiast showcased its gaming capabilities, building a custom Fortnite map based on pirate ships from the series.
The NFL and brand partners have also used Tuesday Night Gaming to promote their ongoing charity efforts. Season two highlighted Por La Cultura, Crucial Catch, Salute to Service and My Cause My Cleats.
Both State Farm and USAA’s activations took a philanthropic angle. The State Farm Sideline Report gave HBCU students hands-on experience, interviewing talent live on air with guidance from NFL RedZone Host Scott Hanson. Similarly, TNG gave away Super Bowl LVIII tickets to veterans and their families in partnership with USAA.
Ending Tuesday Night Gaming Season Two on a high note
Tuesday Night Gaming didn’t slow down once the NFL’s regular season ended. On January 13th, TNG made its linear television debut on FOX, recapping the best moments of the season. Enthusiast also hosted special episodes on January 16 promoting Campbell’s Chunky Fuel Up campaign and January 30 to coincide with the NFL Pro Bowl.
TNG has two more episodes before rounding off its second season just ahead of Super Bowl LVIII. On February 8, 2024 at 3pm ET, MMG will face-off against NFL stars Aidan O’Connell, Raheem Mostert and Kyren Williams in Madden at the NFL Tuesday Night Gaming House.
For its finale, NFL Tuesday Night Gaming is presenting the ultimate Las Vegas Vegas Showdown on February 9, 2024 at 5pm ET. NFL Legends Christian Kirk and Jaxon Smith-Njigba will face off against top gaming creators SuperEvan and JeromeASF in Fall Guys and Madden 24. NFL Red Zone’s Scott Hanson and Phil Stewart will host to further elevate the event.
Fans can watch the NFL and Enthusiast’s Tuesday Night Gaming on the NFL TNG’s Twitch, YouTube and X channels.
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