The NFL is known as a league with a legacy stretching back to the days of Vince Lombardi. It is the most popular sports league in North America with longstanding traditions, a place where change is slow to take root. Teams have had to adjust to the rising popularity of social media in the past several years, with teams slowly making their way to TikTok and more, with varying degrees of success.
One new change signals a newfound willingness in the NFL to adapt to social media. There is a massive market on social media for sports teams to be involved, and the more they lean into it, the more of an impact they could have on the industry. The Washington Commanders just took a big step towards leaning into social media by hiring their first-ever social media correspondent.
This role is the first of its kind in the NFL, although the full parameters of what the role requires aren’t clear. What is clear is what the Commanders are trying to do. They are trying to leverage social media to better connect with women and younger audiences and build their brand. That’s because of who they hired as a social media correspondent.
The NFL’s first social media correspondent is Katie Feeney, a 19-year-old TikToker and YouTuber from the DMV area. She has a colossal following of 6.8 million on TikTok, 2.2 million on YouTube, and 870,000 on Instagram. Essentially, she is an influencer with massive reach, and the Commanders hired her to help elevate their brand.
This move comes when the Commanders have been under constant fire, with their brand’s reputation in serious jeopardy. There are reported FTC violations, numerous complaints about toxic work culture, and more. This is all amid a name change as the Commanders rebrand from a prior offensive name.
While hiring an influencer won’t improve the Commanders reputation overnight, it is an interesting move for the team. Katie Feeney is a sensation, a highly respected influencer, and she is a strong fit for where they want to move their brand. She was a YouTube correspondent for the Super Bowl and had a lucrative partnership with Snapchat. Essentially, she’s a pro.
While what exactly this partnership will entail isn’t yet clear, it could have an interesting impact going forward.
What Could It Mean Going Forward?
Projecting what this could mean in the future is difficult, but what it shows right now is just how seriously influencers are taken. There was a time when this kind of idea would’ve been ridiculed. Now it is looked at as something that could be an innovative branding strategy. Feeney has already shared content about the move on her TikTok. Essentially, this is the Commanders dabbling in TikTok influencer marketing.
The fact that a massive company of global renown like the Washington Commanders would hire an influencer not just for a campaign, but to be a long-term representative, is an interesting concept. This type of move could become popular for sports franchises and other major brands. This is taking the trend of brand ambassadors up a notch, as it appears that Feeney will have an active role to play in dictating the social media of the Commanders.
This is something that could become more common going forward. Giving influencers a more active role within the social media operations of a company is a savvy decision. For starters, the influencer is now more invested in the company and has a higher degree of interest in outcomes. It also gives companies access to someone that has achieved social media success.
Influencers likely know a lot more about achieving virality and playing the trends on social media than any brand does. Katie Feeney, who has amassed a following of millions, likely has a high-level understanding of how TikTok works. She understands her audience, and she can be an important asset to the Commanders as they attempt to rebrand from their seemingly never-ending stream of scandals.
Going forward, this shows that brands are highly invested in social media and influencer marketing. They understand the potential an influencer has to elevate their brand, and they are willing to provide them with a high level of creative control to improve the process. While this is the first partnership like this in sports, it likely won’t be the last.
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