NFL recruits Miley Cyrus, TikTok to enliven tailgate ahead of unusual Super Bowl

Dive Brief:

  • The NFL has tapped Miley Cyrus to headline a tailgate experience ahead of Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7, according to a news release. The event will be broadcast live through a two-hour TikTok stream featuring exclusive video content.
  • Festivities in Tampa Bay, Florida, will be attended in-person by 7,500 vaccinated healthcare workers the league invited to the game, while consumers at home can tune in through the NFL’s official TikTok channel starting at 2:30 p.m. ET. The event touts appearances from TikTok creators and other surprise musical guests, along with programming such as gameday cooking segments.
  • With the pandemic driving more people to social media and away from TV, the NFL is turning to TikTok in the hopes of generating buzz for a Super Bowl that has felt disruptions related to the health crisis.

Dive Insight:

The NFL is spreading its Super Bowl programming further beyond TV with a two-hour TikTok activation headlined by Cyrus, a Grammy Award-winning artist currently promoting her album “Plastic Hearts” that was released in November. The football league in recent years has layered more social media elements into its promotions around the big game, but the pandemic has accelerated adoption of social media — especially for activities like livestreaming — while delivering a steep blow to broadcast TV and cable viewership.

A ratings downturn initially affected the NFL, though audience interest has picked up with the playoffs and is expected to remain high heading into the Super Bowl. The league still likely wants to have its bases covered in generating engagement.

Shifting pregame festivities to TikTok demonstrates how the organization is targeting younger users who have flocked to the video-sharing app. Portions of Cyrus’ performance will be televised on CBS, the host network for Super Bowl LV, but the TikTok broadcast includes content exclusive to the platform, as well as appearances from popular creators that were not named in the release.

In September 2019, the NFL inked a two-year content partnership with TikTok as part of its bid to reach younger audiences like Gen Z. It is a tie-up that’s paid off during the pandemic, as social media becomes a more important way for people to stay connected and entertained. For the draft last April, the league deployed a TikTok hashtag challenge that accumulated more than 580 million views within days of its launch. The NFL commands 5.7 million followers on TikTok, while Cyrus has 8.5 million.

Several advertisers that typically have a large presence at the Super Bowl are also putting less of an emphasis on TV to focus on other areas of their business, including COVID-19 relief and digital marketing. Rather than running an in-game spot, halftime sponsor Pepsi is in the midst of a multichannel campaign promoting headliner The Weeknd. Budweiser on Monday said it would not run a big game ad for the first time in 37 years, and will direct some of its usual Super Bowl media investments toward a vaccine awareness push.

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