The Indianapolis Colts: The first NFL team to reach its youngest fans on Kik

The Colts became the first NFL team to promote on Kik over the weekend, launching a new campaign that could reach hundreds of thousands of teenagers — a notoriously difficult age group to pin down on traditional channels or even through other digital platforms.

“Those are our fans of the future, when they get older,” said Amber Derrow, the social media coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts. “So, this fits that young teen demographic that we don’t really target at all right now.”

She said she didn’t even know what Kik was until this marketing deal came up, and she wasn’t alone. If you’re not 13, Kik is likely a foreign concept. The app competes with messaging services like WhatsApp, Line and Snapchat. These services can be more than places to text and share photos with friends: They are mobile portals to media and digital content.

Kik has already been selling Promoted Chats for the past year, ad products that help brands accumulate followers and talk with them. Paul Gray, Kik’s director of platform services, said there have been more than 16 million messages shared between brands and fans. The chats are typically handled by messaging bots that can respond to users in a way that hopefully doesn’t come off as too robotic.

In the case of the Colts, the Promoted Chat is a game that takes followers through seven levels of a choose-your-own adventure story about rising through the football ranks from high school player to the pros.

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Kik it with the Colts

The game kicks off like this: “It’s a long road to make it in the NFL, and there are difficult choices to make along the way … Are you up to the challenge?”

Then users text back, and their responses determine the direction of the game.

The Colts’ marketing push includes a mobile Web destination for Colts fans to chat among themselves during games and follow the team.

Kik ran a similar promotion with the movie Insidious, in which users could chat with one of the characters.

The app has more than 200 million users, and the ad world is starting to pay more attention. Kik is seen as a tempting takeover target for larger tech platforms.

“I’m super intrigued by Kik, because there is this massive opportunity there,” said Gian LaVecchia, digital content marketing lead at MEC North America. “Still, creatively the canvas is limited, and so far most of the marketing feels overly promotional. Brands want a richer experience.”