How the Minnesota Vikings target social media fans outside the US

The Minnesota Vikings are running separate social strategies for the U.K. and Germany, where the sport is most popular in Europe, in a bid to become one of the first of the 32 franchises to build an international audience it owns.

Localized accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have been active for the team since August in both markets. While other teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New England Patriots have launched dedicated accounts for either fans in the U.K. or Germany, respectively, the Vikings are the first to tackle both markets at the same time with localized content that ranges from memes to influencers. Rather than rely on the league to grow those audiences as it has done since the first game in the U.K. in 2007, the Vikings want to recruit more of its own fans, particularly online.

The team posts between two and three times a day to each account regardless of the market unless it’s a game day when there’s more content to share. Where the social media strategies for each platform differ, however, is in the type of content shared on them.

On Facebook in the U.K., the focus is more on community engagement and reach, with most of the posts aimed at sparking discussions around games and players alongside reposting content from fans. Unlike in the U.S., the Vikings have chosen to build its audience around a Facebook Group rather than a page. The scale of groups on the social network is tiny in comparison to pages — the Vikings group in the U.K. has 423 members at the time of publication — but the engagement is high. Some posts over the last month have generated as many as 23 comments, whereas others have had just one. Sports teams have been experimenting with groups ever since changes to Facebook’s algorithm last year knocked their reach on the social network.

It’s a similar approach to Germany where the team has launched another Facebook group, which had 547 members at the time of publication. A local moderator is used to manage the group and localize the content with memes and pics more suited for a German audience.

“You can’t just translate content from one region to another, which is why we have someone in Germany creating content for the Minnesota Vikings,” said Lewis Wiltshire, consulting partner at Seven League, the sports agency that runs the international accounts for the team. “Germany has its own internet culture independent of the U.K., which means a meme or internet trend in one market means absolutely nothing in another.”

On Instagram, the NFL team’s efforts are more focused on video and being creative with imagery of players and fans. There’s a bigger emphasis here on pushing some of the local sports terminology through certain posts. When two football teams from the same region or city in the U.K. have a fierce rivalry, it’s sometimes referred to as derby. Ahead of the Minnesota Vikings’ game against the Chicago Bears last month, the team used the #derbyweek hashtag to articulate the intensity of the rivalry between the two teams from the same division to local fans. There’s more shared content between the Instagram accounts in the U.K. and Germany compared to the other platforms, with content on the social network taking more time and money to produce. So far the strategy has brought more success in Germany — where it had 342 followers at the time of publication — than it does in the U.K. where the follower count is 192.

Germany is being eyed as the next big market for the NFL after the U.S. and the U.K. It’s thanks to a handful of German players who have broken into the league. Games are streamed in Germany on DAZN. The Vikings see Germany as a big market and want to take the lead with a dedicated social media strategy. Attempts from teams to extend their international reach come amid wider concerns that the NFL is struggling to attract younger fans in the U.S.

There are many fans of the Vikings who live outside of the U.S. and may not ever get to attend a game or meet their favorite player. “By opening social accounts for the U.K. and Germany, we view this as the first step towards building an even stronger connection with our fans overseas,” said Vikings executive director of digital media and innovation Scott Kegley.

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