Touchdown, Web 2.0

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Even before The New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots in the final seconds of Super Bowl XLII, NFLshop.com began cashing in on the team’s success by promoting Giants merchandise on its site and through its call center. And it continues to hold up the fanfare through its blog.

NLFshop.com’s “Inside the NFLshop” blog is a fairly new addition to the company’s marketing strategy. When the online retailer wanted to give shoppers direct access to the latest site promotions, new merchandise and shopping tips, it tapped its e-commerce partner GSI Commerce, King of Prussia, Pa., for guidance, creating a more dynamic and interactive Web 2.0 experience.

“Inside the NFLshop,” which debuted in April 2007, helped the company promote and draw more attention to products on the site. It details useful information, such as “How to Buy NFL Jerseys” and “How to Size a Pair of Crocs.” Consumers can also subscribe to its RSS feed and receive alerts when new posts are added.

“Online retailers are using blogs to communicate with existing and prospective customers, and sports businesses like the NFL, NHL and NBA are no exception,” said Bob O’Keefe, senior director of NFL Direct.

“Today’s online consumers have more choices and information available to them than ever before,” he said. “They value their privacy, but want information at their fingertips. We embraced this reality, and the blog has paid off.”

By the end of December 2007 (and the end of the regular season), “Inside the NFLshop” had attracted more than 1,200 loyal subscribers. It also doubled the site’s online sales and raised revenue generated from click-throughs, which totaled more than $1 million since its launch.

In the days leading up to last month’s kickoff in Glendale, Ariz., the blog drew in shoppers who stocked up on Giants and Patriots paraphernalia. These sales outperformed merchandise sales for the previous Super Bowl winner, The Indianapolis Colts, O’Keefe said.

Even though New England was favored to win, sales of Giants merchandise doubled that of Patriots merchandise sales prior to the big game. Jerseys from both teams’ quarterbacks, Patriots’ Tom Brady and Big Blue’s Eli Manning, were the most in demand. Manning’s jersey sales soared after his team won the conference, O’Keefe reported, though he declined to share specific sales.

Consumers who visit blogs are nearly twice as likely to make a purchase and typically spend more, O’Keefe said. “Blog readers tend to convert at a rate that’s 1.7 times higher than non-blog visitors. This demonstrates how marketing and promotions can influence consumers’ buying behavior.”

The blog has also had a positive impact on natural search traffic. “Search engines tend to favor blog pages since they contain freshly updated content, natural-language URLs, and built-in search-engine notifications,” O’Keefe said.

“Inside the NFLshop” is often updated several times a week. But during key shopping periods—such as Father’s Day, the start of the NFL season and the holiday season—it is updated as frequently as possible, often daily, with the latest promotions and new product arrivals.

Unlike many traditional blogs that allow consumers to post comments, this site does not. However, the company has added features to leverage the voice of the customer. For example, NFLshop.com recently launched an upgraded ratings and reviews platform in partnership with Millbrae, Calif.-based PowerReviews, allowing customers the opportunity to add their own images and even videos to product reviews.

“Our goal is that customers value NFLshop.com not only as a resource for great products, but for information and opinions, as well,” O’Keefe said. 

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