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NFL Players leverages shoppable selfies to engage fans

National Football League fans will be able to own a piece of their heroes’ fashion style by clicking on the apparel worn by players in selfies under a partnership between NFL Players Inc., the marketing and licensing arm of the players union, and social-commerce platform Stylinity.

After the campaign goes live, around the Sept. 4 start of the upcoming football season, fans will be able to see what the players are wearing in selfies they post to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. If a particular outfit grabs attention, a buyer can click on the photo and be linked directly to the product and brand website where he or she can purchase the items.

The campaign’s blend of sport and social commerce underscores how marketers recognize that the convergence of mobile and social has significant potential to support consumers’ online shopping needs.

“It represents an incredible opportunity for both sides, said Emily Cohen, chief marketing officer with New York-based Stylinity. “We represent something that’s never been done before, which is complete connection between user generated content – in this case by the celebrity or athlete – and the visibility into where that goes.

“So for brands and retailers it’s a huge look at something that’s been a blind spot. And social commerce in and of itself is expected to grow in the apparel and accessories market alone up to $20 billion in the coming years.”

Style Stage

Besides delivering revenue for brand partners, the campaign will provide valuable data that will give marketers the ability to see which picture drove which sale.

The players’ selfies will be produced through use of Stylinity’s Style Stage camera and software platform that will be with them whether they are at home or on the road. A timing device will allow the taking of hands-free selfies.

“I can’t guarantee they will take every picture themselves,” Ms. Cohen said. “Someone with them might take a photo but generally we are working to enable that true selfie experience.”

Details regarding the players and brands that will be involved in the campaign are still being worked out.

“The players are going to be intimately involved in suggesting the brands because it will be organically rom their favorite brands,” Ms. Cohen said.

Shopping needs

The campaign reflects the growing number of stand-alone, branded social commerce experiences that have emerged with big social platforms lacking the level of trust needed for a strong online commerce strategy.

Brands are interested in setting up their own social platforms to have control over the customer experience around the brand and its products. Additionally, brands want to be able to collect and own more customer-centric data for future engagement.

At the same time, the big social platforms are exploring their own commerce strategies as it is clear that the conversations are their sites are influencing sales for retailers and brands.

For example, last fall Twitter and Starbucks teamed up for a tweet-to-buy program that was integrated tightly with the coffee chain’s popular mobile loyalty program (see story).

However, with retailers looking to own the customer experience and consumers not trusting social platforms with their important financial data, there appears to be growing interest in stand-alone, branded social commerce plays.

Whether brands decide to partner and leverage an existing social platform or to build their own branded offering, they need to be exploring social commerce because more since the decision to transact is being made in social channels.

While retailers are an obvious choice for powering social commerce, the strategy could make sense in other verticals such as hospitality and travel. Any business that has a social following and where community opinion is a factor in the purchase decision could benefit from this approach.

For example, Virgin America recently partnered with the Here on Biz mobile application to create an in-flight, geo-aware social network to connect business travelers (see story).

Open and innovative

“The NFL Players Inc. just happened to be incredibly aware of the opportunities that social media represents for them to engage with their fans and build their personal brand,” Ms. Cohen said. “So they were very open and innovative in terms of their understanding of the opportunity.

“Influencers and celebrities from all walks recognize what social media offers them to really interact with their fans,” she said. “You have to understand there are 80 million millennials checking over 100 million selfies every day. It’s out there. They’re sharing everything about their lives, including their street style, their fashion sense, their look of the day.

“We’re offering the ability for brand marketers to be part of that conversation in a much more organic way.”

Final Take

Michael Barris is staff reporter with Mobile Commerce Daily.