The NFL, facing declining interest among young viewers, just struck a deal with TikTok

Key Points
  • The NFL and TikTok are announcing a two-year content partnership that will include "hashtag challenges."
  • The NFL has launched its own TikTok account to share highlights, behind-the-scenes footage, memes and more.
  • The move comes as younger generations seem to be less interested in football.
A post on the NFL's new TikTok account.
Megan Graham

The NFL is hoping TikTok will help it score with young viewers.

TikTok, the short form video social network owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has become wildly popular among Gen Z. It was the third-most downloaded app in the U.S. in the first quarter of this year. At the same time, football appears to be losing ground with younger demographics as they watch less and less network television and are playing less of the sport because of head injuries, among other reasons, Morning Consult reported last fall. The NFL season begins Thursday.

As TikTok is drawing the attention of Gen Z users, it's also getting notice from the brands looking to sell to them, including Chipotle, Ralph Lauren and Burberry.

With the partnership, the NFL has launched its own TikTok account. As of Monday afternoon, the account had 12 posts. One post, showing San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin scoring a touchdown, had the caption "He and his wife lost their baby son hours before the game … That day, Marquise Goodwin scored an 83-yard touchdown, his first of the season" with Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up" playing in the background. The post already had nearly 2 million "hearts."

A post on the NFL's new TikTok account.
Megan Graham

According to TikTok, NFL's content will include highlights, sideline moments and behind-the-scenes footage

The companies would not disclose financial terms or specifically how the partnership agreement would work but said it centers around NFL content on TikTok.

The organizations will also launch NFL-themed hashtag "challenges," which encourage TikTok users to share videos on a certain theme or following a certain meme format. For instance, Chipotle's popular "Lid Flip Challenge" asked users to flip the lid of their burrito bowl at the restaurant.

Starting Tuesday, the NFL will be running a three-day #WeReady hashtag challenge campaign to ask TikTok users to show their fandom for their favorite teams as part of the NFL's 100th season marketing campaign. The NFL will work with TikTok content creators and NFL clubs to create posts as part of the campaign.

In a statement, NFL VP of Digital Media Business Development Blake Stuchin called TikTok a "natural extension" of its media strategy because it reaches a "fast-growing global audience of NFL fans and future fans."

TikTok also said it would be partnering on "unique marketing opportunities for brands to activate around NFL content on TikTok." The company would not describe specifics on what those opportunities would be or give any examples.

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