The Buffalo Bills Tackle Fan Engagement with Adobe
Football fans love to feel like part of the home crowd, whether they're at the stadium or not. That type of loyalty doesn't just die when the hometown faithful move away—and some rabid fans of a team aren't from that area to begin with. Aaron La Porta, a graphic designer and developer with the National Football League's Buffalo Bills, had those sorts of loyalties in mind when he proposed a brand engagement app catering to the fan who's "not going to the game—a displaced Bills fan who wants to engage with the team."
"[Fans] get excited by interactive content," La Porta says, "much more so than just flipping through, say, a magazine. There are plenty of print publications out there that the [Bills put out, including] game-day programs fans can grab on their way into the stadium—but, you know, they're just print. This was a new media [opportunity] for us."
La Porta, who joined the Bills organization in September 2013, says the team took little convincing to realize that the app, called Bills Touch, would score with fans—and that Abode was the vendor to carry it over the goal line. "I literally [only] had to stand in front of the decision makers within the organization and flip through a couple of screens."
Of course, it helped that La Porta had experience using Adobe's Digital Publishing Suite and had no intention of using anything else. He gives it high marks for ease of use and the ability to overlay content. With Adobe DPS, "you're able to bring in HTML content, whether it's streaming somewhere on the Internet or it's just a tech that you want to try to integrate into the folio itself seamlessly," he says. It's "more of an elegant way of presenting content....That to me is probably the best thing about [Adobe's] solution."
Using the Adobe suite, the Bills were able to design, develop, and release the Bills Touch app for the iOS within three weeks. A year later, the team released Android and Windows versions. By the end of 2014, the number of app downloads of Bills Touch had doubled from the end of the previous year.
Before long, through testing, the benefits of the app became clear. Flexibility, for one: Instead of publishing the weekly edition on Tuesday, the team can push it to Thursdays or even Friday morning if something's worth holding out for. "The NFL is a very news-driven entity," La Porta says. "Things can change throughout the game week: New information or news comes out about your opponent for that week, so we're able to be a little bit more proactive, and if necessary, reactive to anything that may change later in the week as the starting lineups begin to formulate and solidify. So it gives the app more of a live feel."
The platform also enabled the team to redistribute content that got overlooked on its Web site. By making some of the videos and other content more central to the reader's attention within the app, that content began to see more traffic on the site.
And the platform's immediacy enables photographers on the field to share their shots with the media team, who then upload them for the app. With the Adobe tools, special photo galleries are created documenting behind-the-scenes action that usually only staff members get to see up close, such as pregame warm-ups.
As the app began to take shape, users became hooked: La Porta reports a 140 percent increase since 2013 in the average amount of time spent in the app.
In the future, La Porta would like to tighten up functionality. "We're going to work in more DPS-enabled social sharing in the app,” he says. "I'd [also] like to update our Windows app with their Windows custom app-builder solution." —Oren Smilansky
THE PAYOFF: WITH BILLS TOUCH POWERED BY THE ADOBE DIGITAL PUBLISHING SUITE, THE BUFFALO BILLS WERE ABLE TO:
- increase their app user base by more than 50 percent after just one year;
- repurpose forgotten content from the Web site to increase traffic; and
- see a 140 percent increase in average time users spent in the app.