The Miami Dolphins are located within an empire of eye candy. From beaches to babes, there is no limit to the visual panoply of pics that command the attention of fans living in South Florida.
The Dolphins clearly prioritize their visual content — from real-time photos to touched-up pics and even video montages of photos peppering their content and telling their stories. This is all underpinned by a desire to endear individual players to fans and serve as a strong second screen and content supplement to the plays taking place on the field.
I caught the Dolphins at a good time, as they earned their sixth consecutive win to get into the playoff picture, beating the San Francisco 49ers at home fairly easily. Each of the big four platforms was utilized, with only Snapchat feeling a bit under-served, and the Dolphins delivered again and again throughout game day Sunday with eye-catching visuals that were attractive whether you were cheering Fins Up or not.
While many tend to take it for granted, the Dolphins did a great job of feeding fans on Facebook with an array of content to engage fans with visuals and player-focused content. As is the case with most teams, the Dolphins got a lot of sponsored content ‘out of the way’ in the day and hours leading up to the game, with content-laden posts/graphics/links tagging and including a sponsor. They also re-purposed some of their creative over this time period, but it was likely not noticeable to fans, with likely only a handful seeing all the posts from the Dolphins Page at this time. Also notable was an evergreen Facebook cover image, differing from some teams that will change week-to-week to promote that week’s game.
The Dolphins had an impressive array of video content leading up to the game, from talk with a commentator, hype videos, and an excellent 360-video allowing fans to look around the locker room and the field in the hours before the game. Once the game began, the volume decreased, but I was struck by the end of quarter score graphics — not just static graphics (and not sponsored), but score update VIDEOS that showcased not just the score, but some awesome shots from the game action during that quarter. A great way to (likely) drive more impressions and engagement, and to make the most of the Dolphins’ sweet collection of photos from the game.
As the game went on, the Dolphins shared some additional photos besides the score update videos (and each of the photos were nicely branded with a ‘Miami Dolphins’ pennant logo. After the game, the Dolphins shared some great, short videos featuring players personally speaking to fans and one player talking about how great the home crowd was. It doesn’t get much better than that! Like others, there was no native video highlights from the game (and not much pushing website traffic to view clips, either). The game day ended with a couple sponsored content posts to cap off a fun day for fans on Facebook that had them exposed to tons of appealing content in many forms.
Of course, the busiest platform for the Dolphins, and one where we saw more visual storytelling and player promotion, was their Twitter presence. We saw the typical hype videos and preview content on game day, but we also saw player arrivals (typical to what most teams share on Snapchat) with some well-done (not amateur) photos of players arriving and preparing. By singling out players one at a time, particularly out of their pads and unis, it really served to individualize them effectively for fans. And even the sponsored content (presented by Bose) were fantastic visuals that felt very organic for Bose, typically showing players using Bose gear. Their video content of pregame arrivals and prep were labeled Bud Light Quick Hits, an easy way to insert a sponsor with content the team knows fans will love and want.
The Dolphins were mostly consistent in effectively tagging players (and even their venue) in tweets — an easy, but oft-overlooked way to get more engagement and users for these accounts. There was a heavy volume of quick visual content to get fans ready before the game started…and the next tweet was a 49ers scoring play. I did appreciate that they gave some info about the play (Kaepernick to Hyde) and also tweeted out lineup and player health info themselves (no RT’s of a PR account or team reporters).
When the Dolphins began making big plays, the team whipped out some creative, retro-feeling (like Nintendo classic-ish, which is all the rage on social) GIFs to celebrate big plays. They all looked very similar, but were personalized (and it looked great) for specific players, at times. These GIFs were also used for scoring plays, as there was no special [or sponsored] graphic for scoring plays. Each was then followed up with an image (branded with that Dolphins pennant logo), giving some stats about the drive. The team also did well to share some highlights from the NFL Snappy TV account, quoting some NFL tweets. Each quarter update was given by a graphic (same as the first frame on their Facebook videos),. but no video here, as that was Facebook-only [do not mind that, at all].
Staying with their propensity for pics, the Dolphins continued to supplement our game-watching experience with fantastic photography. In lieu of play-by-play, the Dolphins used text sparingly and let their photos speak for them – showing a sick catch and celebrating a big play. They did continue to provide scoring updates (including the opponent, which is refreshing), but did stay silent for the last 15-20 minutes of the game as fans sweated out a last-minute drive by the 49ers with a chance to tie the game. When the clock hit zero, the Dolphins came out with a final score graphic, exhaling along with all the fans. Some teams try to articulate the emotion of the moments of a tight finish, with language and emoji, but the Dolphins opted to let fans focus, celebrating in the end (and then serving up post game content).
After the game ended, the Dolphins told the story of the game with more awesome photography, to go along with graphics and some player retweets, as well. The team also went live on Periscope (they are among the best on the platform and their Monday presser with Head Coach Adam Gase had over 40,000 viewers) for post game press coverage. They had the same two videos of players addressing the fans on camera right after the game that we saw on Facebook. Again, love this. The only link in any Twitter post came late in the day, with a link to a game recap. They also included a sponsor on one of their photo tweets, but it fit right in with all the great visuals we saw throughout the post game and throughout the day from the Dolphins on Twitter.
Of course, the Dolphins and their dedication to eye-catching imagery, was impressive on Instagram. The pregame window featured a collection of pregame shots and on-field warm-ups, along with a hype video and some sponsored content. The Dolphins would continue posting during the game, with some sick content all branded with the Miami Dolphins pennant logo, as well as end of quarter score updates.
The Dolphins did not rack up a ton of interaction with their posts, but the visual ‘wow’ content continued, with some strong raw images and well-applied edits or filters.There was n re-purposing of video post game, but just some additional photos, particularly close-ups of players, building that identification with fans.
The Dolphins are among the few NFL teams to utilize Instagram Stories, and the product is a stunning collection of imagery. Not necessarily a cohesive narrative, but a well-curated photo offering. They had a nice branded intro to their game day Story and then featured the build-up to the game with an awesome array of images. It makes it easy to quickly consume a visual story of the Dophins pregame.
The Story did not end once the game began, either. More thoughtfully selected images that showed game action and exuded emotion kept Instagram users engaged as they tapped on while watching the game. The Dolphins utilized Instagram Stories to feed more of the Instagram content they love to fans; not so much a unique and compelling use, but I enjoyed, and no doubt other fans did too, seeing a steady stream of stunning visuals throughout the game day, fit for the Instagram platform.
The Dolphins dedicated themselves to incredible imagery on their platforms and do not spend as much time on Snapchat, which, of course, is more about ephemeralness and rawness. The Dolphins had three pregame posts, including some shots of their sweet throwback jerseys for the game and a quick personal word from a player, and utilized the game day pregame filter. Not sure if they have a home stadium geofilter or not.
Following the Dolphins’ social media on a game day is a visual delight, with iconic photography and both real-time and prepared content. The player imagery showcasing their individuals is second to none and they create opportunities for fans to fawn over (and engaged with) players. They are also prime Periscope users, dedicated to the platform (and their numbers reflect it).
The Dolphins may still be working to reach their potential on the field, but they know and showcase their strengths on social media, capturing the eyes and emotions of fans, one image at a time.
Postscript: On Monday, the Dolphins shared a marvelous montage of fan videos showing their perspective and the ambient atmosphere on the final decisive play of the game, which cemented the win for Miami. Very cool!