The Carolina Panthers rode their team hashtag, #KeepPounding, all the way to the Super Bowl last year and, in doing so, took home the ‘title’ of the #1 sports team hashtag in 2016. So, yeah, they have a brand and a rally cry that their fans know well.
But it’s more than just a hashtag, as a review of their game day social media content revealed. It’s a motif that runs throughout their social media, as their content and voice bring a unique energy, a personification of the ‘Keep Pounding’ mantra.
The Panthers’ content on Twitter exuded this energy and enthusiasm throughout the day, and their content (granted during a fairly comfortable win over San Diego, at home in Charlotte) reinforced this all day long. Their pregame was comprised of much of the preview content to which many are accustomed – with articles and inactives (posted by the team itself within the text of a tweet, thank you!), but the images and videos still gave off that energy. And the hashtag was ubiquitous. It wasn’t their content, either, but retweets of Fox Sports PROCast (most teams retweet this) and the customary Bud Light and pizza sponsor tweets. They also shared a touching pregame moment with TE Greg Olsen and a little kid (this was featured on every platform).
Once the game began, the Panthers began sharing out an impressive array of consistent and, well, *pounding* GIFs. Some of these were customized for the specific play, others incorporated specific players, and each had a consistent look and feel that got the pulse racing. They also stayed aware and listening, as website writers/reporters were retweeted for observations and certain game notes, and responded to a local celebrity tweeting about the team. Between the GIFs and the hashtags was also a smattering of play-by-play; not excessive, but enough to fill in most of the blanks for fans.
One thing the Panthers did tremendously well was their use of real-time GIFs. The NFL recently relaxed their much-panned, much-argued policy on sharing any ‘moving pictures’ from the in-game window by allowing content of fans, sidelines, and celebrations, among other little stuff. And the Panthers were all over this, getting some great GIFs in near real-time showcasing player personalities and celebrations [and Cam giving a TD ball to a fan). They shared score update graphics at the end of each quarter (non-sponsored) and consistently used players’ official Twitter handles throughout the game. Scoring drives were capped by drive summary graphics, too, which were sponsored by State Farm. Also notable is they have a @PanthersPromos Twitter handle to make fans aware of, well, promotions, and impressively has over 16,000 followers. The main account will often RT this account, too.
As the game continued, the Panthers continued their similar GIFs to celebrate plays and, a mini round of applause, even had a GIF at the ready for their team recording a safety. Prepared for anything! While they were dominating the game, the Panthers did update their fans when the opponent did score, even giving the actual scoring play description. As you can see, they also got more, well, playful, as the game went on. The energy stayed high and GIFs including Zoolander, Super Mario, and The Office were utilized during the second half.
The fun continued with fan and player GIFs as the game ended (including a nod to ‘Santa’). They shared a non-sponsored post game graphic to celebrate their win, which, curiously displayed neither the final score nor the opponent. Then, right on the field, got a couple of players to personally address fans on video (which was posted across all platforms) and one of the players even told fans to ‘Keep Pounding.’ (I’ll wait while all team social media managers swoon). This was followed by a few graphics, including one sober way home option, a sack counter graphic (their defensive plays and ‘sacks’ are sponsored by local company Sakrete, love it!), and a graphic accompanying a link to a game recap.
There was live video coverage after the game, as well, though it was hosted on the team website, as opposed to Periscope and/or Facebook Live. There was only the single link to Cam Newton’s presser and no quotes tweeted from the conference. They likely knew the pic of Cam at the podium (in his latest outfit) would go viral. This was followed by some sponsored content, including a Bud Light Top Performer graphic, an activated offer from Krispy Kreme, and a ‘Drive of the Game’ image + link to video, sponsored by Ford.The remainder of the day featured links to the coach and Cam press conferences, full game highlights, and, the last tweet of the night (of course), a simple #KeepPounding.It was a fun ride on Twitter with the Panthers.
While Twitter is indeed where a voice is most defined when it comes to social media, the theme and the emotion is built up with the narrative offered on the Panthers’ Snapchat. The early pregame content showcased the stadium and some sweet filters, along with some early player warmups. No player arrivals one-after-one in their civvies. They also captured Greg Olsen interacting with a military family (which was repurposed across platforms). It was a quick look around, including calling out some specific players, by name.
The Panthers also gave us a little of that inside access fans crave, with a brief glance inside the tunnel with the players ready to take the field for introductions. It was notable that, while clearly there was someone filming the pregame huddle (likely where a player was pumping up the team), the person behind the Snapchat was only shooting from a distance. Overallth, the player-focused pregame window was a valuable, snackable sampling of the atmosphere and they even got some players to pose together, making eye contact with the fans following along. But it wasn’t done there.
The Panthers’ Snapchat was like a virtual ticket to the pregame rituals and atmosphere, delivered one snap at a time, helping to build the excitement for the game and convey the emotion. There was a look at the crowd, the intros, the flyover, and the traditional Keep Pounding practice, led by well-known NASCAR crew chief Chad Knaus. And the content didn’t stop once the game started. There was constant presence on the sideline capturing post game celebrations on the field and on the sideline.
The Panthers continued with shots of the game and of the crowd and sideline, all the way up to the win and a couple of Snaps of a post game prayer with members of both teams and the traditional jersey swap between players. This was the last of Snapchat content for the day, but overall, a source they feed throughout the game and game day, doing their best to bring the stuff to fans that watching on TV cannot.
The Panthers also put some time into their Instagram presence, using both regular posting and stories. Much of the content is re-purposed, sometimes filtered, pics and graphics and video from elsewhere, but the result is a nice peppering of content, seeking to convey emotion. There wasn’t a ton from warmups (this was more so on Twitter and Snapchat and in their IG Story), but did include a couple of photos of Olsen’s meeting with the military family (tearjerking). It was good to see some use of video a bit on their Instagram page, as well. During the game itself was mostly some eye-catching game photos from the game and notably no score updates or graphics.
The Instagram feed did stay active during the game with more pics, the general Panthers Win graphic and the on-field videos seen elsewhere made up the initial post game content. This was followed with up a branded content post (also posted elsewhere) and the Krispy Kreme activation. They finished the day posting a pic of Luke Kuechly, currently in concussion protocol, on the sideline during the game talking to players. Something they knew fans would like to see, but likely done with the security it was okay with team ops and PR.
As compared to their regular Instagram posts, the Panthers used Instagram Stories for more quick updates, as well as some of the second screen in-game content seen on their Snapchat. There was some in-the-tunnel content for pregame before giving way to an easy way to get a good look at the game and brief updates. They utilized score update graphics for each quarter, similar to what they did on Twitter (but not Facebook). They also shared a pic of a fan getting a TD ball (also repurposed on other platforms) with the Panthers Snapchat geofilter (or a facsimile, at least) at the bottom.
The Panthers continued to share sweet sideline content and score updates on their IG Story for the rest of the game and their graphic overlays on photos were done very well. The post game end of the Story included a final score post and a player interacting with a fan. Solid use of the platform.
The Panthers kept up with a stream of content on Facebook, meant to bring energy to the feed more so than anything else. The pregame window featured a lot of, well, preview content, as well as some sponsored content posts . The content was primarily links to articles as opposed to graphics or hype videos. The pregame buildup to the game started around midnight on the previous night with a team GIF post.
Once the team was suited up and ready to go, the Panthers did share some good raw videos from inside the tunnel with the team, which did well to go along with a pregame graphic and link to a pregame photo gallery. Once the game began, the Facebook feed was mostly a source of pics to highlight players performing well in the game, but there was a [non-sponsored] halftime graphic and the generic Panthers Win graphic at the end of the game, along with a link to the recap. The two on-field player messages were also shared on their Facebook Page. The rest of the content was the other sponsored posts seen elsewhere with the Bud Light Top Performer Graphic and Krispy Kreme Sweet Victory offer. Facebook is still an active presence for the Panthers, but there is not a unique attention paid to it over the other three platforms.
The Panthers are dedicated to the Keep Pounding mindset and brand. The charge of the social media team is to, like it is in everything the Panthers do, convey it through their content on the social platforms. While a win always helps, the Panthers have put a lot of thought and preparation into their strategy and content to assure that fans know and feel it’s all about the drive to Keep Pounding.