How the LA Chargers' social media team won the off-season with stock video and Pop-Tarts

The NFL franchise's social media team is "building a culture of no bad ideas."

LOS ANGELES: Just like a veteran worrying about rookies on the field, the Los Angeles Chargers’ senior director of digital media has some concerns about younger staffers who run the team’s social media channels.

"I’m always worried that they are spending so much time watching and looking at social that it’s maybe unhealthy at times," said Joel Price, the Chargers’ senior director of digital media. "They are on 24/7. It’s an amazing amount of effort, and these young people are dedicated to creating great content."

Perhaps that’s why the team’s social media pages, which are managed in-house, perform at an all-pro level. Last week was particularly successful for the Chargers on Twitter, where the team had three viral moments between Tuesday and Thursday.

Last Wednesday, the National Football League team made the most of one of the most anticipated moments of the off-season: the release of the league schedule. In a Twitter thread, the Chargers compared each of their upcoming opponents to a Pop-Tart flavor, complete with a corresponding box. The thread received more than 20,000 likes, 5,500 retweets and 385 comments.

That same day, the team created a hilarious schedule-release video with goofy, all-too-literal representations of each of their 2019 opponents -- the Green Bay Packers are represented by a very-70s meat packer --  that got more than 1.4 million views on Twitter alone.

The day before, the team received more than 7,000 likes for a thread about its powder blue uniform announcement.

Aside from this week’s NFL Draft, the schedule release is the biggest engagement opportunity that NFL teams have in the off-season, explained Price. His team started kicking around ideas for schedule-release content months ago, then others happened on a whim.

Price likened the Chargers’ social content process to a TV sitcom, where multiple writers come up with ideas. The social media team consists of three full-time staffers: a social media coordinator, producer and video editor. Final decisions come from within the social media team as well as the digital media group, and CMO Steven Ziff and PR VP Josh Rupprecht lend their perspectives. It’s a highly collaborative approach, and no one person has final approval.

Price acknowledged that he wasn’t sure how the stock-footage video would work when it was pitched. He noted that the team is "building a culture of no bad ideas," and in meme culture, even seemingly bad ideas can be "fantastic fun for fans."

"A lot of NFL teams put a lot of effort into making these schedule-release videos, but at the end of the day, fans just want the schedule release," he said. "So we were kind of mocking the effort being put into it. We weren’t sure how well it would work, and we debated that with our team all the way until the night before."

With some lingering doubts, the social media team wanted to create another post, just in case the schedule-release video didn’t perform well, said Price.

Social media coordinator Megan Julian sparked the idea for the Pop-Tarts post, influenced by a meme comparing celebrities with products. Why Pop-Tarts? A colleague had a box of them on his desk.

"When it was bubbled up to me, I thought it was funny right away and gave the green light," said Price. "That’s how this stuff goes."

The Chargers’ social media playbook has one major goal: entertaining fans. "Twitter is becoming more entertainment than just news," said Price. "Years ago, we used it as a news feed to get news out. Now it is an entertainment destination, and we are trying to get our voice within the meme culture."

The team changed its social strategy in 2017, adopting the voices of its players and bringing their "great personalities" to social channels, in particular on Instagram Stories. "To get the details and inside story on any NFL team, you need to follow the team on Instagram Stories," he said. "That’s where you’re seeing the interesting, behind-the-scenes cool stuff. We are showcasing our players’ voices there."

Price added that sometimes even the Chargers’ social media team fails to convert. Twenty percent of its social media content never sees the light of day.

"In sports, when you win, the content flows, but when you lose, sometimes you just have to save the content you want to use for another day," he said.

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