The Philadelphia Eagles don’t want to just be a football team. They want to be a “global and progressive sports entertainment brand.” To make that grand plan a reality, the team’s launching an original content studio called Eagles Entertainment that will see the franchise spread its wings into comedy, cooking shows, and human interest documentaries about fans.
Comedy? Cooking shows? Tough-as-nails Eagles legends like Reggie White, Chuck “Concrete Charlie” Bednarik or Buddy Ryan might shake their heads. But times are changing.
The NFL’s not just a sport. It’s sports entertainment. Yes, the Eagles will continue to offer boatloads of Xs and Os content for hard-core pigskin fans. But internally the Eagles talk about becoming a “Netflix” of the NFL.
A franchise that offers all kinds of content for Eagles fans, including more casual ones who don’t want to obsess over quarterback Carson Wentz’ “arm talent” or Cover-2 defenses. And fans who want to find out more about the players lives off the field. So the team’s expanding and rebranding its old Eagles Network video/content platform and exploring new categories.
“Our mission, essentially, is to be able to entertain Eagles fans everywhere they are, 365 days a year,” explained Jen Kavanagh, the team’s senior vice president of media and marketing. “The attitude around an off-season doesn’t exist when you have a responsibility to stay connected to 10 million fans across the world who care about your brand.”
The new content will appear on the team’s web site and social media channels. Among Eagles Entertainment projects in the pipeline for this season:
– Comedy: In a break from the past, the Eagles are accepting outside pitches from content creators for potential development and production. The team could hire a comedian to host an original show. Or tap comic personalities as recurring guests for its existing series.
The Hollywood graveyard is full of shows that tried to combine comedy and sports. Think Bill Simmons’ failed Any Given Wednesday on HBO. Or comedian Jay Mohr’s old Mohr Sports on ESPN. But Kavanagh is encouraged by what she’s seen so far.
“It’s something we think is very exciting. We’ve started to look at people we think are a good fit for that,” she said.
How about Eagles superfan and comedy superstar Kevin Hart, who notably rushed the field after the team’s Super Bowl 52 win over the New England Patriots?
Naturally, the Birds would love to get Hart involved down the road. But there’s nothing imminent (The actor/comedian is also recovering from a serious car accident).
“Kevin is a huge Eagles fan. We are often in touch with his folks on potential projects,” said Kavanagh. “We have done some things with him in the past. So that’s always a possibility.”
– Cooking Show: Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor is a big foodie. The team just finished shooting an eight-part web series with Agholor and celebrity chef Robert Irvine of the Food Network. Premiering this season, the reformatted Bites with the Birds will show the duo cooking players’ favorite dishes.
Coca-Cola is sponsoring and co-producing the series. Irvine, who hosts Restaurant Impossible on Food Network, is a big Eagles fan. Once Agholor met him in person, they clicked. The team already has a popular podcast called Feeding the Birds, focusing on what players and coaches eat at the team’s Novacare headquarters/training complex. Irvine hinted about his Eagles partnership on Twitter.
Said Kavanagh: “They had a chance to meet, get to know each other better and, pardon the pun, cook up this idea for a series that could be really fun.”
– “Sincerely, Patience:” South Philadelphia native Patience Carter has somehow managed to triumph over tragedy.
Back in 2016, the Eagles fan was in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando when a gunman swearing allegiance to ISIS came in shooting, killing 49 people and wounding 53. Among the dead was her 18-year old friend Akyra Murray, the youngest victim of the massacre.
Shot twice, Carter struggled to recover while dealing with survivor’s guilt. Helping her through the process was Akyra’s older brother Alex. They fell in love.
When Carter wrote the Eagles about possibly holding their wedding at Lincoln Financial Field, the team learned about their inspiring story. The Eagles threw the wedding for Patience and Alex at the stadium this past August.
The Eagles plans to tell Carter’s tale in three-part series this November. The series has the working title, “Sincerely, Patience,” which is how she signed off her original letter to the team.
“We were all touched by her story,” said Kavanagh.
– “House of Pain:” In just five years, the Eagles have expanded from one team podcast to six. They’re planning three more for the 2019 season. The newest will focus on some of the most famous, or infamous, moments in franchise history, such as the “House of Pain” game on Dec. 2, 1991.
Facing Warren Moon and the Houston Oilers’ high-powered Run and Shoot offense, the Eagles posted one of the greatest defensive performances in Monday Night Football history, winning 13-6.
The Eagles’ team podcasts drew a combined two million streams across all platforms in 2018. Once all nine pods are up and running, Kavanagh expects to double that number in 2019.
Ernest Lupinacci, the former Nike copywriter turned marketing consultant, thinks rolling out new and different content is a “smart tactic” by the Eagles. After all, being a fan of a particular team is equivalent to choosing a lifestyle brand, he noted.
But to risk sounding unromantic, Lupinacci asks: Where will the return on investment come from for the Eagles?
“If you don’t have to worry about making money with your content, then do it,” he said. “The luxury that Amazon has right now is that when they take a hit on Amazon Prime, or have to cancel a show on Amazon Prime, it has no effect on their bottom line.”
Clearly, the Eagles want to get as much content sponsored as possible. Attracting Coca-Cola, one of the world’s most famous brands for Bites with the Birds, is a good start.
The strategy also reflects the Eagles’ changed mindset after the team’s first Super Bowl title. The franchise and its fans don’t think of themselves as hard-luck losers anymore. They feel like winners. They’re acting like it, and taking risks. Like five Eagles offensive linemen recently posing in the buff for ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue.
So a Netflix of the NFL? Kavanagh thinks that’s a fair analogy.
“We’ve got 10 million fans to stay connected to all year long,” she said. “The only way we’re going to be able to do that effectively is if we entertain them. So (new) content becomes an absolute no-brainer.”