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During Super Bowl week, it’s always crunch time for the Chiefs’ digital team.
By Sasha Banks-Louie | December 2020
In early 2020, after recovering from back-to-back deficits to win their playoff games against the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans, the Kansas City Chiefs landed a spot in Super Bowl LIV to determine the National Football League champion.
These thrilling comebacks gave fans an insatiable appetite for all things Chiefs, which only increased the pressure on the franchise’s content and media team.
While a steady stream of game highlights, fantasy football statistics, and clips of announcer Mitch Holthus cheering from the broadcast booth were table stakes for the Chiefs’ digital content team during the regular season, “we’re now on the hook to do something new, something special,” says Mike Cukyne, vice president of content and media operations.
In the past few years, the digital content team has focused on some new approaches to growing the fan base, not only locally, but also internationally. By doing so, the team has increased fan engagement by 200% and developed a following of more than 5 million Chiefs fans across multiple digital platforms worldwide.
“From day one, our team’s mission was to serve all of our content on each of our platforms to everybody,” Cukyne says.
In 2019, the Chiefs started experimenting with long-form content, and the team has seen hundreds of thousands of views, likes, social shares, and comments on its new programs. For example, in collaboration with its in-house film crew, 65 Toss Power Trap Productions, the digital content team launched a video documentary series called The Franchise, presented by GEHA, in which fans get behind-the-scenes looks at Chiefs’ games, practices, offseason training, and more.
Since the first 30-minute episode debuted on Fox Sports, Facebook, and YouTube in May 2019, “people have been telling us how much they love the program,” says Cukyne.
In addition to watching players during a practice and lifting weights in the gym, Chiefs’ fans also wanted to see players at home with their families, hosting barbecues with their friends, and volunteering in their communities.
“Our team does nothing but build hype all week long. Who’s our opponent? What happened the last time we played them? We highlight all of that, which helps build excitement and encourage fans to watch us play them again.”
Despite the show’s popularity, The Franchise is just one example of how the Chiefs’ content team is “giving fans something new, something special, and more of what they want,” Cukyne says.
Like most businesses, the Chiefs need to constantly make the team relevant to the next generation of customers. That means getting professional football content on youth-oriented social platforms.
“We’ve got to be really rich in the gaming world, in the fantasy world, and create content that’s specifically tailored to Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat platforms,” Cukyne says.
Preparing for game day is one of the most intense parts of the digital content team’s work. During the season, “our team does nothing but build hype all week long,” Cukyne says. “Who’s our opponent? What happened the last time we played them? We highlight all of that, which helps build excitement and encourage fans to watch us play them again,” he says.
But on game day, everything flips, and content is focused on making sure fans come out to the game and get the most out of their stadium experience. As the digital content team posts game-day information across social media, Tyler Kirby, vice president of ticketing for the Chiefs, says his team uses Oracle Eloqua, part of Oracle CX, to connect ticket holders to team information that helps improve their game day experience.
Once the game starts, the fan engagement model would turn into a complete, in-stadium experience, which Cukyne believes is one of the best in the league. As the players run out from the tunnel at Arrowhead Stadium, 70,000-plus fans start screaming, fireworks go off, and planes fly overhead.
“It’s absolutely electric,” he says. “And if you’re sitting at home, our number one job is to give you a reason to get here.”
It was 50 years since the Chiefs played in a Super Bowl (when they beat the Minnesota Vikings), and the 2020 Super Bowl was shaping up to be another nail-biter for Kansas City. With its roster of Pro Bowlers including quarterback Patrick Mahomes, defensive end Frank “the Shark” Clark, and tight end Travis Kelce, the Chiefs took on the formidable San Francisco 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on February 2.
Photography: Focus on Sport/Getty Images; Jacob Funk 2020; Kansas City Chiefs; Oracle