Creating the ultimate companion app

Getting in the game

The USA’s National Football League (NFL) has some of the most passionate and devoted sports fans around – and it isn’t just season passes and team jerseys that devotees need to get into the spirit.  These fans eat, breathe, and dream football, so they need the right tools to deeply satisfy their love of the game.

That’s why the NFL came to Fjord New York seeking the ultimate game companion app for fans in the stadium and at home. Facing competition from the rise of “fantasy sports” apps and other unofficial products, the NFL wanted to create the ultimate tablet and smartphone experience across iPhone, iPad, and Android platforms.

The heart of the NFL experience is about gameday, but how do you translate that experience into the digital realm? For the NFL’s millions of fans, following the game means accessing real-time stats and detailed data on every play. The NFL wanted a user experience that could make key information about games and players highly visual. To do this, Fjord focused on transforming the NFL’s drive chart, a data visualization that shows each play from a game, into an engaging and interactive platform. If gameday is the center of the NFL experience, then the drive chart data visualization is the heart of gameday.

Despite not being huge football buffs, the Fjord team is deeply fanatical about transforming important data into a more captivating and emotional experience. After immersing ourselves in sports bars and gearing up for gamedays, our team had a better understanding of the drive chart data fans craved most. We created a multi-channel experience that used mobile platforms for real time push updates, stats and news for the fan on-the-go. The tablet version was a more “lean-back” type of interface, offering users a beautifully visualized game companion.

Tackling the challenges

The NFL saw a new opportunity to set the standard for a major sports league to innovate with tablet devices. After developing an understanding of what assets, data, and content the NFL had license to use in the US, we knew the best way to fully utilize the tablet’s robust capabilities for a digital gameday experience: video.

Because of the legal restrictions for live video and sponsors that are customary for major international sports coverage, our next challenge was to make the content engaging despite being unable to show the full coverage of the game. We highlighted video clips that featured the game’s greatest plays. We also transformed the traditional drive chart into an augmented set of data chosen by the fans and an interactive timeline that allows fans to virtually follow the game in real-time or go back after the game for a deeper play-by-play of the latest action.

Fjord reinvented the experience for the smartphone app to customize the interaction for a small screen and for the on-the-go user who would be checking in on the game periodically. This involved taking very complicated information and ultimately creating an insightful and accessible small screen experience.

Kicking-off a gameday companion

The result is a free download that is acknowledged as the official flagship app for the NFL. Users get live scoring and play-by-plays, fantasy football stats and videos of the coaches’ press conferences, alerts for their favorite game times, and a variety of other exclusive features.

The Fjord NFL iPad app was first launched before the 2011 season draft. Without the benefit of marketing support or promotion, the app notched up over 18,000 downloads in its first 24 hours – the crowds truly went wild.