They are the unseen and unknown stars of the NFL: the hundreds of people who develop and enforce its rules, train its officials, prepare the playing fields, manage the technology, help develop aspiring players, improve the fan experience, and more. Their work — often unheralded and misunderstood — is critical to the game’s integrity, safety, and competitive equity. So in 2014 Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, came to Reingold with a challenge: Bring their work to light.
The NFL Football Operations mission statement calls for a culture of clarity, consistency, and credibility in all aspects of the greatest game. But to showcase this culture, Football Operations needs a publicly accessible resource to show fans and the media what it does — and why — to make the game fair, safe, and fan-friendly. Reingold’s part in this mission would entail creating — primarily from scratch — a website that tells the Football Operations story in an engaging and intuitively organized way, offering a wealth of information that had never been available in full or in one location. We’d also create new social media accounts to support the site and its message.
The result is operations.nfl.com, a multiplatform site with more than 100 pages that launched after just five months in production. The site immediately raised the visibility of NFL Football Operations; for example, an off-season story explaining how the NFL creates the game schedule garnered nearly 21,000 views in its first three days. The 9,000-plus people following the newly created NFL Football Operations Twitter account include influential sports media personalities, such as Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, the NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, and ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. The Twitter account topped 5 million impressions when the website launched in January 2015 and still topped 1 million during some months in the offseason.
Like the NFL itself, the creation and production of the website was a team effort, quarterbacked by the client with a full complement of talented Reingold players — website developers, graphic designers, user experience specialists, writers and editors, video producers, and project leaders — to develop and execute the game plan.
Reingold consulted with the NFL on the site map’s structure and design, then devised a strategy for developing new content, consolidating existing content, and presenting all of it in a consistent voice. We interviewed NFL leaders, program managers, and referees; collected information from the Pro Football Hall of Fame and other documentarians of the game; and conducted extensive research. We produced many visuals ourselves, we also used game and player photos and historical documents from the NFL, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the Associated Press archives.
In concert with the mission of NFL Football Operations, we made the content clear, the tone and information architecture consistent, and the voice credible. Then we brainstormed ways to showcase and differentiate all the information we had. This included:
Interactive features like You Make the Call (below), which gives fans a chance to judge close calls from different angles on slow-motion replay, select how they would rule, see if they made the correct decision, and measure how their results stack up against their peers.
Interactive graphics like this one explaining the position and role of each game official.
Infographics like this one explaining the instant replay review process and its results.
Long-form stories with parallax scrolling to create 3-D effects, and the integration of dynamic movement, videos, images, and expandable sidebars and callouts to enliven the page.
A digitized NFL rulebook that is completely searchable, unlike the rulebooks the league previously posted online. (The NFL now links to this rulebook, as well as to Football Operations' "Evolution of the NFL Rules" page, from the home page at NFL.com)
Reingold-produced videos like this behind-the-scenes look at the league’s officiating command center.
We’ve made this site user-friendly for desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, so its audience is as broad as possible. And the site is designed for easy updates to keep content fresh and relevant, giving fans and the media a reason to return.
A video from the NFL Officiating Department that explains the toughest calls after each week’s games also will drive traffic to the site during football season, as will social media posts.
An updates section highlights the new and timely content that Reingold creates year-round to support NFL Football Operations. It’s all in keeping with the mission: to keep shining a light on the people behind the game.