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Empowering NFL clubs and fans with help from the Microsoft Playbook

At Microsoft, we’re honored to partner with the NFL to bring modern fan experiences to the game of football. Since 2013, the NFL has used Microsoft Surface to help manage all aspects of their business and gameday operations. Earlier this year, we expanded this deep technology partnership to include Microsoft Teams, enhancing communication and collaboration across the League, and enabling new digital experiences. In April, when the pandemic made us change our way of life, the League used both Surface devices and Teams to help power the first-ever virtual NFL Draft. And today we’re announcing new innovations – developed with the League and NFL Clubs – that reimagine gameday for players and fans and help keep operations safe during a season unlike any other.

“Microsoft technology has been an integral part of NFL operations for several years,” says Michelle McKenna, CIO, NFL.  “And with the new challenges ahead of us this season, Microsoft will be instrumental in helping us innovate the best possible experiences for our players, coaches, officials, and fans, through activation like the Fan Mosaic and the Bud Light Showtime cam.”

New gameday experiences

  • Crowd energy and engagement energizes players and connects fans to one another. With fans mostly unable to attend games live, the NFL turned to Microsoft to create rich, virtual experiences that bring fans into the game when they can’t be there in person.
  • Using Microsoft Teams technology, key games this season will feature a feed of virtual fans called a Fan Mosaic. The Fan Mosaic will be displayed in stadiums on LED screens, and on broadcast to create a richer viewing experience.
    • For each game, the home team will invite lucky fans to a virtual VIP experience in which they watch the game together via a Microsoft Teams meeting. These fans will see a dual screen display of the live game next to a Gallery View of fellow fans. Each fan video feed will be isolated and mixed into the Fan Mosaic display. Fan audio from the Teams meeting will be mixed with augmented crowd noise customized for each stadium.
  • We also wanted to help the NFL digitally reimagine touchdown celebrations. This season, it will debut the Bud Light Showtime cam in stadiums at key games to give players a new way to connect with fans after scoring touchdowns.
    • After a player scores a touchdown they will see fans from the Fan Mosaic appear on LED screens installed at each end zone, allowing them to connect and celebrate the moment.

New operations experiences

  • NFL Football Operations will reduce the number of representatives onsite at each game. It will use Microsoft Teams to virtually manage operations for all games every week, supporting communication to gameday staff before, during, and after the game, and helping with document collaboration, reporting, and adherence to League and gameday protocols.

Ongoing support with Surface

  • Along with these new Teams integrations, Surface devices continue to be a vital tool for the League, clubs, players, and coaches on and off the field, on game day and every day.
  • Game preparation: NFL Game Officials rely on Surface to prepare for games by analyzing game film and collaborating as an officiating crew and the League office in advance of game day. At the club level, players and coaches prepare for the game with video reviews and playbooks.
  • Gameday: For players and coaches, the Microsoft Surface Sideline Viewing System has become an integral part of the game as Microsoft technology helps power 269 NFL gameday events each year with more than 2,000 Surface devices and 170 Windows Servers deployed across 30 NFL stadiums.
  • Additionally, Surface is an important tool for tracking all elements in-game. For example, it is critical in monitoring key parts of the IT infrastructure during a game.

In a season of countless challenges, we are honored to deploy Microsoft’s powerful combination of hardware and software to help the NFL bring football to people everywhere. With new fan and player experiences and operations solutions that keep everyone safe, we have developed a deep and lasting partnership with the NFL, and we look forward to future collaboration in the days to come.