Everyone’s talking about football these days as teams make their playoff runs — even Alexa and Google Assistant, now that the National Football League has launched its first standalone voice assistant app.
Called “The Rookie’s Guide to the NFL,” the Alexa skill is designed to educate casual and new fans about the game, provide information about Super Bowl history, and give podcast previews about the league’s playoff games from Super Bowl winner Osi Umenyiora. Those games start this weekend (Jan. 5). Users can ask Alexa such questions as “What is defensive pass interference?” and “How tall is Aaron Rodgers?” and “What does ‘move the chains’ mean?” (No word on whether Alexa will opine about Green Bay Packers allegedly wasting the best years of Rodgers’ career.)
According to one report, “When responding to questions, the skill can return answers in a variety of forms, including both as short and longer (“Go Long”) definitions, or as videos and images on Alexa devices with screens.” The Alexa skill also includes the NFL flash briefing for news that the league had previously launched.
The NFL voice assistant app has no apparent payment and commerce capabilities, at least not yet, but the moves shows how the league wants to directly own the Alexa customer experience. One can easily imagine how a fan might use Amazon Pay or another payment method to buy jerseys, hats and other gear, or even make in-game purchases.
The launch of the app comes at a time when the number of skills made for Alexa are experiencing huge growth in the U.S., U.K. and Germany.
According to a report in voicebot.ai, the number of Alexa skills more than doubled in the U.S., increased 233 percent in the U.K. and grew 152 percent in Germany during last year. The rate at which skills were made for Alexa picked up in the second half of last year in all three countries, with a big increase coming in November and December. The report noted that in Australia and Canada the skill count stands at more than 20,000. That’s about a year after Alexa was rolled out in the two countries.
Amazon had already established a relationship with the NFL prior to the launch of this new Alexa skill.
Earlier in the season, Amazon Prime Video announced the launch of a new NFL pre-game show on Thursdays, hosted by Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer, two sports journalists. Viewers using Amazon could select from multiple audio options. For instance, Prime Video customers can choose between the Fox broadcast with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, and three separate Prime Video exclusive audio streams: Andrea Kremer and Hannah Storm, Spanish-language announcers and a U.K. English language broadcast team. Prime members were able to stream 11 games via the Prime Video app for TVs and connected devices, including Fire TV.
Also earlier this year, Visa and the NFL teamed up on a financial literacy project.
The two organizations launched the latest, updated version of its Financial Football video game for the 2018 to 2019 NFL season. Visa, an NFL sponsor for more than 20 years, enlisted such football stars as Eli Manning and Saquon Barkley to promote the launch of the free video game. The game is designed for football fans who are at least 11 years old, though, as Doug Leighton, Visa’s head of community accounts, told Karen Webster in a PYMNTS interview in advance of the launch, “even adults will still be able to learn from this game.” According to Visa, 20 percent of teenage students in the United States lack basic financial literacy skills.
As for the Alexa launch, the NFL can benefit from an consumer base that is increasing turning to Alexa for a variety of tasks, including eCommerce — an optimistic sign were the NFL to incorporate payments and commerce into the skill. Amazon said that orders placed via Alexa were three times higher for the 2018 holiday shopping season than for the previous year's holiday shopping season.