At first, it seemed the only connection the chiefmarketing officer for the NationalFootball League had to her audience of retirement industry professionals wasthat most of them, by a show of hands, watch football.

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But Dawn Hudson's point in speaking at the Insured RetirementInstitute’s annual meeting was this: You have to transitiongenerations to your product just as the NFL does.

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Related: Becoming the competitor youfearDawn Hudson, CMO of the NFL, speaks at a news conference in 2016

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“We think there’s a real opportunity for millennials” for theNFL to pass the love of football on, the NFL's CMO said.

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But that doesn’t mean she’s sitting on the couch waiting for aHail-Mary pass. “We are marketing the strength of what we do, andhaving fun.” Here are five things I took from her talk:

1. Realize your industry’s hidden strengths.

As social media and all forms of entertainment have exploded andcreated diversified audiences, the NFL realized it had an advantageover other media events: Community.

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“The NFL is the only thing that’s most watched live. It’s acommunity event, you have friends or family over and watchtogether.”

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Hence the "Football is Family" campaign. (Which is notwithout its detractors -- try Googling that campaign and BobKostas, or Drew Magary, for a different take).

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What about the retirement industry? “You are viewed as peoplewho protect their future,” she said.

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And reframe that boring idea of saving for retirement – “It’spreparing for new experiences. It’s being sure you will be able toafford new experiences.”

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Related: 6 ideas for customizing personalreviews

2. Be open to different ways of looking atthings.

Just as Hudson was about to join the NFL as CMO, the Ray Ricedomestic violence video came out. Her friends and family questionedwhether she should be considering a move to the NFL at that time.But she saw opportunity for improvement in the midst of what was apublic relations disaster. “Organizations change under pressure,”she said, about her decision to accept the position.

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The video was horrible, she said. “But when we did a statisticalanalysis, we saw that the incidence among NFL players was half ofthe general population.” Instead of arguing about domesticviolence, “we focus on stories.”

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This started with reframing the domestic violence conversationfrom “NFL players are doing this,” to “NFL players are trying to dosomething about this.” It was important, she stressed, not for theLeague to have all the answers.

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The idea was to let individual players speak and in that wayremind the public that not all NFL players have domestic abuseissues. She showed examples of clips from NFL ads showing concernedplayers warning against domestic violence.

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3. Connect to your audience and keep your brand top ofmind through philanthropy.

Millennials especially, valuephilanthropy, she said, showing a spot about DeAngelo Williams, who wears pink at every game, notjust the official Breast Cancer Awareness weekends, in honor of hismother who died from breast cancer.

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And this year, she said, the NFL is focusing on the fact thatmillions of women don’t go out and get mammograms, saying they lackthe time to do so. “So we’re doing a spot where an NFL player goesout and does their job while they go get a mammogram.”

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They’re also focusing more on individual players’ foundationsand philanthropy. “We’re in a world where people don’t want to hearthe NFL say ‘hey look at us, here’s what we’re doing.’ Younger fansespecially want to know what individual players are doing.”

4. Tailor communications to your audiences or clientsand don’t assume they’re all the same.

“We use data, try something, see how they react, try somethingelse.” Millennials, especially, she said, “can’t sit still. Theyget bored easily.”

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Related: 14 recognizable retirement brands

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Millennials are “the 2-screen generation,” meaning they can’tjust watch a football game on TV — they have to be tweeting ortexting at the same time.

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And what about their younger brothers and sisters — Gen Z?“They’re the 5-screen generation” with tablet, phone, TV, gamingconsole, and more. (I couldn’t figure out what the fifth screen was— maybe another TV.)

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But you can’t just repeat the content across platforms — it hasto be different on each one. “We’re looking at how to segment veryfinely.” This cuts across not just age and gender, of course, butlevel of interest and type of interest. A casual fan has differentviewing needs from, say, a fantasy football fan.

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5. Be transparent.

“Transparency really matters in the digital age,” she said.Accepted wisdom about millennials says that this generation inparticular values authenticity and honesty. “They mistrust someonewho says they have all the answers.”

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Related: Engage millennials or suffer theconsequences

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She cited as an example of transparency a time when the onlineauction site Ebay went down on Black Friday. “They put cameras ontheir techs, the people trying to fix it, so customers could seewhat was going on.”

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Some might argue the NFL was less-than-transparent when facedwith concussion research, which, in fact, spawned a movie about theconflict between researchers and the NFL. During Q&A at theend, someone asked how the NFL is dealing with the concussionissue. She downplayed the prevalence of concussions and added,“Girls soccer players and jockeys have more concussions thanfootball players, jockeys because they fall off their horses.”

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The biggest challenge facing the NFL going forward, she said, is“the change in how people consume information.”

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“What we see as different about millennials, is that they’repragmatic, and family and social networks are important to them.”But, she said, they’re distracted because they’re being inundatedwith information demanding their attention. “Figuring out how toevolve this time-based sport is going to be the biggest challengeto keep fans 20 years from now.”

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Related: Millennials envision a differentlife

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What do you think the retirement industry can do to keepclients, consumers, plan participants, and plan sponsors fans 5,10, or 20 years from now?

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