Episode 160 Snippets: Andrew Brewster Developed a Michigan State Athletics Blog for USA Today While also Working a Full-Time Job

On episode 160 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Andrew Brewster, Editor, SpartansWire (Michigan State Athletics blog for USA Today).

What follows are some snippets from the episode. Click Here to listen to the full episode or check it out and subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher.

Episode 160: Andrew Brewster on Managing a Sports Blog for USA Today Sports as a Second Job

Listen to episode 160 of the Digital and Social Media Sports podcast, in which Neil chatted with Andrew Brewster, Sports Editor, SpartansWire (USA Today Sports), and Customer Success Manager at Bobit Business Media.

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68 minute duration. Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or listen on Stitcher

Posted by Neil Horowitz Follow me on Twitter @njh287   Connect on LinkedIn

 

 

Looking Back on a Decade of Social Media and What Its Resemblance in 2020 Means

It has been just over ten years since Instagram launched and rounded out the triumvirate of the next decade of social media, with Vine, Snapchat, and most recently TikTok, among others, exhibiting their influence, too. There has been a ton of evolution and developments across platforms, user behaviors, creative trends, and strategy and tactics.

And, yet, as the 2010’s roll over the 2020’s, it’s hard not to notice the principles, behaviors, and ‘trends’ of yesteryear emerging in new forms. What’s old is new again.

So as countless articles come out now looking back on 2019 or trying to predict what’s to come in 2020, this one will set out to try and decipher why a lot of what’s prevailing today isn’t all that dissimilar to what the first digitally-enabled generation, yep the Millennials, grew up with and why it’s those deeper patterns of human behavior that’ll stand the test of time in the decade to come, and beyond.

1.

Facebook didn’t start social media. Neither did MySpace or Friendster. No, the first memories most of us have of connecting with others — socializing on media — came with America Online. Before there were followers and friends, there were buddies. Before feeds and stories and trends, there were chat rooms. Before it became about who could reach the most people, it was about communicating one-on-one, with friends or even with faceless others across the country who found themselves in the same chat room.

For years, broadcasting became the ambition. Trying to reach the most people with your message, chasing those big numbers, those vanity metrics. But look around today and the evolutionary pyramid is on the way back to intimacy. Endless feeds peppered with brands, friends, family, acquaintances, and, well, ‘randoms, are starting to more and more to be replaced with time spent on Messenger, WhatsApp, close friends group chats, and the like. We’d rather converse with a few than casually and loosely connect with the many.

In many ways, it’s starting to feel like we’re back where we started with AIM (or MSN Messenger, especially for the international peeps). So herein lies the light bulb, the insight. Genuine, intimate connections will always prevail and as cool as it is to throw your content or idea into the ether, it’s more satisfying and rewarding to have a good conversation with one or a few at a time. The difference today is that there are countless ways to enhance messaging, whether that’s with emojis, filters, GIFs, and music. The root behavior is still there, but we can make it better.

2.

Speaking of music, it’s clear how much music now penetrates so much of social media nowadays. There was a time over the last decade when music became more commoditized, when MySpace tried to restructure themselves around music, when PureVolume and SoundCloud and the like were just kinda there.

Music formed the backbone of early ‘social media,’ as many of us used Napster, LimeWire, Kazaa, and many others, which were file sharing sites first and foremost. I can still remember myself today how thoughtful my favorite bands list was on my MySpace profile. Well, music — not just the personalities and soap operas that comprise the culture across artists — pure music is making a comeback, forming the soundtrack of countless TikToks racking up millions and millions of views.

So, looking ahead, what can we learn from the powerful potion of music to continue to engage fans and enhance content? There are a number of directions to speculate: teams and leagues creating their own music, more and more content synced to music (AI could help here, too), more content around specific player music tastes or talents, and as more power players get their mitts into the sports space, perhaps a more formal relationship or synergy with the music side of an agency and the sport, or a league/team partnering with a record label. Not too many industries have the potential to be bosom buddies like sports and music, not too many industries have ‘fans’ instead of customers, so the future ahead sure sounds like it’ll have some music behind it, in front of it, or both.

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3.

One of the more intriguing social behaviors of the last half decade has been the rapid growth of Twitch, primarily on the back of esports and gaming. Many of the Millennial generation grew up playing video games, sure, but watching others while waiting for one’s turn to play hardly seemed ideal. But it wasn’t so bad if a group of friends were around to talk to while others took their turn. It was never just about video games, it was about socializing, and the video games in this case gave a mutual live topic of interest and an atmosphere to socialize.

Squinting one’s eyes just a little and it doesn’t sound all that different from those early chat rooms back in the AOL days. Put the AOL chat room and Twitch live chat feeds alongside one another today and they may not look too different outside of the emojis and stickers on Twitch. Both represent places connections are happening in real-time, ad-hoc and lasting communities are formed, and, ultimately, it is the innate desire to know someone on the other side is listening that stands the test of time and path of platforms.

As the next decade begins, the propensity for live conversation, for chatter will continue to evolve, but perhaps we’ll see something akin to the chatrooms of days old. Places where live chatter can happen around a number of topics, interests, and events. Forums and online communities became more live, started happening alongside live content, and are just a bit more interactive today. The on-demand community, the always-own forum is as old as time, and will continue to persist in the years to come.

4.

Quick — without thinking much, what was the first piece of digital real estate you could really call your own? Maybe it was a Facebook page, a blogspot, a MySpace profile; but for many of us that first true ‘profile’ was the AIM profile. It was a place to list one’s basic bio, their likes, and many changed it up or updated it frequently. (Along with ever-present ‘away message’). Eventually everyone ended up on Facebook, but traffic to profiles, along with the effort put into them, started waning the day that News Feed was first introduced.

Somewhere along the way the engagement and interaction in the Feed became more frequent and more important than the profile. And while static profiles aren’t making a comeback, social media is certainly more about the self than ever before. Almost every user is a wannabe influencer or micro-influencer, a majority of individuals are cognizant of their online ‘brand as we enter 2020, carefully cultivating who they want to be and how they want to be perceived through their posts, their voice, their bio, and, yes, their profiles.

Where might this focus on the self go? It’s playing out right now with more people posting than ever, especially in Stories, and a platform like TikTok, which wants to invite every user to participate and seeks to make content creation easier for anyone. The emerging generation wants to cultivate their online presence, the platforms are meeting that desire, and we’re back to the future as users seek to develop and decorate their own place and persona on the Internet.

5.

If you’ve been on Facebook since the last decade, there’s a good chance your ‘network’ is a mix of family, old friends, new friends, and a handful of random people you met in the early ‘friend everyone’ phase or crossed paths with on a semester abroad or a recreational soccer league. It was a way to turn offline relationships into online.

Somewhere along the way, our actively engaged social networks mostly began to shrink, and the magic occurs more often turning an online relationship into one that includes physically paths as a sign of solidification. But as this decade ends, the old is becoming new again, in some subtle ways. We’re now seeking and using ways to spark those new relationships — that may start with a chance meeting because of a mutual interest or crossing paths (while out and about on social).

It’s playing out in dating apps and around gaming, but how can social media help foster the genesis and kindling of these new relationships? There could be a stronger intra-social movement to come within the communities that form around celebrities, TV shows, music, gamers, YouTubers, and certainly as strong as ever around sports teams. One of the most beautiful things that can happen in sports, whether on social media or at the game, is when true relationships form between individuals who were brought together because of the team. As a generation comes of age more accustomed to cultivating relationships via mobile device than real-life experiences, the ability for teams, leagues, brands, whomever to facilitate the formation of stronger connections will become integral.

6.

It was a long time ago, but it doesn’t feel that long ago when so many eschewed social media because “no one cares what I had for lunch today.” Well, a glance at many Instagram Stories will show otherwise. But it has certainly evolved over the last decade as photos gave way to video, to Live, GIFs, graphics, music, and the conglomeration of all those elements on TikTok.

But even as reality becomes more augmented and content more complex, there is another movement that is bringing back the value of raw. The extraordinary in the ordinary. Fans may enjoy some cool productions, but they also want to see something unedited, some unabashedly real. Studies have come out in the last year or so that have shown real photos and videos perform better for social media, whether organic or paid, than those that come off expertly produced. That’s not say we’re going back completely to raw and untrained video, but simply that it’s worth appreciating that there remains a desire for something real, too.

Regardless of how sophisticated technology and media gets, it seems there are still inherent tenets of communication, connection, and humanity that persist through it all. The cave paintings of prehistory are the emojis of today; the more things change, the more the big ideas remain the same. No one can say for sure what 2030 will look like, but there will be relationships, there will be art, and there will be stories.

Episode 159: Best Of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast: NBA Twitter, College Athletics, Beer and SMSports, and more

Listen to episode 159 of the Digital and Social Media Sports podcast, a Best Of edition, with Justin Karp of NBC Sports (full episode), Dave Marek of the Somerset Patriots (full episode), Mark Gallo of CoPack Beverages and beverage industry vet (full episode), Carl Schmid of the University of Louisville Athletics (full episode), Chris Serafino of DAZN (full episode).

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Episode 158 Snippets: Kathleen Hessert on What to Know about Gen Z, Athlete Image, and Questions to Guide Brand

On episode 158 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Kathleen Hessert, Founder + President of Sports Media Challenge and Founder of WeRGenZ, to talk about Gen Z fans, her experience on brand/social media with Peyton Manning, SHAQ, and more.

What follows are some snippets from the episode. Click Here to listen to the full episode or check it out and subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher.

How Hitachi US Activated their IndyCar Sponsorship with Social Media Works of Art

It’s never been easier for a brand to tell its story in this era of digital and social media. But it has also never been more difficult to drive people to actually engage with and relate to those stories.

Brands can pay for attention – as they’ve been able to do for decades – but those that are ahead of the curve today aren’t creating ads that interrupt, they’re creating content that inspires. They’re not engaging in standard ‘best practices,’ they’re creating what’s next – the best practices of tomorrow.

For years, Hitachi Motorsports has been lauded for their forward-thinking tech like their fuel injectors, which plays out each week fueling every car in the IndyCar series, but as the 2019 season approached, the global brand knew they had an opportunity to push their sponsorship and reach further, engaging consumers like never before. As Hitachi headed into what would prove to be a monumental second year with driver Josef Newgarden, they collaborated with digital agency MKTG to activate with the inventive speed, innovation and teamwork that the Hitachi Motorsports brand represents.

Hitachi has activated their Indycar racing sponsorship across digital with MKTG since 2014, and this year they created the brand’s new racing handle on Instagram, allowing Hitachi Motorsports to connect with a highly visual audience via inspirational, original visual storytelling – a feed-first essential to inspire in our social media, feed-first world of 2019.

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We knew our microsite for Hitachi Motorsports US, which details the racing partnership and celebrates Josef Newgarden all season long wouldn’t be enough,” said Gavin Blawie, Senior Vice President – Strategy and Digital at MKTG. “We also wanted to push Hitachi Motorsports and Josef’s winning season story on Instagram with original, shareable stories as told by multiple artists working in partnership with the brand.”

When it comes to capturing attention and engagement in the feed, eye-catching, aesthetically awesome content reigns supreme, particularly the visual-first mediums like Instagram. Hitachi Motorsports has created inspiring content for years, but with the new Instagram account the opportunity for break through work led to Hitachi’s Artist of the Race Series – a season-long celebration of Josef, his story, and the sport through visually stunning, original brand content by a recruited roster of talented artists built to stand out in the feed. The agency brought on a group of elite artists to create their interpretations of Newgarden and the ongoing story of his drive to a championship IndyCar season. Each race meant the unveiling of something fans had never seen before, representing Newgarden and the excitement and precision playing out on each of the unique tracks around the continent. The campaign was led at MKTG by Elliot Gerard, Vice President and Creative Director at the agency, and the veteran creative noted the goal wasn’t just about eye-catching art, but visualizing the thrilling IndyCar season. [articles continues below examples + artist comments]

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In-Depth: A closer look at the Artist of the Race Series (Check out Hitachi Motorsports on IG)

MKTG’s Elliot Gerard worked with racer Josef Newgarden to create a piece for the St. Pete race which started the journey of the Artist of the Race Series:

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To celebrate Newgardens success in St. Petersburg we created an illustration that captured the spirit of the race and energy of his winning moment. After starting the artwork, we gave Newgarden himself an opportunity to complete the piece. This collaboration with Newgarden inspired us to develop the Artist of the Race Series. Sparking the journey of working with talented artists all across the world.” -Gerard, United States.

Artist Joseph Alessio’s work represented the Toronto race and explains the thought that went into every detail:

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For the Honda Indy Toronto, I wanted to take a hand-crafted but graphic approach, incorporating a few different scenes. Toronto is a bold and colorful city, so the piece leans into bold colors, drawn from the Hitachi Indycar livery—such as creating a geometric paper craft centerpiece evoking Toronto landmarks, paired with body paint to create a monochrome effect. The tire smoke is just carefully arranged bits of cotton batting, with a blue light from the left to give it some depth—the result is fun but the glamorous process consisted of obsessively pinching and pulling a tiny bit of cotton between frames! While the process was intensive, the materials were simple—a lot can be done with paper, lighting and a bit of tape! Relying on a couple bold colors and flat surfaces worked well to bridge the gap between graphic and handmade. Between paper shapes, a bit of body tape, a couple of backdrops and a whole lot of frames, the handful of scenes came together to create a dynamic stop motion video.” -Alessio, United States.

Dariusz Ejkiewicz had the challenge of illustrating the Indy 500:

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As a part of the general idea that I came up with using torn paper and scratched elements I was tasked with creating a physical piece of artwork. That artwork was done for The Artist of the Race. I wanted to reverse the process, pretty much creating a piece of artwork that was built from pieces of torn paper, stars, framing, stitches and tape.he whole idea was an interesting process that became very satisfying and in the end the piece I have created was something refreshing for my process. I am very happy that I was a part of this special project. -Ejkiewicz, Poland.

Ann Chen created a masterpiece for Portland:

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As a lettering artist, I knew right away I wanted to highlight the driver’s name as the focus of the design while portraying some key elements of Portland, as the location is fairly new for IndyCar. The direction I received called for a celebration of the race in Portland. I started off with a loose sketch showing lush greenery against a cityscape with the iconic white stag from the Portland Oregon sign sitting at the peak of a triangle that represents Mount Hood. With Josef’s name, I went for a bold script lettering with sharp edges and big curves and a finer script for the name of the race. My favorite part of the illustration is how the letter “L” in Portland is extended to become the track for the Hitachi race car. I love working with bright colors and Hitachi’s brand color, red and black were perfect for creating strong contrast in the palette. My personal style includes using shapes to create a feeling of energy and excitement, which is why I chose to include a confetti of curved triangles and circles throughout the piece. The entire illustration was created using an ipad and drawing app, Procreate.” -Chen, United States.

John Boyce celebrated Team Penske at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix:

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Working with MKTG on the Hitachi artist of Race series was great. It was a sport I wasn’t to familiar with but while finding elements to be apart of the artwork, it was cool to learn about Josef Newgarden and how he dominates.” -Boyce, United States.

Sabeena Karnik set up the season finale at Laguna Seca:

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The instant idea was to have the Indycar showcased in the artwork made with paper and the win. Creating the letter H was my original goal which was also backed by the agency that I worked with. [MKTG] sent me imagery associated with the event along with suggestions of using some landmark locations at Monterey California espe-cially the corkscrew curve/bend which I tried incorporating in the piece. I wanted to do a time lapse video to showcase something created very fast to go with the idea of speed and racing so that the entire process with paper layers is clearly visible. Hopefully the fast video was someway in sync with the [race]. – Karnik, India.

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“It wasn’t just about creating cool content for the feed,” said Gerard. “It’s about the various creative voices working together to bring Hitachi Motorsports to life, resulting in a powerful message about how each of these artists connected with Hitachi Motorsports, these incredible races, and Josef at the wheel. And then how they translated those feelings into these fantastic pieces that just pop out of the feed. It was exactly what we’d hoped for and it really speaks to Hitachi’s brand mission of Inspiring the Next.”

MKTG recognized the opportunity Hitachi Motorsports was giving them, wanting to collaborate on something extraordinary, a campaign with emotion-infused KPIs with creative placed largely in the hands of talented independent artists. But both sides had the longstanding relationship and the mutual understanding that Newgarden’s success and notoriety presented an opportunity for the Hitachi Motorsports brand to do something special.

“Hitachi is a trusted client who gives us as an agency the trust and opportunity to push the content game, and really play in the area of what is next,” said Blawie, who has worked with Hitachi Motorsports throughout his tenure at MKTG. “Hitachi is a historically important brand and their Indycar sponsorship is a proven driver of relevance and technology showcase. Along with Josef’s rapid ascendance in this sport, this was such an exciting project that everybody wanted to work on.”

Hitachi’s technology powers and enables some of the world’s greatest innovations – including fueling the thrilling IndyCar race – but such high-level tech isn’t readily relatable and necessarily amenable to social media. But spend a minute and browse the Hitachi US Motorsports feed on Instagram, and the inspiring take on tech and winning track record begs to differ. Because marketing and advertising is in a new era, and brand activation means storytelling in ways that haven’t been done before, pressing down on the throttle to speed ahead of the pack to what’s next.

 

Watch the video below to see more of Hitachi Motorsports Artist of the Race Series!