Planning and Purpose in Social Media and Sports

We’re all still trying to figure out social and digital media. The daily question of ROI, of how to best keep up with the platforms and the kids and the fans, and how to do it all while maintaining some sense of purpose and brand. There was a lot of fantastic insight shared on these subjects and more at day 3 of the Hashtag Sports Conference. See the full recap here and read on below for 19 quick-hitting insights/takeaways/quotes/stats:

  1. Fantastic, easily digestible thoughts on each of the big four social media network, presented by Jessica Smith, Senior Director of Digital and Social Strategy for the New York Yankees (and, yes, THE @WarJessEagle). She gets it. See below.

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To sum it up again, in text:

Instagram = Best visual expression of your brand; strong creative

Facebook -> Massive reach, videos and live content content are king; paid works

Twitter -> Pulse and place for real-time, 1:1 engagement, developing voice/personality

Snapchat -> Real and raw access; people and hosts are key; likens to reality TV

2) Smith is sharp and articulate. A great takeaway line from her:

“Think like a brand, execute like a human.”

3) Social Media Manager for the Arizona Coyotes also dropped some serious social media savvy and wisdom. I’m a sucker for pros that can articulate the what and why of each social platform and O’Connor nailed it with the visual below.

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Again, summarized in short text:

Twitter -> Constant attention, create conversation, timely content, develop voice

Facebook -> Content w/ longer life/relevance, video is king, connect with the community

Instagram -> Strong images + short copy, capitalize on high emotion moments/wins

Snapchat -> Raw, fun, behind the scenes, showcase team personalities

 

4) A nice line from the fan engagement panels, on three key questions to ask of your social media content: Why is it important, does the fan care, would they share

5) More keys from Jess Smith on social media: Know the why, diversify, test emerging formats, listen and learn

 

6) The Coyotes have struggle in the standings the last several seasons, but O’Connor has still had the team thriving on social media. Here recommendations included: Focus on sharing stories, be the [social media] account fans want to be friends with, leverage off-ice lifestyle content

 

7) She continued, with an insightful list of key guiding the Coyotes’s social media:

Have a strategy – priorities

Mobile-first mindset with content

Be there for customer service

Start a conversation

Cross-promote channels

Use contests, discounts, and giveaways to engage and grow audience

 

8) Fascinating insight from the team helping the Las Vegas Raiders with fan development. They break down fans groups seeking to understand what/who moves and influences them.

 

9) Scott Kegley is one of the best in the biz and currently is with the Minnesota Vikings as Executive Director, Digital Media and Innovation. His presentation on the Vikings’ social and digital media strategy included the commandments to: Create unique content, constantly reinvent, take timely + calculated risks

 

10) Kegley also noted the potential great synergy between players and the team. The powerful idea is to encourage and empower players on social; let them leverage the in-house creative and social team to really drive some big results.

 

11) Another day, another panel spent discussing the monetization of esports. A key insight: Brands can’t treat esports like another sport — it is digital-only and therefore commands a different business model.

 

12) On the subject of fan data capture, the main takeaway is that it has to be give/take. Don’t ask for data without there being a value exchange. Think add value, always, for fans.

13) On a related note, the best chance to collect data is during the exciting, high-emotion moments. So be ready to capitalize.

 

14) Talk about an area ripe for growth – Branded content was just .5% of US *live* social media posts in 2016.

15) Another eye-popping stat: 82% of branded content on social media comes from pro sports teams (both stats via Shareablee)

 

16) More interesting numbers, looking at categories of Facebook Live content and the average duration :

17 minutes sports, 26 minutes Lifestyle, 21 minutes TV networks, 53 minutes News

 

17) Interesting insight from Bruin Sports Capital’s Jeffrey Roth: Focus on the diehard fans [and building diehard fans] at live games, and reach casual fans on digital and social channels

 

18) While there is a lot of love for podcasts as a growth area now, it was noted that lack of data [user and impressions] is hindering podcasts’ ability to grow and monetize.

 

19) There was panel of active athletes talking about their work in the investment space. A big takeaway – they increasingly want a seat at the table, an investment in which they can have and want interest [and input and ownership].

 

See part 1 and part 2 of this post!

The Increasing Channels and Platforms for Fan Engagement and Content

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The art of reaching and engaging fans is always evolving, even as some core principles still remain. There is more fan input and involvement than ever, and it makes or stimulating conversation every time professionals in the space get together to talk about it. That happened at the recent Hashtag Sports Conference, where a collection of thought leaders offered insight. Following from afar, here are 25 insights that came from the conference (part 1 of 3). See the Day 1 recap.

  1. There was a discussion of how the NBA has become so prolific with their social media following, and it centered around Adam Silver’s forward thinking with content. Adapting to new platforms, and inviting fans to consume more and more of the NBA product, making them more engaged fans overall.
  2. On the subject of platforms and highlights, former NBA Commissioner made a telling statement. Following his praise of the omnipresence of NBA content, he also lamented, saying “We’re enabling fans to watch us less. You can slice the salami so much and then it’s indelible.”
  3. The NBA players have also embraced social media. Of course, individual player stars have been a staple of the NBA for decades. Said former NBA player, NBPA rep, and current Big3 Commissioner Roger Mason – “Personalities drive culture & change in sports, and you’ve seen that prominently in the NBA.”
  4. A notable statement from UnInterrupted’s Head of Athlete Content Jimmy Spencer: “Uninterrupted is entertainment, not journalism. If our athletes want to break news, they will.” All news is content, but not all content is news.
  5. The NFL seeks to reach the widest audience, prioritizing new fans, more fans, more distribution channels. This plays out in their embrace of new channels and fan development efforts across continents and cultures.
  6. Audio is having a moment or rebirth, or so it would seem. The NBA made clear the power of audio, for them, to reach so many of their international fans.
  7. This stat from Nielsen stood out: 50 million people listen to podcasts on a weekly basis. Speaking of audio…
  8. Twitter noticed the amount of engagement around esports is strong. And boy did the stats bear that out for the Halo Championships – watched by over 10 million fans on Twitter.
  9. Part of Twitter Sports’s strategy is to reach niche, under-served audiences in sports. The NLL [National Lacrosse League] there was a particular example of a successful partnership, among others.
  10. Insightful and true quote from Players Tribune Head of Partnerships Raphael Poplock – “Advertisers want to be closer and closer to the content.”
  11. Along with the realization that partner-integrated content is at a premium and in demand, the theme prevailed that branded content is NOT just content with a logo on it. It’s better than that.
  12. I love Bleacher Report and I thought this line from was great that B/R “curates the Internet and thinks about how they can enhance it through their content.” Adding to the conversation…with content. [Lots of good stuff on Bleacher Report to follow…]
  13. B/R’s Senior VP of Content Joe Yanarella reinforced that point, saying: “How do we stat a conversation a opposed to how do we cover sports?”
  14. And Bleacher Report backs it up, coming prepared. They have a 40 person staff that create visual content. Wow.
  15. While B/R produces a ton of content, it all has to be quality and they’d prefer quality over quantity.
  16. A fascinating evolution plays out, as the chicken and egg argument for brand starts with distribution. That then evolves into a battle for continued attention, which is where brand comes in.
  17. There is an emphasis in producing real-time content in sports that revolves around preparation for outcomes. It’s often pretty binary (win or lose!), and one can be polished and prepared for both outcome.
  18. B/R takes a specific, thoughtful approach to eacho social platform, treating each like a magazine and haing staff specialize. That’s how you dominate and understand a platform. Of course, not so many have such resources.
  19. Everyone has their philosophies on the social platforms, and this was a decent way for a publisher like B/R to differentiate the platforms – Snapchat is for short form content; Instagram for true moments
  20. How does Bleacher Report’s brand transcend and connect? They celebrate the fan and the athlete more so than the actual game.
  21. There is necessarily a high bar for branded content, and Will McDonough, a VP with Copa90, put it succinctly and accurately, saying “Kids can smell the bullshit.” –
  22. At a premium for sports publishers is to create more partnerships with players and capturing more consistent, constant attention throughout the day, with live streaming content.
  23. Amidst talk about live video on digital and social, the point hammered home the most about the added value of those eyeballs – it comes with the power of data for ad targeting, along with instantly actionable CTA’s.
  24. A good point made about how fan loyalty is formed nowadays. In the past, it was all about parents and location to define loyalties; now social and digital media, along with fantasy, make for so many more elements to influence which teams fans choose to support.
  25. The National Lacrosse League had a compelling story to tell, dropping some attendance numbers (10,000+ per game) and Twitter viewing audience (380,000 average). The Twitter audience, incidentally and notably vastly outrated that on NLL.TV, of 25,000 viewers.
  26. With the NLL’s content being digital first, it has influenced the way they produce broadcasts. It’s not a linear broadcast distributed via another channel, but a broadcast produced for the digital viewer. The NLL also looks to innovate, and did so this season with a player POV camera in a live game, post-produced right after.
  27. There was an intriguing discussion with ESPN there. When it comes to their story telling, there is a lot of thought put into deciding how [and when] each department at ESPN is the best way to tell the story.
  28. That said, ESPN embraces all of the platforms on which fans consume content and spend time, operating with each platform supporting one another, finding synergy with a story.
  29. On the challenge and opportunity of cross platform distribution, ESPN VP Chad Millman notably said he spends more time thinking about who should be on an than what is in the email.
  30. How the NHL uses live video; three key ways: Drive tune-in, expand audience, elevate players with fans
  31. With their streaming and social content, the NHL focuses on additive live content, they’re seeking unique digital content, not to take away from the linear broadcast.
  32. The NHL streamed 12 games on Twitter this year, and while they didn’t share exact stats, they did say they got ‘Several hundreds of thousands of viewers’ for each game on Twitter last season.
  33. The World Surfing League has seen big growth thanks to distributing its competition content and more via Facebook Live. Their video strategy has been to build an audience, and then figure out how to monetize. WSL video strategy is to build audience; FB Live, and then figure out how to monetize
  34. Like the NLL, the WSL is also creating broadcasts built for digital. They’re also diving into their live broadcast analytics, learning how fans watch and want to watch their content, constantly improving their product, even in real time.
  35. A key takeaway from the success of many when it comes to digital and social sports content is, well, creating content for digital and social. It mean unique content, content clearly optimized and made for that platform. It sounds so simple (and it is, granted time and resources are always a factor) and can make a world of difference.

See Part 2 and 3, too.

What Stood Out at the NACDA Vendor Showcase

There are only so many things in which a team or athletics program can invest. And the vendor exhibition at the annual NACDA conference is a visual manifestation of just that – from compelling new products to nice-to-haves to innovations, and enough to stretch the budget of even the boldest behemoths.

I love these things. Because, if nothing else, it is a showcase of what college athletics folks, in this case, want and need; and at what those out there think they want and need. (Except free booze; always free booze).  It is also an opportunity to identify pain points for college athletics programs, because these businesses should, in theory, help solve a pain point or at least enhance or streamline a strength.

With that in mind, here are eight of the most common solutions and types of vendors I saw pitching their services to the college athletics folks (in digital, in marketing, in development/fundraising, in ticket sales, in operations, in media relations, in external relations…all over) at the 2017 NACDA Conference vendor showcase

Branding companies

Everywhere you turn, there is a new and novel way to propagate your brand. While digital is growing more and more, there is still a lot of faith, and a lot of value, in physical, visual branding. From logos on the carpet to branded accessories to wrapping a bus, and just about anything you can imagine, there is a way to find a branded version for anything, a way to make sure the school’s logo is front and center all over. Colleges are getting more and more savvy and self-sufficient with graphic design, but sometimes you need someone that specializes in pool tables, corn hole boards, or gymnasium floors.

Lockers

You may have heard about the University of Texas football program’s new $10,000 lockers. Not sure there any that ostentatious, but there were plenty of locker companies and displays there that could no doubt make them. Lockers aren’t just a utility anymore, they’re an attraction and a sign of brand and grandeur for a college athletics program looking to impress recruits. It is another cog in the arms race and vendors pitching the latest and greatest and most innovative and visually appealing lockers were not in short supply at NACDA.

Digital / Video

With the proliferation of social, mobile, and digital among fans (and, well, everybody), colleges know they need to have the digital and video capability and output of a colossal conglomerate. Content is key to affect all departments in athletics, and video and digital offers the youngest and largest audience, and the best bang for the literal and figurative buck, in many cases. These companies help hook up complex camera and video / video replay systems, offer streaming solutions across platforms, streamline the transfer of content from phone or camera to social or web, allowing any associate SID to provide amazing content, that gets disseminated, at the drop of a dime. The mind is ahead of the body for some athletics departments – they know what they want to do, but may lack the resources, bandwidth, or knowledge to make it happen. That’s where these guys seek to come in.

Architecture

There’s nothing college athletics loves more than scaffolding. Perpetual construction connotes shiny new facilities or additions, a sign of financial health and progress for their athletics programs. And I was struck by the number of architecture firms specializing in sports facilities seeking to catch the eye of attendees to design their next new buildings funded by the next successful campaigns. There is indeed big business here, and a number of firms were there trying their best to stand out as best-in-class, most trusted, or most creative.

Turf

There were also a handful of artificial turf companies, which seemed fairly indistinguishable. There is still demand for the product and therefore an opportunity to win market share (maybe someone has?) and seek to stand out through innovation, creativity, and/or relationships.

Digital Signage

Screens, screens, and more screens. Society has a surfeit of screens, and there are solutions that want to help fill and organize those screens, and other digital signs of all shapes and sizes. There is opportunity to expose more fans to more content, more marketing, and more sponsors. It’s not easy to serve and organize all the content across those screens, and measure it; let alone come up with the physical signs and screens themselves. Another case of knowing what one can and should be doing, and seeking a solution to make it happen.

Fundraising

Digital has certainly penetrated content, ticketing, marketing, media relations, and operations. But fundraising, a major part of college athletics, have yet, it seems to reach full digital maturation. There weren’t a ton of solutions targeting this space, but there were some. Solutions helping to marry technology, data, and digital with fundraising and donations. This is a unique space that no doubt catches the eye of the development folks there, as these businesses seem to have things streamlined and figured out to make donation via digital both optimized and in compliance with the oh-so-many regulations.

Ticketing

While many can name the major players in ticketing for college athletics, there remains opportunity for a number of smaller players to get a small piece of the pie. Almost every program needs a ticketing solution and there is increasing demand for digital, for mobile, and for data among every one of those programs, of any size.

 

In the end, industries will evolve by seeking to make things better, easier, more successful. The vendors that win the value prop equation and have feasible, actionable solutions will capture college.