Richard Clarke Offers Insights Into Building a Successful Content Strategy for Sports Teams

On episode 112 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Richard Clarke, Sport Digital Consultant and Speaker, formerly with Arsenal and the Colorado Rapids, among others.

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.

Posted by Neil Horowitz

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For Sports Teams and Organizations – Who Owns Mobile?

It’s no secret fans and all consumers are spending more and more time on mobile. They’re on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram. They’re taking selfies and recording videos. They’re texting and messaging friends and family. They’re checking email and checking scores and news. They’re shopping. They’re swiping. They’re opening push alerts. They’re interacting and engaging.

Breaking news: The ability to call someone is pretty far down the list of uses of the phone for fans.

But it’s that versatility that makes it so difficult for teams and athletics programs to get a handle on it all. Who should own mobile? There is no right or wrong answer, and the real answer is that almost everyone has a stake in it.

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I’ve had the privilege of working with several dozen organizations on their mobile strategy, with their mobile app. (Not everyone has their own app, of course). And it never ceases to amaze me that the where mobile resides in the organization varies a ton across the board with the teams, venues, live events, and college programs.

For some, the same person running social media is put in charge. Others reside in marketing. Then there’s those with whom it resides with business operations, with content, with a dedicated digital manager, and even the multimedia management rights companies that work with colleges will often run things or a grad assistant will take the helm from Athletics.

Because so much can happen on mobile, it’s so important to get everyone in the organization together, to get on the same page, to use a cliche. The sales and marketing person wants to get promotions out in a personalized, timely manner; to reach those engaged eyeballs. The social media team wants to drive active engagement, along with the game/event operations. Ticketing has a role with mobile being the primary way for many to manage their tickets, buy them, transfer them ,and present them on game day. Partnerships know that active and attentive fans are good fodder for valuable sponsor activations. The content team needs to mind mobile and use it to amplify what they’re producing. Media relations wants to make sure all the stats, schedules, and stories are right. Broadcasting makes sure their video and audio is easily accessible for mobile fans. Those overseeing the brand and design must make sure it all looks and feels aligned with all of the other platforms. And of course, there is a huge service and fan experience element to it all.

That was a long paragraph for a reason. It’s quite a crowd when you put together all the voices that need a say in a mobile presence and mobile app.

Social media is probably the closest analogue, and its rise from different departments across different organizations is not dissimilar from what mobile is going through right now. Everyone needs to make sure they have their say, but they’re not sure who tell it to, who is in charge. It’s a new channel for which the org chart was not designed.

It wasn’t exactly figured out in social media; what happened was social media became so big and important that full-time roles were established to oversee the platforms, and work with others to maximize it. Will the same happen to overseeing and maximizing how fans interact, engage, transact, and manage on mobile?

We’ve long since graduated from mobile strategies to just strategies for a world that is now majority mobile, with no turning back. So where does mobile fit in your organization? It may be a question worth considering and a conversation worth having.

Mark Burns Summarizes What Sports Business Experts Think of VR, AR, OTT, esports, and more for 2018

On episode 110 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Mark J. Burns, founder of Sports Business Chronicle.

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.

Posted by Neil Horowitz

Follow me on Twitter @njh287 Connect on LinkedIn

Brandon Steiner Knows the Path to True Fan Engagement is Making it Personal

On episode 109 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Brandon Steiner, Founder and CEO, Steiner Sports.

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.

Posted by Neil Horowitz

Follow me on Twitter @njh287 Connect on LinkedIn

Authenticity and Crafting Narratives Can Carry Sports Content

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The volume of stories and the ways with which to tell them is only increasing. For many in sports, this is an opportunity. While some may avoid the always-on, highly scrutinized, no holds-barred nature of new media, the savvy embrace it, and run with it. This theme peppered the chatter at the 2017 Sports PR Summit, held at the Players Tribune in May. A few key topics that arose included the ability for athletes to create and tell their own stories, the NBA treating social media like a grown-up, and ESPN’s venerable Tom Rinaldi dropped some memorable quips on storytelling.

Athletes can be and want to be more than just their sport

When scores, highlights, and the usual quotes are easy to come by, it’s the stuff that shows fans a little about players off the field that can win and differentiate. There is increasing demand for fans for such content and teams and media are answering it.

“People want to know athletes are real people and they can relate to them,” aid Mary Byrne, Senior Deputy Editor/Daily Coverage for ESPN.com.

Social media has given fans a window into the lives and personalities of their favorite athletes. And the media isn’t blind to the fervor with which fans treat an Instagram post or Tweet from an athlete showing a bit of their life off the field or their personal thoughts, in general. For Brian Cohen, Talent Producer for Good Morning Football on NFL Network, social media feeds are a producer’s dream – offering not just clues,but clear signs of an athlete’s interests and of which athletes are vocal and, well, out there.

“We dig deep into the feeds of athletes to find who they truly are…their interests, community involvement,” said Cohen. “The more open they are, the more likely we are to invite them to the show to share their story.”

A panel of athletes confirmed these sentiments later on; more and more recognize and appreciate that the paradigm has shifted. That they no longer need the media to get a thought or a story out there. Former NBA player Etan Thomas said as much, noting that social media outlets allowed athletes like him to go past the writers and media and to tell their own stories to fans.

An interesting insight that was shared via one of the athletes, NFL star DeMarcus Ware, was the need for trust. Ware, who said he picked up upon the importance of trust, from the lessons at the NFL’s broadcast boot camp. When athletes trust the media or the team or the reporter to be genuine, to be true to the story – that’s the way it should e.

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Why the NBA has thrived with new media

Many sports have done well to embrace social and digital media, but the NBA is typically the one held up as firing on all cylinders. It’s not by accident. It is largely thanks to the leadership of Commissioner Adam Silver, who, well, ‘gets it.’ The league appreciates that social media is something to be embraced, not shunned or feared. It is an opportunity the NBA seizes to be their own media, to speak with an increasingly discerning fan base.

“You can no longer rely just on the traditional media outlets to get your story told,” said Silver in an excellent interview. In telling their story, Silver knows the NBA can’t use smoke and mirrors, but must be genuine. “Fans have pretty good BS detectors” he said. “So you have to be authentic.”

Silver went on to note that the league staffs social media 24/7, to engage fan all around the world at all hours. In keeping with the theme of being proactive, and not reactive or fearful, Silver has led the NBA to not just turn a blind eye to fans using game highlights, but to even encourage it (and the NBA has certainly facilitated so).

The NBA permits ‘liberal’ use of highlights and puts their protective efforts into their live game feeds. It’s not that the league has given up on protecting highlights. Qutie the contrary, they don’t see a need to ‘protect’ highlights – they are helping to promote the league and facilitating fan-generated content that markets their sport and their league.

Said Silver – “Our view on highlights – it’s in our interest to get them out there.”

Sports media is everywhere. The league is a form of media, the reporters and newspapers and TV partners are media, and, yes, the fans themselves are media. Silver is savvy enough to realize that the enormous proliferation if NBA media is nothing but a good thing.

“It’s important to us and our leagues that the sports media thrives,” said Silver. The more bloggers, the more reporters, the more sick edits there are, the more interest and content that is out there that is promoting the NBA. Want to know why the NBA has thrived on social media? Look no further than Silver and his mature look at the landscape, understanding it’s something to be fostered, not feared.

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The best stories create an emotional ride

You’ve likely seen a Tom Rinaldi feature story on ESPN. And, if so, you’ve likely smiled, cried, and felt a surge of inspiration of joy. It all probably happened during the same story. Rinaldi seemed to blow the conference as he talked about the science of story. The ESPN legend invoked the undulation of a wave to hammer home what draws one into a story, and takes them through the emotional swings of the his well-crafted tale.

“The key to stories is waves, not lines,” said Rinaldi. “Highs and lows vs. just a box score.”

Rinaldi enumerated his keys to a story. First, one must build a sense of expectation and anticipation – there has to be that waiting for the payoff. A good story also reveals a new understanding. The surface-level box score gives way to a greater understanding of the subject matter as the story ensues. Finally, Rinaldi said a good story reveals a ‘transcendent’ fact. That’s the wow moment. The finale of a Rinaldi roller coaster and the keystone for a strong story.

Sports drives more compelling stories than the pen of even the most gifted authors because it has all the elements – exciting action, peaks and valleys, and real humans who just happen to be able to do superhuman things in their sport. Take a cue from the lessons learned at this past year’s Sports PR Summit. Do what’s right. Be on the right side of history. Build trust, be authentic, don’t be the bad guy or the untrustworthy guy, and invite and tell stories that make fans feel.

PR used to be a bit too much about smoke and mirrors. But today it is so much more. There are fans sharing stories, players telling theirs, and leagues who no longer stand in the way, but can be on the same team. It’s a game everybody can win.

[See a Sports PR Summit Recap here]

Darren Rovell on Why Raw Video is What’s Now and Next in Social Media and Sports

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In a recent wide-ranging interview conducted by CBS Sports’s Seth Davis, ESPN Sports Business Reporter (and frequent Twitter user) Darren Rovell was asked about what he thinks is next in sports and social media. I appreciated what he articulated and is a good reinforcement on what teams themselves it can continue to do — to find the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary. Check out the excerpt below:

“It’s raw. It’s raw stuff. It’s instead of a camera and the standard sit-down interview, it’s raw stuff from phones. ..People want stuff that is raw, and in places that they can’t get. The press box might be dead, but when I was in Wrigley Field (for the first regular season game for the Cubs after their World Series win), I was with my phone as Theo Epstein made his way to his seat and was completely mobbed. That’s what people want to see; they want to be behind the scenes…

That’s one of the products that I’ve helped push and report out (for ESPN) – this kind of on-the-scene thing where people want to see something that is handheld, raw, immediate, and something that feels like they are there. If I’m a Cubs fan and I can’t get to Wrigley [Field], how can I put out video immediately that makes me feel like I’m at Wrigley? So I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time…thinking about places to be, and how to execute that.

And it’s very difficult, because, I think for a long time, I had always thought (that) you happen to catch something going on when you’re walking to your seat or something else and then it turns into gold. And I’ve seen that on my social media feed. I’m at an event for one reason and I catch something else and that becomes the star [sic] of the night. But with this stuff, the behind-the-scenes stuff, you think it requires no preparation because it just kind of happens spontaneously. And I’ve found that you have to block the day out in a way that it’s harder than if you’re going to write a story or have TV hits.

We’re learning this and that’s one of the things that I feel is the future. Raw, immediate, and behind-the-scenes.”

Listen to the full interview here.