Leaders Summit Day 2 Recap: FC Barcelona’s Biz, Sports Sponsors, eSports, & More

In March 2017, Leaders Performance Institute held their annual Leaders Summit in New York, bringing together leaders from the sports business world.

This is a collection of the best quotes, stats, insights, and observations shared via #Leaders17 on Day 2 of the event. Thanks to everyone whose tweets helped fuel this recap!

Check out the Day 1 recap, too.

Episode 85 Snippets: Reva Labbe and ESPN College Football a Fun, Engaging Companion for College Fans

On episode 85 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Reva Labbe, Social Media Producer for ESPN College Football.

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

How EA Sports targets the Right Fans with the Right Content in Social Media and Sports

Not all fans are the same. When devising content, most will go for content that will reach the widest and get those metrics we’re all after. But is it all about the greatest reach and the greatest engagement rate?

On the surface, the answer would seem to be a resounding yes. But when evaluated a bit more, there is the reality that there are different segments of fans. Different segments with different interests, wants, needs, and even optimal outcomes from the perspective of a team or brand.

The ability to learn more about and specifically target these varied groups of fans makes it easier than ever to have a multi-faceted content and engagement and marketing strategy. For a mega sports brand like EA Sports, they know not every fan is a diehard gamer (but some are) and not every is a fan of specific team or player, among so many other differentiating factors. This thoughtfulness goes into their strategy, targeting specific “cohorts” of fans, according to their Senior Social Media Manager, Kurt Stadelman. (listen to my conversation with him)

“We create content aimed at each cohort,” said Stadelman, who oversees the brand’s social media properties, but spent years behind the Madden NFL and Tiger Woods PGA game accounts. “We’ll go into creating a trailer specifically for cohort 3, and then we’ll do another for cohort 1, for cohort 2. We’ll do our targeting when we do paid media….we’ll target these audiences with promoted posts, containing those pieces of content”

It’s about being aware and analytical about the different types of potential fans and customers, and how best to engage them. Each piece of content and social media has a goal, and the goal of each is not the same. By knowing the desired objectives AND the the desired audience, it allows for more effective use of the platforms and better delivery on strategic goals. Not to mention a better experience for fans, too.

Stadelman elaborated on their cohort-focused strategic content. “If we want to target a cohort 1, which is hardcore gamers, the trailer that we’ll use will probably have a focus on the new FIFA Ultimate Team promotion that we have coming up, as opposed to — if you try to target the casual gamer with something like that, they’ll be like ‘What the Hell is a FIFA (or Madden) ultimate team?…”


It’s no secret that there are different types of fans, varying levels of fandom and avidity — across games, across sports. So do something about it. Map it out – can you define your cohorts? Are you delivering the right content and the messaging to serve them? Yes, mind the macro metrics and the biggest KPI wins, but heed your KPIs for each fan segment within your reach.

Some fans want the X’s and O’s, some want the player personalities most, others enjoy the fan community and connection and game day atmosphere, and still others may just be casually looking for a good time or something to do or watch. There are different fans for whom there are different desired outcomes and different paths to get there.

It’s one size fits all. So don’t treat it that way.

Episode 78 Snippets: Ryan Frankson Helps the Oilers Integrate Social Into Everything

On episode 78 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Ryan Frankson, Director of Social Media for the Oilers Entertainment Group

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

15 Sports Biz Things from the 2016 LEADERS Summit

The annual LEADERS Business Summit brings together top global names from sports business and never fails to deliver tremendous insights into the industry. There are remarks on marketing, sponsorship, emerging technology, growing sports, leadership, and more. While I did not attend the London-based event (which included a stop at Stamford Bridge), following along thanks to Twitter revealed some fantastic lessons and themes from the sports biz leaders of today. Here are 15 of them [it’s a quick read, don’t worry!]:

1. Bleacher Report wants to “own sports moments

Sports is the last bastion of consistent live moments, in many ways, and everyone wants a slice. Social media is peppered with graphics, GIFs, videos, and, uhh, “wit” to try and win the Internet, so to speak, during sports moments. Bleacher Report aims, like many, to be unique, and their CEO Rory Brown particularly pointed out how infusing content with animation has been popular. (Clearly, many others are adopting this, too).
Some great stats were shared, too, including that B/R reaches over 200 million people per month, 90% of whom are mobile users.  Even with such lofty numbers, however, monetization remains a challenge. Attention is a strong currency, but a clear pathway to converting that into big dollars is  still evolving.

2. 200 million fans in China watched the NBA Finals in 2016

Perhaps the theme of major pro sports eyeing China for the next infusion of fans and revenue is nothing new,  but it i more a reality now than ever before. This astounding stat illustrates the huge potential there, in addition to the plans and current activities of European football clubs that were discussed at the Summit. There will be more and more media, marketing, content [including AR And VR], and travel to China among all major pro sports.
Globalization is upon us for real this time and teams and leagues are focused on a genuine presence and path in the country. The intentions to engage corporate partners at the local level abroad was made clear and represents a promising way to wade into all markets in the country. Karen Brady, the Vice Chairman of West Ham United F.C., emphasized the need for teams to better understand the audience sponsors are trying to reach. More knowledge on both sides will help all parties involved. A lesson that can apply to any team or league with fans and corporate partners that transcend its domestic, let alone local, fan base.

3. Esports is growing and it’s making money, too

Peter Moore, Chief Competition Officer for EA Sports, offered some impressive data around esports, particularly those of the EA brand (often not as closely associated with “traditional” esports, like DOTA and CS:GO). There are over 148 million esports fans globally, a compelling stat itself. In 2016, 32 million individuals played FIFA 16, the 2nd most popular game in the US. And, upon reporting the FIFA Ultimate Team earned $654 million in revenue, Moore stated “We see it as the future of competitive gaming.” Esports have been around the world a while, but are new in the sports business world.
It’s hard to say what the future of esports looks like, from a business perspective, but there is little doubt it’s here and more is coming as everyone gets their piece of the pie.

4. 37% of people watching esports do not watch traditional sports.

It is surely statistics like this that widen the eyes of those in sports business. It represents the opportunity to reach and capture a new, significant consumer base. This also suggests that there exists the opportunity to convert current sports fans into consumers of esports, too. Esports is having its moment, no doubt.

5. 15% of fans at Superbowl 50 in San Francisco used Uber to get home

It’s hard to get 15% of any group of over 70,000 fans to do anything, but that was indeed the case for the world’s most popular consumer-driven, mobile taxi service. More and more sports and entertainment venues and teams are partnering with Uber, designing their lots to facilitate and streamline the Uber experience, and building an Uber integration into their mobile apps. Uber is a name that will become increasingly ubiquitous for sports and entertainment, as sports business evolves to forsake some parking revenue in the name of fan experience.

6. Sports and music are perfect partners

Another bedfellow for sports business is music. We’ve long heard the idea that athletes want to be musicians and musicians want to be pro athletes, but the industries are becoming ever more intertwined. Particularly salient was the notion of music for esports, let alone on video games and at sports venues and games, representing a great opportunity for growth, like buying a song on iTunes after hearing it on a video game. Music has always been a soundtrack to our experience of sports and esports, and the business side of it all is now catching up to that consumer connection

7. The Process is working for the Philadelphia 76ers…at least off the court

Despite a poor record with the Sixers losing over 81% of their games the last three seasons, ticket sales have TRIPLED in that time. That is stunning and is powered by an enormous sales staff that is the biggest in pro sports in the US, and possibly the world, and what is described as an “inclusive corporate culture.” Staffs can be scaled and sized up, sure, but unless it’s all effective and operating synergistically, it does more harm than good. “Your brand is the sum of your customers’ experiences,” said Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil. Every fan touch point must be evaluated and optimized. While the team endures growing pains on the court, their sales vehicle is already humming.

8. Aim to reach “modern fans”, not a “young audience”

This was an insight that came from the Bleacher Report panel and others. It’s about keeping up with the fans more so than keeping up with the kids. It is important to be innovative, to enhance fan engagement and experiences, but it’s easy to get seduced with a compulsion to follow and adapt what the youngest generation or a specific age group is doing. It’s interesting and important to consider the difference between targeting the “modern fan” vs. the “young consumer” and how that should dictate strategy for anyone in sports business.

9. The Atlanta Hawks are reaching Millennial fans

While the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks have gotten their share of attention for social media strategy and “Swipe Right (Tinder) Night,” they are studying the fans they want to reach, and reacing to their habits. “There are new opportunities in print,” said Atlanta Hawks Chief Creative Officer, Peter Sorckoff. “Millennials now view print as luxury, in-depth reading time.” There is deep engagement happening and teams can aspire to capture this level of attention.
They are adjusting their marketing budget to adjust to the modern fan, too, with 60-70% of their marketing digital, 50% of which is geared to mobile. There are so many more medium to which attention spans are being diverted and the Hawks are staying nimble to find each and every opportunity to grab that attention.

10. Fans won’t adopt new technology right away

Stop me if you’ve heard this before – the 49ers and Levis Stadium are doing technologically advanced things for their fans at games. Their impressive mobile features boast, among other things, the ability to order concessions and have it delivered to your seat, and instant replays from several angles delivered right to your phone. Such features were touted as key contributors to reinvigorating the live attendance experience for fans. Sean Kundu, Vice President, New Ventures for the 49ers and General Counsel for app maker VenueNext shared some stats that showed adoption can be slow. Now three seasons into in-seat delivery and mobile ordering, Kundu said the 49ers are doing a bit under 1,000 orders per game.
There may be a ceiling to how many mobile orders the venue can handle on a given game day, but it has likely not been reached yet. The camera offerings are something thousands of fans and access via their app. And the 49ers impressively deliver replays of every play within 4 seconds. However, under 1,000 fans access any replay each game. There are certainly some valuable lessons to be taken away about what fans want to do at a game .

11. Of 200,000 attendees at the Ryder Cup, 70% activated their RFID wristbands; with fans mostly in the 45-55y/o age range

This information came from Antonia Beggs, Head of Client Relations for the PGA European Tour, and underscores that, in fact, new technology adoption can be accomplished, if introduced and executed effectively. Even with an older fan demographic, by baking in the RFID experience into beginning the event and into organic experiences they would have at the event, they achieved extraordinary activation numbers from the RFID bands. RFID technology has long performed well at PGA Tour events all over the world for a few years now.

12. Per Steve Cannon, CEO of the AMB Group (Atlanta Falcons, Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta United), there is just 3% overlap between Falcons season ticket holders and Atlanta United season ticket holders.

Definitely a compelling statistic here and underscores the under-served soccer market that justifies Atlanta United becoming Major League Soccer’s newest franchise, beginning play next season. It’s no small secret the number of soccer fans in the US is on a growth trajectory and there may exist a wide swath of fans not overtaken by the country’s other major pro sports. Even in a crowded pro sports market in Atlanta (which has all covered, except for an NHL club), Atlanta United has found new sports fans, excited for futbol.

13. The new Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta will be completely digital allowing complete re-branding for every event it hosts.

The proliferation of multi-purpose venues, coupled with the increasing demand for targeted, digital advertising has brought in this innovation and trend. We’ll no doubt see more of it in the future, on TV and in person. Should the same ads be seen at an NFL game as a Taylor Swift concert, a Disney on Ice performance, and a Korn concert? This is a capability and a space in which all parties will have to (and should want to) evolve with the technology.

14.Maverick Carter on the success of Uninterrupted content: “It’s got to be authentic, insightful, and entertaining.”

LeBron James’s longtime manager and confidant, Maverick Carter, offered up the simple statement underlying the LeBron-backed Uninterrupted platform, which hosts streaming video and other media straight from athletes. Sure, it seems so easy, but many would do well to look at their content and really evaluate whether it meets that criteria. Sure, having raw content directly from athletes is not an apples-to-apples comparison, but it’s important to know and establish standards to which your content should be upheld.

15. Brandon Gayle from Instagram, Head of Global Sports Partnerships for Instagram: “Creative without strategy is just art.”.

I thought this statement was equal parts instructive and insightful, with applications across the board.


Thanks again to LEADERS for putting on another fantastic event. For more information on them, visit their website.

Social Media Team Review: Tampa Bay Bucs Embrace the New Tools

Every NFL team trains in the offseason with eyes on the Super Bowl. Finding an edge that’ll get them to the title game. It happens in the other non-playing departments of the organization, too.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been first in a lot of things over the years on digital and social; for example,. when they hosted private Direct Message conversations with players and season ticket holders. This spirit of finding creative new ways to engage their fans was what stood out most in this latest NFL team review, which unfortunately happened to fall on a Sunday when the Bucs were routed by the Cardinals 40-7 in a week two matchup.

Social media, particularly on game day, comes down to fan engagement. And the Bucs leave no stone unturned in identifying things their fans enjoy and want to do, and taking it up a notch. Check out the great page of downloadable GIFs they made available to fans, to GIF their way through a game. They also had a mobile app-based game, and made use of the Facebook frame, which has risen in popularity. It’s a lot easier to be a super fan, when such tools are readily available.

As with many, most of their activity on game day and during the game came via Twitter. They had their own supply of prepared GIFs, all in line with similar look and feel. There is simultaneously value to the brand consistency and staleness in the relative uniformity. They also made use of pregame (some premade, some real-time) hype videos and GIFs. Some of  these were shared on other platforms, too. No Snappy TV highlights, but that may have been because of the lopsided affair.

Continuing the theme of taking advantage of all the tools was the Bucs’ use of the click to tweet Twitter card made available to NFL teams from Twitter. The Bucs exhorted fans to tweet #SiegeTheDay, their official, emoji-laden hash tag. Also notable (and commendable) was their engagement on college football Saturday.

A few other quick, but notable observations: retweets of the beat guys was a primary way to pass on information, in-game polls were good, sporadic use of native vs. linked video, link to live video (as opposed to Periscope). And, looking back at the previous week’s winning timeline, there was a bit more playfulness and engagement. No interaction with fans during the game, for what it’s worth. They also had some score update graphics and, on the winning week, a free shipping sale for merchandise.

While Twitter was where most of the action was, there was a little pregame content on Snapchat. It must be noted that the Bucs were on the road this week, but I do see many teams getting great content, even when on the road. There was a little look around upon arrival at the stadium and a couple peeks at warm-ups. It felt a bit like a PR guy doing his best (commendable), but not the type of incredible content possible on the platform when someone socially dedicated [and with the time do so] snaps a story.

Instagram was also a bit of a check-the-box execution for the Bucs. There was no Instagram Live Story, a bit surprising with just 16 Sundays and being able to upload prepared content. Gotta like the post of the player dressed in their threads en route to the game, and repurposing their hype video. Their close-up of the uniform was creative, though a bit hard to focus on. (IG zoom!) But once the game started, there were just a few Getty photos and nothing that truly wow-ed.

Finally, Facebook was not particularly exciting (granted, a loss). Good to have the hype video to post. After the game, a little native video then linked to a full presser. Similarly, a single photo post linked to a full gallery. Between Twitter and Facebook, the goal seemed to be site traffic over native content consumption, let alone native live platforms like Periscope and Facebook Live. (Including the week prior with the win). Again, their Facebook profile frame is great!

Win-loss, home-away — it’s important to serve fans the content they crave. It’s fueling and feeding passions, whether burning with stress, anxiety, joy, anger, elation. The Bucs are most focused on innovating and augmenting the behaviors their fans are already doing. While still serving up content directly, they empower their fans to amuse themselves and evangelize the team and the brand. They cultivate a community in the macro social world.

There’s no perfect social strategy. The goals remain an engaged, invested audience. You can build super fans. Give them the reason and the tools to do so.