Preston McClellan is helping to grow the PGA Tour through players, content, and experiences

On episode 111 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Preston McClellan, Senior Brand Marketing Manager for the PGA Tour.

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

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

The Redskins are Honing Their Digital and Social Content with Analytics

Remember the Internet before data? Even the old-school traffic counters, while no doubt lending a bit of social proof, seemed more novelty than anything else.

And then came Facebook likes, YouTube views, Retweets, email opens, page visits, time spent, video completions, ‘reach,’ and, well a lot more.

There’s so much data and so much knowledge to be gleaned from this content and engagement data that sports teams could hire a full-time position just to analyze it. And, in fact, many have. The Washington Redskins are one of those organizations and I recently had the chance to pick the brain of Geoff Blosat, the Digital Media Analyst for the Redskins, about the monumental task that he faces every day – making sense of tens, hundreds, thousands, and even millions of data points coming from all of the Redskins trackable fan touch points and content.

It’s not just about a top ten list for the content team to view each day and even a general performance report for the marketers and sponsorship team. It’s about what comes next. The best coaches look back at the previous game to inform what they’ll do for the next game. Blosat realized the power of information to inform Redskins strategy early on, and it solidified his belief and enthusiasm or his role.

“In one of my weekly reports, I came up with this article series idea,” said Blosat, who has been with the Redskins since 2015. “And I remember that first week, it was our #1 article on Redskins.com. And it’s really nice that we’ve been trying a lot of new things with data…with measuring results.”

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So as you review the reams of content, don’t just stroke your chin and pat yourself on the back – be reactive when an insight is discovered. And don’t limit it to just the next Facebook post. It can inform ad creative and messaging, content series, in-game content and promotions, sponsored social and digital content, email marketing content and creative, and so much more.

But it’s one thing for Blosat and those in his role across sports organizations to analyze digital and social media to discover insights. The communication is the key. One must take into account to whom they’re speaking, what matters to them, and how the data or insight can inform their previous or next moves. Making it digestible and making it a conversation and not a prescription are also essential elements, said Blosat.

“It can get overwhelming at times because there are so many data touch points (with fans)…But the biggest thing with data is when you create insights and look into results is (to) understand what’s most important that you’re communicating,” said Blosat. “And once you realize what’s most important – those two, three actionable insights — that’s what you go and run with.”

Don’t write a book with every report – it’s no secret attention spans are shrinking these days (you mean you’re still reading this?!), but instead, as Blosat suggests, break into down into just two or three ‘actionable insights.’ The Redskins’s devotion to data is part of a league-wide interest in assuring it’s teams know which content is performing on which platforms. The NFL actually makes a good amount of data available to all its clubs, and Blosat doesn’t let tunnel vision on the Redskins platforms get in the way of him paying attention to macro trends.

“If a team is, say, really over-indexing in article views on their website, [then I will] take a look at (their most popular content)…,” said Blosat while noting that, when thinking about audiences, one must consider how audiences (and audience traits) differ by team, by location, and by platform. “They could be trying something that we haven’t done, or something we’ve thought about doing in the past…”

On the field and the court, coaches and players are making data-drive decisions every pitch and every play. It doesn’t mean you need to do a 180 on your strategy because of one piece of content that breaks the mold. But it does mean you should be thinking actively when it comes to data, communicating what it means, and getting better on all platforms.

Iterate success, ask questions, find answers, repeat. Blosat and the Redskins are drawing up a smarter playbook. It’s the new, better way of doing content. Or say the data suggests.

[Listen to my conversation with Geoff Blosat]

Sports Media Adapting to the Modern Fan

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Sports media outlets used to be just about content. The games on the channels were more important than the networks broadcasting them. It’s not like consumers had a plethora of choices from which to get their sports content in the past.

But that has all changed. It’s no longer just ESPN and the local paper. Or even a half dozen sports content websites. It’s thousands upon thousands. So how do the big guys maintain their place at the top of the mountain, particularly in the free-for-all world of digital and social?

They build brand.

Cultivating a brand, and having an active brand presence on every platform on which fans are consuming is an increasingly important concern for players in the social media game. These notions were recently elucidated at the annual Sports Business Journal World Congress of Sports, held April 20-21, 2017 in Dana Point, CA. (Check out a recap)

“SportsCenter is not a show, it’s a brand,” said ESPN Executive Vice President of Programming and Scheduling Burke Magnus. “It lives online, social, mobile, our OTT [over-the-top] apps.”

ESPN has long been more than just a set of TV channels, and nowadays they recognize the need to be that omni-channel brand that fans know and trust. As the cable paradigm continues to diminish, too, sports media brands like ESPN know it may be a direct-to-consumer play, not protected by the bundle.

President of Turner David Levy emphasized the need to ‘control platforms’ and not to dice up the distribution, especially in sports. Appreciating the shift in the ways fans are consuming content was a central motif of the conference’s opening panel. Michael Neuman, Executive Vice President, Managing Partner, Scout Sports and Entertainment – ‎Horizon Media, noted in a tweet: “[The] Biggest theme of opening panel is “decentralization” of media consumption and inability of youth to embrace current delivery.”

So how are sports media businesses seeking to combat this conundrum? Build a unique brand, of course.

For Turner and Levy, it means serving a cross-section of the interests of their fans, earning more of their attention every day. “The definition of a network is changing,” stated Levy, specifically speaking about Turner’s brand now including Bleacher Report. “The future of B/R is a cross between sports and culture (music, fashion) and maybe live games.”

Perhaps the best manifestation of finding success with a unique brand in sports media is Barstool Sports. Their irreverent, authentic, informed, unfiltered take on sports stories and content has found some startup success in an increasingly crowded sports marketplace. They’ve done it by letting the punch line that are Internet takes and memes drive much of their hyperbolic content.

“We are SNL [Saturday Night Live] if it were born out of the Internet,” said Erika Nardini, CEO Barstool of Sports: “We have the fan base and loyalty…

“Brand has to be part of the conversation.”

The lesson lies in the fact that fans are no longer coming straight to you in droves. Consumer have so many choices for content and their attention must be earned; you’ve got to make yourself easy to reach and then you’ve got to them want to come to you.

4 Years of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast: Key Lessons from the SMSports Pros, Part 9

It has been a privilege and a pleasure to attempt to cull down insights and wisdom gained from over four years and 100+ episodes of the Digital and Social Media Sports podcast. The learning is a never-ending process, there is more innovation and experimentation and change happening daily, and all we can do is keep up, enjoy the ride, and navigate this wild but fun world together.

See part 1 herepart 2 here, part 3 herepart 4 herepart 5 herepart 6 herepart 7 here, part 8 here, and stay tuned for the consolidated e-book!

  • Creating emotional connections between fans and players is powerful

    It’s always powerful to hear about content and campaigns that transcend the game. Content that fans connect with on a deeper, emotional level. It’s not easy to produce and takes earning trust and buy-in from the team and the players. The best way to do that, I’ve learned, is to clearly communicate what  you’ll be doing and why and to let the athlete dictate, at times, some of the creative direction. The social media pros that have had success here have that connection with players and have earned that trust. They help all sides realize that everybody is on the same team, with mutually beneficial, and intersecting, goals in mind.

  • If fans don’t engage with your content, they’re engaging with somebody else’s

    There is still a lot of strategy revolving around the tune-in. But there sure is a lot of content consumption happening on digital and social channels and the days of only saving your best stuff for the linear broadcast are ebbing, if not over. But fans want content before, during, and after the broadcast, they want the content that isn’t always candy-coated. A sometimes divisive theme over the years has been the conflict of wanting to drive fans to specific channels versus offering content on any preferred channel (and packaging it properly). It can sometimes mean challenging an executive or a traditional way of thinking, but FOMO typically wins out in the end.

  • Look for insights that come with the wins and the losses

    While it particularly stood out in a conversation with Washington Redskins Digital Media Analyst Geoff Blosat, a compelling insight that has arisen in conversations over the years has been to learn from the tougher times. Learn from the good times, too, of course, but the different atmosphere around a fan base after a loss can often reveal what keeps their attention and affection, regardless. Experiment, find positive emotions and reinforce their devotion to the team. No matter what tactic a team takes, and no strategy is necessarily the right nor the same, it’s important to look at the data – not just from the big ones with the big metrics, but the ones that stand out, too, even in the down times.

 

  • Content that follows fan interests

    Social media can be a place to cultivate a community, but also to learn from the community. Be aware and proactively listen. What are fans talking about, retweeting, commenting on the most, reacting to? Remember that social media can be your free focus group. Don’t take everything on social media as gospel, but it is a direct channel to fans and a place to discover what fans are saying and thinking about you, the team, the experience, and the brand.

  • Make the most of all of your content. All of it

    One of the best and most interesting evolutions of social media over the years has been he rising popularity of raw, previously cutting room floor content. The side stuff, the making of the polished story, the in-the-moment video that is captured and shared seemingly on a whim. Another area to watch in this ecosystem is trying to maximize the value of great content, including amplifying an Instagram Story, or developing something that starts serendipitously on social media into a wider, multi-channel theme or campaign.

  • Creating evergreen videos often needs to be a puzzle built with pieces

    There’s a lot of content created in the moment, but also a lot of content in the can for future use. And the best content creators make the most out of everything they have, while also remaining ready to pivot on a dime and react to news or changes. I’ve been able to have some fascinating chats with pros specializing in video for digital and social and in-game. If a player gets traded, if marketing wants to promote a certain player, if you want to able to re-package content – it can help to create content in an organized, cohesive manner, where pieces fit together, but can also be repurposed apart and inter-changed.

  • Not all content should look produced

    So many times we’ve heard on the podcast about creating content for platforms, and knowing what fans expect there and how people use the platform and speak on it. The best put in the effort and do not just press send simultaneously to fire content to a number of places. And a polished piece of produced content isn’t always what fans want. It should look like it belongs there. And as we simultaneously serve so many different channels, it’s important to remember how content is supposed to look here, and deliver it.

  • Different platforms require different measures of success

    Engagement rate, views, shares. These terms comprise common KPI’s for social media and sports pros, but a key insight emphasized to me by some of smartest pros over the years is that measurements across platforms are not apple to apples. A view on YouTube vs. web vs. Facebook or any other channels is not the same thing or same level of engagement, and it would be foolhardy to treat it as such. Comments on Facebook and Instagram are not the same thing as replies on Twitter. Screenshots on Snapchat, quote tweets, retweets, snapbacks, and, well, there is a lot of metrics out there and, while all agree it’s essential to measure social media, it’s just as important to understand the context of the metric, and to allow it to inform strategy and content appropriately. I’ve heard many definitions of engagement over the years – there is no single magic metric.

  • The value of benchmarking your social media content

    With all that said in the above point on data, another compelling idea brought up has been benchmarking. That doesn’t mean going by the book with every eMarketer report, especially in the unique world of sports and social, but it does mean one can and should benchmark against their own content (and the content and success of one’s peers). Sports is often a work of routine, but if you can tweak some variables each week, as you go through the next routine, you can really get actionable insights about what’s working, what’s not working, and what adjustments are moving the needle in the right direction, and therefore worth iterating or building upon. If there’s one goal we can all share, it’s to beat yourself every day and every week on social media, set new records, and find new things that work.

  • Making sure fans get quality when they come to you and your content every day

    The consumer is in the driver’s seat now more than ever, and the paradigm isn’t reverting back anytime soon. With so many posts in the feed, so many videos to watch, stories to swipe through, and content to click, fans are making economic decisions as they decide whose content to engage with. This not only means there is a need to make fans want to come to you, but also to make sure, when they do decide to look at your content, the experience is always awesome. Go mediocre once, or worse, and that weighted variable in the equation with which fans sub-consciously decide what to do with their time, whose content is worth clicking on, can decrease. Many feel the compulsion to post something always, to not forego reach. But the long-terrn must always be considered. Give fans crap once and many may never come back.

  • Always coming back to content fans want

    There is no content that falls into the compulsory category anymore. Users have too many choices and more power over what they consume. Most pros that work in the space develop an intuition for content and for how their fans will engage with, or not engage with, content. But when all content – every post, every graphic, every video – meets the standard of content fans want to see and not content they have to see in order to get the good stuff – that’s a win for everybody, and the new standard today. A key question I’ve heard again and again is whether this content is quality, and understanding fans will sniff out the crap.

 

After all the conversations, all the lessons learned, the deep dives and real-life anecdotes, it all just comes back the fans. If it’s using a specific platform, creating a content campaign, integrating or activating a sponsor, imagining a game experience, one will always be steering in the right direction if the answer is yes to the question of is this the best thing for the fan? Something they would want or enjoy? The trick is to be brutally honest, and not let bias or a gut feeling gone wrong get in the way. And to be a student of it all, to obsess over every ways a fan touches the team and the brand, and how to enhance it and deepen it. A constant curiosity has led me to dive into the generous and smart social media and sports community to pursue this podcast and the incredible interviews I’ve been lucky enough to do and people it’s been a privilege to meet.

Who knows where we’ll be four years from now. But I can guarantee we’ll still be obsessing over the fan. There will be more creative content, more knowledge about what fans want, a higher standard for innovation and execution, and the acceleration will only continue. All we can do is share more, have more conversations, connect with others, and do something that matters every day. That’s the best kind of engagement.