The Art of Pitching for Creative Resources

Today, an investment in digital should be synonymous with an investment in creative. Teams are often loaded with thinkers though and not with the creative power to actually bring the vision to life. The flip needs to switch. Digital teams need way more creators than strategists to make the magic happen.

Early in the digital era people invested because it was an easy and free way to reach people. Between algorithms and a crowded space though, the times have changed. The brands and teams that stand out today are the ones who understand the investment it takes. And this investment goes beyond thinkers – it’s also critical to invest in creators.

Take a step back and think about the brands and teams that stand out to you. Some that come to mind in sport for me include Bleacher Report, South Carolina Football and Miami Dolphins. They stand out because they take a content-first approach. Here’s a glimpse.

 

LA Vibes. #AllStar #BRxLA

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Ready to bring the noise in London! #UKFins

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When I talk to people in the industry though, one of the pain points I hear over and over again is they don’t have enough creative resources to get it done. And over and over again it seems that request for creative help falls on deaf ears.

 


 

Look, I get it. Creative often feels like this intangible piece that’s hard to drive back to the business. Whether you work for a team, a league or a brand, there’s inevitably some kind of bottom line that we’re all driving towards. Creative is crucial though for driving towards the goal — whether that’s revenue, brand awareness or fan engagement. So as you prepare to make your next pitch to leadership, here are 10 things to keep in mind with a little help from Twitter friends.

 

1- Know your audience.

Before crafting the pitch, know your audience. Think about who you are pitching to, whether it’s your boss or another decision maker, and put yourself in their shoes. What are their goals? How is success defined to them? What are they held accountable for?

It’s not about what you care about; it’s what they care about. We all know creative serves a lot of different needs, but you have to focus on what the decision makers care about first and foremost. Mold the message and value to them.

 

2- Map it back to business.

As with any kind of pitch, it’s important to show how the resources will help drive organizational goals forward. The first step is to put yourself in the decision maker’s shoes. But, you should also show the breadth and depth of what creative resources will do. It’s not about checking off one box.

For example, demonstrate how creative can help drive revenue. More resources mean stronger paid campaigns and more buy-in from sponsors. Not only should strong creative generate a higher return on paid campaigns, but it should also elevate the value for sponsors. This is a win for everyone.

Additionally, creative drives engagement. As platforms become more visual and cluttered, it’s even more important to have the right resources in place to tell a compelling story. There is no such thing as a social presence without content. It’s the driving force today. Increase your creative arm power and you’ll increase your engagement. Guarantee.

Revenue and higher engagement are just two of the pieces that creative can impact. Tap into all the ways additional resources will help, from telling a more cohesive story to building a more emotional connection with fans.

 

3- Educate on the process.

Don’t make any assumptions about what people know, especially if the person you are pitching to is not involved in the day-to-day creative process. Sometimes you have to walk people through the process. Use a previous project timeline as an example to show how long it takes to go from concept to execution. Good creative work does not just take an army. It takes time. Press on that.

 

4- Showcase the needs.

The volume of content needs for digital is exponentially more than traditional media – and it keeps on increasing. This is something you have to reiterate over and over again. When you are pitching for more creative, it’s important to show the breadth of needs. This includes the volume of content published by the team and how this will change and / or increase with more help. There are two ways to do this.

First, make sure you track internal requests that come in throughout the year. Showcasing the hours employees work and the projects that aren’t taken on will help build your case.

Second, put together a content strategy and mock calendar to show all that would be created or published if you had additional help. Go as far to denote examples of who would work on what (current staff and new resources) so the person you are pitching to gets a lay of the land. If you can show the need or how the resources will be leveraged, it builds a stronger case.

 

5- Find allies.

As mentioned briefly, creative resources help more than the digital team. They also help sponsorship, ticket sales, etc. Find your allies within the organization and bring them along to build the case. This shows that digital isn’t working in a silo and that these resources will extend far.

 

6- Put on the brand hat.

At the end of the day, digital / social is the front door to a brand. Every team and league should put their best foot forward on the platforms, period. Content should be ownable, unique and the best expression of the brand.

If your creative is not up to par because lack of resources, show don’t tell (as Neil mentioned in a tweet above). Walk the decision maker through best-in-class examples. Compare yours to where it could be. If you have some creative help to mock up where you want to go, do that too.

At the end of the day this about revenue, sponsorship, etc., but it’s also about protecting the brand. Your content and your visual identity should be the best representation of what it stands for. Put the brand hat on.

 

7- Leverage data to tell the story.

There is no arguing against numbers. So when presenting your case, it’s important to leverage the data to tell your story. This includes what has worked and what hasn’t worked.

 

8- Think about hires differently.

It can be hard to get full time headcount. The good news is creative help comes in different forms, so as you’re looking to get the resources you need, don’t be afraid to approach things differently. Whether you build a stellar intern program like Clemson or rely on an army of freelance help, you can still make the vision happen. There are also agencies – like STN Digital, Fox Hammer and UnCommon Thinking – who can serve as a great extension of your team.

 

9- Have a plan A, B & C.

Finally, when pitching for more help you have to keep an open mind. Have an ideal scenario, but also have a plan B, C and D. Building out a dream team takes time and patience. You might not get all the resources you need right away, but slowly and surely, pitch by pitch you’ll get there.

 

10- Keep going.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get a “yes” right away. These things take time. Keep fighting the good fight and demonstrating the why. The rest “yes” will eventually come.

 
Hopefully the points above serve as a guide as you start to think about your pitch. Every organization and leadership team responds to information differently, but one thing is certain, it never hurts to be over-prepared. Build your business case and prep, prep, prep.

What have you found to be successful when pitching for more resources? Share your thoughts below.

Takeaways from the 2018 Super Bowl

The Super Bowl isn’t a holiday for sports fans alone. It’s also a holiday for marketers. One where we get to see how brands – in and out of sports – flex their muscles. From big flashy campaigns to brands trying to hijack the conversation, there is always a lot going on.

This year’s brand bowl had some highs and lows, and of course, insights and lessons. Below are some takeaways from the big game both in sports and even more broadly.

 

For teams, hype matters.

If you’ve read the blog before, you know I’m a big believer in the power of good hype videos. Emotion is one of the most powerful tools we have as marketers. It captures attention and entices people to share because they feel a personal connection to the content.

Throughout the entire playoffs, the Eagles did an incredible job playing into the underdog theme . They leveraged the heightened emotional moment for fans and made the most of it. By delivering content they cared about, they connected with and rallied their fans.

#FlyEaglesFly, @ProFootballHOF style.

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Broad Street is waiting. #FlyEaglesFly

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#FlyEaglesFly

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Takeaway: The hype is real and it matters even more when you’re on the big stage.

 

Emotion is multifaceted.

While I tend to gravitate to the drama of hype videos, it’s important to remember that emotion can be delivered in many different ways. Humor, awe and shock – along with anticipation – can get people to share and pay attention. A great example of the power of humor (and maybe shock) was the NFL’s spot featuring Eli Manning and Odell Beckham.

Nobody puts @obj in a corner. #NYGiants #SuperBowlLII 😂

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Another example of how multifaceted emotion can be is this piece below form the Patriots. It’s a simple but clever creative execution. And, more importantly, how it taps into nostalgia.

Takeaway: While dramatic hype videos are all the rage, don’t forget that there’s power in an array of emotions.

 

Be more human.

One of my favorite philosophies is to “think like a brand, execute like a human”. At a strategic level, we have to focus on what moves the needle for the brand and our objectives. We have to do what’s right for the brand. Protect it, really.

At a tactical level though, we have to figure out how we can execute in a way that feels natural to consumers (while still staying true to our core). The “execute like a fan” part means brands and teams are conversational and transparent, tap into native content and think consumer first.

During the 2018 Super Bowl, the Eagles gave a example of what this means. They signed off their account for the night at a certain point to celebrate and they let fans know. They were human through transparency. Even better though, this was a strategic play. According to their digital team, they made the decision to sign off to give their staff a deserved break. They also knew good content would be buried that night if they kept sharing.

This showed a human side to their account, but it was also a strategic distribution play. THAT is what it means to “think like a brand, execute like a human.” And, judging by the engagement and response, fans appreciated it.

Takeaway: People don’t want to interact with brands that act like robots. If you want to build a true connection, the key is to execute like a human.

 

Brands, stop talking to yourself.

Ever since Oreo dunked in the dark, brands have put enormous internal pressure on themselves. Pressure to be on all the time and everywhere consumers are. Brands force themselves into conversations. They try phony gimmicks. They’re willing to discount their brand voice, visual identity and even sometimes alienate their core audience all for short lived (and not guaranteed) retweets. Too many brand are doing just for the sake of doing.

This year’s Super Bowl was no exception. Brands tweeted just to tweet. They tweeted at each other. So much of the content was stale, expected and didn’t add value. Truly, there was a lot of clutter.

As marketers, need to take a step back and have a hard conversation with ourselves. Is this what success looks like – 20 retweets in hopes of going viral?

Launching a national campaign during the Super Bowl doesn’t mean the content you surround the game with has to be about the touchdowns. The campaign should be so ownable that you don’t have to force yourself into a conversation about football if it’s not relevant to the brand or campaign.

The brands that win are original, authentic and true to their core. They deliver content that is fresh, new and something only they can own. We have to get out of our way and start pushing our thinking.

Don’t engage just to engage. Don’t push just to push. Do it because it’s original. Do it because it will elevate your brand. And, because your consumers will love it. That’s what every brand marketer must strive for.

Takeaway: We need to have a hard conversation on what success looks like. We need to elevate the standards and celebrate strategic and unique thinking. This industry is running in circles talking to itself. Let’s get out of our own way and start to innovate.

 

We have a long way to go with digital.

Every year the Super Bowl is an epic reminder of how far we have to go with true, integrated campaigns. So many brands still drop a spot and walk away. Dropping a spot is not a campaign. It’s checking a box. Not that strategic. An old way of thinking, really.

This year was no exception. Many brands missed the mark with their rollout and content that surrounded the spots. As the examples above showed, much of the live game content was forced (with a few exceptions of course). Additionally, there was little thought given to getting consumers to actually interact and share on behalf of the brand.

Today, distribution and consumer experience is as important as the message. Digital has opened new doors, and we have to push new thinking to make the most of it. Digital gives your work legs. Slice and dice the spot to tease it. Create social-first content (that gasp, is more lo-fi). Leverage digital to create immersive and personal experiences. Think strategically about fan engagement.

Takeaway: To make a dent, brands must surround consumers with a consistent message before, during and long after the game. Take the message and make the most of it. Success today isn’t fueled by one spot. It’s fueled by a strategic, integrated plan that thinks about the consumer first.

 

People have leverage.

People prefer people over brands. I know, the truth hurts sometimes. But this is important to keep in mind as you think about how to distribute content and what tools to leverage. During this year’s Super Bowl, there were several moves that reinforced the idea that people are a key piece to your distribution strategy.

First, the brands that empowered their advocates and stars to share see great engagement and consumption. Why? Because they’re able to deliver their message on a channel that feels authentic. The team at Opendorse stresses this a lot: Today, athletes are the new channels.

Tide was a great example of this during the game, bringing out all kind of star power to join the conversation. And most of the time, this content performed better than the content coming from the brand itself.

Second, don’t forget about consumers. Gatorade ramped up their GIPHY channel for the Super Bowl and it was full of engaging content that consumers want to share. GIFS are so embedded to the platforms we use today, so it’s not about a GIPHY channel, it’s about people sharing on behalf of the brand. This is a smart, smart play for organic and authentic word of mouth.

Takeaway: Don’t hold your content too close. Let your biggest advocates – the ones that are authentic to your brand – share on your behalf. People connect with people. Remember that.

 

The examples and lessons above scratch the surface of takeaways from this year’s Super Bowl. What stood out to you from both brands, teams and beyond? Share your thoughts below.

A Content Strategy Framework

The need to communicate and tell a story online is here to stay. Algorithms happen and our approach to distribution changes, but we still have a need to bring brands to life. That’s why a content strategy is the foundation of a strong social presence.

Too often in social we throw things at the wall. We test and we try, without understanding the why. But this fly-by approach makes it hard to map the work back to meaningful goals.

It’s hard to stop, pause and think in social. It takes a lot of work to put things to paper. But, I’m a big believer in it, especially when it comes to a content strategy. Here’s why.

First, a content strategy gives the work purpose. It starts with an understanding of your organizational goals and cascades off of that. We’re in the business of making fun things; but more importantly, we’re in the business of driving results (whatever that is for the org).

Second, it helps get buy in. When you work as a team to put things to paper, people understand the vision and rally around it. A good content strategy gets everyone from leadership to the team executing aligned. It helps you push back when things don’t make sense because you have a reason for being.

Third, it gives people a box to play in. The best creative happens when you define lanes.

So, what is a content strategy composed of? Every project and need is different for teams, but here are the critical components I like to put to paper when mapping out a plan.

 

Chapter 1 – The Foundation

The foundation outlines what the plan is set out to do, keeping the broader organization in mind. This is where you give a sense of purpose to the work. Normally when I’m working through a strategy deck, the foundation includes:

Goals.
This is as simple as it sounds. What are the goals of the content strategy? Are you trying to tell a more robust brand story? Do you want to build a deeper connection with fans? Typically, the goals outlined are more broad based and long term.

Objective(s).
This is the hard-hitting statement of what you want to accomplish — and it is measurable. So, for example, at the end of the day you want to increase engagement with your fan base. Make this statement to the point and measurable.

KPIs
A plan without key performance indictors is an aimless plan. It’s imperative to put to paper what success looks like. Period.

Consumer.
You can’t build a plan without understanding who you’re talking to. As part of the foundation, it’s important to put to paper your target consumer. And remember, this isn’t demographics alone. It’s also psychographic. Define their attitude, lifestyle and interests – beyond sport.

Current State & Challenges
The current state is a reflection of the current status of the work, both the good and the work in progress. Celebrate, but also be real. After the current state, go into the challenges. What is keeping you from doing the best work possible? Identify where you need help or where you need to pivot. Be ready to address solutions too.

 

Chapter 2 – Content Approach

The next chapter in this journey is where you start digging into your content approach. It’s not your actual ideas, but more about your philosophy to content to guide the ideas.

Guiding Principles
Guiding principles set the approach to your content. They aren’t hard fast rules per say, but they help define your brand and team’s philosophy to content. For example, a guiding principle could be to “lead with emotion”.

Visual Identity
Your visual language is important. Studies have shown that color, shape, etc. help convey emotion. This is the place in your strategy where you pull swipes of inspiration to set the mood for the look and feel. It’s an important piece that can impact the entire tone of the work, campaign, your brand.

Content Pillars
Content pillars are the topic buckets for your content. It’s your thematics. They’re the heart of the matter, really, and should ladder back to organization goals. Every content pillar should convey a message that is important for your team, league or brand. Examples of this might include “fan content, legacy, brand values”.

Platform Approach
A platform approach is a high-level look at how you’ll mold your content ideas for each platform. Essentially, it’s nuances of what works and what doesn’t. Social media content shouldn’t be an all-out blanketed approach. Instead, it’s imperative as marketers that we play to each platform’s strength. There should be synergy to your channels, yes, but the way the content comes to life might be a bit different.

 

Chapter 3 – The Ideas

Now that the foundation is laid, it’s time to get into the fun stuff. The ideas! This next chapter lays out all the franchises or content pieces (at a high level) that you want to produce. Here is what’s included with this.

Map Back to the Pillars
Here you ideate around each content pillar. What unique content can you create to convey the message that’s important to your brand? The ideas can stem from everything to a photo series a podcast to a video series. The sky is the limit really as long as it maps back to what you’re trying to accomplish. As you flush out each content series, be sure to denote the platform and any creative nuances.

What’s Needed To Get It Done
Remember the challenges you addressed earlier? Now you need to tackle those and outline a solution (from a resource and process perspective) on how you can get this done.

 

Chapter 4 – The Distribution

You can’t have a content strategy without a distribution strategy. The last chapter should outline at a high level look at how the content will be distributed. This can be an organic approach and a paid approach.

 
This is just a high level framework of what a content strategy can entail. Every project has different needs, but putting thoughts to paper is critical. It helps define the work, the purpose and the mission. Now the sky is the limit for telling your brand, team or product story. Start strategizing and ideating!

What have you learned from working through a content strategy? I would love to hear your thoughts below!

NFL Postseason & The Power Of Emotion

When we care, we share. This from Jonah Berger, author of Contagious, is one of my favorite lines when it comes to content. In his book, Berger outlines the six reasons why content catches on. And, one of the main prompts to get people to share is emotion.

Emotion is one of the most powerful tools we have as marketers. Whether it’s thrill, awe, empathy or humor, content that evokes emotions connects with the fan in a way that compels them to pay attention. It’s the most important component in creating valuable content.

There is a lot of discussion in the industry about the pivot to video. Some have seen success while others haven’t seen the return. Yes, teams need resources and good talent to create video content that stands out. It’s a more expensive and time-consuming format for sure.

Investing in video content is important. It simply has to be approached the right way. Video content should not be about quantity but about quality. During every pitch, creative briefing or ideation, we have to ask ourselves why the fan would care? It’s imperative we understand why certain things catch on and what evokes human emotion.

During this year’s NFL playoffs, we have seen some great examples of content that evokes emotion. From chill-inducing hype videos to fantastic UGC, below are a few of the pieces that stood out.

 

Panthers – A Powerful Rallying Cry

This video from the Panthers is a fantastic example of storytelling. The thematic “Fight As One” makes their fans feel part of the journey. The video proves a powerful script and strong editing are everything.

 

Bills – UGC With All The Feeling

UGC is hard to do right. It often feels like more of a reward for the fans being featured than the entire audience. But every once in awhile, you come across a gem that shows the true power of UGC. This video from the Bills is one of those. It’s beautifully edited, features powerful voiceover and taps into the sentiments of their team.

 

Jaguars – Creating Good Tension

One thing the Jaguars did really well throughout the playoffs was to tap into the sentiment of the players, team and fans. They weren’t afraid to walk up the fact that the team had a lot of haters and non-believers. And, the tension made for powerful scrips over and over again.

 

Vikings – Capitalizing On The Moment

The Vikings did an incredible job leveraging the emotion of the Minneapolis Miracle to create emotional content. From a raw video of the play to a fantastic montage of fan reactions, the Vikings took advantage of the moment and during the process garnered millions and millions of views.

 

Eagles – They Get Hype

The Eagles have hype down. Period. There’s swagger in every single hype video they put out.

 

These five teams proved throughout the playoffs that the power of emotion is very, very real. As you go about creating content, remember that when fans care they will share. Tap into the emotion of sports. It’s a winning approach.

Three Things To Embrace From The @Raptors

The Raptors have a strong identity in social. Ever since they unveiled their “We The North” campaign in 2014, they have burst on the scene with a solid presence that stands out. They’re a team that understands their brand through and through and aren’t afraid to push the boundaries. In honor of the Raptors’ great work, here are three things to embrace from their approach.

 

Embrace your identity.

The Raptors are a team that have gone through the exercise of branding. They have laid a foundation for what their brand stands for and it shine through online.

The core of their branding starts with the idea of “We The North”. It’s the embrace of everything uniquely Canadian. It taps into what makes their team different – the only NBA team outside of the US – and makes it a proud point of differentiation. The video below sets the whole tone:

The idea of the North has a bit of an edge. It’s about embracing being an outsider. It’s about something only the Raptors can own. And, it’s worked. The North has turned into a rallying cry, a passion, maybe even a bit of a cult following.

What strikes me most is the team has brought to life their identity by firing on all cylinders. North is about more than a slogan. Their brand comes together through strong messaging, a visual identity, a tone, strong creative / content, values, an emotional connection. They’ve built an identity and a culture for their fans.

 


 

All too often we talk about brand in a one dimensional way. For some teams, it’s about a strong understanding of their values. For others, it’s simply about words or a strong visual identity. It’s hard work to be deliberate about everything that defines a team’s identity. The Raptors are an example of the total package.

How does your team want to be perceived? Do the work and execute on it.

 

Embrace access.

The Raptors have invested in a strong identity alone. They have invested in a strong content strategy that allows fans to connect with the team and brings their brand to life.

One of the things that stands out about their approach is their commitment to giving fans access. Through their series Open Gym, they give fans a behind-the-scenes look at the journey of the team on and off the court. Episodes highlight everything from overcoming injuries to personal moments. Below are a few snippets, including one of a player becoming a father for the first time.

S6E12 – Choices. #OGSeasonVI Open Gym pres by Bell now live on YouTube.

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Open Gym is a reality series that helps fans build an emotional connection with the team and leaves them coming back for more. It’s this all access and the raw emotion that is key to its success. Watch the full series here.

Another strong example of access from the Raptors is their new series The Spot, where ball meets food culture. The series gives fans a personal look at players’ favorite restaurants.

People and personalities help build a strong connection to teams. In this crowded sports space, intimate access is something unique only teams can provide. Take this page from the Raptors and you’ll build a deeper connection with your fan base.

 

Embrace partners to elevate content.

Sponsored content is an opportunity to elevate your presence. When teams move beyond slapping a logo on a score graphic and focus on finding the common themes with their brand and partners, magical things happen. Content gets created that is valuable for the team, the sponsor and the fans.

The Raptors are a great example of a team that has leveraged partners to elevate their content. Their sponsored content is anything but ad-like; it’s entertaining and often puts players in a fun and different light. Below are a few highlights.

Who wouldn't want a cake from a 3-time All-Star! Coach is lucky.

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It’s important to push partners, internally and externally, to hold sponsored content to a high standard. It should enhance the team’s social presence. The content should be something the team wants to push out; not something they want to bury. Creating content that is elevated like this comes with a price tag and a commitment to doing it right. Know the value of your channels and push back or walk away when something is not right for the brand.

 
From their strong identity to their intimate access, the Raptors set the bar high. What stands out to you about their presence?