Stepping Up the GIF Game

Early uses of GIFS for teams and leagues was limited to pop culture GIFS and reaction moments. Teams and leagues didn’t look at GIFS as content to create, but more as an opportunity to pull from existing footage to emphasize reactions. Slowly and surely though, the social media and sports industry is seeing the value of GIFS far beyond reaction content. Teams/leagues are using their own footage and creating unique GIFS that are 100 percent on brand.

I’ve been really impressed with all the different uses of GIFS so far this football season and have compiled some of the best to serve as inspiration. Before we get into examples though, keep these four things in mind when creating GIFS:


No. 1- Pick your moments.

While I love great GIFS, I think you can overuse them. Take the time to think through a strategy for your GIFS and figure out the moments where you can use them for the greatest impact. GIFS are a treat and not an every tweet thing.


No. 2- Avoid redundancy.

I love how teams have started to use GIFS to enhance their play-by-play coverage. That said, it gets extremely redundant using the exact same GIFS over and over again. If you plan GIFS for certain moments (like touchdowns, interceptions, etc.), consider creating several options to pull from so you can mix it up. GIFS can absolutely be repurposed and used again, but there’s a fine line before the content gets boring.


No. 3- Find the humor in YOUR brand/team.

Teams often look to find humorous GIFS outside their team, but humorous GIFS can be really powerful when they teams leverage their own footage to give us a laugh. Need an example of funny, team content that would work great as a GIF? This one will do the trick. Take the time to go through football and find those funny moments you can splice and dice.


No. 4- Focus on cadence.

GIFS work well on Twitter because they’re short, sweet and quick. If you go about creating graphic-heavy GIFS, make sure the cadence is quick enough to grab and keep your fan’s attention. The cadence is a bit art and science, but play around with the length and movement to understand what works best.

Now that you have these four tips in mind, it’s time to get inspired. Below is a collection of some of the best GIFS I have seen so far this football (NFL and college) so far this season. Enjoy!









Have you seen any stellar GIFS this season that I missed? Share them below!

Thanks for reading! 

#SMSports Highlight Reel: Michigan Football

In case you missed it, this is a new series on the blog that highlights quick, winning hits from teams or leagues from a social and digital perspective. The first post was about the Oakland Raiders. Next up? Michigan (specifically football).

I’ve admired Michigan’s social media presence for the beginning of this blog. One of my first Q&A’s was about their strategy, and year after year they continue to raise the bar.  Michigan is one of the programs that knows their brand through and through. The athletic department always has great graphics, content and approach to social.  And, this football season they are already winning with their GIFS, game photos and storytelling ability. Here are my three #smsports plays from Michigan Football recently:


No. 1- Short & Sweet Video Content.

Michigan Football released a couple videos leading up to the season that tapped. The video series tapped into the emotion of the program and all were short and sweet (less than 30 seconds).  The video length works well for Twitter and Instagram where fans will move on quickly. Take a look at some of the videos below:

We are so close to another GameDay. #GoBlue

A video posted by Michigan Athletics (@umichathletics) on


The Team. The Team. The Team. #GoBlue

A video posted by Michigan Athletics (@umichathletics) on


I love these videos because they prove it’s possible to tell a good, emotional story in short bursts.  When thinking about a series like this, it’s important to think about the theme for each video and how they will all tie together. Keep the ideas short and sweet. If you have less than 30 seconds to tell the story, it shouldn’t get too complicated.


No. 2- A Fan Focus.

It’s important to take time for fans. They are the pulse of your community and what keeps it going. A happy community is an engaged community; take time for them. Michigan takes time for their fans, whether they are thanking hem for their support through content or bringing fans’ tweet into their story.

Small gestures for fans go a long way. And, when you put in the right prep work, don’t have to be too time consuming. Make it a priority to put your fans front and center at certain moments. Focusing on your fans is essential.


No. 3- A Good Pulse on the Moment.

A huge part of working in social media and sports means being the eyes and ears of your fans. What content can you offer to bring them into the moment? What’s extraordinary in the ordinary? Capture content that will bring your fans chills, excitement, awe and emotion.

Michigan Football has a great pulse on the moment. They don’t overload their fans with content, but pick and chose stellar moments in time to highlight for their fans. They’ve got a great pulse on what’s going on before during and after the games. It’s quality, not quantity.

The bottom line is this: Find the strong moments that make for power highlights instead of going into content overload.


Extra Point: Transparency

When the Michigan Football, Michigan Basketball, and Michigan Athletics Facebook pages were hacked, the athletic department joined forced with university relations to give a great case study on what they learned from the hack. The transparency was phenomenal and an opportunity for all of us to learn. Read the case study here.




What do you stands out to you about the Michigan Football’s social? Share your thoughts below!

Thanks for reading! 

Letting Fans Get To Know Players

Creating content that helps your fans get to know players on a personal level beyond the scores and stats is important. Off-the-field stories and facts help humanize players and make them relatable to fans. If fans feel a personal connection to a player, they might be more likely to share content and pay attention. After all, stories about people and human interests tap into emotion.

There are many ways to help your fans get to know players through content. From simple graphic to more robust videos, the opportunities are endless. I’ve compiled a list of ideas to help get the ball rolling.

No. 1- Get to Know “Infographics”

Several teams have created fantastic graphics that call out the likes and interests of their athletes. Graphics that are easy to consume and don’t need scrolling are key. Let the visuals tell the story of the athlete’s facts. Below are some great examples from simple name intros for rookies to more robust infographics:


No. 2- Music

Music moves us all and is a great way to connect fans with players. Find ways to highlight your athletes’ favorite playlist, the song that motivates them, etc. Here are a few good examples of teams leveraging music to build a more personal connection:

Five days out. Here's number 5, G-Hop, with the Lil Wayne #CULyrics selection.

A photo posted by Clemson Football (@clemsonfb) on





No. 3- Through the Words of Teammates

Sometimes it’s hard to get people to talk about themselves in a genuine way (after all, it can be awkward). For a fun, fresh perspective enlist teammates and coaches to help fans get to know the team. Here are some varying examples of what this can look like.

Members of the 2014-15 Oklahoma men’s basketball team participated in a 22-question player poll, supplying the name of a teammate for various categories. Oklahoma then featured the superlatives on in a fun visual. Not only is the idea fantastic, but the photos do a great job representing the student-athletes. View it here.

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More Likley
For media day, the Mountain West Conference did a fun series with players that asked who more likely to do x. The banter the questions create back and forth makes for fun content.

Teammate Talk
Purdue Volleyball has a series called “Teammate Talk” where fans get to know players through the eyes of their teammates. It’s a fun angle that can be executed easily.


No. 4- In Their Own Words

First-hand accounts that tell an emotional story go a long way. If you want athletes to tell their own story, find the emotional angle and go beyond a talking head. Great b-roll paired with emotional voiceover helps paint the full picture.

Indiana has launched a campaign this year called #ImAHoosier that chronicles five student-athletes. It’s a great example of showing the full journey , in student-athletes own words, beyond the stats and scores. You can follow the campaign here.


This post only scratches the surface of how you can help fans get to know your athletes. Just remember, there are so many stories to tell about the people behind the uniforms… tell them.




What good examples have you seen of teams and leagues helping fans get to know players and athletes?


Thanks for reading! 

#SMSports Highlight Reel: Oakland Raiders

This is the start of a new series on the blog that will highlight three quick, winning moments or initiatives from a specific team or league. I often write about big moments, campaigns or longer posts, but I want to take some time to highlight top plays from teams too. My hope is this series lets me highlight more teams/leagues and brings quick ideas to the table for you.

I’m kicking this off with the Oakland Raiders. If you don’t follow them, go ahead and do so on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s clear they took time in the offseason to define their voice, look and feel and content. From a stellar black and white look to a great rallying hashtag (#CreateYourGreatness), the Raiders are killing it on social. And while there’s a lot we could talk about from their approach, here are three #smsports plays that stand out from the Raiders:


No. 1- Home Campaign

This summer the Raiders launched a fantastic brand campaign called “Home”. The simplicity and emotion in the campaign was top-notch, and it was also integrated well across social media. The campaign pays homage to their fans, community and the varying definitions of home. I wish more teams and leagues tapped into the emotion of sports way beyond the scores. Two of the sports are below:

Aside from the spots, the Raiders also released mantra graphics on social. All too often brands share spots and walk away from.  Campaigns aren’t just a one-off thing anymore. Social media allows us to celebrate and permeate the sentiment in campaigns year round (or until the next one).  Get the most out of your campaign and think about pieces made for social media you can carry throughout the year, like the Raiders did.


No. 2- Simple for the Win.

When the infographic trend first hit the social media market a couple years ago, the idea was to cram as much information into them as possible. They treated infographics like stats for media…. more is better. In reality though, consumers and fans want to consume information quick.

The Raiders have nailed small-scale infographics that are quick and easy for fans to enjoy. They are a great example of how simple often wins.

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No. 3- Responding to high-profile fans.

Carson Daly gave the Raiders a shout out on the Today Show recently, so the team sent him a personal invitation. Who knows, the shout out could lead to a great moment (to share on social, of course):

Having high-profile advocates on your side is important, even for sports teams. It can bring in a new audience and some pop culture relevance. Anyone working for a team should keep an eye out for mentions (online and offline) from celebrities, influencers, etc. and capitalize on the traction. Be creative, too!




What do you stands out to you about the Raiders’ social? Share your thoughts below!

Thanks for reading! 

5 Solid Social Media Ideas from the NFL Preseason

The NFL regular season hasn’t even started yet, but there are still plenty of great social media ideas coming from NFL teams. I’ll track and profile many teams and ideas throughout the season, but thought I would share five solid ideas from the preseason. Here’s to being inspired by these NFL examples and many more in the regular season to come.


1- Plan for unpredictable, predictable moments.

Sports are a weird beast. In order for coverage to be top notch, there’s a need to plan for the unexpected. Planning for the unexpected starts with defining the moments that can happen during a game. For football, it’s about the touchdowns, field goals, interceptions, sacks, etc. Define the moments you know will (or could) happen during the season and create evergreen content for it. Below are examples from the Panthers and Dolphins.


Want more advice on planning for the unexpected? I’ve got a blog post on it here.


2- Think of games as a series.

The 49ers have created photo overlays for each game of the season. Think about how we use hashtags to group content. The overlays function in a similar way. The game themes turn into “collections” for fans that make it easy to follow along and piece together the full story.  The design is also simple and sleek so it doesn’t detract from the heart of the content.






3- Tie in sponsors, naturally.

All too often sponsored social media content looks like it’s sold in, then teams slap logos on content without understanding why. You can’t create content, slap a logo on it and call it a win for anyone (fan, sponsor or team).

There is a way to do sponsored content right though. The Browns and Panthers are just two of the teams that have produced sponsored content that makes sense. Take a look:

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In these examples, there is a natural connection between the content and the sponsor. The content doesn’t add noise to fans’ timelines and there’s an actual tie-in to the sponsors’ products and the content. Win, win, win.


4- Work with influencers, content creators.

There are creative people all around you, from fans to artists, who see things through a different lens. Don’t go on the content journey alone. Instead, enlist creative people who can help you tell a more powerful story. Influencers, artists and photographers provide a different angle and/or unique content; they will also bring in their own audience when the activation is cross promoted.

The Chargers and 49ers give us two good examples of enlisting influencers and/or content creators. The Chargers enlisted a YouTube influencer for a Snapchat takeover, while the 49ers use content creators to create branded Vines in a series called the #FortyViners. Both are big wins in creating unique content.


The bottom line is this: Find other creatives around you and don’t be afraid to let them help you tell your story.


5- Think about GIFs differently.

Reaction, pop-culture GIFS are no longer the only type of GIFS we see. Can I get a hallelujah? In all seriousness, teams are starting to think about GIFS differently and it’s refreshing to see. GIFS have gone beyond humor and moved into a bigger storytelling role. From score updates to countdowns and sticky content, teams have used GIFS in a more creative and engaging fashion.

But why do GIFS work so well on Twitter? I have a few theories. The cadence of GIFS makes the content more memorable and shareable. They catch fans’ eyes as they scroll through the feed. Additionally, while GIFS are engaging, they tend to be short and sweet (which we all knows wins on social). Find a way to use them creatively.

Below are a few examples of teams creating on-brand GIFS this season that are used for much more than a reaction:









This list only skims the surface of the great social media ideas from NFL teams during the preseason, so let us know what has stood out to you so far. Comment below! 


Thanks for reading!