It’s crowded in the online sports world. Today, fans have a multitude of options for conversation, content and information. Teams, leagues, publishers, brands, bloggers – and even fans – all share content across channels.
This crowded space makes it even more important for brands to understand their why. Sure, it’s tempting to resort to gimmicks — but gimmicks don’t last. Instead, focus on building something that is different from everything else. It’s about original content that entertains and adds value.
If you want an example of a brand that has cracked the original content code in sport, it’s Bleacher Report. They have defined an audience, voice and creative approach that delivers on social.
It wasn’t that long ago that Bleacher Report was a blogging site trying to gain credibility. But over time – and with buy in from Turner – they became an industry leader in sports, culture and content. Here are some highlights:
Sleep tight, the NBA is back tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/I1V3vXapZX
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 17, 2017
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 15, 2017
As seen above, again and again they produce content that outshines everyone. So, what’s their key to success? A few takeaways below:
Define & own your POV.
Bleacher Report starting seeing success when they defined their sharp point and owned it. For them, it’s not about being the next ESPN. Forget the x’s and o’s – there are plenty of people covering that. For Bleacher Report to stand out, they found their sweet spot at the intersection of sports and culture.
As CEO Dan Finocchio put it in this article from Recode, they are building the next MTV (just without the whole TV thing).
Invest in creative.
In 2016 Turner invested $100M to build a 35 person social content team at Bleacher Report. This move has been the key. Investing in a strong creative department has allowed Bleacher Report to go well beyond highlights. With the team, they’ve been able to create original content series unlike anything else in the industry.
Bleacher Report took a risk by investing so much money in creative. But through it they built an engaged audience, credibility and a brand– all things advertisers want to associate with.
There’s no such thing as a great social presence without a great content strategy — and the resources to execute against. Bleacher Repot is proof of that.
Know the pulse.
Bleacher Report has a pulse on the sports and culture space. And, it’s allowed them to create creative that has a shelf life well beyond the play of a game. With content series like “Game of Zones“, they have found a way to brilliantly merge sports and culture. The content resonated with their audience, making it both engaging and shareable.
If you work in the content business, you must have a pulse on what’s going on – in culture, in sports, in entertainment and your fans. That doesn’t mean every team, league or brand must merge culture and sports with their content like Bleacher Report does. But, having a pulse on the conversations helps you understand what fans capture. Spend time studying the internet.
Plan, even when it seems like you can’t.
Good content does not come out of thin air. Period. Even in sports, you have to plan for the unexpected. For every great illustration from Bleacher Report after a game, there are probably five that don’t get pushed out. That’s because they have to predict scenarios ahead of time to produce content that is original. This quote from James Grigg, international operations director at Bleacher Report, sums it up best:
“We plan creative concepts so that when something does happen, it looks very spontaneous. People may think we’ve produced 30 pieces of content around these moments within 12 hours, but really, they have taken a lot of careful planning.” (via Digiday)
Sports are all about the now. Yes, you might end up producing pieces that aren’t published– but the use of resources is worth elevating the game. You have to prepare for the moments when the most eyes online… and in sports, it’s real time.
Vary your content.
There is no offseason in social media and sports. As such, it’s important to mix it up. Bleacher Report does a great job of varying their content, from animated videos, infographics to inspirational features. Below is a small example of the mix of content you will see.
Distribute where your audience is.
If you want to win in sports today, you have to meet your fans where they are. Long gone are the days where every single post can drive fans to a website to read more or consume a video. No one has the attention span for that extra click over and over again. A strong social presence requires a smart distribution strategy, and Bleacher Report has done that.
Bleacher Report has taken a platform agnostic approach to content distribution. Meaning, they don’t care where a fan consumes their content as long as they engage and build brand affinity. The publisher has adapted their content with the platforms and the changing trends – and they’ll content to evolve as the space does. They’ve made it easy for their target to discover, consume and share their content. That’s key for any team, brand or league.
This post only scratches the surface of what we can learn from Bleacher Report, the king of original content. What lessons have you taken away from their approach to social media and content? Share them below.