Package Audio With Design For Engaging Content

There’s a new philosophy I’ve adopted. And, it’s this: If you work in digital and sports, one of the big keys to your job is packaging content in a unique way. In a world where almost everyone has access to the information and assets, your job isn’t just to distribute. Your job is to find a different (on brand) angle with the content.

We’re in a constant state of content overload and a sea of sameness. Even highlights, which weren’t widely distributed a few years ago, can feel exhaustive in feeds. Between broadcast partners, teams, leagues and even fans, distribution is not the issue. The challenge is thinking about things differently. To stand out today, one of the keys is to continue to push the envelopes of creative through design and execution.

Thanks to podcasts, audio has become a recent trend in content creation. From strong quotes at press conferences to play calls, there are a lot of different opportunities to capture and leverage audio.

One thing I’ve noticed with audio, is teams, brands, etc. tend to be creative in their execution. The blend of sound plus design (since people don’t always turn on sound), makes a powerful combination. And, it’s the perfect example of how to think about packaging content in unique ways.

If you’re looking to mix up your content and do something different, below are a few examples of leveraging audio in sport. And, they are all great examples of how to package content:

 

NBA On TNT’s Audio Toons

Forget watching the broadcasters sit around and talk in the studio or the broadcast booth. Listen and watch them in cartoon form. This is probably one of the most creative executions I’ve seen. They took audio from what could be a traditional studio segment and leveraged design (and fun) to mold it for social. This, my friends, is the perfect example of packaging content.

 

Razorbacks – Call of the Game

Calls add a level of excitement and emotion to a normal highlight. Good ones especially, have a way of pulling you in. This “Call of the Game” example from the Razorbacks is a perfect example of combining design and audio into an engaging piece. Layering in the call with the highlight makes it more than “just a highlight”. Plus, the design helps to capture attention when scrolling through the feed.

Additionally, this is a great sponsorable series. It would be really strong with a mobile partner since there’s a natural integration to “call”.

 

Warriors Talk

Talking heads aren’t always the most visually appealing thing. So, even if a coach or player had an interview that would really resonate with fans, it can be hard to pull them in. The “Warriors Talk” execution is a great example of how you can leverage design to pull people in to listen. It’s is a great example of packaging content a little differently. And, it could work in a variety of situations, whether you take a page of out this for simple interviews on the field or for press conferences.

 

The Players’ Tribune

First-hand accounts are the heart and soul of The Players’ Tribune content. And, as a result, they rely a lot on interviews and audio in their content. They do a good job experimenting with how to package content. Below are a few examples that stood out recently.

 

ESPN + Split Screens

ESPN uses split screen executions with audio bites and highlights. Showcasing interview snippets with the moment the audio is referring to gives amazing context for fans. And, the design pulls you in. This is a great example of why packaging content is so important. The audio clip alone might not capture attention, but the use of the clip and the highlight with the design makes for a powerful creative execution.

 
As you can see from the examples above, taking the content we have at our fingertips and infusing design is a critical. The teams and brands that stand out now and in the future will push creative envelopes. They’ll take something ordinary (like an audio clip) and make it unique. How we package and design today is key.

What executions with audio bites have you seen that stand out?

Sponsored Content: Nailing the Concept

Sponsored content is all the rage these days. As, it should be. It’s helped bridge the gap between organic social and driving business goals for teams, leagues and brands. After all, there isn’t anyone around the leadership table that’s going to complain about revenue opportunities.

If we’re increasing sponsored content in our feeds though, we must commit to executing right. Slapping logos on content and treating channels as billboards will make people tune out, unfollow and disengage. Sponsored content is a beautiful way to prove ROI, but it’s not an easy “check the box” if you actually want sponsored content to do its job.

There are many keys to getting sponsored content right (see here), but this post tackles one of the most important: Nailing the concept. This is what moves you away from a billboard to actually interesting, engaging content.

Nailing the concept requires two things. First, connecting the dots between both brands. And second, leveraging design to integrate the sponsor seamlessly.

 

Connecting the dots.

The best sponsored content is one that has a natural tie to the sponsor, while still being relevant to the team or brand. It’s about finding the synergy that exists between the two. I typically attack connecting the dots in the three phases below.

Do your research.
The first step in connecting the dots is to do your research on the potential sponsor. Spend time understanding the product and their value proposition. Browse the potential sponsor’s website to learn about their values, mission and the language they use. Understand their products. Look at their social media accounts and voice. Do everything you can to learn about their product and their brand DNA.

Write down phrases.
While researching the company, jot down any phrases or words that could relate to your team/product/sport/brand. Don’t leave anything out during this process. Jot down anything closely and loosely related. This isn’t a time to overthink or play favorites. You never know what can spark an idea.

So, for example, let’s say you work for an NFL team and Ford is a sponsor. During this phase, write down anything that ties into their brand and potentially the team/the sport. Quick examples include: Drive, Go Further (their tagline), on the road, built tough, miles, the full lineup, ride, etc.

Start the brainstorm
After the research and writing down phrases, it’s time to start actually concept content series based on the synergies you found. How do the words tie into your team/sport and content that would interest your fans?

A few examples of how it might work with the Ford examples above:

“Drive” is an easy one since it’s synonymous with the game. You could showcase the “drive of the game”, the winning drive, etc.

“Go Further” could be a sponsored series around good returns, showcasing the significant yardage. Whether you want to do a return of the game of a monthly highlight package that showcases the best returns.

“On The Road” or “miles” could be a series that showcases where the team is traveling for away games. The “miles” could be a series during the schedule release to showcase how many miles the team will travel in total. And, the “on the road” could happen during the actual season for each road trip.

“Ride” could be a human interest series during the NFL Draft or Rookies that showcases each player’s “ride” to get to the NFL.

Hopefully the above illustrates how you can connect the dots between potential sponsors and your brand. Some of the connections will be strong and easy to make (like Ford), others will be more subtle and take time.

It’s a creative process. Trust in it. You are going to come up with a lot of ideas that don’t work, but commit to the exercise and throw anything and everything out there. You will land on a gem. The key is to keep talking through it and fine-tuning the ideas.

 

Design seamlessly.

Once you have nailed the concept you want to move forward with, it’s time to approach how the creative will come to life. Design plays a critical role in making sure the sponsor integration feel natural. When done right, sponsored content won’t disrupt the feed. There are a few keys to take your idea from concept to execution while working with sponsors:

Keep platforms in mind.
Not all content belongs on all platforms. Once you decide what concept to move forward with, it’s important to think about where it should come to life. Don’t force a series across all platforms to guarantee more impressions for the sponsor if it isn’t going to perform there.

Set expectations.
When bringing concepts to a sponsor, it’s important to set the expectation that creative should feel seamless to your brand. If your team has a look and feel, even sponsored content should follow that. Approach this as a positive thing (because, it is). If the creative feels like everything else it won’t feel like a billboard, and as such, will perform better.

Create a style guide.
In a similar vein as expectations, take the time to put together a style guide and examples of what the creative on your channel looks like. If partners see your look and feel before the concept is final, they’ll have an idea of how it will come to life. You’ll get less pushback when the look is more seamless to your brand vs pushing the sponsor’s colors and guidelines.

Bring it to life.
Once you’re ready to bring the creative to life, it’s important to take a content-first approach. Don’t let the fact that you have a sponsor attached to it affect your design. Create as you would, making sure that strong and engaging creative is the top priority.

Another key is to make sure the message comes to life. In your creative brief, let the designer know what to accentuate. So, with the Ford “drive” example, the design should play into the idea of “drive”. The fan should connect the dots between “drive” and “Ford” easily,

Finally, work with your creative team on logo placement that gives visibility but doesn’t distract. If you’re accentuating the key message, it should be easy to make this happen.

 

Examples

So, what are some examples of sponsored content that connects the dots and integrates design seamlessly? Below are a few examples to see how it all comes to life. It’s important to note that all of these examples go beyond slapping a logo on a piece of content. They find the synergy, and that’s the key.

Chicago Bears + Tide

For Mother’s Day, the Chicago Bears, Tarik Cohen and Tide helped moms to “take a load off” on the holiday. THIS is the perfect example of a brand partner integration. Good content, fun play on words (attached to the product), access to a player and something people want to share.

Verizon + Miami Dolphins

This example from the Dolphins showcases how to align a product with a series. Phones are for talking, so it’s natural for Verizon to sponsor quotes from players and coaches.

SuperCuts + MLB

SuperCuts tagline is “Ready to Go” which lends itself perfectly to so many scenarios in sport. In this example, MLB aligns the sponsored series with MLB debuts and the idea of being “ready to go”. When someone gets a hit in their debut, this series is triggered. It’s a seamless integration that does not feel forced.

Zoom + Warriors

While stats aren’t necessarily that connected to Zoom, this is a great example of how to leverage design to integrate the sponsor. This content is visually appealing and the sponsor doesn’t feel intrusive, even though they have quite a bit of visibility.

Indochino + Yankees

Indochino is men’s clothing company where everything is a custom-made experience. The suits are literally, “Made to Measure” as their tagline says. The idea of “Made to Measure” is a natural fit for stats and integrates their brand proposition seamlessly into this content series.

Delta + LAFC

When it comes to airline partners, series that showcase the team on the road are a perfect fit. The creative execution from LAFC on this is strong. The Delta branding feels so natural in this creative that it does not feel like an ad or sponsored series at all.

Sleep Number + Vikings

This from the Vikings is an interesting example of finding the synergy that’s a little more subtle. It’s hard to imagine tying in sleep patterns to a team’s content, but the key here is timing. Fans will stay up way past their normal bedtime to watch their team, especially in a big game or rally. The timing behind this — after a big win — makes the content relative and relatable for fans.

Adobe + Chicago Bulls

Interesting team art is a big trend these days, so I love this series #BullsIllustrated series form the Chicago Bulls. It’s a content-first approach aligned with a partner that makes sense. Because the partner integration is so natural and strong, it does not take away from the great, creative work.

Tijuana Flats + Orlando Magic

It would be easy with a Tex Mex restaurant to resort to a sweepstakes or promo code, but the Orlando Magic found a way to take a content-first approach. Playing into the idea that tex mex food is hot, they created a throwback video looking back at “fire” plays. And, the graphics in the video are a great tie to the Tijuana brand.

There’s a lot more to the process of nailing sponsored content, but I hope this high-level overview and examples provide some inspiration. It’s important to remember that the best sponsored content provides value to the fans, the sponsor and the team. That requires a content-first approach and nailing the execution. Take the time to get the process right for coming up with concepts and pushing the creative boundaries. It’s hard work, but worth it.

As we continue to sell social sponsorships and the volume rises, integrating right needs to be a big priority. Invest in sponsored content, but also invest in doing it right.

What good examples of sponsored content have you seen? Share your examples and thoughts!

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

A post shared by Bleacher Report (@bleacherreport) on

Ready to bring the noise in London! #UKFins

A post shared by Miami Dolphins (@miamidolphins) on


 

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.