Lessons On Creating With Limits From The Pause In Sports

While sports were on pause, social teams experienced extreme constraints around content creation. No games. No in-person access. No traditional sport storylines. No ability to capture new footage directly.

Creating under such limits can be a daunting task. Even more daunting, though, is the expectations to produce at a high volume despite the changing landscape. And for the sports industry, one that rarely sleeps in the social space, there is no slowing down even if the games are on pause.

When we have limits, though, we innovate. We find solutions to things because there is no other choice. And throughout the pause in sports, teams found ways to tell their story and connect with fans. 

Yes, sports are back and games to fuel teams, leagues and brands with new content again, but I believe there are critical lessons to learn from the pause in sports that we can take away or the future. Here are a few of those lessons on social and social:

Obsess Over Creative Execution 

Zoom and iPhone footage were the few vehicles of access teams and leagues had to players throughout the pause in sports. And while any access is fantastic, Zoom and talking head fatigue is a very real thing.

It didn’t take me long to realize months of Zoom interviews wasn’t going to work. Audiences were going to disengage quickly. You have about three seconds (if you’re lucky) to convince people to stop and view your video. In those three seconds, your video needs to set the tone and get people interested. And once you have them watching, you have to keep them engaged. Two minutes of someone sitting and talking directly into a camera is rarely going to keep people around. 

What’s a social team to do when they have excellent access to video interviews but don’t want them to fall flat? You focus on taking creative to the next level. 

Sometimes, as in the case of Zoom interviews, the creative execution and details matter a lot. We have to obsess over taking pieces to the next level through dynamic intros, b-roll, graphics, etc. 

Creative execution is what separates the best from the rest. When teams focus on the details of how to bring a piece to life, they are more likely to create something that captures attention, fits the platform and is the best reflection of the brand.

Obsessing over execution does not mean that production value has to be high or overproduced. It merely means that you’ve taken the time to make sure the idea comes to life right. Do your Zoom interviews and everything else right: Focus on packaging the content to make it as compelling as possible. 

Here’s an example of taking a Zoom interview and thinking critically about how it’s packaged to elevate the series:

Let Design Work Hard For You 

One of the toughest things about sports being on pause with no new and natural storylines was making the old feel fresh. Teams, leagues and brands had to dip into the vault of existing content and repackage it in a way that made it feel new, fun and unique. This is where great graphic design can come in. 

Graphic design can play a crucial role when you’re looking to create content with limited access, slow news days or no new assets (like photo or video). First, graphics can make existing photos and videos that you might have already used to feel unique. 

Second, design can help your team create something engaging from moments that don’t have a strong visual attached – a radio interview, media availability, etc. 

Below are a few examples of how teams leveraged design to make the old feel new or take a small audio snippet/quote and make it feel much more elevated and packaged:

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A match made in heaven. 🍞🗽

A post shared by New York Rangers (@nyrangers) on

Ex of taking a quote from Town Hall on Zoom and turning it into a more dynamic asset.
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KD likes what he's seeing 🗣

A post shared by Brooklyn Nets (@brooklynnets) on

Ex of taking audio from a podcast and packaging it through design for an elevated asset.
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😏 (Via @bleacherreport)

A post shared by Baltimore Ravens (@ravens) on

The Ravens used design to package commentary from Bleacher Report.

Makes Fans Active Participants

One of the best trends to come out of the sports pause was the focus on fans. With no games to cover and no original storylines, all of a sudden, fans become a central focus for keeping social channel’s lights on. 

Throughout the pause, teams and leagues emphasized content that brought their fans into the fold. All of a sudden, content wasn’t just a mechanism to push something out; it was a mechanism to pull fans into the brand. 

Simple community tactics go a long way. Fans want to be active participants. It’s the ability to engage that makes social media different from any other channel. When fans feel part of the community, teams build stronger advocates. Focus on the fans. 

Test, Learn & Pivot 

Social media is often the ultimate balancing act. You have to plan, but also be willing to pivot. And in unusual times, there was no better reminder that so much of social media is about leaning testing, learning and pivoting. 

Creating content and publishing during the pause in sports was the ultimate lesson on planning while remaining flexible. With no natural storylines, teams had to plan way ahead to make sure calendars filled up. But how were we supposed to know what was going to resonate with people during a pandemic? We didn’t, so we had to test, try and pivot. 

Sometimes in social, we create things that don’t resonate — and sometimes we hit unexpected home runs. That was the story during the pause in sports. If you work in this space, it’s your job to continually have a pulse on what performs and what doesn’t and push for necessary changes and tweaks. 

While there are a lot of lessons to take away on creating content during the pause, these are the ones that stuck with me the most. So much of working in social media is about getting resourceful, finding ways to look at things differently and never falling into the trap of doing the “same old thing”.

So often limits are looked at as a negative. But when we push ourselves to create in new ways, we innovate. My hope is that we’ll always push to look at things in a fresh and different way and seek to innovate, limits or not.

Social Media Lessons During An Unprecedented Time

In social media, there are no hard fast rules. How could a rulebook be written for an industry that is continuously changing and evolving? It’s impossible. 

But during this unprecedented time, the idea that there are no rules in social media is only heightened. This pandemic is something we’ve never experienced. All of our emotions, our reactions, our experiences are completely new at some level. 

There is no way to know what consumers want from brands, teams and leagues right now. The best we can do is to test, try, listen and be thoughtful above all else. 

Many weeks into this, I’ve reflected, analyzed and tried to understand what I’ve learned so far. Here’s a highlight of what I’ve taken away to date about social media and our work during this unprecedented time: 

More Isn’t Always Better.

As soon as we entered quarantined, everyone turned to social and thought, “this is the only way for us to keep the lights on.” Social media was the answer for everything during this time. After all, if we’re all home and online, social channels are a great way to be heard right now.

The idea that more is better is one of the most significant social media myths of all time. And, this couldn’t be more true during the pandemic. There are a few reasons why this philosophy is problematic. 

First, just because people are home 24-7 doesn’t mean they want more content. People are feeling all kinds of fatigue and anxiety. Bombarding them with more “stuff” to shift through isn’t ideal. Unless you have content that genuinely adds value, you are just adding more noise to the world. 

Second, brands don’t need to be present 24 -7 to be relevant. And again, I don’t think people want that. Your audience isn’t sitting around waiting for you to tweet, post and TikTok. It’s okay to not be on all the time. 

Pressure To Produce Is Not Productive.

Social media teams are facing an enormous amount of pressure to produce right now — and a lot of it stems from the idea that the more content we produce, the more we’ll be heard. 

Teams feeling pressure to produce without understanding “why” is hugely detrimental. It puts them in a constant cycle of “deliver and survive.” Instead of focusing on work that is meaningful and will move the needle, teams end up merely trying to stay above water.

The pressure to produce is not productive. The daily churn distracts from meaningful work and makes it hard to dig into big ideas and to execute well. 

Think about some of the best brands in the world. None of them have been built by publishing “stuff.” They were built because they had a sharp POV and added value to their audience. 

The volume of output has never been a way to measure strong marketing. And, it’s a reminder to us all that publishing should never be a coping mechanism. We have to resist the urge to produce just to produce and focus on adding value, always.

Social Isn’t Everything To Everyone.

Just because social media is one of the “easier” ways to reach consumers right now does not mean the channels should be a dumping ground. 

Social media serves a unique purpose, like all other communication channels. People hit follow on accounts for a reason — usually to be entertained and informed by brands and people they care about the most. They don’t hit follow to get stuff dumped on them.  

When social media tries to be everything to everyone, the channels become diluted. We flood our audience with so much stuff they don’t care about that they end up tuning us out completely. 

Even if social media seems like the easiest and most efficient way to reach people right now, doesn’t mean there won’t be ramifications if you start to spray and pray. People hold the ability to unfollow, and they will exercise that right.

Protect the platforms and community your teams have been. Even during this pandemic, your channels should serve a particular purpose. 

Listening Is Key. 

With social media, brands get instant feedback. There’s a massive benefit in that because we have a real-time case study on what works and what doesn’t. 

Ignoring the numbers and feedback from your audience is never good — but it’s even more critical to listen now. Why? We’ve never been through anything like this before. Therefore, we have no case studies or proof points on what does and does not work. 

Every brand, team and league made assumptions early on about what content people would like to see during this time. As this pandemic has gone on, we’ve been able to get feedback from our audience. 

We must listen to the feedback we’re getting right now. Throw out the notion of a content calendar that is looking months ahead — the situation we’re living in is fluid, ever-evolving and changing. Our audience is going through fatigue, emotions and anxiety, so what they are looking to consume is changing and evolving. 

Listen to your audience. Be adaptable and fluid. Test, try and learn. That’s the only way we’re going to deliver content that truly engages.  

Things Can’t Be Forced.

Too often, brands look for a way into conversations they have nothing to do with — and this pandemic is no exception. Brands, teams and leagues have been looking for their place in the conversation and often, the result is a sea of sameness. 

While I believe that consumers do like purpose-driven brands, I also think they can see through the phony. Action is purpose, not talking. We have to be careful during this time to understand our place and what value the brands we work for can provide. 

Don’t force your way into the conversation with a half-baked idea. Know your place, know your purpose and focus on championing the ideas that really matter. 

There are a lot more lessons from this pandemic, but for now, these are the ones that have stuck with me most. Now it’s your turn to sound off. What lessons have you learned during this unprecedented time?

Things To Consider & Remember In Social + Sport In 2020

It’s a new year, which means the annual list of things to consider in the industry.

As always, this isn’t meant to be a forecast of what’s to come, but a list of things to consider focusing on for the year ahead. Everyone’s goals and objectives are different, but hopefully, there is something in here that will spark a new idea, approach or thinking.

So, here’s a list of what to consider in 2020 with some help from Twitter and friends in the industry (note – these are not ranked by importance):

Focus outside the “big three”.

It’s easy in social media to put an emphasis on the “big three”. Twitter, Facebook & Instagram have stood the test of time (by social standards at least), and we know those platforms intimately. In an industry where teams are largely understaffed, it seems less risky to put all our energy there.

Take a look at the growth of teams’ Facebook accounts across leagues though and you might start thinking about things differently. The majority of teams are losing vs gaining an audience there:

The reality is social media teams spend their days investing in channels where their audience is not “owned”. That fact, along with all the noise on TW, FB & IG, and teams would benefit from a more diverse and balanced platform approach.

In 2020 the brands that think about distribution, community and reach differently will reap rewards. There’s a huge opportunity to connect with fans outside of Twitter, Facebook & Instagram. GIPHY, YouTube, Reddit or TikTok are all viable options to start.

Impact over output.

The volume of content teams are turning out across channels is extremely high these days. Everywhere you turn teams are cranking out piece after piece.

The focus on output has created a serious problem. It’s created a mentality that more is better and leaves social and creative teams barely treading above water day after day. Not only does it create an endless cycle of work, but the constant pressure to create leaves the internet a crowded place. Eventually, fans start tuning things out.

If teams are cranking on total output, but engagement rate keeps tanking, is that the end result we want? What’s an audience of 3M actually worth if you’re engagement rate isn’t even about 1%? That’s a serious question we all need to ask ourselves.

Here’s the reality: Total output is not an indication of the quality of work. Too often I see teams caught in the rat race of “totals”, but totals don’t point to the quality of work.

In 2020, it times to put less pressure on teams when it comes to output. Even though it’s “easy” to hit send, doesn’t mean there aren’t ramifications. The more we bombard our audience with “stuff” the more they tune us out.

Just because publishing is at our fingertips today, doesn’t mean we should abuse it. The quality, the output, the totality of everything … it matters.

Focus on impact over output in 2020.

Empower fans.

There’s too much focus today on what brands/teams push out themselves and not enough focus on empowering fans. The real magic in social is not broadcasting to people. The real magic lies in building a community of advocates who share on behalf of the brand.

From channels like GIPHY to amazing amazing platform innovations like AR lenses, there are so many ways to build tools for fans to share their love of the team and brand. More teams need to take advantage of it.

In 2020, it’s time to remember that word of mouth is still one of the most powerful tools if you’re looking to engage and build a new audience. Don’t take for granted the magic of building an online community of advocates.

Be the eyes & ears for fans.

In the early days of social, people relied heavily on their team’s own Twitter account to provide the play-by-play. Team accounts were used as as source of information before anything else.

Today though, access to game information & broadcast footage is much more readily available. From media to publishers to fans themselves, there is no shortage of information around the game. This presents both a challenge and opportunity for teams’ social media.

The access to information means that a team’s approach to coverage around games and practices must change. It’s less about informing and more focused on entertaining, engaging and providing access fans can’t get anywhere else.

The strongest social teams today make fans feel more intimately part of the journey. They give a peek behind the curtain. They capture candid, simple moments. They capture video that brings to life the team’s personality. They provide an angle to a play no one else has. They’re constantly in search of that unique clip that no one else has.

In 2020, it’s time to commit to being the eyes and ears of your fans. Access doesn’t have to be intrusive. It doesn’t mean that you have to be with the team 24 – 7. It means that you look for those subtle, candid and unique moments that no one else can provide.

Invest in creative talent.

In the early days of social, you couldn’t even share a photo on Twitter. This meant the focus was more about being present — engaging with your audience and creating a 1:1 connection — versus anything else.

The times have changed. Today, there’s no such thing as a good social presence without strong creative. The best strategy in the world is nearly impossible to execute without the creative arm power to support it.

Standing out on the crowded internet requires creative thinking and the ability to capture attention (& that’s a hot commodity today). Teams that are serious about building a “best-in-class” digital presence must focus on hiring talent and building a culture that allows them to work their magic.
Looking at some of the strongest teams on social today – the Lakers, the Carolina Panthers, the LA Clippers, the Kansas City Royals, Ohio State Football – and I would bet they’ve invested in creative talent.

In 2020, it’s time to invest and understand that the investment does pay off. An investment in creative talent, paired with a strong strategy, will equate to success across the board. You’ll build a stronger community, bring in a new audience, drive value for sponsors and in bring in revenue. Win, win, win.

Disrupt through creative.

In the early days of social, people were obsessed with platform updates. How can we be the first to do x? How can we know the latest updates right away? How can we experiment with the latest and greatest?

It’s time to take that same mentality and apply it to content. If you aren’t obsessed with how you can bring your brand to life in innovative ways then you’ll get lost in the noise. Innovation through strong creative and content is key.

The teams, leagues and brands that stand out on social are the ones that obsess over how they can tell their story in unique and different ways. So much of what we do today is driven by creative. How can your brand offer something different than everybody else?

In 2020 it’s time to focus on disruption through content. Test, try, learn, evolve.

A few examples of content that stood out in 2019:

Realize not every piece is precious.

It’s time some realism is applied to the social space. When it comes to content production and revisions, we need to ask the hard questions that help keep our teams grounded and sane.

Does the creative effort match the distibrution, the reach earned, the engagement rate? The shelf life on social is way too short to spend hours of back and forth on non-hero pieces.

We should of course tweak pieces as necessary, but also need to remember not every piece is precious. Create, distribute, learn, refine.

So much of what we create is fleeting. The shelf life of content dies quickly. In 2020 perspective, and some realism, matters.

But for the precious pieces, invest in paid.

Not every social media piece is precious, but for the ones that are, the content needs to get its due. Any piece of hero creative that is important to the brand should have paid dollars to support it.

Thanks to algorithms, it’s much harder to reach consumers organically these days. Yes, in a lot of cases organic reach is a dismal 1 to 2% on brand accounts these days (yikes). To ensure the distribution matches the production effort, content needs a boost.

This quote from this GREAT article in Adage says it best:

In 2020, it’s time for teams to be realistic about the state of organic reach and invest in boosting content where and when it makes sense. The days of free exposure are long gone. Invest in pay-to-play.

Understand social is not the savior.

Sometimes it feels like all other marketing channels don’t exist. There’s an immense amount of pressure on social teams to be everything to everyone. They have to inform, entertain, engage, sell tickets, support sponsorships, drive community, etc, etc, etc.

As someone who has built a career in social it pains me to say this, but social is not the savior. These channels alone can not carry the weight of an organization’s marketing priorities — not even close.

In 2020 it’s time to remember that social media is a tool in the toolbox. And while powerful they may be, these expectations the they can be “everything” are diluting the real power of the platforms.

Social media is a piece of the puzzle, but it’s not the answer to everything. Just because you can put anything up online & “easily”, doesn’t mean it moves the needle.

Know the purpose of the puzzle piece.

Apply the filter of emotion.

This makes the list every year in every year in some form or fashion, but content needs to elicit some kind of feeling.

Emotion is one of the most powerful tools we have as marketers. Whether it is 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.

In 2020, it’s time to apply the filter of “emotion” to content online. I’ve never seen a video take off that didn’t evoke something in people. When looking to create, understand the feeling you want people to walk away with.

Jonah Berger said it best in his book Contagious: When we care, we share. Emotion is the most powerful tool in getting people to share. Tap into it.
If you want some inspiration on content that evokes emotion, below are a few standout pieces:

Find partners that elevate.

For the most part, it seems like the industry understands the fundamental need to not just slap a logo on things. We know that the best digital partnerships are the ones that make sense for our brand and the partner. Synergy in the content wins. 

In 2020, it’s time to take digital sponsorships to the next level and invest in partners that invest in your big ideas and objectives. How can we partner with brands that will help us reach a new audience? Drive home our core brand messaging? Support an initiative we couldn’t get off the ground without their support? 

Digital partnerships shouldn’t just be about a partner’s goals; they should also be about an organization’s goals. It’s time to find partnerships that go beyond a simple content series.  

In 2020, invest in partners and digital partnership ideas that elevate your presence … we can call digital partnerships 2.0.

Take creative cues from TikTok.

TikTok is the new kid on the block that has taken the social world by storm. According to App Annie’s annual report, time spent in the short-form video app grew 210% year-over-year in 2019 globally.

The wildly popular allows people to create 15-second videos using a strong library of songs, Snapchat-style filters and other interesting visual effects.

Memes. Challenges. Humor. Rawness. All of that lives on this platform. And, we should be paying attention to the trends.

In 2020, teams should take creative cues from TikTok on what makes video content so successful. Short, raw, funny, relatable. While these trends might not work across all platforms (and TikTok might not be right for your brand), it certainly give us cues for where content consumption is going. Keep a pulse on it.

For all the fuss about long form, TikTok proves the appetite for short-form is alive and well. Don’t ignore the trends surfacing here.


Not much has changed😁 #baby #fyp #foryou #eagles #flyeaglesfly

♬ bAbY – smoltammy

Build a culture that doesn’t burnout.

Too often social media is a thankless job. Teams work around the clock, nonstop. It’s a true grind that very little people understand. Sadly, the environment often leads to burnout.

In 2020, it’s time for organizations to truly invest in building a culture that helps prevent burnout. Structure teams the right way. Invest in growth for employees. Make sure salaries reflect the work put in. Offer autonomy. Celebrate balance.

If the sports industry doesn’t take balance and compensation seriously it will continue to lose really good and talented people. Focus on your people and their well-being.

Owned & operated matters.

It’s a little ironic that we put so much emphasis on platforms we have zero control over. Algorithms change. Consumers leave. Reach diminishes. There’s little we can do about it.

We’ve shifted so much focus to social platforms that we’ve lost sight of a really important key: owned channels and first-party data. Social media is a shiny, public-facing and fun tool that’s a huge and important part of your digital strategy. But, social is a piece of a larger digital ecosystem. In 2020, it’s time to stop putting your eggs in one basket.

First-party data allows us to build smarter and more personalized marketing campaigns. And, more importantly, it allows us to drive long-term loyalty with our fans. It’s time to take back our relationship with our fans and focus on our owned channels and lead gen strategies as much as social. Your relationship with your fans is the most important thing you have. Own it.

More inspiration from #smsports friends:

Now it’s your turn to sound off! What would you like to see in social media + sports in 2020?

What Sports Teams Can Learn From Nike

You’ve probably noticed, but Nike has been giving us all a masterclass in advertising lately. From their latest ad for the USWNT to their show them what crazy dreams can do, spot after spot they have nailed it.

The strong work recently comes as no surprise. Nike is a brand that was built by marketing. More than just the products they sell, Nike represents the power of sports as a vehicle to inspire human potential. There are very few brands who have built such a platform.

Here’s the thing. Nike doesn’t “just do it” when it comes to marketing and advertising. They get it. They get what it means to define your brand, understand your consumer, sell on emotion and play the long-game not the short-game. There is so much to be admired. Sports teams, it’s time to take notice.

Yes, I know. Sports franchises will never have the budget of Nike. Still, though, there are fundamental marketing philosophies that teams would benefit from adopting. And they don’t require a billion-dollar marketing budget. Here are three of them that stand out to me:  

Define your brand beyond the product.

Nike is defined by more than their tangible products. They are defined by their mission, their values and what their brand represents to the consumer. Instead of selling shoes, Nike sells the idea that if you have a body, you are an athlete. Their mission is to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.

Throughout the years Nike has consistently created ads that celebrate athletes of all levels. Whether they’re featuring Serena Williams or representing the average consumer, every ad is about people finding their greatness.

What teams can take away:

Too often sports franchises focus solely on the product they put on the field. Marketing and content is centered around the team, the scores and big moments. While that’s obviously a major piece of the puzzle, team performance alone will not take a franchise and turn it into a brand.

Sports are a platform to bring people, communities and cities together. More than the scores, they connect people us, serve as a vehicle for hope and a distraction from the daily grind. It’s the emotional connection people have with teams that needs to be tapped into.

Every sports team needs to take the time to define their why. Every team has scores. Every team has ups and downs. What does your brand stand for? Why do fans gravitate to your team? What’s the emotional connection? What’s the unique story you have to tell? It’s the emotional connection beyond the field that separates teams.

Defining what a team offers beyond the score takes a franchise or program and turns it into a brand. It’s those defining characteristics that draw people in and keep them there through the highs and lows year after year. This type of thinking is key for teams. Take that page from Nike.

Keep it simple & consistent.

Since landing on their sharp positioning and “Just Do It” slogan back in the late 80’s, Nike has kept their message simple and consistent. They don’t have a new tagline every year. They haven’t created a million variations of their logo. They’ve built incredible brand equity by finding the thing that works and staying consistent.

Nike’s brand positioning has stood the test of time. Why? Because it’s multi-dimensional and broad-reaching enough to evolve with the narrative of Nike over the years. It’s about a long game, not the flavor of the day.

What teams can take away:

Once teams have defined their brand, they need to land on their messaging and positioning. Sharp messaging and a consistent rallying point (slogan) have the ability to provide more purpose and focus to a team’s content and creative. They help tie a bow around the story. They can rally a community.

The key is to find messaging that is simple and  has more depth than “just a tagline”.  Taglines must be rooted in insight, strategy and a concept that is multifaceted and can evolve. And, that concept needs to be brought to life across multiple channels and executions – like Nike does.

Great brands aren’t built overnight. They’re built by a sharp POV and consistency – and a simple concept people can easily get. Teams need to find their brand platform that is evergreen, broad-reaching and malleable enough to drive the narrative year after year.

Remember, we as marketers get tired of our work and messaging long before the consumer does. Find your thing and stick to it. Consistency matters.

Make your consumer the hero & muse.

Early on, Nike made the decision to broaden their reach.  The market share for active people vs high performers was much larger so their brand needed to be more inclusive of anyone looking to get active.

The perspective that “if you have a body you are an athlete” broadened the scope of how they approach certain campaigns. Yes, they still feature elite athletes and superstars, but they also appeal to the average person. Take a look at these spots from over the years:

Nike has a way of making creative that speaks to the consumer, not above them. When you watch one of their ads is easy to feel part of the story. Their ads aren’t meant to just lift up the superstars or people in them; they’re meant to lift up and inspire anyone who comes across their spots.

What teams can take away:

Too often in sports it feels like we’re talking to ourselves. Score after score, highlight after highlight. When you work in the industry, it’s easy to forget the magic consumers feel for teams. When we forget the connection well beyond the field, the brand (and creative) losses its magic.

Sports teams could benefit from putting their consumer at the heart of everything they do. It’s our jobs to understand why people gravitate to sports and how we can inspire and celebrate that well beyond the scores. The passion people feel for teams and the game should serve as inspiration for how teams talk about their brand and the experience of gameday.

Make your fans the hero and muse of your creative and magic will unfold. It’s their emotions – and why they gravitate towards your franchise – that are the key to unlocking something really special. Stop talking to them, and instead, bring them into the story and part of the journey.

Below are a few examples of teams that have put their consumer at the center of their creative — but we need more of it and more consistently:

Obviously Nike’s marketing budget is far and beyond what most organization’s will ever see, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find inspiration in how they approach their work. At the end of the day the best thing any team can do is make an investment in their brand and the relationship with their fans. It’s about a long play, not just short gains.

Standards, Consistency & Focus Matter: A Lessons From The Lakers

The Lakers have one of the strongest social media presences in the NBA. Sure, they have a large audience that comes with their powerhouse brand, but their digital team does not rest on their laurels. The Lakers consistently produce best-in-class content from their beautiful crispy GIFS to their Instagram Stories on game day. And while there is a lot to take away from their approach, there is one big lesson: consistency and brand standards matter.

The Lakers are committed to putting their best foot forward all the time in digital. It’s apparent they have defined their brand standards and don’t cut corners. And as a result, they have one of the strongest visual identities and social presences in sports.

Scroll through their accounts and you’ll see. The Lakers take the way their brand comes to life very seriously (as they should). Photos are carefully curated. Watermarks are always applied. They are a team that dots their “Is” and cross their “Ts”. Below is a small sample of some of their content:

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Family Talks

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Yes, it takes the Lakers a second more time to add the watermark. Yes, sometimes they hold a highlight to package it for a carousel recap later on Instagram. And yes, their work is always strong and consistent.

But, why does their approach matter?

First, their work is instantly recognizable.
Today, so much of a team’s brand comes to life through their visual identity. Consumption happens in a split second. Consumers scroll, tap and move through their social feeds without giving things a second glance. As they scroll, content needs to stand out.

It should be clear which team, brand or league the content is from with or without a logo. And that’s where a strong graphics package that reflects the brand comes into play. When teams put in the work to define their brand standards and their visual identity – and actually see it through in execution like the Lakers – the result is work that instantly connects with fans.

Second, they package with purpose.
We’ve fallen into a content trap in sports. There’s this idea that more is better and that we have to cover “everything”. This mindset has resulted in more stuff and less quality. And, that’s not a win for a team, league of the fans.

The teams that win in social media today have purpose and focus. They understand that they can’t be everything to everyone and instead focus on what matters most (as they have defined). Focus allows teams to put their best foot forward. It’s impossible to do it all. Once you understand that, you can produce work that matters, engages fans and is right for the brand.

The Lakers are a good example of a team that does not post just to post. While yes, the Lakers still push out a good amount of volume, they don’t overproduce (especially by sports standards) and they certainly don’t let any sort of volume take away from the quality of work. Their approach to Instagram is a great example of this.

In the past 30 days, the Lakers have averaged 3.39 post on Instagram in-feed a day (the league average is 6). Yet, the Lakers boast a 3.2% engagement rate with an audience of more than 6M … the highest engagement rate in the league.  

The Lakers understand that Instagram is all about quality over quantity. They don’t fight the algorithm, and instead, let it work to their advantage. They use Stories to cover the more real-time moments and save their in-feed posts for big moments, packaged recaps and evergreen pieces. The approach is paying off.

On the flip side, the Lakers’ approach to Twitter is completely different to fit the platform. Their volume is high (25 posts in the past 30 days) and their content is packaged completely differently, with a lot more variety. It’s clear they have a distinct platform approach for each channel. 

More than ever, how we curate content and package is as key as the content itself. There’s no such thing as a strong social presence without a strong creative arm today. But, we can no longer just post and pray. We have to be thoughtful, deliberate and strategic about our work. We have to define our purpose then plan, program and package like the Lakers do.

And finally, they always put their best foot forward.
Social is the front door to brands today. Everything that goes up on a channel should be the best reflection of the brand, period. While it’s easy to post and get things up, it doesn’t mean we should cut corners and dilute the quality of the work. When looking at the Lakers feed it’s clear they take pride in their brand and work. All teams and leagues should strive for the same quality of work. 

In social it’s easy to get caught up in doing it now versus doing it right. There’s often a mentality that fast is best. And a result, corners are cut and the totality of everything is not thought through. In the end, this only hurts and dilutes the quality of our work. The Lakers’ digital presence is a great reminder that consistency and brand standards matter. And, their social numbers speak for themselves.

Instead of being fast, the focus should be on doing it the best and with speed. Of course timeliness matter in social, but not at the sake of quality. Work that is timely, engages fans and reflects the brand is the ultimate win. It’s okay to take the extra time to get the work right. It’s okay to pause, stop and think about your publishing approach even in the middle of chaos. It’s okay to forgo the right now for a little later if it means putting something stronger forward.

Take the little bit of extra time to do it right. Take pride in everything you push out. It all reflects the brand. And, it matters.