When Sports Are Bigger Than The Scores

We focus on the scores, wins and losses a lot in this industry. But when you step back, sports are bigger than sports. The game has the power to transcend entertainment into something much larger. This past weekend in the NFL was proof of that.

Amid the NFL battle with President Trump, there were two brand pushes that stood out. First, the NFL decided to push out its Super Bowl commercial about unity again. The lines in the spot are so powerful:

“Inside these lines, we don’t have to come from the same place to help each other reach the same destination. Inside these lines, we may have our differences, but recognize there’s more that unites us.

Second, the Miami Dolphins pushed out this beautiful and simple piece:

These decisions and moves for brands, teams and leagues aren’t always easy. The line for brands is blurring. Today, many consumers expect brands to embrace a position and set of values. But of course, it’s a slippery slope.

When thinking about taking a stance on anything beyond the game, it’s important to remember the following things:


Define your brand values.

For any brand to take a stance, they must know their brand values first. What as an organization do you stand for? Before a brand, team or league takes any position, ensure the values are defined.


Look internally first.

Writing down brand values on a piece of paper doesn’t mean the organization is actually living by them. It’s important to take a hard look in the mirror before taking a public stance on anything. Is the brand walking the walk? Brands must practice what they preach. Period.


Be consistent.

Values aren’t something a person is wishy washy on. If you believe in something, you stand by it. The same is true for a brand that wants to take a stance. If you plan to take a position, you have to stick to it. If you try and play every crowd consumers will see right through it and you will alienate everyone.


Less is often more.

There’s something about simplicity that is powerful. When working through messaging, remember less is often more. Don’t get cute. Don’t overdo it. Keep it simple. The Dolphins post is a perfect example of that.


Know the pulse.

The world changes and views evolve. This doesn’t mean that we completely abandon are values, but it does mean we need to have a pulse on what’s going on in the world. There’s nothing worse than a tone deaf brand. Awareness of the current climate is key. It will go a long way to ensure you shape a message the pushes things forward instead of backfire.

This weekend was a small example of the impact sports plays in the world. It’s more than entertainment. It has the ability to inspire, move and mobilize people. Consumers look for brands to take a stance– but only if it’s authentic. When tapping into something more than the scores, remember that it’s important to actually know and live by your brand values.

5 Strong NFL Preseason Social Plays

With the NFL preseason in full swing, we’re getting a look at what we will see from teams on social media this season. It looks like it’s going to be a strong year in NFL social. From slick visual identities to mesmerizing content, we’ve already seen some strong plays. Below are a few highlights from teams early on as the NFL season kicks off:


Beautiful photography.

There’s no such thing as a great social presence without great content. A huge key to good content is top-notch photography. The @MiamiDolphins social media presence is proof of this. Their content is eye catching, consistent and a great refection of their brand. All teams can learn from their cohesive look. Work hand in hand with your photography team to define a look and feel and let the photos drive your storytelling.


Mesmerizing content.

In the battle for attention, it’s important to diversity your content. Coverage should include everything from stills to videos to captivating GIFS. Many teams have leveraged interesting, dynamic content in the pre-season so far. Below are a few that caught my eye:

Full speed ahead. #VikingsCamp

A post shared by Minnesota Vikings (@vikings) on

Tip: The Vikings, Falcons and Saints used an app called Plotograph. It’s simple to use and definitely worth checking out.


Communicating in six seconds.

The latest craze in advertising is six second ads. It doesn’t mean that good long form is dead, but all teams should think about how to create video content for goldfish attention spans.

Telling a story in six seconds is a completely different creative challenge. You need a strong understanding of your point to be able to communicate it in six seconds. A strong storyboard and good execution are key.

Need some inspiration on what a strong six second video looks like? Here’s a great example from the @jaguars:


Crisp and clean branding.

It’s important for teams to establish visual identities. A good visual identify helps your content stand out from the crowd and ties everything back to the brand. When fans scroll through their feeds, they should be able to identify a team’s piece of content without even seeing the name. The @Vikings branding for their training camp is a great example of what crisp and clean branding looks like:

Run it right back, @dalvincook. #VikingsCamp

A post shared by Minnesota Vikings (@vikings) on


Good, clean fun.

There’s a tendency for teams and brands to resort to snark and sass on social. As marketers though, we shouldn’t resort to that tactic unless the organization/brand has aligned on that voice. It’s easy to grab attention and retweets this way, but the true test of any marketer is to grab attention in a way that’s right for the brand.

The good news is that a team’s voice can come to life in many different ways. Yes, social media is meant to be more human. Yes, teams should have fun on social. You can break through the clutter and have fun without jeopardizing the brand.

Establishing personality is not complicated either. Take a look around you and see how the players interact. There are moments all throughout sport where personality shines. Capture that content. Bring to life those team moments. Below are two examples of personality shining through with content and copy without resorting to snark:

What strong plays have you seen from NFL teams in the pre-season? Share your thoughts below!

NFL Teams Showcase Creativity With Their Schedule Releases

Thanks to social and digital, it seems that there’s a need for everything to be more elevated now. The news cycle doesn’t start and end with the season, and neither does the need to create good content.

One of the proofs that everything is more elevated is how NFL teams handled their schedule releases this year. From fantastic hype videos to unique GIFS, the content around the releases was unique and elevated. Below are some examples. Hopefully they inspire creativity in your work!



The Seahawks social and digital team decided to do something completely off the wall and different for their schedule release. Have you ever seen the popular tasty-style videos on social? Inspired by those, the digital media team “baked” the schedule in cupcake form.

The reaction was tremendous, garnering them attention from the media, fans and everyone in the social industry.

One of the great things about social is its short shelf life. The ability to try new things, learn and adapt swiftly is huge. Don’t fear failing. If your team comes up with something crazy, it might just work. Give it a go and don’t look back.



There’s something about Vine that makes content stand out from all the noise. The enhancements the platform has made to sound + the looping nature makes for dynamic content. The Packers schedule tease was done through Vine. It’s the perfect example of how Vine content should be created.



The 49ers nailed their schedule release content with a GIF and hype-like video. The GIF was an easy visual to see the schedule all at once, while the hype video played into emotions. The song choice and powerful, documentary-like opening in their video caught my attention early and pulled me in. And as we all know, catching any kind of attention these days is a big win.



The Vikings always produce stellar work, from their clean and sharp graphical treatments to their fantastic Vines. Their schedule release content was no exception. They too give us a great example of how Vine can be used. The helmet concept is simple, but entertaining and effective.



When you have certain stories you tell over and over every year, I believe in finding different angles to take. What’s different about the story from last year? The Cowboys put together a GIF that highlight fun stats and tidbits. It’s a great example of finding different storylines.



What other NFL schedule release content stood out to you? Share below!

Thanks for reading. 

5 Social Media Takeaways from the NFL Wildcard

The NFL post-season is in full gear, which often means social media content is stepped up a notch. The social media coverage from NFL teams during the Wildcard Weekend was on point. From prepared graphics to stellar GIFS, the games were fun to follow on social. Below are five takeaways/highlights from the weekend:


1. Empower others to build excitement.

The Seahawks, Vikings and Redskins did a great job enlisting others to help spread excitement and support. Each team took a different angle, from sponsors to home state teams. All too often in sports we rely on our own accounts to generate excitement. We’re fortunate to work in an industry where our audiences are passionate. Still, enlisting others can pull in a new audience, reinforce your message and make the CTA stronger.

One thing I love about these “influencers” graphics is they have a similar nice and feel. A cohesive design is a strong way to tie everything together:



2. Prepare for losses.

Losses are never an easy thing in sports, especially when it’s a really heartbreaking one. Social media managers have to plan for both the wins and losses though. If the players can face a press conference after a loss, us on the Internet can face a few angry fans after we post the final score.

The Vikings did a great job handling their loss. They posted the final score with language that tapped into the sentiment of the game. They followed up by thanking fans (which you can never go wrong with):


Handling both the wins and losses is part of the job. Be thoughtful in your approach.


3- A little access can go a long way.

When you work in sports, it’s easy to take for granted to the personal and emotional moments you have access to. Moments that are full of emotion are content gold. Give fans a little access inside the team’s journey—whether it’s locker room setup or post-game access. As the content shows below, you don’t have to be intrusive with your access. One shot from the camera and you’re good to go.



4- Prompt your fans.

Calls-to-engagements are one of the things that get written off because to us they feel forced, phony, cheesy, etc. And while you don’t want to always resort to gimmicks, sometimes your fans need a little nudge. Calls-to-engagement should be a tool in your toolbox.

If you don’t want to use obvious prompts though, there is good news. They can be subtle! The Seattle Seahawks gave a great example of what this look likes:

This tweet promoted their fans to reply “Hawks”. And whether or not this prompt was intentional, it’s a great example of thinking creatively about what might encourage your fans to action.

If you aren’t thinking about ways to get your community engaged, then start strategizing around it. Calls-to-engagement are a powerful rallying cry. They can catapult a great piece of content even further, draw new fans in and simply help to build a stronger community. They should absolutely used.


5- Small tweaks can pull your content together.

I’m a big believer in tying your content together through a defined look and feel. The Chiefs and Vikings did a good job with this. The Chiefs photos all had consistent editing with a small @Chiefs in the corner; the Vikings used a small overlay that promoted “forge ahead”.


While you don’t want all your photos and content to be too design heavy, you can make small tweaks (from the way you edit photos to simple overlays) to pull your content together.


BONUS: Packers GIF

This isn’t a takeaway, but it’s an awesome piece of content worth sharing:




What stood out to you from NFL teams during the Wildcard Weekend? Share your thoughts below!


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!