A Look at NFL Draft Content

The NFL Draft content was stellar this year. From elevated graphics to unique GIFS,  the content was taken to a different level. I’ve curated a list of content that stood out to me, and I hope some of it inspires you in your work. Enjoy!

 

Graphics

 

GIFS, Vines + Video

With the 1st pick of the #2016NFLDraft, the @Rams select @JaredGoff! #CalFamily

A video posted by Cal Football (@cal_football) on

 

Inside Access

A very special moment for @dallascowboys RB @ezekielelliott. #NFLDraft

A video posted by @nfl on

The call that brought Laremy to Miami. #WelcomeToTheFamily

A photo posted by Miami Dolphins (@miamidolphins) on

 

Leveraging Fan Voices

 


 

What stood out to you about this year’s NFL Draft coverage? Share below!

Thanks for reading. 

Brand GIFS Trump Pop Culture GIFS Any Day

GIFS have taken over the Internet and sports. What started off as a pop-culture revolution has turned into a brand play by teams and leagues. It seems that at least every 10th tweet includes a GIF these days.

Early on GIFS only focused on pop culture moments. You couldn’t scan Twitter without stumbling upon Seinfeld, Friends and crazy cats. While a sea of pop culture GIFS still own Twitter, they are evolving. Teams and leagues are starting to create their own unique GIFS. And, let’s keep the momentum going that way.

Teams and leagues need to spend less time scouring GIPHY and invest more time on creating their own original content. Here’s the thing: Pop culture GIFS can alienate your audience. They also lend themselves to personal biases (as we are more likely to share what we think is funny and clever). If you didn’t grow up in the 90s or aren’t a Stars Wars fan, then there’s a good chance you don’t get or care about the pop culture GIF. It’s all relative.

You don’t know for sure if your fans relate to Seinfeld, but you DO know that they relate to your team. Why push out content that is unoriginal and has nothing to do with your team when you can invest energy in building your own content and unique voice?

When you work in sports, you have more access to content than most brands. There’s no need to rely on others for content, even in humorous moments. Tap into existing content, leverage your designers and create epic GIFS that not only resonate with your entire audience but also help build your own, unique team voice.

If you need some inspiration, here are some GIFS from teams and leagues that are uniquely their own:

 


 

What are your thoughts on pop culture GIFS versus brand GIFs? Share them below.

Thanks for reading!

Blackhawks’ #WhatsYourGoal Embraces Emotional Content, Community & Wis

There are two key secrets to social media success: Emotional content and a strong community. Emotion matters in content because it’s relatable and triggers people to share. Whether it’s awe-inspiring, humorous, shocking, etc., content should evoke a feeling for your audience.

For the latter, community is what separates social media from other distribution methods. The platforms aren’t just an opportunity to push; they are an opportunity to connect, engage and build relationships. Teams and brands have to take the time to build their army of fans online.

When you combine the two, it’s a powerful combination.

The Blackhawks have embraced both emotional content and community in winning fashion through their #WhatsYourGoal campaign. The campaign, which has run for a couple seasons now, asks fans to share their goals every Wednesday that the team can help them achieve. The result is an inspiring, humorous and heart-warming collection of user-generated content.

 

 

It does not end with strong UGC though. The Blackhawks take the time to engage with their fans and surprise and delight them. They don’t ask fans to share and walk away; they give them a reason to share by listening and engaging. The surprises range from a reply and tickets to an all-out, unique and personal experience with members of the team.

 

 

And for those really unique, personal experiences, the Blackhawks always tap into the emotional story of the fan. They bring to life an amazing experience and let the rest of their fans in along for the ride. The content they capture around the campaign will leave you reaching for tissues. Here are a few examples.

 

 

#WhatsYourGoal is powerful for a lot of reasons:

CTA

The CTA for fans is simple. All they have to do is share their goal that the Blakhawks can help them achieve. They don’t even have to upload a photo or video. It’s literally as easy as one-two-three.

 

It’s Franchised

#WhatsYourGoal is pushed every Wednesday, so like a Throwback Thursday, fans anticipate it every week. There’s power in the routine here. Fans to know what the ask is and when to expect it.

 

Rewarding Community

If you want to build a community online, it’s important to take the time for your audience and thank them. Through this campaign the Blackhawks prompt dialogue, listen, engage– and most importantly– thank their fans. It does not take much, but simple gestures towards those who engage in your community can go a long way in building brand ambassadors.

 

Emotional Storytelling

As mentioned, the Blackhawks don’t just uncover emotional stories and walk away. They give fans personal experience and do a great job documenting in. Fans seem to anticipate the video stories just as much as they do the opportunity to engage with the brand. That’s when you know you have a content win.

It’s easy to get caught up in the crazy day-to-day of sports, but this campaign proves if you can take a step back to focus on emotional content and community, it’s a huge win.

 


 

 

What do you think about the #WhatsYourGoal campaign? Share your thoughts below!

Thanks for reading.

Let’s Talk the MJ Crying Meme

The Arizona Cardinals suffered a tough loss to the Panthers on Championship Sunday. Before the game wrapped up, the @AZCardinals tweeted the MJ crying meme.

 


We all know the Internet is ruthless. It’s even more ruthless when you have a game like the Cardinals did. This was surely an attempt to fend off the forthcoming trolls, and strangely (or not so strangely), the humor seemed to work. The tweet has more than 51,000 retweets and 38,000 likes to date. Unbelievable.

I’m sure this post, like many others, is one that people are on the fence with: Was it appropriate for a team or not? I’m not here to debate that. I just want to offer some food for thought. If you’re a social media manager and find yourself in a situation like the Cardinals with an epic tweet you’re waiting to hit send on, here are some things to consider:

 

Get buy-in from the top.

You need to have buy-in from the top if you want to teeter the line at all. Period. Social media content and the voice isn’t a reflection of the social media manager; it’s a reflection of the team through and through. Have conversations with the appropriate people to understand how much you can push the line. And if you have any hesitation at all, take the extra two minutes to get sign off.

 

Have a pulse on your community.

Every fan base and community is different. As a social media/community manager, you have to have a pulse on your audience’s sentiment and humor. What makes them tick? What makes them mad? Trust your gut as a community manager.

In a similar vein, remember you are never speaking to your community alone. A tweet that pushes the envelope will more likely go way outside your fan base. Create for your audience, but know that everything has a global reach.

 

Remember, there’s definitely a line.

Every time something controversial happens in #smsports, people often compare it to other controversial tweets and content. For example, what makes this different from the Houston Rockets tweet? There’s a fine line and it’s easy to cross. There are things you should stay away from period. For example, I would never touch anything that hints at violence, religion, politics, etc. Know those boundaries and don’t cross that line. Things can turn south very quickly. Context is everything.

 

It’s social. Take risks.

I have to be honest. I’m often conservative when it comes to situations like this. I air on the side of over-protecting the brand. I know that I’m too conservative though, and I know there are times when it’s good to take risks (ones where you have buy in of course). The truth is, if we don’t push the envelope some and as appropriate, it’s hard to grow, learn and stand out. If you tend to be conservative like me, don’t be afraid to find ways to push the edge. Evolve, evolve, evolve. Push your perspective. Don’t be afraid to take risks.

 

Be human.

The one thing about the MJ meme tweet from the Cardinals is that it seemed to break the ice. They were in a no-win situation and tackled the awkwardness head on. Social media is about being conversational and human. By pushing out what everyone was thinking, it added a level of authenticity to their account (whether it was right or wrong). Social media should be fun. It should be conversational. All of this within reason, of course.

 

Weigh risks. Know the purpose.

As with everything, it’s important to know your why. Do you simply want to make a splash or break the Internet, even if it means so pushback from fans? Understand why you’re tweeting and know the risks associated. If you can own it and have buy in, then it might just be okay to go for it.

 

What would the players say if they saw it?

As mentioned before, social media is a reflection of the organization through and through. Much like the “mom lens” we all talk about with social media content, I think it’s important to look at your content through the eyes of the team. What would the players say if and when they see the tweet? There are times when this filter might not dictate your decision, but it never hurts to look through this lens.

 

Tweets like this are never black and white. What works for one team or one situation, won’t work for another. Think through these scenarios and have candid conversations internally about the organization’s point-of-view on voice, tone and risks. With all of these things in mind, it will be easier to act swiftly in the moment and add an extra layer to ensure it doesn’t backfire internally.

Note: It’s worth pointing out, that after the MJ tweet the Cardinals followed up with a great series of tweets after their loss. They had a final score graphic, they congratulated the Panthers and they thanked their fans. All of this was thoughtful and very on brand.

 


 

 

What are your thoughts on the MJ crying meme? I would love your thoughts below!

Thanks for reading! 

Things to Consider in Social Media + Sports in 2016

With a new year, I always like to take a minute to reflect and look forward. What can we do better in the year ahead? This isn’t about forecasting trends—it’s about thinking how you to step up your game in the New Year. I know everyone’s goals and objectives are different, but my hope is that something sparks an idea or has you think about something differently. So without further ado, here are 14 things I would like to see in social media and sports in 2016:

 

1- Defining a purpose.

Somewhere along the line, FOMO and vanity metrics have replaced the need for a smart, strategic approach. It’s easy to get caught up in, especially when our work is extremely public and opinions come from all four corners.

Consider taking a step back in 2016 to define your purpose. Forget all the outside influence. Create a strategy working off of organizational goals. Focus on your story. Define a strong point-of-view on how you will leverage each platform (please, please please stop treating every platform the same).

 

 


When you define your purpose and get buy-in, stay your course. It’s easier to pushback on random social requests that don’t fit into your larger approach. Instead of simply saying “no”, you now have a why. For example: If you decide Instagram is a pure photo play with no logos, graphic treatment, etc. then you can push back if you strategically when you get asked for sponsored content with logos everywhere.

Defining a purpose and point of view pushes good, creative thinking.

 

 

2- Tell a story.

On Saturdays in the fall you’ll find me watching College GameDay. I don’t get up because I love college football (even though I do), I tune in because I look forward to Tom Rinaldi and his stories. The raw human emotion in storytelling like Rinaldi’s is powerful. It’s a connector. It makes me laugh, cry and remember the people behind the numbers on the uniform.

Storytelling was on my list last year, and it’s making the list again this year. Why? Because there are so many powerful and inspiring stories in sports.

 

 

In 2016, focus on the emotion of sports. We’re lucky to work in an industry where people already connect with teams. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the time to dig deeper than the scores and facts. People connect with the off-the-field moments even more than the game scores. Emotion in sports is the common thread that ties everyone together. Focus on weaving the emotion and the stories into your content strategy—the emotion transcends winning and losing.

Need some good examples of storytelling from this past year? Here you go:

 

 

 

 

3- Thoughtful game coverage.

When I follow along on game days there is so much clutter. I mean, so much. From broadcast companies to teams and leagues, there are so many different accounts covering games. It’s often the same things over and over again: Stats highlights, play-by-play and boring dry updates.

Game days move quickly. You feel like you need to cover it all. I get it. The beautiful thing is you don’t have to cover every single play.

In 2016, take a step back and define your purpose for game day. Game day coverage doesn’t always have to be about dry and boring play-by-play. Focus on the stories and the behind-the-scenes moments. Be the eyes and ears for your fans. Add value, not noise. Do anything but tweet just to tweet.

 

 

4- Stop trying to win the Internet.

2015 was the year of social media mishaps. Sadly, some people lost their jobs from one single tweet. As a social media manger, you can’t try too hard to win the Internet… it will only end up in trouble.

In 2016, platforms need to be treated with a little more tender loving care. Social media is often the front door to an organization. And while we should have fun on the platforms, it also shouldn’t be taken lightly. There are many ways to resonate with fans. The voice of an organization on social media should be an internal team exercise— not just that of the social media manager. Once the voice and tone are set, it is up to the social media manager to leverage his or her creativity on the platforms, writing ability and artistic eye to shine. Creativity isn’t limited to voice and tone alone.

 

5- Investing in video.

Video, video, video. You’re going to be hearing a lot about video in 2016 as it’s growing exponentially:

 

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 11.40.02 PM

Video takes more time, money and effort, but it’s what people are going online to consume. Video is a more powerful piece of content. It’s better for recall, it’s more persuasive and it improves interaction rate.

In 2016, take the time to put together a thoughtful approach to video. Nearly every social media channel supports video in some form or fashion AND it gives the opportunity to tell a more powerful, emotional story way beyond the field and stats. From quick 10-second hits to more long-form storytelling, it’s time to take video seriously. There’s no excuse to not include it in your content efforts.

 

6- Spending on social (on all fronts).

We all know the days of social media being free are over. It takes a strong budget and resources to do social the right way.
A good social media presence requires several things from a budgetary standpoint. First, it requires manpower from a community manager to content creators (photographer, graphic designer, etc.). It’s nearly impossible for one-man social teams to cover all they want AND interact with the community of fans. It’s also impossible to think that a one-man team (or small tam) can strategize, analyze AND create good content. Build the team it takes to succeed.

Secondly, good content often needs a little boost to take off. Put aside money for paid. This will ensure your content is seen and will help you reach new fans. With all the noise online now and algorithms to deal with, the days of organic reach are long gone.

In 2016, it’s time to take the investment in social media seriously. If social media is a priority for your brand, team, league, etc. then build out a budget and resources appropriately. The right investment is important as this space becomes more and more cluttered—good content and coverage comes at a cost.

 

7- Mobile messaging

Mobile messaging continues to rise in dominance. Thirty-six percent of smartphone users report using a messaging app (via Pew). That number increases to 49% with those 18 – 29. Messaging apps capture attention in a more powerful way. Users often spend more time in the apps and engagement is personal and deep (way beyond a double tap). If you’re looking to attract future fans, messaging is a good place to start. Here’s a look at the stats:

 

2015-08-19_social-media-update_03
While we don’t have a lot of case studies for mobile app activation in sports, there is a great example from the Colts. In 2015, the Colts became the first sports team on Kik. They launched a promoted chat that takes followers through seven levels of a choose-your-own adventure story about rising through the football ranks from high school player to the pros. You can read more about it here.

 

IMG_1329

If you want to think outside the box and attract a younger audience in 2016, then think about how you can activate with mobile messaging. Here’s a good list of four apps on the rise.

 

8- Build community.

Engagement lands on my list of teams and leagues need to do all too often. Social gives brands a first-hand connection to consumers. Listening and connecting– above anything– is what makes the platforms so special. Community engagement takes a lot of time, but it’s worth it. It builds a stronger relationship with fans. Kelly Mosier of Nebraska makes a great point:

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 11.31.36 PM

 

When you work in the industry it’s easy to be jaded about what a reply from a team account can mean to a fan. But trust me, there’s a lot of value in it. In 2016 take the time to focus on community. Personal interaction is important– and it’s going to stay that way.

 

9- Focus on the raw moment.

Social media sometimes get a bad rap for the “perfect” picture people portray online. Everything is filtered, censored and edited. There’s another side to social thought: The raw side, and it’s alive and well. Thanks to apps like Snapchat (where people are happiest) and Periscope, teams, fans and leagues can offer a first-hand and unedited version of what’s going on around them. People want that.

In 2016, offer those raw moments that fans are craving. Live and unedited doesn’t make sense for everything, but it certainty has it’s place. Take advantage of all the new apps and functionality out there to offer a first-hand perspective and live content.

 

10- Leverage content creators.

The world is full of creative people, and the Internet helps us find those people quickly and easily. If you’re looking for a way to differentiate your content, enlisting another creative is a great way to do so. Here are a few good examples of teams that have done this.

 

 

Tonight for #BullsSocialNight, we welcome back #Chicago artist @jasonmpeterson to take over our Instagram account.

A photo posted by Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) on

 

In 2016, don’t be afraid to leverage people outside your organization/team to tell a unique story. Whether you host a contest, encourage UGC, show the fan’s perspective of hire a creative to produce for a day, there are so many opportunities to tell your story in a unique and different way.

 

11- Respect for each platform.

Please repeat after me: What you put on one platform doesn’t belong on every platform. I still see way too many teams and leagues sharing the sharing the same content across everything.

In 2016, take the time to define a point-of-view and “reason for being” on each platform. Study the way users use each platform and see how you can bring that to life for your account. It’s okay to cross-promote some content across all platforms, but nothing should be an all-out blanketed approach. Map out a way to play to each platform’s strength (like real-time moments on Twitter and raw perspective on Snapchat) and give users a different experience across each of your accounts. You’ll build a stronger community and audience if you do this.

 

12- Not treating content like a billboard.

We saw a lot more sponsored content in 2015. It’s not a bad thing, but all too often the sponsored content is forced or screams advertisement. When content becomes forced, it just adds noise to the community and little value to the sponsor.

In 2016, be smart, strategic and creative with your sponsored content. You should approach sponsored social content like you do every other piece of social content: Focus on creating value. Whether the content is to inform, entertain or educate, the value does not come from logos or brand names; the value comes in the heart of the content. This it ends up being a win-win for the sponsor and fans. Read more about making the most of sponsored content here.

Below are a few examples of good sponsored content. Don’t just slap logo on things. Integrate authentically.

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 1.05.17 PM

 

 

13- Empowering others.

A lot of industries lean on influencers to help spread the word, so why not do the same in sports? Whether it’s a celebrity fan, influencer or others in your athletic department, don’t be afraid to give influencers within your circle content/tool kits/resources to help spread the word.

Several teams leverage their coaches to push out messages for them with stellar branded content and they get great engagement. It’s an example of what can be done, but I would encourage you to think even broader:

 

 

 

In 2016, take a look at your circle of influencers and find a way to empower them. You don’t have to spread the word and build a community alone.

 


 

 

Now it’s your turn to sound off! What would you like to see in social media + sports in 2016? 

Thanks for reading!