Leadership Huddle With Christi Bedan, Tampa Bay Bucs

It’s time for the fifth installment of Leadership Huddle, a series on the blog where leaders in sport and beyond offer perspective on digital today. Some of the guests work directly in digital while others are leaders outside of the space (but get the work and advocate for it).

This installment of the Leadership Huddle features Christi Bedan, VP of Digital & Media at the Tampa Bay Bucs. Christi joined the organization a year ago.  In her role, she is responsible for all digital & content departments (digital, social, radio, TV, gameday video).  Prior to joining the Bucs, she spent 12 years in Chicago at Stadium (a multi-platform sports network) and NBC Sports’ action sports venture in various leadership roles managing media partnerships, digital product and distribution.  She started her career in sponsorship consulting at an Atlanta agency. 

If you follow the Tampa Bay Bucs on social, you’ve probably noticed they stepped up their game this season. From strong brand storytelling to unique game day illustrations, their digital presence is fun, engaging and ownable. It’s most certainly a testament to the work of Christi and the team she has built. Below is the Q&A. I hope you enjoy the perspective and insights.

When you joined the Bucs, I imagine you spent quite a bit of time laying a foundation and getting buy-in. For others trying to get digial buy-in across their own organizations, what are three pieces of advice you can share from your own experience? 

The entire offseason was spent understanding our market, our fans, and what we want the brand to stand for.  This project was led from the marketing team, but once that foundation is laid out, it becomes quite apparent that one of the, if not the primary opportunities to bring that to life is on digital platforms.  For example, part of our mission is that we want to be a brand that provides a year-round fan experience.  Digital is critical to achieving that, for obvious reasons. So to specifically answer your question, three pieces of advice:

Collect consumer data.  We did a number of focus groups and interviews in the market to understand the current perceptions and sentiment of the brand.  There were some clear ways to combat some of that feedback in the marketplace that we were able to use to support buy-in for digital.

Know the value. Measure the value delivered to corporate partners, at the very least as an internal benchmark.  Most sponsorships do not carve out dedicated media plans, but if you’re able to show the value you are delivering as a team (both production and exposure) you can start to justify additional resources as you grow that number. 

Look at budgets. Understand where dollars are being spent within budgets; yours and cross-functionally.  Often times, the justification of a resource is as simple as moving dollars from outsourced work to in-house.  

Generally speaking, what do you see as digital’s role within the team landscape today? And, how do you think its role will change in the future (5+ years from now)? 

The importance of the digital role has just scratched the surface.  Today, it is a central component for branding and becoming more critical for sponsors.  But, we are just beginning to see the impact on the marketing and gameday/stadium side.  Five years from now,  the customer experience is going to be transformed.  From mobile ticketing/ordering to supplemental AR content that provides real-time stats to bots.   Further, the data teams will have access to as a result will continue to evolve where as a team, you can have a very direct 1:1 conversation with someone after they leave the venue.    

Digital/social has matured a great deal in the last few years as it relates to paid and sponsorship, but there still seems to be a disconnect between organic and its ROI. How can we in the industry demonstrate the value of social and content, especially the plays that don’t have a hard tie to revenue? 

I think there are a few things here that can be primarily addressed by what are you trying to achieve as a brand.  At your core, what do you want your fans to take away from the experience with your team or organization?  For those plays that aren’t directly tied to revenue, it is important to build that case for the indirect ties.

Digital/social is essentially an additional marketing platform that didn’t exist years ago.  If you build your audience, you don’t have to outsource all marketing, and dollars can be reallocated.  And you are investing in future fans.  Further, you are collecting the data and building consumer profiles that can ultimately be leveraged for more direct ROI.  Test and provide data. 

What are the biggest keys for setting digital/content teams up for success?

The key is to setup an infrastructure that allows for cross-functional collaboration.  Silos have to be broken down because digital is only successful when working hand in hand with partnerships, marketing, ticketing, community relations, football, stadium ops, etc. 

Additionally, team members need to understand the importance of taking ownership of every project and thinking beyond just clicks and views but how all stakeholders can be affected, and ultimately, working towards a common end goal.  The more people you have looking at the whole picture, the more impactful a digital team can be. 

Lastly, set an environment that allows for trial and error, and in the end, more creativity. 

And finally, switching gears to professional growth. For anyone who aspires to one day be in a position similar to yours, what advice do you have on gaining the right experience and skills?

Stay curious and self-aware.  Challenge yourself to understand not just the task at hand but three steps prior and three steps ahead.  If you put in the work, with every task or project, to fully think through and anticipate what you may be asked by managers, colleagues, sponsors or other stakeholders, you will be forced to grow beyond your individual role.  Make sure you know the ‘why’.

A big thank you to Christi Bedan for her time and perspective. Connect with her here: LinkedIn and Twitter. And, be sure to follow the Bucs across digital for some great inspiration: Twitter, Instagram & Facebook.

If you enjoyed this conversation, be sure to read the others from this series: Harry ArnettEric SanInocencioGraham Neff and Brendan Hannan.

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