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?

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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?

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Innovation Through Strong Creative & Content Is Key

In the early days of social media, you couldn’t even upload a photo to Twitter (gasp). Innovation then was linked to platform updates. Every day it seemed like there was a new feature, new rollout and new way to tell your story with the rise of “visual platforms”.

It’s 2019 and we’re no longer experiencing a rise of “visual platforms”.  The internet and social media became visual playground long ago and it’s here to stay.  As a result, innovation on a day-to-day basis is less about platform updates and more about to push the envelope through creative, content and unique executions.

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?

There are no hard fast rules when it comes to pushing the limits of creative and content, but a few things to keep in mind:

Start with a content strategy (aka know your why).

Too often in social we throw things at the wall. We test and we try, without understanding the why. This fly-by approach means that teams are creating content that doesn’t necessarily move the needle on the business objectives.

The only work that really matters is work that has the larger picture in mind. The best way to ensure that everything the team is creating has a purpose is to put your plan to paper. Take the time to define what a content strategy looks like and how it maps back to the larger goals.

When you put your plan to paper it gives the the team purpose, permission to focus to what is important and defines a box for creative to play in. More on creating a content strategy here.

Quality > output.

Output for the sake of output is one of the worst things about digital today. It’s caused a seam of sameness and an incredible amount of noise.

Marketing has never been measured by the volume of content though. It’s measured by the quality and effectiveness of the work, and it’s time everyone that works in social media reminds themselves of that.  

Digital leaders today need to give their teams permission to focus less on volume and more on quality. The daily churn of content becomes a toxic cycle that is hard to break. It’s a cycle where teams become burnt out, content becomes stale and consumers start to turn out.

Good content doesn’t happen overnight. There’s a process and it takes time. Say no to content for the sake of content and yes to content that elevates your brand, engages fan and moves the needle on business objectives.

Encourage experimentation.

Sometimes teams get so caught up in chasing likes that they become scared to try something new. Highlights work, so highlights are what is shared all day long.

When we become obsessed with vanity metrics and have no larger vision, then it’s easy to fall into a state of complacency and sameness. We find that “one thing” that works and we keep doing it over and over again.

This sort of routine might work for a little while, but in this fast-changing world of the internet, things will eventually become stale.  

The reality is we don’t know what truly works well unless we try. And, it’s our job in this industry to push new ways of thinking, storytelling and creating.

Leaders must foster an environment where experimentation is encouraged in order to stay ahead of the curve and keep things fresh. Experimentation shouldn’t just be allowed, but celebrated.

Success is multifaceted.

Too often social teams look at success in a one dimensional way. Just because highlights are the best performing piece of content does not mean that’s the only type of content that should be shared. Don’t let engagement metrics pigeon-hold the team to sharing the same thing over and over and over again.

When teams have a clear and defined content strategy, then measuring success should map back to that. Success is not just about engagement alone. Success is also defined by how well the team tells the brand’s story, the content franchises that are brought to life, how the story is executed, etc.  

Social channels are multi-dimensional for teams and leagues allowing them to tell their complete story, engage with fans and drive revenue. And because of that, how we define success should be multifaceted too.

Think like a programmer.

Too often social teams suffer from the fear of missing out. There’s a sense that we have to cover everything, all the time.

Batting practice and pregame warm ups are a good example of this. Before every game, across every league, you are guaranteed to see the same exact pregame pictures and video over and over and over again. It becomes a tired story very quickly.

When teams get in the mindset of covering, we start doing and dumping without understanding why. Think about Instagram on game days. So many posts upwards of 20 times and garner less than a 2% engagement rate. That’s a serious flag that we need to give thought to content volume and distribution. A less than 2 percent engagement rate should show a serious need to pivot (and no, don’t blame it on the algorithm).

Instead of “covering” everything, think about how to “program” everything. Look at the totality of the season and curate a plan that shows every moment, every angle, every storyline over time. The *over time* is key here.

Teams don’t have to dump everything on fans all at once. Consider what has already been covered and offer up something different. With a plan and the focus on curating smartly, the story can unfold in a natural and organic fashion over time– without being intrusive to fans’ feeds.

Obsess over execution & variety.

Execution is where good ideas go to die, so don’t spend all your time obsessing over ideas and forget to emphasize the need to execute right.  How teams produce and package their content has become as critical as the content idea itself.

Creative execution is what separates the best from the rest. When teams focus on the details of the creative execution 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 simply means that you’ve taken the time to make sure the idea comes to life right.

In addition, there are so many ways to bring a story to life. Whether teams turn stills into moving image, leverage illustrations or tap into a strong video edit it should be a priority for have variety in creative executions. Obsess over all those ways you can bring your story to life and execute right. It matters.

Okay, so are you to push the envelopes of your creative and content? Here’s a wide range of content lately that will provide some inspiration:

Ohio State & Braves– Package Your Assets
I’m a big believer in finding ways to package your assets together. Instead of flooding your feed with a million photos and videos from a practice, game or moment, executions like the below allows teams to leverage multiple assets to piece together a story in an engaging way:

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E I G H T in a row. #ChopOn

A post shared by Atlanta Braves (@braves) on

Oklahoma & Mariners– Simple Edit Brings The Fire
When I talk about obsessing over creative execution, it does not mean that everything has to be overdone and complicated. Below are a few examples of simple and clean edits that still bring the fire, whether they offer unique access and perspective or evoke emotion:

Brooklyn Nets – Subtle Motion
Subtle motion helps to capture the eye and pull people in without making them wait for information to unfold (like a long-drawn-out animation can do). Don’t have motion be a nuance. Use motion to pull people in while still making it easy and quick for them to get the information they want and need.

Purdue Basketball – Humanizing Through Stills

Purdue Basketball launched a content series that shares the meaning behind student-athletes’ tattoos. The series is a great example of how to showcase a more human side of players. The best part is they leveraged stills, not video, which could be an easy route to execute if face time is limited with players.

Miami Heat – Split Screen to Engage
Highlights are everywhere these days, so it’s important for teams to think through how they can leverage highlights in different ways. The below from Miami is a great example of a clean split-screen execution used to engage fans:

Other Unique Edits & Creative Executions That Have Stood Out Recently

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“No way.” 🤭

A post shared by Sacramento Kings (@sacramentokings) on

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The Case for Cooperstown. #LegaCCy

A post shared by New York Yankees (@yankees) on

In today’s overcrowded landscape, how we push creative and content to new places is key. Invest in a strong vision around content and empower teams to work their magic.

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Why We Have To Stop Screaming “Buy Tickets”

Digital marketing has come a long way from the early days. It’s no longer a platform to just push information. We can now reach consumers, engage them and ultimately get them to convert.

With the strides over the years in performance media, digital has become a powerful tool for brands to drive results quickly. The ability to map revenue back to the platforms has been a huge catalyst in leadership taking digital more seriously.

There’s a challenge to all this though. In the search for a better ROAS, we’ve become obsessed with data and quick results. We’ve become impatient as marketers often playing the short-game instead of the long-game. We’ve become flat and uninspired in our advertising often pushing people to the end of the funnel at all cost.

If we aren’t careful, we’re going to lose the true magic of what digital allows us to do. As marketers, we can’t be focused on brand marketing alone and we can’t only be focused on performance marketing alone. We have to do both and ensure they work together.

The rise of performance media has led to marketing that is often too transactional. There is a misconception that telling people to “buy tickets” and spending dollars broadcasting it across channels will drive “butts in seats”. The result is marketing that is generic, annoying to consumers and dilutes the brand foundation that’s been built.

Here’s the thing. It’s not enough just to sell. We have to sell well. This means getting consumers to buy through campaigns that feel authentic, relevant and engaging for consumers and celebrates the brand. It’s about building up brand equity, while also getting people to convert. Doing this requires a strong understanding of the brand, our consumer and what makes good creative.

Instead of treating performance marketing and brand marketing as separate entities, it’s time to treat them as partners. These two things must work together if we want to drive the strongest results possible and play the long-term game.

Nik Sharma, one of my favorite thought leaders in the space, coined the perfect term: It’s time to focus on performance branding.  Take the time to read his thread on it:

Performance branding is about driving a connection while also driving business results. It’s about building a nimble plan that puts the brand first, builds long-term affinity, leverages the right data with creative and sells tickets. It blends the magic of why people love sports (the emotion) with what we’re all hired to do (sell tickets and drive revenue).

If you are looking to adopt this mentality, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Fans don’t want to be sold too.

Fans don’t want to be sold too. They want to be entertained, engaged and delivered relevant information. If you work for a sports team there’s a good chance people already know that tickets are available. And because of that, screaming at people that tickets are on sale won’t do much except maybe close the loop on those who were probably going to buy one way or another. It’s not about saying “tickets are on sale now”. It’s about capturing fan attention.

Emotion over selling tickets.

Instead of selling tickets to fans, performance branding is about showing fans what the experience is all about. It’s about tapping into the emotion of why people love sports. The community, the camaraderie, the action, the excitement. Don’t tell people that tickets are on sale. Show them what they miss out on by not attending a game in person.

Emotion is the most powerful tools we have as marketers. Performance branding leverages the emotional connection fans have to the game versus a transactional tone. When we tap into emotion instead of transaction we pull consumers in instead of turning them off. And when we have their attention and capture their hearts, it’s more likely that they’ll convert. Sell the emotion, not the tickets.

Know what makes good creative.

For whatever reason, there tends to be a “check the box” mentality with creative in digital advertising. Too often teams have an extremely engaging presence on social, but a completely dry and boring approach to how their brand comes through digital advertising.

Brand creative and performance marketing creative should not be a separate thing. In fact, the overall brand creative should help drive and influence how creative comes to life across performance marketing. If creative feels completely disconnected from the brand values, the brand messaging and what makes the team/fan base unique, then something is amiss. The stronger the creative, the stronger the results.

At the end of the day, what works on organic is most likely going to work in your digital advertising efforts. It’s not about the sell with the content, but capturing attention, hearts and minds.

Not all consumers are created equal.

Too often there’s an approach with digital advertising to “spray and pray”. We have so much data today, yet so often we bombard our data lists with the same message, same creative, same frequency. If we don’t have a true understanding of our target consumers, then we’ll never have a true understanding of what they need from us.

It’s important to keep in mind that not all consumers are created equal. If your job is to sell tickets, then take the time to define and understand what your target audience looks like. Not everyone you are trying to reach is going to have the same reasons why they come to a game or cheer for a team. From diehard fans to social fans, their needs are different.

Do the hard work to understand your current and prospective fans. Know why they care and why they buy, then mold the message to them. More relevant messaging and products can go a long way in getting fans to convert.

Conversions can take time – that’s okay.

As mentioned, performance marketing has made us impatient as marketers. We look for the quick conversion instead of playing the long game. Not all conversions happen quickly though – but that does not take away from the important of building brand affinity, prospecting and warming up a lead. When teams invest in an approach that blends brand and performance, it allows them to still build equity with a fan or consumer that is not quite ready to buy.

Think about it. A consumer that is being retargeted from your site or cart abandoner is a completely different consumer than one that hasn’t even considered buying a ticket. Hitting up a less warm lead with a  “buy tickets now” message does not build any equity. But, hitting them up with an emotional ad that pulls them in and piques their interest helps build brand affinity. They might not convert today, but at least you got their attention and have them thinking about your brand.

Not all conversions are created equal. It’s important to remember that your investment in digital advertising does not have to be a “this or that” approach. You can build up fan affinity and brand equity, while also drive ticket sales. It’s the teams that invest in the long game and not just the short game that will win over time.

Here’s a really smart thread on why you should be invested in both brand and performance. It’s about DTC, but still extremely relevant:

Touchpoints matter.

The traditional consumer journey is changing drastically. Today, we need to think less about the sequence of messaging and more about the different touchpoints and the context/intent of the channel. Reaching a consumer through SEM is different than social; SEM is more lower-full, while social help makes a lead warmer.

So often though, we look at reporting through channel-based metrics. And, I don’t think it paints the full picture. Just because someone bought through SEM does not mean that the rest of the efforts did not play a part. We shouldn’t focus only on where people convert. It’s about the totality of our efforts and not one single ad.

We need to think about how we measure the totality efforts and look at attribution differently. It’s important to understand how all the touchpoints all work together to move consumer along to convert.

Touchpoints matter.

The traditional consumer journey is changing drastically. Today, we need to think less about the sequence of messaging and more about the different touchpoints and the context/intent of the channel. Reaching a consumer through SEM is different than social; one shows intent while one might help to warm up a lead. It’s doesn’t mean that one is less important than the other though.

So often though, we look at reporting through channel-based metrics and we invest in the areas where we see the most direct ROI. And, I don’t think it paints the full picture. Just because someone bought through SEM does not mean that the rest of the efforts did not play a part. We shouldn’t focus only on where people convert. It’s about the totality of our efforts and not one single ad.

We need to think about how we measure the totality efforts and look at attribution differently. It’s important to understand how all the touchpoints all work together to move consumer along to buy.

Be nimble.

One of the beauties in digital advertising is it allows us to be nimble. Unlike traditional marketing channels, we can test, try and tweak daily. If something isn’t working, then change the approach.

A campaign should never be pushed live and walked away from. The best results are driven through daily monitoring, making changes and keeping creative fresh.

Specific to sports teams, it’s also important to make sure your digital advertising efforts have a pulse on the team and fan sentiment. Creative should not be tone deaf to what’s happening on the field. Be nimble and tailor your creative accordingly.

At the end of the day, performance media and brand should go hand-in-hand. As marketers, we need to close the gap and make sure that we’re driving both fan affinity and ticket sales for long-term growth. Performance branding is the ultimate sweet spot that allows us to tap into why our fans love our teams while also driving business results.

Looking for a few examples of strong creative focused selling the experience, emotion or engaging content versus transaction? A few examples below:

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Social Is Not A Silo

Once upon a time social media was a new tool that companies knew they needed to take advantage of but didn’t know why and how. As a result, the recent college grad in the office got the keys and had to figure it out.

Ten years ago, I was handed those keys right out of college. This was a time in the industry before Instagram was a thing and algorithms controlled the news feed. Facebook and Twitter were the core of social. Content meant text posts that drove people to a blog (big gasp). Social media was “free” (eyes roll).

In my first few roles, I had a lot of freedom to do what I wanted and make those decisions alone. The organizations I worked for had strong visions and strategies in place, but social was still such a grey area. We needed to be there, but did not really know the business case. Hence, the free reign.

The early days of social are long gone now. We no longer need to try without understanding why. Social media has grown up, matured and proved its business case. It’s the front door to brands today. It drives brand affinity and also revenue. And as a result, social media roles need to evolve from what they were “way back when” and stop treating them like a silo. There are two big keys that need to be addressed with this:

First, social is a marketing tool.

At the start of my career, I had very little marketing foundation. I wasn’t thinking about the brand, voice, big ideas and integrated planning. Everyday was a tactical playground where I posted and tweeted without a larger understanding of the why.

I have to guess that I’m not the only young social hire who did not quite understand what building a strong brand foundation means. And in the endless playground that is social, it’s easy to get distracted in the things that (quite frankly) don’t move the needle.

After years in this industry, one of the biggest frustrations I have is that people who work in social are too often put in a corner. Social media managers aren’t “just social” people. They are marketers who happen to specialize/work in a channel. And, they should be embedded in the larger marketing vision.

If someone works in social, it’s not their job to understand the platforms alone. It’s their job to understand marketing, brand and creative. Period.

People who work in social should not be disconnected from the overall marketing picture. This is true in how we hire, train and set people up for growth.

If you hire a new college graduate for a social media role, expose them to projects beyond social. They need to know more than the platforms. They need to grasp marketing as a whole and how their work maps back to the larger goals. Give them that foundation.

If you hire a more senior leader for social, make sure they have a seat at the marketing table. Understand that they have more to offer than their knowledge of the platforms.

And, for anyone that works in social, they should be encouraged to expand their scope. This means leading projects beyond the platforms and providing a path for growth that does not pigeonhole them to the platforms.

Social is part of the larger marketing vision. Employees should be adept in the brand vision, strategy and plan. They should be able to translate that vision and the brand to the channels.

Long story short, stop putting social in a corner.

Second, social is a collective effort.

In a similar vein, the voice and tone of how the brand comes to life on social media should not be the sole job of one or two people. Companies would never let one person dictate a brand campaign, so why should one person dictate the entire presence of a brand?

Yes, there will always be someone who plays gatekeeper on the channels. I believe in defining lanes, having gatekeepers and knowing who ultimately is the final decision maker. But the “big picture” of the presence should never be dictated by one or two people. It’s imperative to make sure there’s a team that contributes to the collective strategy – a strategy that starts with the brand and larger vision.

When one person dictates the entire presence, too often it becomes about personal preference. Social media is not about the person behind the account. It’s about the brand, the brand, the brand.

Just like social media is part of marketing, social media should be a collective effort within the marketing function. Breakdown the silos, open up the doors and make sure the work is mapping back to what everyone is driving towards. When a team contributes to the channel it becomes about the bigger picture and helps leave egos at the door.

The old ways of social being a role that lives in a silo should be long gone. Yes, organizations need people who are experts and gatekeepers of the platforms, but it should still be a collective effort.

At the end of the day social is part of the larger marketing ecosystem. It’s time to structure how we hire and work in that way.

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