Insight Into Evil Geniuses’ Social Media Philosophy

This a guest post from Matt Demers, the Social Media Director for Evil Geniuses (esports team).  A few weeks ago, I saw tweets from Matt outlining their approach to social. His insight was thoughtful, interesting and something I think we could all learn from. Thankfully, he agreed to share a glimpse into their at Evil Geniuses. Enjoy!

Imagine that it’s game day, and you’re ready to make your usual hype posts and recaps of what your fans need to know. Now imagine that a good part of your fanbase has no idea about the game; they’re following you for something else, and that something else isn’t scheduled for another week.

In the world of esports — or professional video games — a team is not limited to one sport. For many organizations, they are active in many titles across a wide spectrum of genres, tones, and moods; think as if your baseball team also had an American Football, hockey, and rugby roster, all with different stars, lineups, and information.

For Evil Geniuses — the team I work for — this has led to an interesting conundrum that I didn’t have to deal with until we got to the point where we needed to expand.

As someone who’s played video games in the genres we cover, there’s a lot of crossover knowledge. Having the time to be able to learn or play the games we ventured into meant being able to do my job well. In training our new social media associate, it became clear that our strategy would have to rely less on my instinct. The challenge was continuing a genuine feeling of community and understanding that is essential to our jobs.

In a couple tweets the other week, I laid out what was what stuck out in my mind as our social media philosophy, and Jess was kind enough to invite me to expand on them here.

Show that we’re paying attention.

Having worked in a sports newsroom, I knew that some aspects were the same whether they were talking about the turf or the keyboard. As the esports industry grows, both myself and our designer started look away from the established “gamer” aesthetic to be able to see what traditional sports was doing.

We had to be careful, though, as the culture of video games is different that the culture of sports. I quickly realized when I started that a lot of our audience didn’t have the experience of growing up around a traditional sporting relationship; we could not guarantee that a simple one-to-one copying of what’s worked for the NBA or NFL would work here.

For instance, not all our fans have the context of a long-term build of talent or growth. Every loss is a reason to dump any number of our players because any loss must mean a problem. While this type of reactionary behavior is present in traditional sports, there may not be those who are familiar with the patience needed to see a rebuild come to fruition.

In covering our games, we make every effort to actually play and take part within them to understand what it means to live in that world. This sounds pretty simple and a no-brainer for all sports social, but I’m sure many of you will know how much adding layers of knowledge or analysis can help your coverage.

Fans can tell when this kind of analysis is being faked; their noses are trained to sniff out that lack of authenticity, and they are wary of being marketed to.

They appreciate extra details, like knowing the overarching metagame of a title or how the game has changed recently. Game developers constantly iterate new versions of their titles for public and professional consumption, and this means new environments for fans and pros alike. Simple things like tone and language matter when going from one game to another; I would not use the same vocabulary when reporting Street Fighter as I would Dota 2.

It’s like the differences in basketball and football culture: each community has their own set of expectations and rules of engagement.

While there are arguments for the negativities of elitism and gatekeeping, these communities want to know their support is being sent to the right places. They want to know that we get what makes them special, and we’re not there to make money off something hot.

To be able to build up the goodwill that allow them to trust us, we have to provide them with information and content that they are either unable to find on their own, or that they would not have thought to look for. This means leveraging statistics, trends, or behind-the-scenes answers that are out of their reach.

We also need to be careful of what the “cost” for this information is. Fans will notice if they can only access information after paying admission by watching advertisements or sponsor roll; by giving this extra value without catches, we look to build a relationship based on shared enthusiasm.

Our choices on what to include come from a frame of mind that looks to prove ourselves as competent to our audience; we know that any error will be called out by those looking for the opportunity to one-up an authority.

Participating in a community allows us to see the strengths, weaknesses and pain points that others may miss. Especially when esports may be divorced from a player base that plays the game casually (who don’t watch competitive), it humbles us to what are a very picky customer base.

As a rule, authenticity is king. Above all else, we want to avoid being Steve Buscemi in 30 Rock. We do not want to come off as saying “How do you do, fellow kids?”


Establish stakes.

Going back to the issue of having many games to cover, we often run into the problem of our fanbase “signing up” for coverage with one title, and having to clash with others they may not care about.

One of the ways we deal with that is to write copy in a way that introduces players to a new title softly. While we can’t hope to onboard someone to a new title (which may take many hours to get comfortable with), we can try to give them a hook to hold onto while they test the waters of something unfamiliar.

For example, over the past year we’ve seen a major rise in our fanbase after acquiring a roster for Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. The game is a slower, tactical shooting game that is simple to watch with many details; while it can be easy to say “the team with more people alive has an advantage”, it’s harder to explain how they got that advantage.

In picking up the game myself, I found a steep learning curve. Not only are you learning capabilities of “positions” played by the user, but the playing field itself has nuance in how it’s attacked or defended.

The challenge then becomes giving someone who has not played (or may never play) the game a reason to care. For people who do play the game, the shared context of playing a game at a casual level and then seeing it played professionally fills in the gaps. If you’ve ever thrown a baseball, you know why an MLB pitcher is special; it is our goal to bridge that gap and show why it’s special.

This relates to the “paying attention” paragraph because our copy, choice of highlights, and efforts need to center around elevating our players’ stature to the level of a true professional.

Part of esports’ appeal is that accessibility; you can play a pick-up game with your favorite player if you both were at the same skill level. You can enter a tournament with 2000 other entrants and meet one of our players in pool play. But if you don’t have that shared context of playing the same game, establishing an emotional connection is a lot harder.

Reminding our fans of where we are in the grand scope of the tournament, what we stand to achieve, and how we can do it is key to our mission of building fans of Evil Geniuses, not just EG Rainbow Six fans. Each of our tweets can be the on-boarding of someone into a title they may not have touched otherwise, and any details we can provide (without alienating the hardcore who have already arrived) allows us to cross-pollinate attention and develop a more healthy audience.

Don’t start anything we can’t keep consistent.

In esports, there is a tendency to split your accounts on a per-game basis, but I personally don’t agree with it; I find that it shunts less-popular titles into a corner where they are not given the opportunities to blossom. In general, if they are not given the resources to grow, they won’t.

It also runs into the problem of content gaps, as not all video games have active schedules. It became clear that starting separate accounts would lead to a splitting of bandwidth that would also leave them unattended when competition was not in session.

This attitude also guides me when it comes to considering new platforms to expand to; we need to be able to maintain these platforms with new content so that do not stagnate. While again, this may seem like a no-brainer, the realities of esports makes generating this content different and introduces new challenges.

Often, our players are not playing full-time, nor are they unified in one central facility. Some of our players maintain part-time jobs, or compete in competition via the Internet from different cities. This makes simple things like photos, video or behind-the-scenes social difficult, and the stakes of live events where we are all in one place higher.

It means the condensing of our social to a few key platforms (currently Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) helps keep us focused and avoiding the fear of missing out. If we cannot ensure a consistent experience, we refuse to chase the shiniest thing.

My reasoning is that while our fans may question “why are you not on [platform]?”, they will always remember an experience on a new platform done badly. This will be doubly as loud when resources are expended to onboard people to that new platform, only to have it die. As we expand our social team from one person to several, and have constant contact with a flow of new content through in-person traveling with the team, we can take more chances.

This not only involves platforms, but content itself. If we cannot ensure that we will nail a video or blog or podcast every single week, we must be able to put a launch on hold until we can ensure it’s done right. In my experience, a few things done really well is better than a lot of things done with varying amounts of success.

Wrapping it up.

Video games represent a new and challenging environment, mostly because of the clash of two separate cultures. As someone who never was a lifelong fan of a sports team growing up, it took a few tournaments before I “got it.” In delving deeper into esports over the past five years, I’ve met so many people who come from different walks of life that still “get it” in the same way.

That shared joy and pain is what makes it fun to do our jobs, and share in collective successes and disappointments as fans. But, as professionals, the chase to be ahead of our competition means possibly losing or forgetting why we’ve tried to make sports a greater part of our lives and careers in the first place.

I urge all of you to consider demographics that you have never thought of, and chase that authentic, genuine connection over something that brings a lot of enrichment to our lives.

Even if you’ve never picked up a controller before, the spirit of competition is something that drives both traditional sports and esports; if we’re looking for a common ground, I feel happy meeting halfway there.


A big thanks to Matt for the valuable insight. For anyone interested in esports and/or digital, give him a follow @MattDemers and check out his work with Evil Geniuses: Twitter, Instagram, Twitch & Facebook


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Making Highlights Your Own

In the early days of social media, you would never see highlights on Twitter. The internet was the wild, wild west and so many clung to control. Thankfully, we have come a long way. Leagues and broadcast partners have loosened the reins on rights at various different levels. If you scroll through Twitter during a live game you’re guaranteed to highlight after highlight and big plays. 

But sometimes with highlights, it feels like a sea of sameness. Leagues share them. Teams share them. Broadcast partners share them. Even fans share them. So many people have access to highlights that they aren’t original anymore.

The more access to highlights is a good thing for everyone, but it brings up an interesting point for teams. How can highlights and big-play moments become more their own? Here’s why this thinking is important:

Adds to the second screen.

Making highlights and game coverage more original adds to the second screen experience. It takes what was seen in broadcast and puts a fresh spin on it. And even if the fan isn’t watching on TV, the original spin probably has just as much value – if not more – than a straight-up broadcast highlight because it’s different, unique, entertaining and/or adds a POV.

Separates from the crowd.

As mentioned above, there are already a host of others who are going to share straight up highlights no matter what. Being able to push out something original from a big moment helps separate your content from the rest. And, content that is engaging and ownable is what all teams should strive for.

Pushes creativity.

Sports are unpredictable, but they are also very cyclical. It can be easy to get in the same routine from a coverage standpoint. If you make it a priority as a team to start creating more original content, it will push your creativity. You’ll search for new angles. You’ll catch candid/interesting moments. You’ll come up with new and amazing creative executions. Essentially, this type of thinking will help your team raise the bar.


Gives moments more legs.

I understand there are moments where it makes sense to share a clip of a straight highlight. It’s the fastest and easiest way to share in the moment. Additionally, certain leagues have restrictions where teams can’t share original footage in-game (or the amount is limited). Understanding that not every team can share original content during games, there’s still value in making them original as an opportunity to give the moment more legs. 

Depending on the situation and the rules, teams can share the broadcast footage in the moment and then layer on original content later. For example, share the straight highlight in-game, then follow up the next morning with your more original content play. This way you extend the moment in a fresh and original way. 

And if rules are no issue, then the hardest part with original content in game is determining the need for immediacy and figuring out the workflow. Turning around content quickly is no easy feat, so it’s a balancing act of understanding what needs to be pushed out now, what can be pushed out later and where we can share a straight highlight but then put a spin on it later.

So, how we can take highlights and make them more original or extend the moment of the big play? Below are a few creative executions + styles for that have caught my eye.

Note: The first bucket is something for in-game, while the others are probably ideas for extending the moment/play and giving it more legs given the product time.


FYOF: Film your own footage.

Filming your own footage is a great way to get game highlights that are different from the broadcast. Teams that hire videographers not only get great angles on big moments, but they are also able to get all the moments in between. From the celebrations to the fans often captures the essence of the atmosphere and a moment in a special way.  Below are some examples:

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Big-time mood 👨‍🍳

A post shared by Oakland Raiders (@raiders) on

If you’re looking for more examples, here’s a great thread on Twitter that has a ton of them. I wish I could include them all on the blog because there’s a ton of inspiration here. 

Add some flair.

It’s amazing how far the industry has come in terms of creativity and talent. With every new scroll through Twitter, I find a new and eye-catching creative execution that I haven’t see or thought of before. If you’re looking to extend a moment, graphics and strong editing can play a huge role in making highlights original. Don’t be afraid to try new things and add some flair.

Below are a few examples of unique creative executions that add some flair to highlights. Some of these were shared during the offseason and/or more as game previews, but I think the executions would also work really well as an extension of a big moment. Whether it’s a recap or a fun execution, there are so many creative ways you can give big plays and wins legs:

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See you soon. 👑 // #MixtapeMondays

A post shared by Seattle Mariners (@mariners) on

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BFFs.

A post shared by The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) on

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Good to have 🏀 back in Chicago!

A post shared by Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) on

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Anyone trying to step up?

A post shared by Chicago Bears (@chicagobears) on

Give perspective.

If you’re looking to do something different with highlights, consider finding ways to bring in a first-hand perspective on that moment. This could be players talking about the moment, fan reactions, etc. It adds a different level of emotion and the context can be really interesting. Below are a few examples.

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Belli has spoken. Do you agree? #glovework

A post shared by #Glovework (@glovework) on


The Bottom Line

There are many more examples of teams making highlights their own, but the key is to think about all the ways you can repurpose them. How can you leverage the creativity of your team to do something different, add narrative, offer perspective? Whether the plan is to use the original content in-game or following, thinking about how to make big plays and moments original will no doubt push the creativity of your team and add value to fans. That’s a win, win.


What teams have you seen make highlights their own? I would love to see your favorite examples below.

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Social Wins From Gators Football

The college football season is always filled with creative and social inspiration. Every year, without fail, football programs raise the bar with their graphics, their hype and their content strategy. This year has been no exception.

The Florida Gators are a program that has burst onto the scene this year and have consistently delivered. From their amazing visual identity to their videos made for the platforms, the Gators are a program that should be on your radar for inspiration. Below are a few takeaways and curated examples:


Visual identity only they can own.

It’s important that teams put in the effort to define a visual identity in today’s crowded space. It makes content stand out above the crowd and eventually because recognizable for fans.

The Florida Gators not only created a visual identity, but they created one that only they can own. In their design, they leverage the teeth from their Gator logo as a consistent element throughout all their graphics. The use of the teeth is a distinction unique to them. Combine that with their bright colors and strong composition and the result is a strikingly sharp and eye-catching graphics package.


Videos made for social.

The Gators have stepped up their video game. They leverage everything from powerful emotion, inside access and their own game footage to provide access and content for fans. Each piece serves a unique purpose and they are extremely thoughtful about the creative execution.

It’s hard to pick out one thing they’re doing well across video because it’s all so engaging. So, take a look at their vast portfolio and get inspired.

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Just the B E G I N N I N G 🚫🧢

A post shared by Florida Gators Football (@gatorsfb) on


Original reaction GIFS/content.

There is a big debate in the social and sports world about pop culture GIFS and memes. To share or not share? I’m a big believer that teams and brands should lean away from content that isn’t unique to their brand, and instead, work to create original content that evokes the right reaction and emotion.

It’s not easy to create content that is relatable for the moment. It’s a creative exercise that takes time and the desire to test and learn.

The Florida Gators have had some strong moments where they created content that taps into the emotion of the moment, whether it’s humor or hype. The below are good examples of how original content can win in the moment and still evoke the right type of emotion.

If you’re interested more on the topic of pop culture GIFS and memes, check out this post here.


Intentional execution.

As mentioned briefly, the Gators focus on their creative execution and doing it right. They design intentionally and with the platforms in mind. The details and nuances matter. A great example of this  is their “win tweet” execution, where they leverage four photos to form one larger graphic on mobile (and if you aren’t on mobile still looks sharp).

The Gators also do a fantastic job creating for the six-second loop feature on Twitter. They can tell a story in less than six seconds. And, they know the type of content that’s so memorizing you want to watch it on loop forever. Below are a few examples.


The bottom line is this: Concepts are important, but how we package and execute is also key. Leverage every platform’s different strengths to create content that is eye-catching, engaging and unique to the platform.

 

If the Gators FB social (and the athletic department in general) are not on your radar, it’s time to put them there. From their strong visual identity to their intentional creative executions, they’ve found a way to shine and capture the attention of their fans.  Follow them here: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

What other college football programs have caught your eye this season? I would love to hear your thoughts below!

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Leadership Huddle With Harry Arnett, Callaway Golf

It’s time for the fourth 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 Harry Arnett, the CMO at Callaway Golf. Arnett has been at Callaway for more than six years. In his role his serves as the SVP of Marketing for Callaway Golf and the President of Ogio. Before arriving at Callaway, Arnett worked at TaylorMade – adidas Golf and Russell Athletic.

Arnett is a true advocate for the digital space. He has built a culture where digital and content is priority, ideas flow freely and brand fandom is encouraged. If you follow Callaway Golf on social, that probably comes as no surprise. They’re innovative, engaging and one of the best follows in sports. Below is the Q&A. I hope you enjoy the perspective and insights.

It’s evident that Callaway has invested heavily in digital, content & innovation as core to its business. What was the catalyst for going “all in”?

Ultimately, we want to be wherever the consumer is and obviously with so much technology being available for connectivity, we felt that being dedicated to feeding peoples’ needs to curate their brand experiences was the right way to go. That meant behaving more like a media entity with daily engagement and round the clock content than it did functioning like a traditional OEM or consumer products brand.

I’ve seen social be attributed as part of the formula for success of Callaway’s Growth. Clearly, you all have a mature approach to digital. What are the keys to building a strong strategy that maps back to business?

The key is to not treat social in a silo or separate from the brand, but instead, as an integral and vital part of consumer engagement. We put social engagement as a starting point for all of our brand activities, even leading with it.

We view availability and accessibility to our brand as a way to directly interact with our fans rather than relying solely on traditional media. We let what was happening in real time via social media inform the rest of our brand and marketing activities. It gave us a freshness and currency that has created a noticeable and needed energy for our brand.

A lot of organizations struggle with the fact that organic social/content does not always have a direct tie to revenue. What role do you think organic social and content play in the business? And, how can teams think more strategically about its value?

We want to be top of mind for consumers at all times, not just when they are further down the purchase funnel. So constantly engaging via social media is a major part of that strategy so that people look at us more than just a transactional or only think of us occasionally.

In our context, that means getting golfers specifically to be thinking of Callaway as a valuable partner in their entire golf experience, Monday through Sunday, not just on the weekends when they are playing or on an even more infrequent basis. From that standpoint, strategically, thinking broadly about how your brand might fit into a larger frame of reference for a current user or a potential user can carve out interesting opportunities that maybe don’t have as much competition. In our case, that was definitely a white space in our competitive landscape.

You seem to be an extremely engaged CMO, even actively participating in live shows, podcasts, etc. Why is it important for you to be so engaged at this level?

We think it’s important for consumers to appreciate that these are real people working on our brands, making our products, teaching them the game, and working around the clock to deliver a unique experience for them. I love that interaction with people who like our brand and our company. It’s really important for me personally to know that my job is truly to be of service to them.

Many social and digital teams report into leadership who is not as engaged (and have never done the work). For teams whose leadership is not as engaged, what advice do you have on educating and getting buy-in?

Find a way to let the leadership be a part of it. That can be as simple as reviewing all the activities within the function on a regular basis or even allowing them to be integrated with the content. Understand that a lot of what happens in social media is an abstraction to people who traditionally work in very concrete terms. So,  making abstractions concrete is really important.

An example of that would be to not necessarily talk about brand impressions, but more about the audience you’re reaching and the engagement that audience has with your ad messaging. In this sense, ad messaging is your social media executions.

What have you learned about setting digital/content teams up for success?

First thing, be fanatical about the type of environment you want to create. Ultimately, for social to be effective, you have to have an organization that welcomes the freewheeling and ever-changing dynamics within the social sphere. And not only to embrace it but to actually thrive creatively within it.

You have to let people have the freedom to experiment with the brand executions. And of course, to do that, everyone who touches the platforms and the end consumer has to know and love the brand more than anyone.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for digital in organizations today? And, how can teams work to offset these challenges?

It’s dealing with the relationships the brand has with consumers in an environment where the rate of change in digital is entirely too fast to try to predict. And, it all unfolds transparently because of the interconnectivity of all the stakeholders.

Finally, what excites you most about the future of digital and business?

It’s a playing field where creativity is rewarded much more than getting it perfect. So personally, it’s awesome to wake up every day and be around the most creative people doing work they love. That’s a nice place for a brand to be.

A big thank you to Harry Arnett for his time and perspective. Connect with him: LinkedIn and Twitter. And, be sure to follow the Callaway Golf across digital for some great inspiration.

If you enjoyed this conversation, be sure to read the others from this series: Eric SanInocencio, Graham Neff and Brendan Hannan.

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Let’s Talk Humor, GIFS and Memes

There’s a philosophical debate among those who work in social. And, it’s a debate that’s fiercely divided. To pop culture GIF or not?

GIFS, humor and memes have taken over the internet. Everywhere you look there’s a cat meme or GIF from The Office that’s already been used a million times. People use them. Brands use them. Teams use them. You get the point … everyone uses them.  And, it’s time to pause and ask a serious question. Should we be leaning so much into content and moments that are not our own?

I understand the case for teams or brands to use pop culture GIFS and memes. They are funny, relatable and often engaging. But every time I put on my brand hat I go back this: They aren’t ownable or related to most brands in any way.
 
And because I firmly believe in “wearing the brand hat” (yes, sometimes too much), I’m not a huge fan of leaning heavily into pop culture GIFS and memes. Here’s why: 

Brand > winning the internet.
If you work in social, your job isn’t just to “win the internet”. Your job is to bring the brand to life AND capture the attention of the internet. Literally, any brand can share a pop culture GIF and generate engagement.  It’s our jobs to figure out how we can engage fans in a way that’s relevant AND right for our brand. 

It’s unoriginal.
In a similar vein, a brand isn’t built by joining a sea of sameness. Great brands are built through a unique value proposition, a sharp point and original thinking.  The brands that win are original, authentic and true to their core. They deliver content that is fresh, new & something only they can own.

Pop culture memes and GIFS aren’t unique; they’re accessible for all to use. As @CodySharrett eloquently put it, “they are the antithesis of creativity”. Teams and brands, be original. 

Opportunity lost.
If you’re promoting Michael Scott GIFS then you are most likely losing an opportunity to promote a player or the brand. 

Social media is the front door to brands today. We should do everything we can to leverage moments to elevate it (the brand or our players). Why waste an opportunity to promote your team and brand with something that literally anyone has access to, like a pop culture meme?

Alienates your audience.
Pop culture GIFS/memes 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 you won’t care about that content even if it’s from your favorite team. 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?

So, what’s the solution? How can teams be relatable on the internet while still putting their brand first?

Always remember the big picture.
Humor, GIFS and memes that are relevant to the brand can be a great way to build a relationship with fans. There’s a place for it, but just remember, it’s part of a much larger picture. Our success is not defined by one or two tweets; it’s the totality of everything. At the end of the day, it’s our job to drive back to business goals. 

Put the brand strategy to paper.
To figure out where humor, GIFS and memes fit into the overall picture, but your brand strategy to paper. Too often social media is a wild, wild west and the brand voice does not actually reflect the organization. If your brand voice on social doesn’t match what you would put on a billboard, it might be time to rethink your strategy.

A strong brand strategy will set your team apart from the rest.  And, it helps combat the wild, wild, west. It becomes your North Star for how your brand should come to life through voice, tone, aesthetics and the stories you tell. When you have defined what your brand is and isn’t. Stick to what was defined. Make sure you focus on your own, unique thing. Humor, GIFS and memes can be a part of our presence but it’s not the only thing.

Every team and league should put their brand strategy to paper. Define your values. Stat the goals. Understand what makes the brand unique. Know your consumer. Create a personae. Once the brand architecture is in place, that’s your guiding light. All the work, whether it’s social or a more traditional marketing channel, should ladder back up to it.

Think about the sweet spot.
Putting the brand strategy to paper helps teams understand what the right tone of voice is on social channels. And, once you know what your brand stands for, it’s time for the fun work.

Social media is supposed to be fun. It does not need to be serious all the time. I’m not saying brands and teams shouldn’t activate pop culture GIFS because they can’t let loose a little bit. The problem is they are completely unoriginal and unrelated to most brands/teams.

It’s our jobs to figure out how accounts can be relatable, funny, engaging (or whatever the tone is) while making sure the content is still relevant to the brand.  Great creative work is able to stay in a box while getting the tone and message across. It’s the sweet spot.

The best work connects all the dots between your brand, your fans and what’s relatable. It’s also about the right content, right context and right delivery.  Take the time to understand what this means for your brand/team.

Plan, plan, plan.
Teams and brands can be relatable, funny, quirky, intense and evoke all sorts of emotion while still being original. It simply takes planning. And, lots of it.

Let’s take reaction GIFS. A lot of teams leverage pop culture GIFS in moments when they want to evoke a certain emotion. Well, you can still do that in a way that’s ownable. When you’re planning your content before each season, write down a list of all the emotions you might tap into. Think about your favorite pop culture/reaction GIFS. Storyboard out how you can bring those emotions to life in your own unique way.  Then, recruit players or content creators (if you are doing something like illustrations) to make them happen.

With planning and focus, you can create original content that reflects the brand and still very much resonates with fans. Put in the extra effort. It’s worth it.

Let creators work their magic.  
Creating content that evokes an emotion or plays into a pop culture moment, while staying in the brand box, is hard. That’s okay. It should be.

Put in the effort to plan ahead. Hire creative people and let them work their magic. You won’t always hit a home run and you won’t always be able to activate during every moment. But, the more the team flexes its creative muscles the easier it will be to find the sweet spot.

If you need some inspiration, here are some GIFS, pop culture moments and unique ideas that evoke emotion from teams and leagues:

Funny, relatable and ownable. 
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Which LUUUUKE describes your mood today?

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Unique, original and something only the Panthers can own. 
Original comedy, brought to you by B/R.
This is pop culture that heroes players. So, even if fans don’t like the Office it at least puts their players in a more personal & humorous light.
Sports provides plenty of opportunities to create your own memes. 
Oregon owning a pop culture moment in a way that only they can.
PGA Tour asked artists and fans to help them create a meme. 
Yes, this piece of content includes footage that the Browns don’t own. For teams really looking to push the envelope though, this is a good example of how you can pair pop culture footage with your own footage to make it more original. I would use this tactic sparingly, but for certain cases like this example, it can be golden (depending on the brand voice of course).



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, memes and content that not only resonate with your entire audience but also help build your own, unique team voice.

At the end of the day, creating relatable GIFS and moments that seep into pop culture is a creative exercise. It’s a challenge that will be hard but also rewarding. The key is to connect the pulse of the internet with your brand. Remember, original content wins.


To Note: I understand that strategies are not a one-size-fits all. What works for one brand might not work for another. Expectations, leadership, brand voice and  vision are all extremely different.  This is especially true with humor and pop culture. There are no hard-fast rules. This is merely food for thought.


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