On Five Years of Blogging

This little blog all started because I didn’t know what a QR code was. I was in one of my first jobs out of college, working for a small organization as a digital marketing & outreach coordinator. Working for a small organization early on was the best thing for me. It meant big projects, no matter your title. I managed our website and its redesign, email marketing, social and the online component of our youth program. I loved the job, learned a ton and knew digital was where I wanted to be.

But working for a small organization also meant I wasn’t part of a robust marketing team. We all wore multiple hats and had crazy workloads, which made it harder to keep up with trends (or to stop, pause and think). This became extremely evident one day I was talking to a friend in the industry and he mentioned QR codes. And, I had no idea what he was talking about. While I was learning a lot in my current role, it wasn’t a priority to keep up with the industry. It was then that I had this “ah-ha” moment that if I wanted to work in digital I had a find a way to hold myself accountable to be in the know.

I’ve always loved writing, analyzing, thinking and thought a blog would be a good vehicle to keep up with the trends. So finally, a couple years after that QR conversation, Social ‘n Sport became a thing. The end of 2017 wraps up my fifth year of writing. As we head into 2018, I wanted to reflect on a few things this blog has taught me.

 

Do it for you.

Passion projects like this have to come from a place of purpose within. When I started this blog years ago, I was writing for myself. The only intention and purpose was to myself better. There was no pressure to get readership, make money or land a job.

Fast forward to today, and this blog has opened more doors than I could ever have imagined. But, even today, there is no pressure. I write because I enjoy it. I write because it makes me better at my job. And, I happen to be lucky enough that you all enjoy some of my ramblings too. If there ever comes a time when the blog isn’t enjoyable anymore, then I’ll shut it down.

We all are busy. We all have to prioritize or we’ll burn out. If you decide you want to take on something new, do it because you enjoy it first. The opened doors will follow.

 

Putting yourself out there is scary.

Most of us have some self doubt. Yes, sharing your thoughts is scary. You open yourself up to criticism. But the worst thing that’s ever happened to me is getting trolled by @Four_Pins for a tweet. And, I present it to you for a good laugh:

In work and in life we have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Step up to the plate and take on something new. Put yourself out there and open yourself up to feedback. That’s the only way we continue to grow.

 

People value perspective.

While putting yourself out there is scary, people value perspective. And I have found the more I share perspective AND listen, the more respect is gained. Not everyone will agree with you all the time, but providing a point-of-view gets discussions, debates and dialogues going. That’s critical for teams.

Putting yourself out there grabs people attention, whether it’s in a meeting or online. Sitting back won’t get good work and thinking noticed, so don’t be afraid to push. Bring your voice to the table. Establish yourself as a thought leader.

 

There will be naysayers.

Inevitably, you are going to meet people throughout your career or in life who don’t like what you do. Plain and simple. It’s not personal, so don’t take it personally. If you put yourself out there, you’re bound to find one or two people who will try to tear you down. Brush it off and move on.

 

Build bridges.

Doors open, but it’s up to you to build the bridge to turn a contact into a relationship. Your network is only as a strong as the actual relationships you have. It’s about building relationships with people that would truly go to bat for you and vice versa. This idea of building bridges is a constant work in progress for me. It takes time and effort, but in 2018, I hope I get to know a lot more of you personally.

 
I laugh about about the QR story now, but looking back, that was a pivotal moment for me. It was pivotal because this blog and this community has made me a better employee, teammate, leader and marketer.

I want to say thank you for all your kind words, encouragement and help over the years. I’m thankful to work in this industry with so many talented and gracious people. Thanks for making this passion project 1000x more fun! If there’s anyway I can ever lend a hand to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out: socialnsport@gmail.com.

Thanks as always, for reading.

Things to Consider in Social Media + Sports in 2018

It’s that time! A new year is ahead which means the annual list of things to consider in the industry. This isn’t meant to be a forecast of what’s to come per say, but a list of things to consider pivoting and focusing on as we head into 2018. 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 2018 with some help from Twitter and friends in the industry:

 

1- Give digital its due.

Digital has finally arrived to the big kid’s table. And, in 2018, it’s time that organizations give the space its due. Digital is no longer about retweets and likes –it’s a channel where brands and teams can drive revenue and true ROI.

The real beauty of digital is that it does not have to be a “this or that” when it comes to driving awareness / engagement or revenue. In a sense, you can have it all. Digital allows teams to focus on the full marketing funnel. If teams invest in a sound strategy, community management, creative and paid then they can drive awareness, engage and ultimately convert. Who is going to argue with that?

The Miami Dolphins are a great case study of what digital looks like grown up. Today, 80 percent of the team’s marketing budget is now allocated to social media. And, they have seen success. Thirty percent of new season tickets last season were sold via Facebook’s lead gen ads. And, 11 branded content series generated $10 million for the organization. On top of that, the team does a great job of telling the brand’s story.

For us that work in the industry, it should be our mission to champion digital in our organizations. It’s our responsibility to show how it can drive organizational results. Whether your team needs to drive revenue, champion the brand or align stronger with partners — digital can do it all.

 

2- Shake up the org chart.

A common pain point in the industry is that digital is stuck in a silo. This was okay 10 years ago when we did not understand what poking and tweeting could do for an organization. But, in all seriousness, times have changed.

Digital is not a niche. As a role, as a strategy, as part of an organization. And, we need to stop thinking about it as such.

We don’t need separate digital teams. We need digital teams embedded within the larger marketing group. We need marketing leaders who obsess with consumer behavior online. And, are driving 360 marketing plans with digital top of mind.

In 2018, it’s time for organizations to give a hard look at how they’re structured. In order for digital to truly get its due, we need to breakdown silos and integrate teams. A marketing team should encompass everyone promoting the team and fan experience at every consumer touch point. This includes everything from digital to creative to the in-game experience.

Digital is marketing. Marketing is digital. Can we break down the walls and start treating it as such?

 

3- End the publisher mentality.

It wasn’t that long ago that teams and leagues adopted a publisher mentality. The more we push, the more we reach was often the train of thought. Now this publisher mentality has led to cluttered feeds.

This is the year teams must be deliberate about adding value and not noise. The pressure to interject brands into conversations all the time is a false sense of urgency from the industry (not consumers). Brands and teams don’t need to push out a new piece of content every hour. They don’t need to take part in every trending topic. And, they don’t need to be a part of every single holiday. It’s all unnecessary.

A strong content strategy and creative arm is even more important in this world of algorithms, clutter and consumers in control. Content for the sake of content isn’t a win for anyone: Not for you, not for your brand and not for the consumer.

In 2018, build your box and play in it. Focus on owning your brand in a way no one else can versus being everywhere, all the time. This industry needs more quality and less quantity.

 

4- Back to brand first.

“Digital first” is a dangerous phrase, if it means brand second. This from an adweek article was one of the most powerful lines I read this year.

Somewhere along the way digital became this separate thing. A separate thing that often feels disconnected from a brand’s DNA. We fostered an environment where digital was a free for all. Teams took risks, even when it wasn’t right for the brand.

Digital can no longer live in this silo. Tactics meant for gimmicks, retweets and vanity metrics do not move the needle for brands. These channels are too critical for them to not represent the voice and DNA through and through.

We need to get back to the basics. All great marketing strategies start with a brand strategy. And, your digital presence should be the best reflection of what your brand stands for. Period.

 

5- Make the investment.

For all the talk about digital first in organizations, very few are actually making the investment. Back in May I ran a poll on Twitter to find out how big some digital and social teams are in sports. And the verdict is they are way too tiny.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a team, league or brand, flying solo in social and digital is a fast track to burnout. In an industry that operates 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, it’s not humanly possible for one person to strategize and execute well…. much less innovate or take anything to the next level.

The thing about digital, as with most other things, is you get out of it what you put in. To have a presence that moves the needle it requires an investment, both in a budget and a team.

Even more pressing though is the need to build out content teams. Too many teams have strategists with zero creative power to bring to life the vision. The brands and teams that stand out today and in the future are the ones who understand the investment it takes. Invest in talent or get left behind.

 

6- Ephemeral & live with purpose.

Disappearing content and live video are two of the trends that took off this year. But in the midst of the excitement for these trends, they fell victim to the “publish just to publish” mentality. Yes, it’s easy to hit publish. And, there’s a certain novelty that comes with live and disappearing content. Still, that doesn’t mean we should be inundating our audience with content.

Game days often mean tapping through the same Instagam Story and Snapchat over and over again. Live often means a Q&A or pregame ceremony. This year left a lot of room for more purpose and creativity.

In 2018, resist the urge to publish the same thing over and over again. Our audiences aren’t asking for 20 frames of an IG story. They’re asking for entertainment, value and unique access.

When thinking about live and disappearing content specifically, the key is to figure out how you can leverage the purpose of the tools creatively. Why would you go live versus publishing a video? How can you push the boundaries with IG Stories that you can’t in feed? Tap into what makes this tools different from everything else.

I’ll leave you with the best example of ephemeral content done right this year from the Chicago Bulls. This is what we call unique entertainment.

 

7- Pivot, don’t fight.

Having a sound strategy is important in social, but it’s also important to be flexible. In a lot of ways were at the mercy of platforms and algorithms. And, that’s not changing.

We talk a lot about the need to pivot in social, but talking is often easier than the doing. This could not have been more evident than with Instagram in 2017.

Thanks to another great algorithm, the chronological days of Instagram are over. The algorithm is so aggressive it has posts appearing at the top of feeds three days, even five days, after the fact.

The algorithm should have changed the way teams approached the platform. In-feed posts should now be more evergreen and stories more real time (here’s a post on how team’s can pivot
). But over and over again posts that a team lost appear in my feed days and days after the fact.

In 2018, make a conscious effort to pivot with the platforms. We can’t predict what new thing will emerge with platforms or consumer habits, but we can make a conscious effort to change with the trends. When brands and teams pivot they create a better experience. It’s a win.

 

8- Disruption through content.

Voice and tone is often the tool teams go to disrupt and get attention. The problem is it often ends up being snarky, troll-ish or over-the-top. The lines blur between what is right for the brand and what the social media manager prefers. It’s a slippery slope.

In 2018, it is time to let creative do the disrupting. Teams should tap into creative executions, unique story lines & design to do unexpected and fresh things.

Bleacher Report disrupts with their intersection of sport, culture and amazing illustrations. South Carolina and Auburn disrupts with their stylized and unique approach to video. NASCAR disrupts with their amazing Snapchat game and doodles. Tom Brady disrupts with his wacky approach. Nike disrupted with their Breaking 2 project.

The point is, there are a lot of ways to disrupt. And when we focus on it, everything is elevated. It tells a better brand story, engages your fans and helps your social feeds stand out.

Merry Christmas!

A post shared by Bleacher Report (@bleacherreport) on

 

9- Unexpected brand partnerships.

Over the holiday season, the Seahawks partnered with Uber Eats to simplify and speed up their fans’ last-minute shopping needs. The app allowed fans to get official Seahawks gear delivered straight to their door.

When done right, brand partnerships like this can offer a lot of value. They push innovation, create experiences and open doors to new consumers. In 2018, it would be great to see more teams look to partner with start ups, technology partners and unexpected brands to make unique activations and experiences happen.

 

10- Tap into story lines.

In a crowded sports space, it’s imperative to move beyond the scores to mix up content and stand out. And, a great way to do this and scale is to take a news room approach when ideating around content.

When you hear news room, don’t think volume. Think about finding the weekly and daily headlines and facts relevant to your team or brand.

Finding the story lines means you tap into the current pulse. The pulse of your team, fans and culture to uncover headlines. From there, you expand the headlines to create short & sweet content that is relevant and made for social. Below are a few examples of this:

What’s the #postseason got in store for this Hollywood story?

A post shared by MLB ⚾ (@mlb) on

The @spiscotty trade is bigger than baseball.

A post shared by MLB ⚾ (@mlb) on

Tapping into story lines allows your content to stay relevant and fresh, while moving beyond the highlights. It doesn’t have to be daunting either. As the examples above show, the content can be short, sweet and straight to the point.

 

11- Craft for the platforms.

It’s easy to get in a routine of creating platform agnostic content and and distributing everywhere. Ats platforms continue to evolve and change, and small nuances added, it’s important to think about how you can craft for the platforms.

Story lines, as talked about earlier, can come to life in so many ways. To keep things unique across all channels, think about what subtle differences of each platform and design based on that.

When you design based on platform features, great creative comes to life. Here is a great example of this from the Chicago Bears:

Zach Miller’s emotional story and inspirational outlook… picture by picture.

A post shared by Chicago Bears (@chicagobears) on

Sharing the except same content across all platforms can get stale quickly. As Stefanie points out below, give fans a reason to follow across all.

 

12- Focused campaigns.

If you asked your fans what your organization stands for, would they know? Too often it feels like teams operate in the wild, wild west. There is inconsistent messaging, no look and feel and a sole focus on the scores.

But sports teams and leagues are about much more than the scores. And in 2018, it would be great to see teams to tap into what makes their product unique. Teams have rich histories and identities well beyond the scores. Sports are emotional. Fans’ identities are tied to their teams. There’s power in that.

In 2018, I would love to see teams taking their brand strategy seriously. It’s time to take a page out from how consumer goods (especially sporting) approach their marketing. They’re rooted in a mission, values, identity and priorities. And, all messaging cascades from that.

When teams focus on a strong brand strategy it builds the foundation for the purpose. It helps to build a legacy, well beyond the scores. It builds an emotional connection for fans and gives them a reason to rally and believe. Be focused and tap into emotion and what makes your team / league unique.

 

13- Experience > innovation.

It’s easy to get caught up in the bright and shiny new tools when you work in digital, but sometimes they simply are not practical. Innovation is important and it will always be in important in our field. But, even more important, is the ability to create experiences.

Instead of focusing on innovation to make a headline, it’s time to focus on innovation that improves or elevates the fan experience. Experiences should not feel complicated; they should feel seamless to the consumer experience.

If you want a good example of a brand that took innovation to create seamless experiences, look outside of sports to Netflix’s campaign for Stranger Things. From a Snapchat AR experience to character playlist on Spotify, they transported fans but in a way that was a natural to how consumers already consume. They leveraged innovation, but in consumer-first fashion.

It’s easy to get caught up in all the newness of this industry, but we have to remember that any newness leveraged should always be about the fan and consumer experience. Period.

 

14- Social as prime real estate.

The days of sponsored social content have arrived at full force. And with it comes a lot of content that feels like a billboard. It’s good to see teams realize there’s revenue to be made through the channels, but too much of it feels like a plastered ad.

In 2018, let’s treat social as prime real estate. Yes, it’s easy to publish on the channels, but that does not mean that any brand that has dollars to throw a team’s way should be able to activate on digital channels. Teams should flip the switch from sponsored content to branded content. Take the time to find the right partners that actually want to produce content that matters and will treat it as an investment.

When you find the right partners should whose message aligns with your brand in a natural way it’s a win – win. Below are a few examples below:

Sponsored content isn’t an ad. It should be a value add. It’s time to treat it as prime real estate and ensure that teams are getting the right value out of it and aligning with the right partners. If you want tips on sponsored content, read this post here.

 

15- Additional thoughts.

 
Now it’s your turn to sound off! What would you like to see in social media + sports in 2018?

Inspiration & Lessons From #Ko8e24

There are moments in sports that everyone seems to rally around. Moments where inevitably people will watch and pay attention. From championship games to historic milestones, these moments are worth investing in. And, Kobe Bryant’s Jersey Retirement Ceremony is a good example of that.

The internet went crazy with content the day the Lakers retired his jersey. And, there was inspiration everywhere from the Lakers fantastic digital pieces to Bleacher Report’s array of unique content.

Below are a few highlights and takeaways from Kobe’s big jersey retirement day:

 

1 – Quantity requires diversification.

Bleacher Report pushed out a lot of content around Kobe’s jersey retirement. The difference between their push from others though is how much they vary their content. Bleacher Report has a tone of diversity in their content strategy from illustrations to tribute videos. Below are a few highlights:

Mamba Mentality. #Ko8e24

A post shared by Bleacher Report (@bleacherreport) on

What’s your favorite @KobeBryant shoe? @BR_Kicks

A post shared by Bleacher Report (@bleacherreport) on

The publisher mentality is detrimental to content performance unless pieces offer variety, value. Bleacher Report’s coverage of Kobe’s jersey retirement is a great example of that.

 

2- Dynamic can be simple.

The GIF below was one of the stronger pieces of content from the day. It’s simple, sure, but it’s eye-catching and evokes emotion. Good content doesn’t have to be complicated. This is the perfect example.

 

3 – Split screens are underrated.

There was something powerful about watching the split screen of the jersey’s rising and Kobe’s reaction. And while the split screen is often a broadcast play, it’s underrated as a specific social content piece.

A split screen execution can showcase different perspectives, evolution, comparison, tension. All of which work well in social. It might be time to think about incorporating them into your content arsenal.

 

4- There’s something about tension.

The Utah Jazz created a beautiful tribute video to Kobe. The Jazz did a beautiful job weaving in the story of Kobe, the Jazz and the love / hate. This wasn’t an instance of FOMO; they focused on the role their brand played in the story of Kobe. There’s a bit of tension in the piece and that’s what makes it work.

 

5- Access still wins.

The sports space is crowded now. The competition includes teams, leagues, bloggers, media and even fans. And in this crowded space, one thing most teams or leagues can offer that others can’t is access. No matter what, you always add value if you give a look behind the curtain.

@kobebryant takes the 🚁 in for tonight’s #ko8e24 ceremony!

A post shared by NBA (@nba) on

 

6- Long-form has its place.

The Lakers produced several, beautiful pieces on their site that allowed fans to dig deeper. From the chapters of his career to a unique piece on jerseys, their digital content fed the fans who wanted more Kobe content. Check out the two pieces below.

Social doesn’t always allow for the full story, so during big moments, we can’t neglect long form. If you deliver on the content and the design, fans will spend time consuming.

When it mattered, a lot of brands stepped up their content game yesterday to honor Kobe. What stood out most to you?

How South Carolina Makes Video Content That Stands Out

With more than 100M video views consumed on Facebook a day, there is no longer a debate about whether to invest in video. Social video has arrived. And, as platforms, apps and brands continue to put a focus on video, the numbers will continue to arrive. By 2020 it’s predicted that online videos will account for more than 80% of all consumer internet traffic by 2020 (CISCO, 2016).

Video in sport powerful because of its ability to deliver on emotion. From humor to awe, the best type of content is one that evokes a feeling. Show it, don’t tell it, sort of thing.

If you’re looking for new video inspiration, the South Carolina Gamecocks are a great place to start. In the 2017 football season they set the bar for what social video should look like. How did their content stand out?

To start, they vary it. From illustrations to short videos, they always deliver something new and with top-notch quality. Often their content is short, simple but very impactful. It’s made for short attention spans. And, the more long form video is the kind that tugs at emotions to pull you in. They understand that good content is good content. Period. If you have not seen their work, below are a few examples that stand out:

 

"South Carolina Graduate" Has a nice ring to it.

A post shared by Gamecock Football (@gamecockfb) on

We in here 🤙

A post shared by Gamecock Football (@gamecockfb) on

Welcome to Bailey’s House of Pancakes!

A post shared by Gamecock Football (@gamecockfb) on

 

All of this fantastic work is spearheaded by Justin King, the Associate AD of New and Creative Media, and his team. In his role, King oversees the production of graphic and video content used in athletics recruiting and the Gamecock Football social media platforms. Below he shares some insight into their vision and success. Enjoy!

 

It’s clear you all have made a shift to video. Why was video important to invest in?

Video is such a powerful tool for capturing emotion in a way that just isn’t possible with other mediums. You can tell people about something, or you can SHOW them.

 

From a strategy perspective, what are the three biggest goals you have for the content you produce?

We have one BIG goal: Help the University of South Carolina win.

When people watch our content. We want reactions, even subconscious ones, to be “wow, this is awesome. I want to share this with other people so they can enjoy it too”. The beauty of social media is that it makes it easy for people to share things they enjoy with friends – giving us the world’s best distribution platforms.

 

What’s your team’s process for ideating new ideas or formulating your content strategy?

Honestly, I could break this entire question into 2 steps:

Step 1) Gather an incredible team of talented people passionate about creating great content.

Step 2) Constantly toss ideas around and make sure everyone knows they have the freedom to experiment.

If we try something and it doesn’t work, it’s not a failure at all. In fact, that is a success because we always learn something new during the process. The only failure is not trying.

 

There is a lot of debate about video lengths these days, from the six-second ad to long form. What’s your philosophy on video length?

Love this question and I have a strong philosophy on it:

Length should always be dictated by content.

In other words, if you can achieve the goal of the content in 6 seconds, then it should be 6 seconds. If your video is truly captivating at 2-3 minutes, then that’s what the length of the video should be.

As with 99% of rules in this industry, there are exceptions and things that need to be taken into account, but we have had tremendous success simply focusing on producing captivating content and not worrying as much about length.

 

How do you all define and measure your success?

This varies wildly. Our goal is to help the University of South Carolina recruit top athletes by showing that it is a great place to be, so sometimes we might release a video that doesn’t get a lot of views/likes … but that video has a specific message that reaches its target audience, then it’s a success.

Of course, thousands of RTs, likes and shares isn’t bad either.

 

What’s been the best performing piece of content for you all this season? And, do you have any insight into why?

I’m surrounded by such an incredible team and because of that we’ve had a number of pieces do well – in fact, it’s tough to say what our best performing piece actually was because they are all within similar numbers in terms of how widely shared they were. Below are a few highlights:

A lot of the reason for their success has to do with capitalizing on moments and opportunities. When you create quality content based around events people care about, it’s a strong recipe for success.

 

For teams looking to step up their video game, what tips and advice do you have for them?

Be willing to invest in people who are passionate about creating. Hire people who are so passionate that when an idea comes to them on a Saturday afternoon while they are just relaxing, they jump up and are excited to execute that idea.

After you hire them, provide them with a good place to work. This field is a lifestyle as much as a job – so when someone doesn’t come into the office by 8AM, trust that it’s because they were probably up until 2AM the night before finishing a project.

TL;DR – Invest in good people and enjoy the results. What a crazy theory, right?

 

Finally, what trends do you see will emerge with video content in 2018?

Right now the biggest trend I see is that consistency and quality of content will continue to rise as the tools needed to create that content become more and more accessible.

Editing programs that were once a $2,500+ investment are now a $20-a-month subscription for students. Everyone has a camera in their pocket on their phone. More and more people are starting to learn the art of creating content at a younger age so once they go through a good internship program they come out at a level that you typically didn’t see until someone had 7+ years of professional experience.

(PS: That doesn’t mean they should come cheaper, though. Invest.)

Thanks again to Justin King for his fantastic input. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@JustinKing) as well as the Gamecocks Football accounts (@GamecocksFB).

Insight Into Crafting a Visual Identity

We often talk about the importance of written language. Words are powerful, but so is design. As digital platforms have become increasing visual, design has become increasingly important. It’s another form of language to communicate your brand; an extension of it, really.

Consumption today happens in a split second. Consumers scroll, tap and move through their social feeds without giving things a second glance. As they scroll, content needs to stand out. It should be clear which team, brand or league the content is from with or without a logo.

Visual identity matters because social is the front door to your brand. If you want to put your best foot, you must create a look and feel that is ownable and stands out. Below are a few examples of NFL teams this season:

 

Seattle Seahawks

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

LA Rams

Creating a visual identity like the ones above takes a team effort and a commitment to the cause. Below, Tyler Trout from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sr. Designer, Graphic Design) and Kenton Olsen (Director, Digital) from the Seahawks give some insight into how they’ve invested in a visual identity and made it happen.

 

Why a visual identity matters.

Tyler: It is important to have a visual identity because your brand is the first thing viewers see before making a decision to buy in or not. If your message or look is all over the place and not consistent with what they saw the first time then there is a sense of disorganization and separation. Almost like a dividing line between when the company had a vision and lost its vision. Starbucks, Target, Apple, Nike all give you overwhelming visuals of different branding, but their looks looks are distinct and undeniably memorable.You can picture each brand without even seeing them. If they did not focus on their visual identity, then their brands would not be as recognizable or as memorable.

Kenton: From a digital and social perspective having a consistent visual identity is important for us because it differentiates our content from others in the digital space. It also allows our online content to mirror creative in the physical world.

 

The keys.

Tyler:The key to keeping things consistent is to focus on your brand first and then push the fundamentals. Once we establish the identity, then we can push ourselves to be as creative as possible within the parameters we’ve set. By pushing fundamentals like typography, composition, hierarchy, imagery, color, etc. we can expand and reinforce our brand with new ideas that all look and feel like the brand but are noticeably different from the last time you presented it.

Kenton: Great photography. We have some of the best photographers in the NFL. They make all of our content feel fresh, while keeping visual style the same.

 

Creative’s role.

Tyler: I am lucky enough to work with 4 graphic designers (3 fulltime and 1 intern) and each are a necessity to our brand. Some of us have specific responsibilities like designing for events around the region or designing for a corporate partnership. When it comes to social, we all help to create content that get used throughout our platforms. We understand our brand and all try to develop new ways to push it.

Kenton: We work very closely with our Marketing & Brand team. They are tremendous in involving us with developing the creative direction for each season. Having a creative team that involves us in the process is helpful because we can ensure all of our digital designs compliment those our fans may come across in the physical world. It also allows us to provide input on what creative wells will work well on digital versus elements that may be tough to work with.

 

Gameday flow.

Tyler: We have two designers working every game. One designer will focus on scoring drives and quarter graphics and the other will focus on content/photos for IG and IG story. Our contracted photographers give their cards to a runner on field who then loads and sends to us to use throughout social. As far as tools that make it easier…We use Photoshop, Dropbox, Topaz, and sometimes AP Images. We’ve looked into getting wireless for our photographers so we can instantly get the photos but we’ve heard through other NFL teams that the connection becomes an issue and they have to revert back to card running.

Kenton: We are fortunate to have an extremely talented social media producer and amazing designer that is dedicated to our digital content. They collaborate together to ensure we have consistency across our content. On game days specifically we have a system in place where our photographer(s) will add photos to a central repository. With technology in modern cameras (and improved connectivity) we can often see a photo from the field within a minute of it happening. Once that photo hits our repository our team collaborates over Slack where that photo will be used. Our digital designer will handle more intense graphics, while other staff members will take on less intensive tasks. These treated images are then sent to our social producer who will distribute as he sees fit. The current process is very focused on photos, but we are in the process of integrating more video into this same workflow thanks to an amazing new control room at CenturyLink Field. Another key to our consistency on game days, and throughout the week, is our designer has put together templates that are easy enough for anyone in our department to use. Pretty much anyone can take a photo and turn it into a graphic that is consistent with our visual identity.

 

Tips for making it happen.

Tyler: My tip to any team trying to find a visual identity is to create a style guide to your brand and push yourself within it. Reach out to different departments and help them understand why this is important and how they can help to maintain this identity and vision. Focus on the QUALITY of your brand instead of quantity. And always challenge a traditional project and ask why it is done that way and can it be done more effectively. So many designers just do what is asked instead of thinking if this is actually effective.

As far as any other tips, it would be to hire a project manager. That position is so crucial in the creative world because it allows us to do what we were hired to do.

Kenton: I have two pieces of advice for others looking to improve consistency. First make sure you work with your organization’s overall brand team. While it is nice to be consistent on digital, being across all channels should be a focus. Invest in resources. This can be anywhere from having a dedicated designer, to building templates anyone can use, to equipment to allow you to get content faster.

As Kenton and Tyler’s answers show, creating a visual identity and seeing it through to execution takes teamwork and dedication. But, it’s work that’s worth it. After all, you want to put your best foot forward.

Thanks to Kenton and Tyler for some fantastic insight. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter: @Kentono and @TheHooksta.