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

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What’s your favorite @KobeBryant shoe? @BR_Kicks

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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!

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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.

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We in here 🤙

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Welcome to Bailey’s House of Pancakes!

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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.

Why It’s Time To Abandon “Digital First”

It’s time to make “digital first” no longer a thing and “brand first” the focal point again.

It wasn’t long ago I was guilty of creating decks that had “digital first” plastered everywhere. But this industry evolves and changes. And when you think about the origin of the phrase, it caught fire because companies didn’t quite know how to tackle the space. They didn’t get how to build strategies around it. They didn’t get how to build teams for it. And, they didn’t get how to embed the thinking into their culture.

“Digital first” was a loud statement because there wasn’t enough investment in it. Something radical needed to shift within companies. Brands needed pioneers, renegades and wizards (hope you sense some sarcasm) to shape thinking that digital was the future.

Somewhere along the way, digital became this separate thing. A separate thing that often feels disconnected from a brand’s DNA. There’s this pressure to be everything to everyone or to resort to gimmicks for vanity metrics. “Digital first” became a very slippery slope.

It’s time to throw this thinking out. Digital is no longer new enough for new to be an excuse. It’s almost 2018. There are more than 3 billion internet users in the world. Digital should be innate to what we do as marketers.

Let’s step away from the gimmicks and get back to building our brands (through a customer-centric lens). We need to break down silos and bring marketing back to a 360 approach. Your digital channels shouldn’t feel separate from everything else.

All great marketing strategies start with a brand strategy. This means having a firm understanding of your mission, your values, your voice, your why. It’s not about gimmicks, retweets or short-lived vanity metrics.

Pivoting back to “brand first” means creating a more cohesive experience. Yes, digital will most likely be a driving force in the strategy, but the execution will reflect the brand through and through. And, that’s the business we’re in.

Approach Each Season Like A Campaign

The power to connect brands with people is what attracted me to marketing. Iconic brands from Nike to Starbucks understand the power of authenticity, values and strong messaging. And, even more, the power of human emotion.

Good ads are an art. They don’t sell; they move people to stop, pay attention, share and (hopefully) convert. Good ads entertain and connect on more than a superficial level.

This idea of emotion in marketing has been a personal point of interest for me. Years ago I interviewed at Nike (before my time at UA). When I stepped onto campus I cried. Yes, literally. Not because I was a sneakerhead. Because as a marketer, this was the brand that had paved the way in making an emotional connection with consumers, especially in sport. They bought into the idea of entertaining and storytelling above selling. I felt a personal connection.

An quote article in FastCo said it best:

Popular brands had multifaceted personalities. They could make you laugh, or cheer, or lean forward and take notes. They’d stopped hammering away at a share of mind, and were expanding to achieve a share of emotion.

Enough with the personal and embarrassing anecdotes though. My point is that as marketers — and as marketers in sport — emotion is one of the most underrated tools we have. It makes the subject relatable for the consumer and connects at a deeper level. We all laugh, cry, smile and cheer. That’s how we connect as people. And, that’s how people connect with brands.

The idea of storytelling is daunting though. It’s too vague, too big, too vast. Sure, teams and leagues can tell a lot of different stories, but how do you make it impactful? They key is to hone in and focus.

If you want to tap into more emotion, consider taking a page out of how consumer goods (especially sporting) approach their marketing. Product launches and company priorities come with campaign roll outs. A strong message, a reason, a rally cry that’s consistent across all channels.

To do this, think about every new season as a brand campaign. That doesn’t mean every season comes with a new tagline (although that could be a component). It means creating a compelling narrative through which content and creative filters across all channels. Below are two examples:


South Carolina’s Here

The campaign was not just about football and the gameday experience. It was bigger than that. The campaign was about the culture of the school and town, a retreat from the grind, the commonality that ties all Gamecocks together and the passion of the team and fans. Instead of just selling football tickets, South Carolina told their story.


MLB’s This

Back in 2018, MLB launched a creative campaign called “This is Baseball”. Focused on the word THIS, it was ode to the great things in baseball that need no explanation (exactly how THIS is used in social media). The campaign’s strengths was in its simplicity and ability to integrate across teams. THIS campaign was relatable to every fan, no matter which team they root for.

As you can see from above, creating a campaign helped the Gamecocks and MLB rally around a common theme. It made their message clear and strong. And, it helped them move beyond the scores to the emotional side of sport.

Campaigns like this have a revenue purpose too. They might not be a hard ticket push, but they sell an emotion and an experience. And that is more likely to get people to click and convert than screaming “buy this”. A great brand campaign paired with a smart paid plan has the potential to be a big win.

The process for creating a true brand campaign is long, tedious and collaborative. But, here a few thoughts to get going:


Know your brand pillars.

Even if you think about each new season as a brand campaign, the DNA of your brand should not change. A great campaign has a clear message hierarchy. One that starts at the core of what your brand stands for and cascades off of that.


Find the idea.

A brand campaign isn’t about a new hashtag. It’s about a thematic that brings to life the brand’s story. The best campaigns come from an insight. Pull insights from the current team’s personality and nuances, fan chatter or something rooted much deeper in the brand’s DNA. Find that big idea to rally around.



Too often as marketers we try to get fancy and lose our consumer. It’s important to talk with them, not above them. Go through the process of fine tuning and simplifying your message. Simple is powerful.


Create a visual identity.

Today’s world is increasingly visual, which means your visual identity plays an important factor in convey the message. A great brand campaign should come with a strong visual identity.


Think through tactical and creative executions.

Once you have nailed the idea, it’s important to think through how the campaign can come to life across all channels and executions. A brand campaign is about a cohesive story across all channels. Nail your idea and then execute well.

Teams and leagues have never competed with more attention than they are now. Every space is cluttered and it takes something special to stand out. If you can think of every season is an opportunity rally behind something more, then that’s a good place to start. Emotion matters. And in sport, there’s plenty of it.

What examples of a brand campaign have you seen from team or leagues?