Tips For On-the-Fly Social Media Coverage in Sports

The other night during the #NBALotteryDraft, the @Lakers content kept jumping out at me. It was clear they had put in the time to design a look and feel. Their graphics were sharp, consistent, on brand and visually appealing.

I became even more impressed as I started looking through their stats. Three tweets alone garnered more than 15,000 retweets. Take look at some of their content:


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Ty Nowell, the Lakers Digital Manager, tweeted a little insight into their process:

His tweet makes a great point. Even though you can’t plan most of the outcomes in sports, there’s still a need to prep. There is not just an intern or one person behind an account anymore. A team of people, from a strategist to graphic designer, helps tell the game story.

Unlike most industries where evergreen content is a large staple to your social media strategy and real-time content is merely a tactic, sports requires real-time content all the time. It’s not an option to create content in the moment; it’s just an option of how well you do it.

So how do you plan for the unexpected in sports? It’s a key to a digital team’s success, but also a strange beast to tackle. This post offers tips to prepare for the unexpected, with a little help from some Twitter friends:

 

No. 1- Prepare for everything.

The Lakers planned for all scenarios with the draft lottery, as Ty Nowell pointed out. It didn’t matter if they had to create three graphics or twenty graphics ahead of time, they were going to do it. Preparing for any outcome allows teams to provide sharp and quality content to fans on the fly as we saw with the Lakers content above. It’s important.

The sentiment to be ready for anything was strong among others who work in the industry:

But what does preparing for everything mean? How can you get ready for a game, win or lose? There are two big things that can help you out:

Create templates.
Graphic templates are a lifesaver for those who work in sports. Define a look and feel, along with templates for each platform, is one of the keys to great game, draft, awards, etc. coverage.

 

Here’s an example of teams that do the work with templates ahead of time:

 

He threw for 4,045 yards with 27 TDs in 2014. #RT17 #StrongerTogether

A post shared by Miami Dolphins (@miamidolphins) on

 

Think through scenarios.
While you can’t plan the outcome of a game, you can think through different scenarios. How can we handle a loss? How can we celebrate a win?  Thinking through ideas on how to handle each situation allows you to turn out good content and copy a little quicker. You will need to tweak ideas based on the game or outcome, but at least you’ll have some ideas under your belt.

Anticipate
Along with thinking through scenarios, anticipation is key. You know the potential scenarios that could come, so how can you cover them creatively? Morgan Strehlow has a good tip for this:

As you anticipate and make notes, think about pop culture references you can include, lyrics that might work well in a game, themes from the teams, etc. This will help you create better copy and unique content, as Morgan points out.

When you prepare you’ll be able to handle a win or loss in the moment and do so extremely well. Below are just a few examples of great content in times of wins and losses:

 

No. 2- Create evergreen content.

Play by play has evolved (thankfully) to much more color commentary, especially on Twitter. Reaction content that adds to the emotion of moments is a great way to cover games. You want fans following along to have “that moment” with your team.

Creating evergreen reaction content to use for those intense moments during games provides quality coverage on the fly. Think about content specific to players and big moments (like home runs, touchdowns, etc.). This content is different from graphic templates because it’s more generic. The photo, GIF, etc. does no need to be tailored or tweaked during the game. Instead, you rely on the copy to pair it with the moment.

Here are a few examples of evergreen reaction content from teams and leagues:

No. 3- Be organized.

Social is all about timing. If you’re in the heat of the moment and can’t find want you need to create the content, then the opportunity is going to pass you by. Organization is key to be able to produce on the fly.

Make sure you have photos, potential copy, evergreen content, related links, Twitter handles, logos, etc. easily accessible so you don’t have to waste time finding what you need. Organization is a huge to being successful with real-time content, in sports and social media in general.

 

No. 4- Have a system and plan in place.

It’s important to have a strong foundation in place with your plan and system.

Before you jump into real-time coverage, know the story you want to tell, the type of access you want to provide, etc. This will help you focus your direction on what’s important and not the million other things going on. You can’t cover everything, so have a plan as to what is most important. There will be times when you detour from the plan, but the plan will at least keep the team honed in on the right content and moments.

It’s also important to understand the system and team duties during game coverage. Who is responsible for what? Who helps to gather content? Is there a specific shot lit? If you need to run a tweet by someone, who is the person to take a look at how can you get the tweet to them quickly?  You won’t always have to rely on the system, but having a plan and protocols in place will help immensely:

 

No. 5- Listen to the sentiment.

It’s important to know the sentiment of both your fans and coaches/players when covering games. Take a lead from it. This ensures you will produce content that resonates and is on brand.

In addition to understanding sentiment, look for content opportunities from all the voices around you. Are there fan tweets you can repurpose? Did the coach just have a powerful quote at the press conference? All of these real-time opportunities can make for powerful content. Bring voices into your story. Listen and react.

Here are a few examples:

 

No. 6- Take a deep breath.

As mentioned, timing is obviously important in social media and sports. That said, it’s also important to remember that every tweet is a reflection of the organization, team and brand. Don’t get so caught up in the moment that you make a mistake. It’s okay to take a deep breath. It’s okay to ask for a second opinion before sending a tweet. Those extra seconds are worth it if it means protecting the brand.

 

These tips are just the start of what it takes to be successful in social media and sports in real time. If you want some more inspiration, be sure to check out this post from Justin Taylor (@TheSwarmyBum) on Medium here.

 


 

What tips do you have for producing real-time content? Share your tips below!

Thanks for reading!

25+ Professionals Give Advice On Working in Social Media & Sports

Working in social media and sports is something special. Not many people get the chance to pursue what they love and call the ballpark their “office”. And while it’s fun, the social media and sports industry is certainly a different beast– one that is hard to break into, intense and always evolving. It’s an extremely exciting and rewarding career, but like anything, it is a business.

The question is often asked: How do you get a start in the sports industry? If you have ever wondered what it takes to break into social media and sports (and sports in general), then this blog post is here to help you out. More than 25 professionals took the time to share their advice on landing a gig, the industry (like misconceptions) and what to do once you get a job. It’s a special thing when this many people are willing to offer their insight and expertise, so bookmark this page and take in all the great advice below.

List of Contributors
Josh Samuels- Columbus Clippers | Kevin Doyle- USA Football  | Shahbaz Khan- Mithun Agency | Mac Slavin- Detroit Tigers | Jason Brower- Whitecaps | Ryan Delgado- Indians | Jonathan Gantt- Clemson Athletics | Taylor Stern- Cowboys | Matt Mesa- Dodgers | Adam Jacquez – OKC Dodgers | Aaron Gottlieb- Digiday | Jeff Tourial- West Coast Conference |  Neil Horowitz- Wilshire Axon Sports | Brian Wolff- Buffalo Athletics | Brandon Fleshman- Facebook | Matt Wells- Notre Dame Sports Properties | Chris Doyle- St. John’s IceCapsCarson McKee- Direct Contact | Mat Smith- REDBLACKS | Vincent Pannozzo- Miami Dolphins | Mark Hodgkin- American Conference | Ryan Kelly- Sheridan Bruins | Eric DeSalvo- UCF Knights | Caleb Mezzy- 160over90Jessie Kavana- ESPN | Jason Yellin- UT AthleticsLynnea Phillips- UNC Athletics | Dylan Sellberg- Advulence 

 

Josh Samuels, Web Communications at Columbus Clippers
Connect: @jsamuels6

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Go to list of contributors. 

Kevin Doyle, Business Development at USA Football
Connect: @stunnedmonkey

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Go to list of contributors. 

Mac Slavin, Social Media Specialist at Detroit Tigers
Connect: @macslavin

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Shahbaz Khan, Social Media at Mithun Agency
Previously worked in sports at the Timberwolves

Connect: @UMN_SK

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Jason Brower, Social Media at West Michigan Whitecpaps
Connect: @JaBrow

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Ryan Delgado, Intern at Cleveland Indians
Connect: @_ryan_delgado

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Jonathan Gantt, Director of New Media at Clemson
Connect: @Jonathan_Gantt

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Matt Mesa, Social Media Coordinator at the Dodgers
Connect: @mtycks

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Mat Smith, Social Media at REDBLACKS
Connect: @smith_mat

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Taylor Stern, Social Media Coordinator at the Cowboys
Connect: @TayStern

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Adam Jacquez, Group Sales Coordinator at OKC Dodgers
Connect: @AdamJacquez

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Aaron Gottlieb, Audience Development Manager at Digiday
Previously worked in sports at Deep Focus, WNBA
Connect: @AaronGottlieb

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Jeff Tourial, West Coast Conference
Associate Commissioner of Strategic Communications
Connect: @JeffTourial

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Neil Horowitz, Customer Success Mgr at Wilshire Axon Sports
Connect: @njh287

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Brian Wolff, University at Buffalo
Associate Director of Athletic Communications
Connect: @UBBrianWolff

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Brandon Fleshman, Public Content at Facebook
Worked in sports at Stanford Athletics, SF Giants & Raiders
Connect: @brandonfleshman

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Carson McKee, Owner at Direct Contact (directcontact.ca)
Connect: @carsonmckee

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Matt Wells, Client Services Mgr at Notre Dame Sports Properties
Connect: @mattwellsey

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Chris Doyle, Social Media at St. John’s IceCaps
Connect: @IceCapsChris

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Vincent Pannozzo, Social Media Manager at Miami Dolphins
Connect: @vjpannozzo

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Mark Hodgkin, Associate Commissioner of Digital Media
American Conference
Connect: @Mark_Hodgkin

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Ryan Kelly, Social Media at Sheridan Bruins
Connect: @ryankelly2

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Eric DeSalvo, Director of Digital & Social Media at UCF Knights
Connect: @EricDeSalvo

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Caleb Mezzy, Social Media Manager at 160over90
Connect: @Caleb_Mezzy

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Jason Yellin, Asst. Athletic Director/Media Relations at UT
Connect: @JasonYellin

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Jessie Kavana, Graphic Designer at ESPN
Connect: @jkav24

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Lynnea Phillips, Social Media Coordinator at UNC Athletics
Connect: @LynneaPhillips

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Go to list of contributors. 

 

Dylan Sellberg, Marketing Director at Advulence
Connect: @DylSell

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Go to list of contributors. 

 


A huge thank you to everyone that contributed! Now share with us below what you think people need to know about working in social media and sports!

Thanks for reading! 

How the MLB & Teams Generated Excitement for #OpeningDay

Opening Day. It’s a holiday for baseball fans: One that brings excitement, anticipation and the hope of spring and warmer weather. It’s also a day to celebrate in social media + sports as 30 MLB teams and the league turn out great social/digital content.

Days like Opening Day– the first game of the season, a rival matchup, a championship game– deserve a little more TLC. Why? They deserve more thought because emotions are high. And when emotions are high, it’s an opportunity to connect with fans. Fans are more likely to share content when it tugs at their emotions. The reach from retweets, shares, etc. will draw more fans in. Yes, it’s important to take the time to think through a robust strategy on how to approach these big moments.

A quick glance through the Opening Day content and it was easy to see that the MLB and teams spent time planning socially. Here’s a look at some of the ways the teams and league generated excitement:

 

No. 1- Launch of THIS.

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

“This is Baseball” will run all baseball season, from TV sports to real-time social content. If the start of it is any sign, THIS will be a home run hit. The social content has been stellar so far. It taps into the emotion of the sport/teams and drums up the appropriate excitement. Here’s a look at some of the posts:

Expect more of #THIS.

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

 

Because we're all Phanatics. #THIS

A post shared by phillies (@phillies) on

 


Lesson: Leading up to a big event or game, go beyond a countdown and highlight why people get excited about it. Tapping into emotion will make the content more impactful.

 

No. 2- Countdowns.

Countdowns are an easy and simple way to drum up excitement leading up to a big event. And of course, plenty of MLB teams counted down the days until the first pitch. Here’s a look at some of the countdown themes from various teams:

 

We're Javy Lopez days away from baseball in Atlanta! #BravesAreBack

A post shared by Atlanta Braves (@braves) on

 

One more sleep! #ComeTogether

A post shared by Toronto Blue Jays (@bluejays) on

 

Hey @robinsoncano, how many days until #OpeningDay?

A post shared by Seattle Mariners (@mariners) on

 

Instead of graphics, the Kansas City Royals did countdown videos. Clever!

Grab your peanuts and cracker jack. 2 days until #Royals #OpeningDay! #ForeverRoyal

A post shared by Kansas City Royals (@kcroyals) on

 

PLAY BALL! Just 6 more days until the #Royals Home Opener. #ForeverRoyal

A post shared by Kansas City Royals (@kcroyals) on

Lesson: Countdowns can be impactful, but don’t start them out too early or they get redundant. It’s often best to highlight “big dates out”—like 100, 50 and 25—and then countdown 10 to seven days out. In addition, focus on the copy and mix it up. While the days out might be predictable, the words don’t have to be.

 

No. 3- Celebration GIFS/Vines.

MLB teams took advantage of the GIF trend to showcase their feelings about Opening Day. The content was a fun avenue to showcase excitement in a light-hearted way and resonate with fans. Below are a few examples of the Opening Day celebration GIFs:

Lesson: GIFS are a great opportunity to showcase your team’s humor and personality. Additionally, they stand out more on Twitter and aren’t as intensive to create as video content. The biggest lesson here is that you don’t have to rely on pop culture GIFS from giphy.com; take old video footage and splice and dice it for some on-brand GIF fun!

 

No. 4- Snapchat geofilers

The start of the season is always a great time to bring out something new. MLB teams brought out Snapchat geofilters for Opening Day (see a list of the teams on Snapchat here). Geofilters are a smart and easy way to engage fans and enlist ambassadors by helping them spread brand love for your team. The creativity behind some of the filters were outstanding, and several teams did a good job promoting them across platforms. Here’s a look at some of the filters:

Lesson: Geofilters are a fun and easy way to engage fans. And, some of the creativity of the overlays (like from the Phillies and Diamondbacks) makes the feature even more powerful. The key with this is to promote, promote, promote so fans know that they are available.

 

No. 5- Simple statements.

It’s easy to overthink when you write. In reality though, simple is often best. Many teams tapped into the emotion of Opening Day with strong images and short and simple copy. As you’ll see below, the combination makes a great statement:

Today. #OpeningDay

A post shared by phillies (@phillies) on

 

Lesson: Short and sweet is often best, so don’t be afraid to cut and edit. As Strunk and White would say, “omit needless words”. In this fast-paced world, even 140 characters is often too long.

 

No. 6- Player’s voice.

The Diamondbacks found content from voices on their own roster, turning tweets and quotes into graphics. This is a great way to showcase the players’ excitement for Opening Day:

Lesson: There are so many ways to create content. Look around you. Figure out how you can leverage the tweets, photos and pieces of content that are generated from other sources and turn them into your own.

 

No. 7- Excuse notes.

The Brewers released Opening Day excuse notes for fans that were written by players. While other teams and leagues have done excuse notes before, the use of different players and excuse notes based on occupation is stellar. View all the notes here.

Lesson: Sometimes the best ideas are evolved ideas. If you see something you like from a brand, team, league, etc., think about how you make it work for your fans and goals. There is always a way to take an idea up a notch and make it your own.

 

No. 8- #FirstPitch15.

The MLB created a series of #FirstPitch15 graphics with a unique phrase for each team. The idea was that everyone starts out undefeated. The hashtag use is a great way to drum up excitement for Opening Day, and the graphics were sharp:

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Lesson: When planning for a big event/game like Opening Day, try to find a unique rallying point like #FirstPitch15. Too often teams fall back on generic name hashtags instead of picking something unique to rally and excite fans. A strong hashtag campaign, paired with great graphics and content, can really get fans engaged.

 

No. 9- Scavenger hunt.

The Indians hosted a scavenger hunt around the city, hiding bags for fans to find with clues tweeted out. This is a great example of bridging the online world with the offline world:

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Lesson: Bridging the gap between social and the physical world can make for a fun promotion. If you are looking for new ways to engage your fans, consider a contest/activation that involves both social and in-person engagement. The combination helps develop a stronger relationship with fans, spreads the word online and rewards ambassadors! A win, win, win.

 

As the Opening Day social media initiatives show, planning helps make a splash. You can’t always plan, but when you can, take advantage of it like the MLB and teams did.

 


 

 

What were your favorite social moments from Opening Day? Share them below!

 

Thanks for reading! 

Arizona Coyotes Integrate “Throwback Night” with Social

Last week the Arizona Coyotes hosted a “Throwback Night”, celebrating the team’s original logo and uniform. The players wore the franchise’s black Kachina-style jerseys for the first time since the team switched logos and uniforms in 2003-04. Former players also dropped the ceremonial first puck. People love nostalgia, so as you can imagine, the night was a big success.

One of the things I loved about the Coyote’s approach to “Throwback Night” was how they also told the story online. They didn’t push out fan promos they ran in-venue; they found a unique, relevant and compelling way to tell the story for the fans at home. Here are a few examples of their content:

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If your team hosts a themed night, think about how to tell a parallel story about it online in a compelling way. It’s not about showing pictures of the fan promotions from the game, but figuring out the online story would interest your social media community. If you want to integrate your in-venue promotions with your online story, consider these three things:

No. 1- Don’t focus so much on the in-venue pieces; focus on the theme.

No. 2- From the theme, find the story.

No. 3- Execute initiatives to get your social media audience engaged.

Integrating your in-venue promotions into your social media strategy is important. That said, it’s important to remember that it’s not so much about the promos but about the big idea. Don’t focus on snapping pictures of the in-venue promotions; focus on telling a creative and compelling parallel story that your fans will care about, just like the Coyotes did.


 

What do you think are the keys to integrating event promotions with social media? Share your thoughts below!

As always, thanks for reading. 

4 Social Media Winners from the CFB Playoff Championship

Last night was the first College Football Playoff Championship. And if you are a social media and sports dork like me, you were probably just as glued to your second screen as you were the TV. There is something special about what takes place on social media during big-time sporting events: The community, the chatter, the camaraderie, the rivalry and the emotion that unfolds in real time is fun (and addicting) to watch. Everyone goes on the journey together.

Last night was no different. People took to social media to voice their opinion and join the chatter. Over 4.4 million Tweets containing terms related to the game were sent during it according to Twitter. On Facebook, 7 million users were responsible for 21 million + interactions (posts, comments and likes) according to Adweek.  That’s impressive.

What was also impressive was the amount of content produced. From the teams, media and partners, everywhere you turned on social media there was content. And while all the coverage and content was good, there are a few things that stood out for me. Below is a look at four social media winners from the College Football Playoff Championship, with insight into why and what to takeaway:

NIKE

With two teams in the game, Nike was a winner before the game even started. And in true Nike fashion, they capitalized on the opportunity: They pushed out simple and sleek content before, during and after the game on both their Nike and Nike Football platforms:

Their content generated good engagement. Here’s a look at the numbers they garnered across each platform (from both Nike and Nike Football accounts):

  • Twitter: 29,500+ retweets and 12,600+ favorites across four tweets
  • Facebook: 70,550+ likes, 860 comments and 8,650 shares across three posts
  • Instagram: More than 415,000 likes across four posts

Why the won: I love what Nike executed during the game. The content was simple, emotional and understated. It was true to their brand.

I think Nike’s biggest win (besides their infamous coin toss photo) came from the game-winning graphic and poster. It speaks eloquently to Ohio State’s season and should resonate with Buckeye fans everywhere:

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Takeaway: Again and again Nike proves that you don’t have to push out a ton of content to make a big splash. Plan for the big moments and keep it simple. Focus on your image choice and nitpick the copy. Pay attention to the emotion in the game. Create something that will tug at the heartstrings of fans and resonate.

 

Snapchat

Snapchat’s Our Story has proved again and again to be a big hit during live events. This game was no exception as their team curated Snaps from Arlington for the CFB Championship Story. Here’s a glimpse of the featured content:


Why the won
: As I perused various accounts last night, Snapchat proved to be the best source for behind-the-scenes content. There’s something special about Snaps from student-athletes as they prep for the biggest game of their life; a firsthand look at the student section; and a selfie of the band as they walk out onto the field. Our Story provides fans with a unique and raw look at sporting events. It’s a huge win.

Takeaway: I’ve talked a lot about access these days. Behind-the-scenes content puts fans in the middle of the emotional journey. It’s a teams story to tell; don’t let Snapchat be the only one telling it.

 

Oregon

The job of a social media manager gets a lot harder when the team faces adversity and defeat. Too often though, we see teams walk away from the keyboard when their team doesn’t win. Thankfully, the Ducks didn’t do that. Here’s how Oregon handled their loss on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:

And, want to see something awesome? Look how positive the Facebook comments are:

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Why the won: Oregon not only handled their loss on social media, but they handled it with emotion and grace. Their student-athletes fought hard all season and the entire UO Community should be proud. The copy and imagery they picked speaks perfectly to that.

Takeaway: Losses can be handled on social media. It’s not so much about the score, but about the emotional journey it took to get there, the fans, the family and the players. Keep it powerful, simple and emotional.

 

ESPN on Twitter

ESPN stepped up their social media game this football season. I feel like more than ever, they integrated social media with their programming. And, last night their coverage was really good:

Why the won: What I love about ESPN’s social media presence is their diversity of content. From photos to stats to features to highlights, they mix up their content all the time. When you look at their feed, it’s not just boring play-by-play. Their content enhances the game-viewing experience.

Takeaway: When preparing for a big moment, think about all the different ways to cover the game. There are so many different elements that can enhance the game for fans, from feature stories to video snippets, stats and more. Diversify the content. Take a content-first approach.

While there were many great moments last night, I thought these four examples have good lessons attached to them. So kudos to Nike, Snapchat, Oregon and ESPN for standing out from the crowd!

Side Note: I also thought the #BackthePac campaign was stellar, but I’m going to have a separate post on that campaign. More to come on that one!

 


 

What were your highlights from the coverage last night? Be sure to share them below. 

Thanks for reading.