What To Consider In #SMSports In 2024

After a long hiatus (yes, I’m talking years), I’m finally bringing back the annual list of things for sports social and content teams to consider in 2024.

This list is not a forecast of trends or a prediction of the future. Our industry is way too unpredictable to play that game. Instead, it’s a list of things to consider focusing on in the year ahead based on observations, lessons learned and insights from others. 

While there were some themes from previous years’ lists I wanted to bring back because they’re still as relevant as ever, I tried very hard to keep the things to consider new topics of conversation. I also understand everyone’s goals and objectives differ, but hopefully, something here will spark a new idea, approach, or thinking.

So, without further ado, here’s a list of what to consider in 2024 with some help from Twitter and friends in the industry in no order or importance.

Focusing On Getting Rid Martyr Syndrome.

Too often, I see people in our industry, especially young professionals, talking about missing big life moments to work in sports. We aren’t curing cancer, though, and to me, there is no reason to miss out on the milestone moments of those closest to you.

The reality is that too few organizations keep a perspective on what we do. We encourage people to make sacrifices, chalk it up to being part of the business, and then create a vicious cycle of martyr syndrome because people who grew up in sports have zero ideas of what some semblance of balance looks like. And in the end, we create burned-out, jaded people in what should be an incredibly fun industry to be part of.

Yes, I understand you can’t take 75% off game weekends. There are times when we in sports will have to RSVP “no,” but sports shouldn’t be at the cost of everything else. In 2024, we need leaders in sports orgs who champion a culture with a perspective on what we do. A culture that allows a give and take between employees and the org and encourages people to show up in the personal moments that really matter to them.

Sports will always require some long hours and sacrifices, but I don’t think we’ve worked hard enough to help people in the industry find some semblance of balance and ensure that they can RSVP “yes” (and not feel guilty) to the moments that really matter. Leaders need to step up and figure out how to eliminate martyr syndrome in their organizations โ€” whether they need to structure their teams differently, show up differently, change their perspective, and champion balance.

Redundancy in Tactical Roles. 

As mentioned above, working in sports will always be a different beast from other industries, but every leader should think about how they can find solutions to create balance for employees. One of the key ways to ensure that employees have balance is to set up an organization with enough redundancy in tactical roles. 

I want to be clear that redundancy in tactical roles isn’t about employees not having individual ownership or creating a bloated organization. Instead, it’s about hiring and structuring teams to amplify collaboration and support within the team. Ideal team structures are set up to have employees still “own” specific responsibilities with the ability to step in, assist and collaborate seamlessly with their respective counterparts. 

Long gone “should” be the days of most sports organizations having one person dedicated to social, one person dedicated to brand strategy, one person dedicated to video, etc. And because we have multiple people contributing, we should be able to set up teams to allow them to flex different schedules. The idea that everyone must be at every game is an outdated idealogy โ€” so take advantage of where and when it makes sense of the redundancy we have in tactical areas. 

Working in sports is fun. And it should be. But if we don’t find a way to let people RSVP “yes” to those important life moments and not feel guilty about it, our industry will not keep the best and the brightest. In 2024, let’s take advantage of our teams’ more robust digital & content structures to help everyone find some balance.

Teams Having Fun.

In 2024, sports teams need to loosen up a button (or two) on social media and not be afraid to have some fun. This is one where my perspective has evolved and lightened up quite a bit, and others in our space agree.

 Here’s what I’ve come to believe firmly: People like sports because they allow them to connect with others & disconnect from the rest. People need fierce competition and a FUN fan experience. Teams, like people, can and should flex. Yes, for most sports orgs, there’s a time and a place. You must know the nuances, but people connect with personality, emotion and humor.

There’s no better example of why fun matters in sports than the Savannah Bananas. I know for me, seeing their approach has been humbling because it’s the ultimate proof of thinking about the fan above all else. I mean, the numbers on these videos speak for themselves:

I know the Savannah Bananas are an extreme example, but they are a massive reminder that social is fun and sports are entertainment. As long as teams care about the foundation – partner, brand moments, etc. – there should be space for fun. 

I do want to emphasize that taking care of the brand foundation is key. The strongest social teams understand that social should be fun but not with disregard for the business. Why? Because fun without purpose is just aimless.

So, in 2024, encourage your social and content team to have fun and take risks. One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is to try to say yes more than you say no, even if some of the yeses make you uncomfortable. Of course, ideas must fit within the brand box, but let your team push even if it’s outside your comfort zone. 

Encourage ideas vs. deflate, and magic will help. And I’ll leave this thought with some of the “fun” I stumbled across this year in sports: 

No More “What’s Always Been Done”.

Because sports is a small community and we often constantly follow other teams and our peers in the industry, it is easy to get caught up in mirroring the approach of others. But in 2024, the teams that stand out and maximize resources will stop doing what’s always been done, focus less on mirroring other teams and being bullish on the bold things, maximize resources, and genuinely connect with fans.

Standard game coverage and play-by-play. Over-the-top all-star campaigns. A ton of creative resources on holiday graphics. Insane schedule release moments. I’m not saying these things are wrong for all teams, but do we do them because that’s always been done or because we have to keep up with everyone versus doing what’s best for our brand and business?

Want to win? Double down on an approach that’s right for your organization and your fans, regardless of the status quo in sports. There is no sports organization, no matter how big or premiere, that has unlimited resources, so every single team has to prioritize what’s important to them. We can either prioritize the “same old same old” or prioritize the big, bold, meaningful and sometimes scary work. 

In today’s age of endless options and competition, the cookie-cutter approach to content and social channels will no longer work. Sports teams must break away from the formulaic tendencies that often result in generic, easily forgettable content. You don’t have to play by old rules. You don’t have to play by the rules of other teams. You don’t have to play it safe. In 2024 the teams that will win will stop doing what’s always been done and write their own rules.

Flexing YouTube’s Full Ecosystem.

If you are investing in video content, you should invest in YouTube. While the platform is slower to build than other social platforms, I would argue that YouTube has one of the strongest and most stable audiences out of any social network.

The numbers speak for themselves. YouTube has 2.70 billion monthly active users based all around the world and approximately 122 million users per day. More than that, though, they reach every age demographic. Every marketer’s dream, right?

What I find most interesting about YouTube heading into this New Year is that they’re building a robust ecosystem. Thanks to YouTube Shorts, this platform is no longer just for long-form video; it’s a platform that will support an entire video ecosystem. 

The teams that invest in YouTube and follow best practices will find a video ecosystem that works hard and delivers for them. In 2024 if video is on your radar, YouTube should also be.

Building Out Internal Capabilities.

You can’t compete today online if you don’t have a strong creative team. And the teams that win in 2024 and beyond will be committed to building out their internal capabilities. Capabilities that don’t just include the execution part of creative, but also the strategy and concept part. 

What’s the benefit of this? A strong internal creative team will allow your org to work quickly and nimbly (as long as you don’t have a cumbersome process in place, which, trust me, you don’t want). But it’s more than just speed. Your internal team knows the brand best and has relationships with internal stakeholders and sports operations. You don’t have to be educated on how to get to x, y, and z; your team already knows this and has built trust.

This isn’t just about having more hands on deck and adding more people. It’s about having the right people with the right skillsets deeply embedded in your brand. In 2024, organizations that focus on building the right creative capabilities with enough breadth and depth to tackle any project will win.

Brand Intentionally Beyond Season Start.

We all know the blueprint for the start of the season. Countdown hype. Tagline push. Season hype video. Too often, teams kick off the season epically and intentionally, only for that to fizzle the minute we get into the gameday routine. The one-and-done approach to a team’s brand has to stop.

In 2024, it’s time to consider a more consistent drumbeat of intentionality around your team’s brand. It’s time for teams to resist the fade into a rhythm of score updates, player statistics, and game results that so often happen as we get into the swing of the season. The game action is undeniably essential, but so is building, protecting, and fostering your brand foundation (if you want to know why, I’ve written some about that here). Building an emotional connection with your fans helps through the highs and the lows, and it’s not just a nice to have today. It’s essential. 

Looking for an example of this? While it’s only one tactical example, the Ravens do an excellent job of reinforcing their brand DNA in their weekly trailers. They aren’t just hype videos. They reinforce their identity and scream Baltimore in their look, vibe, and tone.

Not Being Too Precious With Production.

I believe one of the biggest challenges for digital and content teams moving forward is figuring out the balance between quality versus quality, imperfect versus perfect, and nimble versus work that requires editors to dive deep. We live in a space where creative capabilities have become next-level, the world moves fast, and sports, more than most industries, require more volume.

But I think we have gotten caught up in the wrong things in the creative arms race in many ways. Teams don’t need SportsCenter-level studio sets or 20-person production shoots to do great work. We don’t have to sweat the tiny details, fuss over edits that don’t matter, and try to perfect everything about a video. The reality is that to get our audience’s attention truly, we have to evoke something in them โ€” and that doesn’t come from an elaborate production. It comes from a strong idea, narrative, and solid execution. It’s a realization that the most compelling contentโ€”the ideas that stir emotions and forge connectionsโ€”transcends the obsession with perfection and broadcast-level production. 

So, in 2024, let’s realize production doesn’t have to be so precious. I genuinely believe the teams that understand they can be more agile and resourceful with production and laser-focus on strong concepts will be able to produce great work and do it in scale.  

Understanding The Power of Access. 

The best social and creative team’s job in sports is to tell the story/narrative of the team, bring fans inside, and build an emotional connection (through the highs and lows). All of this is done through access and buy-in from the competition side. 

The other day I watched this long-form piece from the Detriot Lions, though, and it made me think about how the power of access goes far beyond the week-to-week content churn of a team’s channels. 

Yes, access helps bring fans closer to the team during the highs and lows. I’ll argue that value all day, but the impact runs deeper than fostering a closer fan-team relationship. Access holds historical significance. It can provide a window into the past, offering valuable historical footage that encapsulates the journey and legacy of an organization. We’re fortunate to live in an era where we can preserve the moments that define the team’s history forever in an intimate and personal way. And here’s the kicker: access becomes an invaluable asset when a team embarks on a magical run (hence how the Lions inspired this thought). Those behind-the-scenes glimpses, the candid shots, and exclusive footage? They transform into cherished keepsakes, documenting the magical journey for fans and becoming a part of the team’s storied legacy. 

So, while access humanizes and brings fans closer, in 2024, I think teams must understand and pitch its broader significance. Access is not just about the now. It’s about preserving the past and potentially capturing the extraordinary moments that become the stuff of our team’s histories. 

Drive Awe Through Creative.

This one is purely driven by my love and admiration for the Aston Martin F1 Team’s creative flair and captivating creativity. As someone who works in the industry, I typically do not become a fan of social accounts, but their work has pulled me in. They have a style; they push the boundaries and truly awe people through creativity. I will not harp much on this one, but I believe the teams that will win in 2024 will continue pushing the envelope in the creative space and surprise and delight fans with exciting concepts and fun, creative flair. 

Here are a few of their recent examples:

That ends my list of things to consider in #smsports in 2024. As always, there are no hard, fast rules here, and every team has to do what’s right for them, but hopefully, something inspired you here. And before we wrap, I’ll leave you with a few other great points from others in the #smsports community.

Now itโ€™s your turn to sound off. What do you think teams should be considering in 2024?

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