There's no offseason for social media campaigns, which is something that sports teams have to overcome even when there aren't any games being played.
With experience both in content marketing and as a professional athlete, Adam Holt has seen the sports world from many different angles. As Socialbakers’ Global Head of Sports, Entertainment & Media, Adam brings a wealth of knowledge about the ever-changing landscape of sports and entertainment marketing.
In a recent Q&A session, Adam shared his thoughts on which sports leagues are doing the best work on social media, the effects of the second-screen experience, and examples of some successful social media campaigns.
How do you go about building a unique content strategy?
It is key to create engaging and unique content that resonates with your current audience or target audience. This strategy can’t simply be 1 piece of content that you publish across all social channels. It has to be unique for each platform based on the optimal formats for each platform.
For example, IG Stories are currently leading the way in terms of engagement because they give that snapshot view of what is happening vs. YouTube or FB Live, where longer content or live streams are some of the fastest-growing content types. The likes of Bleacher Report and the NBA have seemed to really grasp the concept of a multi-channel social media approach and their numbers are consistently growing.
The NBA is a league that has effectively created a calendar with no offseason. For other leagues or teams, how do you go about providing fans with a steady stream of content when it’s the offseason?
The NBA as a business is structured in a way that there is always excitement. This starts in the regular season where the players are allowed to wear anything they want pregame, which allows them to express their fashion/style, and then in the offseason the flexibility around salary caps allows there to be a frenzy every year as teams pitch for superstars.
This process allows the NBA to stay relevant even though a basketball isn’t being shot. It just happens that all of this is now documented on social media and published across the globe – especially in the Far East, where the NBA has an ever-growing footprint.
Which sports leagues have the best social media strategies? What can others learn from them?
The NBA is leading the way in terms of their social media approach – they have a really good understanding of their audience, what content they want, and where they want it. This multifaceted understanding allows the NBA to continue to grow its audience both in North America and the rest of the world. Related to this, they allow their athletes to be personalities and content creators, which helps to provide unique and engaging content.
The second screen experience is now very common. How do you see technology changing the way people consume sport’s content in the future?
Technology and real-time capabilities mean that individuals no longer need to be sitting in front of their TV to catch the game or highlights. You can now see the key plays on Twitter within seconds of them happening. I recently wrote an article along similar lines.
What are some recent examples of successful social media campaigns? What do you think made them stand out from campaigns that weren’t as impactful?
The USWNT has done a really good job recently at the World Cup leveraging the teams on-field success with the off-field personalities of their players. Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe have helped to spearhead this both as individuals and as a team.
The questions now raised are the disparity in the pay gap between the men’s and women’s sports. Outside of the USWNT, brands have used social campaigns to challenge the status quo with Adidas x Parley (clean ocean) and Nike (women’s rights) helping to change the world through sport and social. The success of these campaigns can be measured by engagement, impressions, reach, or social impact. For me, success varies from company to company depending on their goals but having accurate data is paving the way for consistency.
What’s it like to work with star athletes? How do you strategize with players about what they post on social media?
Each athlete is different; some like to be actively involved in the process (creating posts/text) while others want to be highly directed. It is all about understanding their personality and ensuring the content is tailored authentically. If an athlete is naturally humorous, use that personality trait to make them relatable.
Fans often say they want to hear real thoughts from athletes until they hear ones that they don’t like or agree with. What’s the right balance for an athlete to promote herself on social media without having to do an apology tour?
There is always going to be controversy when dealing with individuals especially around high profile/stress events, like right after a match. It is the athlete's responsibility to understand that they are an influencer and a brand within themselves and need to act accordingly to continue to build their brand. Being successful at that comes down to authenticity – followers want to understand what makes the athletes tick, what life is like for them and how they go about their days.
What are some of the best methods to get an audience to move beyond seeing the content and to start engaging with it?
Calls to action are an obvious example, like asking them to like/share/comment. However, I don’t think you can force the engagements. If someone genuinely likes a piece of content they are highly likely to react to it, that is just the nature of social media.
Big events bring a lot of extra attention, and scrutiny. What are some examples of well-run campaigns for major events? Can their success be replicated?
AS Roma’s transfer window and Tim Hortons’ Kenyan Hockey Team are a couple that jump out to me. There are 100s every year that are successful and achieve their goals (or even more). 100% success can be replicated – it starts with understanding WHY the campaign was successful and from there using those pieces to create your own authentic content.