Tips from the Engagement Academy for the Hashtag Sports Awards

Advice from academy judges on what to enter and how to win

During this month's webinar, Engagement Academy judges provided guidance on how to most effectively enter the Hashtag Sports Awards.

Founded in 2018, the Engagement Academy of Sports Entertainment is an honorary organization of 150+ members that judges the Hashtag Sports Awards and serves the sports entertainment community by celebrating, inspiring, and advocating for content creators, creatives, and marketers globally.

Below are a few of our favorite takeaways from members and judges Josh Grunberg (EVP, Business Operations at Team Whistle), Marissa Mast (brand marketer & advisor), and Sara Toussaint (Underdog Venture Team Partner & Co-Owner of the NC Courage) who spoke about their approach to reviewing and scoring submissions to the awards over the past two years.

This webinar is available to view on-demand:

Watch On-Demand

Understand the rules of engagement 

The Hashtag Sports Awards set the benchmark for excellence in fan engagement. Engagement effectiveness accounts for 40% of the weighted scoring by judges, with creativity & innovation (30%) and results and impact (30%) accounting for the remainder.

Engagement does not simply equate to likes, comments, or shares—it’s about deepening your relationship or connection with fans.

In order to set a new standard for best-in-class fan engagement, it’s important to first know where the bar currently sits.

Before submitting the award or maybe even before you start your campaign, go back to the Hashtag award winners and see if your idea has been done before. There is so much good content and so many winners that I had not seen their campaign before [judging], but they had really strong engagement numbers. Go back to the previous winners from Hashtag Sports and see if your work is unique.” — Sara Toussaint

💡 Tip: Read the rules of the Hashtag Sports Awards to understand the specific criteria judges use when reviewing entries.

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Compare your work to your own, instead of the competition

It is a natural human tendency to compare ourselves with others. But sometimes, the most impressive outcome you can show is how far you’ve come on your own path rather than where you ended up. Grunberg shared the following advice:

Something I really look at favorably is when the submission doesn’t only put the metrics, but they make note of how much it overperformed relative to other content. If you are a big organization with millions of followers, you’re going to get reach and engagement, but I’m interested in understanding how this overbenchmarked against other content that you’ve published… That’s how I look if the bar [for fan engagement] was actually raised.

💡 Tip: Consider including year-over-year growth metrics for either your specific campaign or your organization in the “Results” field.

Don’t overlook the objective

Results are only as impressive as the objective you set out to accomplish. Ensure your submission tells the story behind the numbers and adds the context needed to help it stand out.

Getting internal buy-in across content, marketing, and production can be a challenge. The story of getting the project off the ground and to a place where it’s ready for fans to see may have been a feat in itself. Ensure the judges know the significance of your work to your organization. Shared Mast:

“I also love to see when [an entry] is reaching a new audience. For example, this is how we targeted Gen Z, or we realized we didn’t have enough female fans [in our base] so this is how we reach them. Or despite a losing season, this is how we were able to have higher engagement.”

💡 Tip: Consider using the “Objective” field to show how the submitted work ladders up into key business objectives. These examples may be as narrow as revenue goals or as broad as experimentation with a new platform.

Question 7

It’s the thought that counts

Judges can easily distinguish between entrants who take time to draft thoughtful responses and those that rush through their submissions. Take note of the final deadline and ensure you begin collecting information from colleagues or approval from clients and partners with enough time.

Marissa Mast has served as both a judge and an entrant in the past. Her advice:

I know sometimes these things come up [quickly], and you’re rushing to get it in. But try to block an hour on your calendar to do the work you did justice. That definitely helps us when we’re judging…and bring in other people from your team, not just the head of your team, but have the creative team or graphic designers share why they think this is impressive. If you bring everyone together, it can only help the entry.” 

💡 Tip: Download an entry kit after creating your awards account to preview which information you will need when submitting. Share this PDF with colleagues to help draft, collect, and perfect your entry in advance of the final deadline.

Give credit where credit is due

Hashtag Sports events and awards are unique in that they do no strictly recognize and spotlight executive-level talent. Empower your midlevel talent, doers, and creators, and show that your organization is a top landing spot for everyone from CMOs to coordinators by ensuring you list each person responsible for the ideation, creation, and execution of your work.

💡 Tip: You may credit up to 30 individuals in the “Contributors” tab. The more, the merrier! We may even offer special benefits for those who are credited. 

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Get more of the judges' feedback and insights on entering competitive awards submissions by watching the full webinar at the link below. Entries close on February 17, 2023.

Enter Awards

The Hashtag Sports Awards is where the sports, media, and entertainment industries gather to celebrate excellence in engagement and inspire new fan and consumer experiences.