For most of my Major League Baseball career, social media didn’t even exist.
When I retired and embarked on my journey in technology, I was just gaining an idea of what it could become.
Now, I can’t imagine sports without it.
In starting my company, Greenfly, I had an idea around broadcast—around speed and relevance. I was being approached often for sound bites on new baseball records and season outlooks, so I thought about how to harness technology, create a network of people and quickly connect that network to the rights holders for content around game broadcasts, which had a critical need for speed and relevance.
That idea quickly moved toward social media, where fans and brands were just beginning to congregate to share and consume sports content and commentary, and where speed and relevance were becoming even more crucial. Today, it’s clear that social is the place where people, resources, content and technology are fully coming together in sports, and where they’ll be in the future.
Four Simple Words
To win in this era and the ones ahead, there are four simple words you need to think about as a sports brand:
“Speed content to social.”
It’s oft-discussed that we’re in an age of peak TV — not only for original, scripted shows but for sports programming as well. This glut of content has run lock-step alongside the fragmentation of audiences across viewing platforms and devices, the socialization of real-time consumption experiences, and the rise in sports fandom across global markets—all of which promise to only grow in the years ahead. It has also highlighted the fundamental, complex challenge (and opportunity) all sports brands and content producers now face:
How to get the right sports content to the right fan at the right time.
Today’s modern sports fan is inevitably getting that content on social media, as a place to experience and share gameday coverage, slice-of-life highlights and unforgettable moments. It’s no surprise, as audiences continue to shift from time spent viewing sports coverage and ancillary content on traditional live television broadcast platforms, and even online ones, toward in-the-moment mobile streaming offerings.
Gen Z fans coming of age are already completely immersed as mobile social natives, and older generations are increasingly adopting these contemporary consumption behaviors as well. These trends are evident around the world: A recent Media Chain study in the U.K. found that close to two-thirds of young people surveyed there preferred getting sports coverage via social media versus traditional broadcast television, and over half favored getting sports news that way. And, as Gen Alpha starts to come of age, many of today’s youngest fans will likely only experience sports content via mobile and social channels.
There’s no stopping this paradigm shift and the consumer demand for ever-greater levels of content speed and relevancy. The lean-in time for social sports is here.
Two Core Elements
Thus, the ability to capture, curate and channel compelling content experiences and get them to fans quickly via the social platforms that matter to them most is the critical factor in sports brand health now. Engaged fans are activated fans and paying fans – in and out of the arena. If you lose your fans in today’s environment, you lose your brand.
This speed to social activity relies on a cohesive distribution chain to rapidly move massive volumes of relevant, up-to-the-minute content from where and when it’s recorded to where and when it lives on social media for fan consumption.
Increasingly, that distribution chain is the fusion of two core elements: advanced content workflow technology and a mobilized community surrounding a sports organization. That community typically includes a stakeholder network of athletes, along with photographers, partners and staff at the league and team levels. In many cases, a mobilized community can include the fans themselves.
The Power of Community
A sports brand today is the sum of those community relationships; each member has an independent voice, a personal brand and channels to express how they feel about a team or player or moment. They can share brand content or create their own distinctive, personalized photos and videos for their fans. Mobilizing a community means a sports organization no longer has to go it alone—it can amplify the very best content within the ideal social forum at the optimal moment for fans to take it in.
Sports fans—particularly younger ones—are all about community. They crave new content and look for the rush of interactive, in-stadium experiences wherever they are. They desire to be a part of a winning tribe. They also want personal connections and access, following athletes who may be social natives themselves and inclined to interact with them directly.
Think about your own habits as a fan. You probably have favorite sports and teams, but you’re wearing the jersey of a particular athlete; you’re following the stats and social feeds of a rising or established star. Brands that can recreate and magnify sports experiences virtually by harnessing their athletes and other key advocates for content distribution can catapult fandom to the highest heights.
This power of community is becoming even more vital to sports brands as social platforms themselves adapt to evolving consumer behaviors and marketplace shifts. Facebook, for one, has publicly prioritized personalized messaging, niche topic groups and fleeting story formats as forward-looking areas of focus. Brands are finding it more challenging to cut through the clutter of content feeds that turn over new experiences in seconds. As such, they’re gravitating toward more direct connection points to help maintain fan engagement, enable instant activation, and control their brand voice in such transitory environments.
Savvy sports organizations are harnessing their community—their people—to reach and engage with other people. They’re collaborating with them to do that, and speed content to social, via technology that can connect the content dots from end to end and draw fans ever closer to their brands.
The Drive of Technology
Sports brands can now access data-driven workflow technology to ingest, tag and organize a mass of gameday content automatically from many sources, and see it distributed by their community to social channels in seconds.
Photographers can seamlessly submit and distribute content while they’re still shooting more. Athletes can have photos and videos automatically waiting for them when they get off the field. Sponsors can access personalized assets to showcase their integrations among target audiences. Fans can even be mobilized to share their collective joy in unexpected victories with each other.
Social teams can collaborate with all of these groups to share and create relevant content instantly. Importantly, through comprehensive analytics, they can also measure its impact to determine resonant content and most active community members for continual improvements.
In this way, fans never have to miss a moment, and sports organizations can realize the value of content that much faster.
To thrive as a sports brand in this day and age, remember the four simple words and two core elements that are seeding success for organizations everywhere, as they continue to bring community, technology, content and fans together on social media.
Shawn Green, Greenfly Co-founder and Chairman, played Major League Baseball for 15 years as an All-Star right-fielder, including with the Dodgers and Mets. Prior to playing ball, Shawn attended Stanford University. A lifelong passionate fan of technology, Shawn developed the Greenfly concept out of his desire to streamline the complexities of working with media companies and brands to help them share and promote video and photo content across their channels.