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How a New Alliance of Companies Aims to Maximize Athlete-Driven Content

The trio of athlete media and marketing platforms converge to use their strengths in tandem to provide a more comprehensive outline for athlete media campaigns.

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Photo credit: opendorse

(opendorse is a proud partner of Front Office Sports.)

Today’s athletes play within a world that craves content at an ever-growing rate. They just so happen to exist in a time when social media is rapidly expanding and has vastly evolved since tweets, posts, and shares were being touted as part of the new communication boom.

And yet, professional athletes have still been trying feverishly to figure out the correct content strategy to follow, or they have turned to untrusted third parties to broker sponsorship deals.

Luckily, for a fortunate crop of athletes, they will be able to benefit from a full rendering of player-driven social platforms.

This week, Australian-based athlete media and marketing platforms PlayersVoice and Pickstar are joining forces with U.S.-founded opendorse to help jointly promote and educate the market on the Athlete Generated Media category (AGM).

READ MORE: Inside the Huddle: Monetizable Social Assets With Jonah Ballow

While each company aims to help athletes on social, they all serve distinct functions that help contribute to a well-rounded social dynamic. According to opendorse CEO Blake Lawrence, the different roles that each company plays will ultimately allow the trio to maximize each other’s core strengths.

“All three of these companies will be moving at once all together,” said Lawrence. “The most digital-savvy athletes are getting requests from the top sponsors and brands to partner with them. This fluid partnership will allow for athletes’ content to be more forward facing and seamlessly integrated than ever before.”

The companies will all work together to maximize content flow. PlayersVoice celebrates elite athletes — and in partnership with them, have built the new home for rich and raw sports storytelling.

PickStar works with aligning with brands and companies to help forge campaigns that are a natural fit for today’s athlete. The site helps to facilitate athletes to be utilized as guest speakers, social influencers, on-site marketing analysts and more. The partnership between these three companies will generate even more relationships for PickStar to work with in order to maximize opportunities for athlete involvement.

Opendorse helps to facilitate the infrastructure to help athletes publish content from partners. The platform exists to help athletes publish content easily and seamlessly. In turn, it allows players to be more accessible and engaging with their fans. With real-time analytics being supplied, the company also allows for partners to see up-to-date results on how their content is performing, thus helping them to stay up to date on their social strategies.

READ MORE: Inside the Huddle: Talking Paid Social With Angela Welchert

Essentially, PlayersVoice is on the forefront of athlete-led content creation, PickStar is providing a marketplace to match athletes with brands, while opendorse is serving as a behind-the-scenes content distribution platform. With these three media companies working in tandem, it allows for growth towards athlete-driven media and more authentic content being created.

According to Lawrence, the process of aligning with the Australia-based companies was a natural fit.

“The process was forged over the last few months,” said Lawrence. “The three of these companies all shared a common vision as the goal is to work together to maximize athlete success. We shared a united front during the building process. It allows for each of us to specialize in what we each do best under one common mission.”

For these companies, the timing aligned well to come together and help to grow the current and future athletic superstars while also acting as agents of evolution and forward thinking within the social media landscape.

“It’s a challenging task ahead,” said Lawrence. “Yet it is a strong example of the maturation of the market, where it is big enough that you don’t necessarily have to do all of the things yourself. We’ve got two partners in this alignment who specialize in their field of athlete-driven social media. I’m excited what this means for our industry.”

(opendorse is a proud partner of Front Office Sports.)

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Inside The Huddle: Digital Content Distribution With Tina Jain

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In the buildup to Front Office Sports’ Digital Media Huddle presented by opendorse on February 22, we’re introducing you to the huddle leaders who will be lending their expertise to the conversation.

Today, meet Tina Jain, manager of social and digital marketing with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. She will be one of the leaders of the huddle, “Content in the Right Hands: How Distribution Makes All the Difference.”

Jain began her career on the digital side of sports in 2011 at the NHL’s league office in New York as the league’s first dedicated social media hire. After four and a half years of playing a large role in the league’s overall social strategy, Jain spent just over a year with MLB Advanced Media before joining the Devils in 2017.

“When I was in college, digital — let alone social — was not a major. It wasn’t even a class. Twitter was just starting up and people used Facebook just to talk with their friends. So people who started working at brands around that time got to be early adopters and really shape social marketing for what it has become today. It’s been really cool to be one of those people who has seen it from the ground up.”

Working with a team, as opposed to a league, has been a different experience for Jain because she spends more time collaborating with players and helping them shape their personal brands. Until fairly recently, Devils’ players were not permitted to use social media due to rules imposed by management. When this policy changed, Jain set to work building the team’s following through the players’ own personalities.

“We took the Devils from this old mindset into a new age. We’re getting cell phones in players’ hands, we’re at media day, we’re onboarding them into opendorse, and just showing them that it is OK to show fans their personality. That was one of my biggest priorities when I first joined the team.”

Jain has made a point to let the players know that she and the rest of the marketing team can be a valuable resource for social media education or improving their overall digital presence.

“Being in the league for a number of years has helped me establish relationships, which is a big part of working in this industry. Opendorse has been very helpful with our athlete-driven content as well. We were the first NHL team to use that last year and now several other teams are using opendorse.”

Utilizing players’ social channels continues to be a large part of the Devils’ content distribution strategy. This enables Jain to customize graphics and captions to best relate to the audience of a particular channel. Treating each channel and each piece of content uniquely maximizes views and engagement.

“It’s not always one size fits all. You have to think about the purpose of the content that you’re putting out. Are you selling tickets? Are you promoting a theme night? Are you generally just celebrating a win, teammate, or team moment? You really have to be mindful of who the audience is, what the message is, and where you’re distributing it.”

Up to this point in her career in sports, Jain offers the following advice for aspiring professionals.

“Have a plan. Your career is a marathon. Seek out leaders that can help you achieve your goals and talk to them. With each new year or new role, find a few specific areas you want to hone in on and focus on those. It’s better to give your full focus to a few things than give a little bit of focus to a lot of things.”

Meet Tina and hear more of her thoughts on the current digital landscape at the Front Office Sports Digital Media Huddle presented by opendorse in New York on February 22. For tickets and additional info, click here.

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sponsorshipX’s Unique Spin on Marketing Conferences Comes to Nashville

SponsorshipX is not your typical conference with boring speakers and sessions. With an annual multi-day event, it throws its attendees into the action.

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Photo credit: SponsorshipX

(*sponsorshipX is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

Since 2005, sponsorshipX has been bringing together sponsorship marketing professionals from around the world to learn, grow, and network. sponsorshipX is not your typical conference with boring speakers and sessions. With an annual multi-day event known as the “live-action conference,” sponsorshipX literally throws its attendees into the action — so they can experience ideas firsthand instead of simply talking about them.

In the past, this has included hosting breakout sessions in gondolas, playing a “networking” basketball tournament during the NBA All-Star weekend, and getting VIP seats to the FIFA WWC. Working professionals have the time of their lives while also learning from some of the industry’s top thought leaders.

While the organization will still be hosting an event in Toronto later this spring, it’s also bringing this revolutionary approach to networking and professional education to Nashville, Tennessee. Representatives from major brands, corporations, agencies, events, advertisers, and properties will descend upon the Music City April 23-25, 2019.

In addition to hearing a compelling lineup of speakers and thought leaders from all over the world, attendees at this year’s event will get to experience everything the city has to offer — from live music to local BBQ, to participating in a flag football tournament and visiting the NFL Draft Experience.

Mark Harrison, founder and chairperson of sponsorshipX, explains why this method beats the alternative of spending a weekend almost falling asleep and sneakily checking Twitter while sitting in an auditorium.

“We think that if you’re going to come and participate in a conference about providing the consumer a valuable experience, then we should actually be in an experiential environment. We’ve found that when people go mountain biking together or sing in a karaoke contest, it’s a much different form of networking than your typical cocktail hour. That kind of informal setting really is conducive to authentic connection.”

After attending a number of conferences in the United States, Harrison and company felt that Nashville made a perfect fit for the feel that they wanted for the latest iteration of the conference.

“We felt like Nashville was sort of taking a very similar path where you have this incredible melding of entertainment culture with their pro sports teams, which are rapidly expanding and becoming more popular,” says Harrison. “And then on top of that, there’s this influx of tech companies and new corporations setting up there. So for us, it felt like the perfect time.”

Other incredible experiences on the docket include a tour of some of the best cultural hotspots in the city and a party on Lower Broadway which organizers are nicknaming “NashBash.”

In addition to partaking in the sports world’s largest honky-tonk experience, Nashville attendees will also get a taste of unique content like ideas from millennial marketers that their bosses have vetoed, an interactive tour of distinctive sponsorship activations throughout Nashville, and the opportunity to engage in unique collaborative workshops, such as using music to solve creative problems.

Past sponsorshipX speakers include Emilio Collins (EVP of global marketing partnerships at the NBA), Pamela Hollander (VP integrated marketing communications at Allstate), Zaileen Janmohamed (former head of Olympics management at VISA), and Dana White (CEO of UFC).

The event is already shaping up to be an ideal combination of education, sports, music entertainment and, of course, the excitement of Nashville. If you’re looking for a great first sports marketing conference or just looking for a break from the ordinary, consider heading to sponsorshipX this spring in country music’s capital. 

“sponsorship is a unique proposition in the world of sports conferences,” says Ricardo Fort, head of global sponsorships at the Coca-Cola Company. “The blend of plenary sessions and live event experiences, the diversity of speakers and attendees and the breadth of topics covered allow the participants to learn, network and engage in discussions with some of the best in the industry. sponsorship is one of the must-attend events in our industry.”

Registration for sponsorshipX Nashville is now open. Early bird registration will be open until March 15. Online registration will be open until April 23.

(*sponsorshipX is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

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How SQWAD’s In-Game Trivia Promotions Add Value to the Portland Winterhawks’ Partners

For the Western Hockey League team, SQWAD’s contributions to its innovative sponsorship offerings continue to be an invaluable addition.

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(*SQWAD is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

When it comes to major sports organizations in the state of Oregon, fans usually immediately recall teams like the Portland Trail Blazers, Oregon Ducks, Portland Timbers, and Oregon State Beavers.

For that reason, clubs like the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks look for ways to stand out when it comes to attracting both fans and sponsors. For the latter, SQWAD has played a valuable role for the team.

Four years ago, SQWAD and the Winterhawks entered into a partnership that saw the Portland-based company build up the team’s app along with a few interactive games.

One of these games is a trivia contest that lets Winterhawks fans race to enter a question about the team. In 2018, Winterhawks Vice President for Corporate Sponsorships Rich Franklin and SQWAD founder and CEO Nick Lawson introduced a branding element into the trivia game as part of the Winterhawks’ partnership with Toyota.

“Sponsors, more than ever, have multiple avenues in which to advertise directly to their target customers,” says Lawson. “They see the attention on the phone, and if sports teams don’t have inventory to grab that attention and connect fans to sponsors digitally, brands will spend on digital ads instead.”

Toyota understood this need for a quality digital activation, which made the company perfect for what the Winterhawks and SQWAD were prepared to offer.

“We found that SQWAD’s trivia game was a good fit for our partnership with Toyota, who indicated that digital was going to become a much more prominent part of their marketing mix,” says Franklin. “I got together with Nick and our internal marketing team and said we need to put some things together that are robust and interactive, but there needs to be a component of bringing buyers and sellers together. It can’t solely be a branding thing with logos and so forth. That’s when Nick and I put together this package with Toyota.”

READ MORE: How NASCAR Stays Up to Speed in the Ever-Changing Digital Space

In the second period of each Winterhawks’ game, questions appear on the jumbotron in Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the Moda Center (the Winterhawks play in both Rose Quarter venues, depending on the day) as well as on the game broadcast.

Anyone who has downloaded the Winterhawks app has the opportunity to play along, either at the game or watching at home. Fans who are among the first 100 participants to pick the right answer will get an email notification regarding their prize, which varies based on inventory, theme nights, or whether the game is home or away.

By making Toyota a part of an activation that occurs in-game, the automobile company has a higher chance of building a very positive relationship with Winterhawks fans, as Lawson explains.

“Scoreboard Trivia allows brands like Toyota to become a part of the game experience. The fact that the Winterhawks saw where they were, took the leap early toward the shift, and effectively executed puts the inventory they offer at a higher level of value to sponsors than previously seen. I give them all the credit for jumping in and not just dipping their toes.”

Franklin described the process of gathering fan data from the game to report back to Toyota by saying, “SQWAD provides us real-time metrics in terms of how many people are playing the game. So that gives us some great data to take back to Toyota. We’re very happy with it, Toyota is happy with it, and fans really seem to have fun playing along with it.”

Toyota has been so happy with the way that this game has helped build affinity between the brand and Winterhawks fans, it has renewed the partnership with the club for multiple years, which is not something the company does often in sports.

READ MORE: NHL Fan Fair Gives Fans Look at New Coaching Tool in VR Game

“Big picture, this has really helped solidify this partnership,” Franklin said. “In the market that we’re in and being smaller than a lot of the other sports organizations here, we need to stand out and do some things that are going to help move the needle for Toyota and our other partners. This directly led to Toyota expanding their partnership with us.”

For Franklin and the Winterhawks, SQWAD’s contributions to their sponsorship offerings continue to be an invaluable addition when it comes to their own organizational goals as well as their sponsors.

“Nick Lawson is very sponsorship savvy and very responsive to us,” said Franklin. “If we have a question, or if there’s something we want to add, he’s very helpful there. He’s even come with us to a number of sponsor pitch meetings. SQWAD’s delivered for us, and I highly recommend them.”

(*SQWAD is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

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