Sports content and marketing, especially in the US, is wide open and messier than a Mark Sanchez run in crunch time. In fact, at our first “The Big Messy”, a panel discussion on “messy” topics in the industry, it was clear that there is an emerging inflection point where brands, sports, technology and creativity collide.
Included in our conversation at the 4As in New York City earlier this month were Brian Cristiano, CEO Bold Worldwide; Julie Frahm, director original programming & production SNY; Amy Snelling, group account director SapientNitro and John Turner, SVP Publicis Media sports.
One of the themes that emerged prominently, in this Bold Worldwide-sponsored conversation, was live streaming. This nascent space has yet to fully arrive but is on top of everyone’s minds, especially in light of new platform/league deals. Frahm, who has a unique perspective in original programming, especially around the NYC area, pointed out that Facebook and especially Facebook Live are not only viable channels for existing live content, but for original content as well. Additionally, she felt as though brands are perfect partners to explore this evolution.
Consistency and quality are also key considerations, with Snelling commenting that, “good content will always be king,” while pointing to the agency’s standout work with Dunkin’ Donuts in the space, leveraging all manner of platforms with the likes of New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski and Boston Red Sox legend David Ortiz.
One surprising perspective came from Turner, who indicated that for all of the fun stuff out there, it’s likely never been a better time to take a closer look at some of the more tried and true platforms like TV (which is not showing signs of slowing down), radio and print. This “white space” that sometimes loses its cache under the cacophony of VR conversation, for example, could potentially not only yield some great bargains, but scale and scope as well.
Cristiano evangelized about rethinking what a sponsorship deal even looks like. Instead of making it all about a one-day shoot, he encouraged the audience to think about how to extend the “traditional” deals into something that lasts throughout the year — bending the current model on its ear.
Additionally, Cristiano, in conversation after the event, discussed the bets that should and shouldn’t be made. Not surprisingly, he was bullish on Facebook.
“I think Facebook is early,” said Cristiano. “Facebook video, especially Facebook Live, because I think [they are] still figuring out how exactly to make that work. I think brands that are willing to place bets there will win in the short term but also potentially in the long term while they build their awareness of like, ‘yes we're going to this platform, yes we're broadcasting here and creating content that lives here,’ I think that's a big upside.”
“I think it's super early. This is super super niche. I'm not saying go and just do 360 video, but I think incrementally to other things that are happening, if you have the content, if you have the access, especially sports, 360 video can be big,” noted Cristiano.
A surprise platform that Cristiano was mild on? Snapchat. Though the darling in so many areas, especially with brands, he felt as though that sports content would miss the desired audience.
“I don't think going all in on Snapchat is the right time for sports and for brands trying to reach the sports audience. I think there's lot of growth and I think they need to be there but I think there's a lot of other channels that have more upside,” said Cristiano. “I'm not saying it's bad, but I think there's going to be big bets made on it in 2017 that don't quite pan out as well as they would have hoped.”
It will be interesting looking into the crystal ball and reconvening in a year to see what has panned out most for sports content, brands, athletes and fans — but Cristiano has one piece of valuable advice for anyone wading into the space, especially in light of the recent announcement of Vine’s closure.
“Don't go all in on one platform. How many influencers made a lot of money that were just Vine influencers, and now are left with nothing to do? They’ve got to scramble and go somewhere else, so that's why you have to be everywhere. Don't make one bet on one thing.”