Q&A: Staying Engaged When There’s No Game
By Nathalie Nuta
At our State of Social: Sports Webinar last month, Sheetal Saha, Shareablee’s Customer Success Manager, interviewed Nathaniel Uy, Bleacher Report’s Senior Manager of Analytics, to discuss fan engagement strategies when it’s not a game day. Uy and his team at the sports news website are responsible for making recommendations to the content creative department.
All sports franchises are affected by seasonality and off days. Uy tells us that Bleacher Report is able to engage audiences throughout the year by finding content, events or moments that aren’t related to a specific game, but can still be tied to sports. Six out of the top 10 Bleacher Report Facebook posts in Q1 of 2016 were non-event related and generated just under 155K total actions.
One example is Bleacher Report’s Game of Zones series, which is a parody of the hit HBO show Game of Thrones. The non-event day campaign generated more than 177K total actions across their social platforms. Uy says Game of Zones became “a series of content that people look forward to and it takes on its own life. People are talking about it and it becomes associated with the brand, Bleacher Report.”
Sports content on Instagram is also seeing an increase in engagement. Sports publishers have experienced 140% year-over-year growth in terms of Instagram actions, with Bleacher Report growing a whopping 347%. Uy attributes that growth to capitalizing on what fans are talking about or anticipating.
“Specifically around Instagram, recently we’ve done March Madness related stuff,” he says. “Jaden Smith [Will Smith’s son] is talking about having his reflections on March Madness – about how seeds don’t really turn into trees and that was really entertaining. It’s one of those pieces of video content that people engage with, but it’s not necessarily about a specific athlete talking, but about the subject matter.”
“Another example would be the recent event of the [Phoenix] Suns’ with Devin Booker – he posted a 70-point game,” says Uy. “The last time somebody scored that many points was Kobe Bryant, making the comparison between the two players. [Bleacher Report] put together a hype tape of Booker replicating a lot of Bryant’s news.”
Uy believes the post was successful because the video was well produced, there was lots of interest in Booker’s performance and it was a polarizing game since the Suns still lost.
In terms of how you gauge success, Saha asks, “Do you look at your different types of content differently as you judge how well they’ve done?”
“On each platform, we set different expectations,” Uy says. “For example, on Instagram, we find a lot of at mentions and I find that a little bit more valuable. A Facebook share, I find that a lot more valuable also than a regular like, because I feel like that induces people to share content with their friends or their network.”
“What has been the biggest challenge in developing the concepts of non-events day content?,” Saha asks.
“I find that to be planning ahead of time,” says Uy. “It’s important to have a good calendar, so you have a sense of when your events are and find gaps where it’s a good time to find something else to be creative. It could be a pop culture event, it could be a Grammy’s, it could be the Oscars.”
“Have you had any limitations that you face? Any sort of brand pushback or backlash?,” Saha asks.
“A lot of the news has to be licensed and we’ve kind of passed that obstacle getting to be able to use this or that highlight content, some of the replays, some of the reactionary content,” he says. “Trying to get the license and the rights to use the footage, otherwise Facebook and all these public platforms will be able to take that down.”
In looking at the recent growth and changes, Saha asks, “Is there a specific big trend that you see next for social and sports?”
“Your average social user is a lot smarter these days,” says Uy. “If they don’t like your content, you’re going to hear about it. My takeaway is make sure the content is good, make sure the videos are good. Make sure that people will engage with the conversation you’re trying to start, because otherwise you’re just going to get called out for it. And sometimes we do and that’s great and then we learn from it.”
For more on how Shareablee can help you understand sports media, check out Using Real-time Leaderboards: What We Can Learn from Sunday Around the NBA
image via Facebook.