The Challenges of Working in Content Marketing for a Pro Sports Team
By: Brian Clapp, Director of Content, WorkInSports.com
There are two phrases you hear often in the lexicon of content marketing specialists, “Content is King” and “Data Driven Decision Making”.
The former taps into the creative right brain, acknowledging the vast benefit of controlling a message through unique and imaginative content and distribution channels.
The latter is strictly left brain, optimizing logical, analytical, computational methods to determine and articulate the intrinsic value of the work being done.
Most who operate in the field of content marketing are strong in one side, but not the other. It is the rare combination of talent that can manage both the creation of educational, informative and entertaining content, while still being able to dive deep into a smoldering pile of data.
“My team and I take on a number of different responsibilities each and every day across our digital channels whether it’s website, social, email, app, etc.” says Jenna Camann, Director of Digital and Creative Services for the Boston Bruins/TD Garden. “At any given time I could be creating a digital channel strategy for a new program, advising on a targeting approach for digital media, making content recommendations, pouring over our website analytics, or working with the corporate partnership team on the digital extensions of a new deal.”
“We’re continuing to improve how we work with other internal teams to make our digital channels a better place for all of our fans and visitors.”
After five years working on social content for a global marketing and technology company, Jenna Camann jumped at the chance to work for the Boston Bruins directing their digital marketing efforts across multiple channels.
The Bucknell University grad is also one of those rare people who can tap into both sides of her brain, utilizing creative visions and data mining skills to drive the Boston Bruins to the next level.
Here’s more on developing a team, managing expectations, data mining and the future of content marketing for sports teams from Jenna Camann:
You oversee the social media efforts of the team – over the last few years we’ve seen some really terrible examples of social media gaffes coming out of team sites – how do you set up your team to know exactly what is expected of them and what is not acceptable?
Camann: Setting expectations is always a crucial part of being a manager, and when your team’s work is seen across public digital channels, it’s even more important.
A well thought-out onboarding process is key for new employees – our team covers both TD Garden and the Boston Bruins, so I ensure that new folks spend roughly 4 – 6 weeks getting to know the organization before they start creating anything, and then consistently work with me and other internal folks to understand our business. For current employees and as new opportunities come up, we’ve set up processes so the right people review the content at the right time before anything goes live.
More than anything, keeping our team motivated and passionate about our organization usually works best in setting ourselves up for success. Whether it’s our social PR team, our engagement specialist or other role, if they are committed to knowing the organization, our values, our personality, and our fans, our expectations align more easily.
In that vein, what is the overall strategy of your social media efforts – to inform, to sell, to entertain?
Camann: We’re in the process of building out a new strategy for both TD Garden and the Boston Bruins.
Our channels, fans, and business have grown over the years, and what may have been a good approach in the past may need to change, and in some instances, stay the same. I spent my first few months creating a full audit of our digital channels, including social, and we’ve begun to implement a number of recommendations based on those findings, with new social strategies being a key component.
Ten years ago not many professional teams had their own content department, they relied on their media partners in TV and newspapers to share their message – how powerful is it now for teams to be able to control their own message and have their own outlet for team content?
Camann: It’s critical for teams to be able to create their own content.
Fans now have dozens and dozens of options at their disposal for content about teams – their friends, sports news outlets, leagues, other teams, partners, etc. As a result, it’s not just about creating content, but creating unique content they can’t get anywhere else.
It’s both a challenge and opportunity to our team to balance that evergreen content – practice, in-game, sales messaging, news, and more – with campaign and opportunistic content that really stands out among the other content creators.
It isn’t just controlling the message – content builds an audience that comes in looking for information, and then gets hit with a promotion or sales effort – the saying “Content is King” gets thrown around a lot – do you agree with the sentiment?
Camann: I do agree content is king, but with a disclaimer! Content is king when and if you have a strategy that supports it.
If our voice on the Bruins Twitter channel is an informed fan, then it’s okay to post a practice quote from [Patrice] Bergeron at 11AM and a last minute ticket alert at Noon for that evening’s game. It’s the way we write those Tweets, maintaining a consistency for how we approach the content, and differentiate on various channels that matters.
Every piece of content does not need to live on every channel and that is often misunderstood when people talk about the importance of content. It’s very difficult for folks to look at a piece of content and say it should go on Twitter and Facebook, but not Instagram, and vice versa.
We’ve made a stronger effort over the last few months to ask ourselves what digital channels each piece of content belongs, and when to post.
Data-driven decision making is another phrase we hear bandied about often nowadays – what does that mean to you and how is that a departure from the way things used to be run?
Camann: I’ve always been a big proponent of data.
My first attempt at digital marketing was in 2009 when Facebook was just taking off with sports teams. I launched a page for a NASCAR team sponsor and a few months after it launched one of their executives asked me how many door swings the Facebook posts were getting them. I told him I wasn’t sure, but that we went from less than 50 people talking about us on Facebook to over 4,000. I couldn’t prove they were going to the store to buy (yet), but I could prove they were talking about them.
There were no good social tools back then so I would manually count, cross checking names so there would be no duplicates, and provided weekly reports about our fan growth, engagement and comparison with other teams.
From that moment forward, I’ve been dedicated to consistent use of analytics. Fast forward to 2016 and ‘data-driven decision making’ is something you hear at least once a day – it’s exciting, but still new to many folks.
We look at data weekly and monthly across all channels and I like to reiterate a few key messages when we think about a data-driven world:
One, don’t expect data to be there for every decision you make. Sometimes, we just need to try things, and see what happens. With the rate of new platforms being created, growth of our fan base, new metrics being created and increase in content, those data-driven decisions don’t always stand the test of time and we can’t be afraid to explore new ideas.
Two, the type of data we value can and should differ. We recently tried something new on Twitter and someone was worried that our replies and retweets decreased, but the point of the Tweet was to drive traffic to our site, and that was 3x higher than our normal link clicks.
The data definitions change too. Six years ago fan growth on Facebook was the only metric people cared about – now it’s engagement, engagement, engagement. We have to be nimble when we think about what data we’re using to make decisions.
And finally, don’t collect data just to collect data that sits on a dusty shelf. Results don’t mean much if we can’t learn from them, so sharing insights from the data we collect is a must in reports.
You have your hands deep into developing digital marketing campaigns – what are your methods to know if a campaign is successful? What type of metrics do you use to judge the success of an effort and how does that influence future endeavors?
Camann: It differs. As I said above, the type of data we value can and should differ depending on the type of content and the goal of that content.
Sometimes an email open rate will mean more to us than a website visit; it’s important to ask ourselves why we are creating the content and what we want to get out of it. There’s also a difference between metrics we consistently measure, and campaign KPIs [key performance indicators].
For an on-sale announcement of an upcoming concert, we’ll certainly look at unique visits, sharing, etc., but our KPI is ticket sales that come directly from that piece of content.
As digital marketing teams grow, it’s integral that both the team and internal stakeholders that want those data-driven decisions understand the various metrics and why we use certain ones to gauge the success of different campaigns.
Put on your future hat – the world of content, digital and social is always developing – what do you think is the next wave of content distribution and how do you evaluate new channels to decide if they are worth adopting?
Camann: Messaging apps have been at the forefront of conversation the last few years, but still have a ways to go to integrate with brands, and certainly teams / arenas. The ease of use and growing presence on them certainly seem like an opportunity we could eventually connect with our fans on, so we’ll be keeping our eye in that space.
I also think it’s not necessarily where we’ll put the content but how that will be important in the immediate future. The 360 camera is just one technology that won’t move us to a new platform but will certainly provide new ways to develop content on Facebook. When new platforms are developed, we look at technology, how users consume the content compared with popular existing channels, usage and partnerships with other platforms, tools, etc.