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Ravens Digital Strategy Starts With Quality Content Above All

Fans want good content.

Ok, so that’s not exactly breaking news. But many of us still live with rations, alternating on the poles of content we know fans want and content that we know we have to post. Gone are the days of eight good posts for every two ‘buy now’ posts. The bar has been raised and whether it’s a sponsor activation or a marketing push, all content should be good, unforced, authentic.

The Baltimore Ravens live this every day on social and digital media. While their run of sellout crowds means ticket sales pushes are less a priority than for many of their peers, the Ravens still must balance the needs of the organization, their partners, and, most importantly, their fans. Fans have so many places to get content about their favorite team, and the charge for the teams to produce quality is stronger than ever in this crowded ecosystem.

“I firmly believe that content is king, in so many different ways,” said Garrett Downing, the Ravens’ Social Media Manager and Digital Host. “I think you that you want to have a website, you want to have an app, you want to have social channels that are a place that people want to come, get information, interact with, enjoy the content you’re putting there, whatever form it’s in…”

It doesn’t mean you ignore the value of these channels to reach fans with messaging you want to assure gets out there, too. It just means you can get creative and produce quality stuff that looks more like ‘normal’ content and not that 10-20% marketing content a fan ignores and increasingly won’t tolerate.

“There are certain times when you need to get certain messaging out…But that doesn’t mean you can do it without content that is boring,” said Downing, who went on to describe an example in which the Ravens did a fun feature involving their new video boards at the stadium to help get fans excited about the new elements and the value of being there live for the games.

The same sentiment prevails for the Ravens when it comes to sponsored content. While the team may be less concerned about daily ticket sales messaging, they are effectively monetizing their millions of eyeballs on social media with sponsored content. The key word there is content and the Ravens seek to achieve or surpass the same level of quality whether there’s a sponsor involved or not. It starts with a little honesty and asking yourselves one key question.

“One thing that we say is ‘Would we be doing this if the sponsor wasn’t asking for it?,’” said Downing, who has been with the Ravens for six years. “That goes back to…we want to provide good content. At the core of what we’re doing, [it's] ‘Is this good content?’…If it is, now ‘Is this something that is sellable…Is this something that is going to be recurring?…”

It sounds so simple and logical, but it has taken a while for many in the space to begin thinking about the fans and the content first, and then integrating a sponsor in a way that makes it a win for all sides. The solutions started to come with increased collaboration between the digital/social and sponsorship departments, so it wasn’t just an email after the agreement was signed that ‘x’ number of posts were promised on Facebook for a given sponsor. Downing explains how they find wins for all sides for the Ravens.

“Within our digital team, we have a liaison between the digital side and the sales side to figure out ‘What are our assets? How much do we want to sell them for? How can we incorporate sponsorship into what we’re already doing?,” Downing described. “…There are places where there are deals that are sold to just copy and paste posts about their brand)…We’re looking for ways to find a win for [everybody].”

The social and digital channels are, in many ways, the primary way in which fans come into contact with the team. Those are the places where fans get a feel for who the team is and where they can emotionally connect with the team daily. Look at a single tweet from any team, and any social media and sports pro (and PR and marketing pro) can probably pick it apart in dozens of ways from the diction in the copy to the background in the photo, and so many nooks and crannies in between. It’s a helluva lot of weight, and Downing sounds like a seasoned pro, appreciating the power and understanding who the Ravens, as an organization, are, and who they want fans to know them to be. Want a glance into the mind of a social and digital pro of a NFL team? Here’s Downing trying to put it into words, describing the Ravens:

“We want to have fun. We want to be engaging and creative. But at the same time we want to be classy, and we want to be an organization that respects organizations. We don’t want to be demeaning of other players or other teams. That’s sort of the tone that we take. That all is part of the conversation, part of the equation…When you’re in this position and you have a million people that follow what you say, and if you have a misstep, then that is significant…You don’t want to be in a position where coaches (have to talk about a social media post)…you need to keep in mind all of those things. And it’s a lot of weight sometimes, when you think about it, before you hit send. Who’s gonna see this? What are the implications of this? How is a coach going to respond? How is a player going to respond? Is this creative content for fans? Is this something that people want to engage with? And does it hit a sponsor?”

There’s a reason content teams are growing in size and sophistication. Fans spend hours upon hours every day consuming all forms of content. It’s the key to fostering fan fervor, to exposing corporate partners, to building brand and voice, to disseminating messaging and news, and to have a little fun and make a fan smile and feel good. Treat content with the care such power merits – don’t force things, don’t do thing in a silo, and don’t forget who you’re doing this all for – the fans.

PS: Listen to my full chat with Garrett Downing here.

Article written by Neil Horowitz, Senior Success Manager at Hopscotch.

Category: Baltimore Ravens, Social Media

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