In many sports organizations, photography is seen as a cost center. But I’m here to change this perception. Photography – and all visual content – can have a powerful impact on profits, especially in sports.
Of course, you have to hire photographers and fund their equipment in order to fuel your team’s communications and preserve the history of your franchise. But in 2019, strong visual storytelling holds immense power to generate revenue for your organization.
Today, the most compelling sports teams function like media brands. They give fans unique, thumb-stopping content right when they want it, whether the fans are inside the stadium, at home or even at work. Not only does that relevant content engage fans and encourage them to buy tickets to the next game, but the engagement it generates is highly attractive to potential sponsors.
Let’s break down how some leading teams maximize return on investment with visual storytelling.
Boston Red Sox Top Shots
Photographers capture thousands of photos on gameday, but typically only a handful end up on the team’s social media channels or on next year’s posters. How can you get more from every image? Here at Libris, we believe that when you have easy access to your photos, you can do more with them.
Take, for example, the World Champion Boston Red Sox (or go behind the scenes in this video).
“We’re trying to think bigger than just taking photos,” says Billie Weiss, Red Sox Manager of Photography. “They’ll stand alone as photos, but how can we transform them into bigger pieces of content?”
This question led Billie and his team to create Top Shots, a series of 30 to 60-second videos highlighting the best photos from every homestand. They share the videos across social media. Not only does the video series help them make the most of every shot, but it also helps the team generate revenue. The highly engaging series is sponsored by L.L. Bean.
“When you think about revenue streams, you don’t really think about photography as a way to do that, but we’re always trying to think about how we can use images here to make those partnerships and drive revenue for our team,” says Billie. “The Boston Red Sox definitely recognize the value in the power of imagery, so we’re always trying to find ways to keep that going and keep pushing the envelope.”
Miami Dolphins Sponsored Content Franchises
The Miami Dolphins have traded in traditional advertising in favor of telling their own story on social media. They invest heavily in photo and video content that helps create new fans and engage existing fans.
The team has created binge-worthy content franchises that catch fans’ attention and keep them coming back for more, ranging from Dolphins Daily, a daily news show about the team, to Q&A, which features first-person interviews with fans’ favorite players. On Facebook alone, these series routinely generate hundreds of thousands of views. While Dolphins Daily isn’t sponsored, it helps the team build a large, steady audience on Facebook that’s primed for bingeable branded content.
Take, for example, The Cutting Room Floor. This behind the scenes video series, sponsored by Capillus and Hair Club, garnered nearly 3 million views in just six episodes during the 2018 season. It’s authentic and fun, and it makes you feel like you’re in the barber shop having a casual conversation with the coaches and players.
These video series are all built with the audience in mind, so they’re sure to get high engagement and positive results for sponsors.
LA Galaxy On the Road
The best sponsored content franchises are the ones where the content and the sponsor are seamlessly aligned.
LA Galaxy’s On the Road series with JLab Audio gives fans a behind the scenes look at the team as they travel to their next away game. The clips are cut like music videos – already a great fit for the headphone brand. But to really drive home the partnership, in between shots of the players grabbing their bags and playing cards in the airport, the videos even subtly weave in shots of the players wearing their JLab Audio headphones.
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If you want to create branded content that resonates with your audience – and thereby generates the best results for a brand – think about how you can tell stories around products and services that are already a perfect fit for your team. Don’t force it.
Baltimore Ravens Throwback Thursday
Everyone loves a #TBT, and the Baltimore Ravens do an incredible job of digging into their massive photo archive every single week. Their Throwback Thursday posts give new life to Ravens legends and major moments in franchise history. Plus, they’re sponsored by Miller Lite.
For some teams, archive images sit on a server, taking up space. But with Libris, the Ravens have easy access to the team’s entire photo library so they can easily use these images to engage fans and generate revenue
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Erin Herbert, Digital Media Manager for the Ravens, says fans love seeing throwback content that highlights the team’s legends and values.
“It’s really neat to see a team huddle from ten years ago that was led by Ray Lewis and then one from today that’s led by Terrell Suggs, and you still see the team camaraderie,” says Erin.
Atlanta United FC Player Takeaway
The best way to generate revenue from your team’s photos, videos and graphics is to pair the content that fans really want with a relevant sponsor. More and more, fans want to get closer to the players. They want a direct line to the people on the field.
Atlanta United FC’s Player Takeaway, sponsored by AT&T, makes you feel like you’re video chatting with your favorite player. It’s raw and authentic, and the sponsorship is extremely subtle – a rotating logo in the bottom left corner – so it doesn’t feel invasive or distracting.
A message from the match-winner 🔊 pic.twitter.com/Glx8SlYbEc
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) June 30, 2019
The videos serve as an important reminder: don’t make the brand the star of your branded content. Give fans the content they want, and make sure they know a brand is making it possible.
The Bottom Line
Your team’s visual content has incredible value, whether you’re using it to boost brand awareness, boost fan engagement or generate revenue. These examples only scratch the surface. Is your team sending special photos to VIP season ticket holders to keep them coming back? Are you selling prints of iconic moments? Or, is your visual content helping you recruit top athletes (a theme I’m hearing more and more in college sports)? We want to know – how does your team see ROI from visual storytelling? Tweet your thoughts at @kristintwiford and @getlibris!
As Senior Manager, Content Marketing & Brand Storytelling at Libris by PhotoShelter Kristin Twiford has helped sports properties generate revenue with the fastest and easiest digital asset management tool for creative teams.