A few years back, Forbes called MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) the biggest media company you've never heard of. Turner Sports pays $445 million per year for NBA rights. And the NFL, no stranger to big TV rights itself took a unique approach last year, uploading 96 full broadcasts of its "most memorable games" to YouTube, for free consumption.
While nothing will ever top the experience of being at the game, especially as stadiums add more audio-visual and connectivity technology, top sports leagues realize that a winning approach to digital content is essential to engaging customers, growing brand loyalty and diversifying their revenue streams. In fact, through subscriptions such as MLB.tv, leagues gain a new direct source of recurring revenue.
But it's not paid content that is changing the game. It's the free, shareable content that is engaging fans. And often, the content is in line with best practices in B2B content marketing--short, visual content, clips and stories that engage and entertain. Here are five great examples of unique approaches to professional sports content, and all of them have value for B2B marketers looking to engage customers and prospects with their brand.
1. MLB "Drivers"
We call short video clips and animations 'drivers'. Nobody does this better than MLB.com. By producing shorter content, MLB can increase the frequency of their posting, ensuring a constantly refreshed website and social channels. MLB often uses this content to appeal to the casual fan. In B2B marketing, we might call this "top of funnel" -- the prospect who hasn't fully bought in yet. Top of funnel, engaging content introduces the brand experience and does a great job, while avoiding the costs required to produce longer-form content.
Here's a great example.
2. NBA Draws on Library of Content Assets to Promote All-Star Game
It's important for brands to develop and utilize content assets over a long period of time. Sure, Google values recency, and out of date content is no good, but leveraging a content library to appeal to nostalgia, while promoting a current event? A perfect way to produce successful content, without incurring new production costs. Brands should always consider what can be made, or repurposed from existing content.
3. NBA-SAP Case Study Video Content
This one is a little different, in two ways. First of all, the primary beneficiary of this content is SAP, the NBA's ERP supplier. SAP makes a software solution that helps the NBA manage its data. And with a fresh focus on advanced stats, SAP's collaboration is very timely. Secondly, this is B2B content. It does not target the consumer, the fan. In this clip, however, the NBA is able to effectively communicate its status as a data-driven organization, demonstrating sophistication for future enterprise partners and sponsors. This is a good example of how well-presented case studies make both companies look good.
4. NFL Films
The NFL has a much more traditional content strategy than other leagues. But online viewership and alternative forms of TV engagement, such as Redzone, NFL Network's unique action-only concept, are changing the way fans consume content. While the NFL is creating ample shareable content, like other leagues, the NFL is actually a pioneer in premium content with its legendary NFL Films production company. NFL Films' first production was in 1962, creating a film out of the NFL championship game. Over the years, NFL Films has become synonymous with premium sports content, producing cinematic portrayals such as its epic recent film of the Patriots' unprecedented comeback.
5. The Players Tribune
This example isn't from a professional sports league, but it does represent an exciting form of digital content created by professional athletes. Its unfiltered, direct content format gives athletes a platform to create their own content for fans. Launched by Derek Jeter in 2014, the Players Tribune is a new media platform that is especially popular among the athletes themselves. Said Jeter:
"It's a trusted place, a place where [athletes] can speak freely and not have to worry about how their words are twisted and turned."
A recent example of the players' preference for the tribune is MLB Hall of Famer Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez choosing the platform for a memoir of his MLB career.