Sports franchises like the Chicago Bulls and Real Madrid are increasingly thinking of themselves as digital media companies.
- They are prioritising social content, specifically digital video in an attempt to expand their monetisation opportunities.
- Both the Bulls and Real Madrid, for example, have their own shows on Facebook Watch, the platform’s newly launched video tab.
What do the Chicago Bulls and Real Madrid have in common? The fact that they’re not only major sports brands with fans all over the globe, but also aspiring digital media companies in their own right.
Over the past few years, sports franchises have increasingly embraced their role not just as brands, but also content creators. The Bulls and Real Madrid are no different, churning out photos, videos and GIFs on social media, and most recently, even their very own shows on Facebook Watch called “Run With Us” and “Hala Madrid.“
“Sports companies have always been associated with producing and distributing content,” said Rafael de los Santos, global head of digital at Real Madrid. “The difference is that now with digital we can customise content for different fans in different ways and on different channels.”
Helping them get there is Rebel Ventures. The digital strategy firm has been coming to the aid of teams like the Bulls, the Golden State Warriors and others, expanding their monetisation opportunities beyond traditional channels like ticket sales, sponsorships and merchandize and boosting their revenues by focusing on digital content.
In other words, the firm has been helping these sports franchises act more like digital media companies.
“Sports lends itself perfectly to content creation — it’s a genre that people are passionate about watching, about expressing their opinions, and most importantly, about sharing,” Craig Howe, founder and CEO at Rebel Ventures, told Business Insider. “These values are perfectly aligned with successful digital media companies.”
Adopting the mindset of a media company also has strategic advantages, said Michael Reinsdorf, president and chief operating officer of the Chicago Bulls. Ultimately, business relies on attention, and media companies have been experts at both gaining attention and then monetizing that attention for years.
“Being strong content creators and distributors ensures that we have the attention that we need to grow our global fan base, sell tickets and merchandise and help achieve our marketing goals,” he said. “The entire world has gone more digital and if we don’t stay up with the change, or even ahead of it, it’s going to become increasingly harder to stay relevant as we move into a digital-first future.”
But getting it right means being open to a variety of content and formats, and learning how to tell stories beyond just the sport associated with the brand.
For Real Madrid, that has meant adopting a content strategy that goes beyond soccer and the action on the soccer field. When fellow Spaniard and tennis player Rafael Nadal won the 2017 US Open, for instance, the soccer club was quick to post congratulatory social content on both Instagram and Facebook.
And increasingly, it also means focusing on video.
As both publishers and platforms prioritise video, these sports brands too are turning their attention to high-quality video content. Rebel Ventures is helping out once again, having launched its new dedicated studio division last month. The studio produces a range of content, from episodic documentaries to cooking shows and even VR trailers. The Facebook Watch shows, for example, are both behind-the-scene deep dives into the teams, the fans and the players.
“It’s no secret that video content is where sports brands are investing in growing and engaging their audience,” said Howe. “With a pending saturation of digital video flooding consumer’s feeds, we’re focused on creating market-leading content experiences that will truly stand out.”
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