SPORTACCORD 2024 INSIGHTS: Touchdowns, Home Runs and Slam Dunks

Fresh from Super Bowl 2024 – with record breaking global viewership – the National Football League (NFL) and ice hockey’s brightest content and digital strategists joined SportAccord 2024 delegates ‘across the pond’ to share what it takes to grow awareness in unexpected and creative ways

The ‘Touchdowns, Home Runs and Slam Dunks’ one-hour panel session was jam-packed with brilliant advice for sports brands, organisations and International Federations looking to build their best profile – here are some of the highlights!

‘Taylor Swift Factor’

It was perhaps no surprise to see the Super Bowl 2024 logging the biggest US TV broadcast viewership since the 1969 Apollo landing – with 123.4 million people tuning in, alongside a global record of 62.5 million – after the relationship between Taylor Swift and Kansas City Chiefs’ tight end Travis Kelce unfolded during the NFL season’s crucial period.

©Ezra Show/Getty Images

“We typically deliver to our fanbase, and we’re not the biggest market, but Taylor sent us to the moon,” underlined Rob Alberino, Vice President of Content and Production at Kansas City Chiefs, this year’s Super Bowl winners.

Swift and Kelce’s relationship hit the international spotlight during the second half of 2023, and remained all the way through the NFL playoffs to the Super Bowl, resulting in a huge spike in popularity for Kansas Chiefs and the NFL.

“People often asked ‘what are you doing to explode the brand’,” said Alberino. “Not much – because the world is doing a lot of it for us!”

Managing something so huge

 “This was seismic – you can’t plan for it,” explained Alberino. “We sat back with the team – understanding how fast that river was flowing.”

Brett Gosper, Head of Europe & Asia-Pacific for NFL, highlighted: “Taylor specifically spiked us in the young female group. We had record fan acquisition across all our markets. She has also inherited a large number of our fans, particularly in the United States.”

Alberino shed light on how to manage existing and surges of brand new fans while staying focused: “You have to think how to carry it on respectfully – we planted little ‘Easter eggs’ of her within our features, writing, imagery. People who don’t know the sport – but who love Taylor – also want to be a part of this sport. We’re now trying to serve them all.

“We also have our own strategy. Just happens now we have this subset that’s happening, allowing us to put more into the younger generation, maybe more of a musical genre.”

Authenticity is key

 Spotlighting the need to stay real, Scott Kegley – Vice President of Digital Strategy of AMB Sports + Entertainment (AMBSE), which owns Atlanta Falcons – explained: “We didn’t have Taylor, but we do have Usher and Ludicrous. Each team has something that is culturally relevant, own-able – like everyone in this room.”

 Marc Ciampa, Vice President of New Jersey Devils, explained the value of finding the right communications tone. He recounted a nine-month period for the ice hockey team with no games due to the pandemic and then failing to make the playoffs: “This gave us an opportunity to find our voice on social media, experiment a little.”

The Sopranos judgement call

New Jersey state is synonymous with The Sopranos – the iconic, multi-Emmy winning HBO American crime drama series. It was always a plan for the New Jersey Devils to capitalise on this culturally.

“We used a lot of Sopranos imagery – by the next season starting, we hit the ground running. The team still didn’t do very well that season, but the fans were on board at that point.”

Ciampa’s ‘Writing Room’ – a Committee using instant messaging – was vital in making the right judgement calls for social media posting.

“We’d ask ourselves – ‘how close to the line is this? Is this even funny?’ If we felt this could be too close to the line, we’d escalate to the VP of Communications and our CMO.”

Staying on brand, no matter what

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons – after going through a tone of voice exercise – decided on ‘Southern swagger’. “That Southern hospitality, a little in your face,” explained Kegley. “It’s not forced. We’re not trying to be something we’re not.”

Being aligned across all channels – “your video producer, social producer, editorial team, digital team” – as Kegley explained – is vital because “there is more than one way that people consume content.”

Always be storytelling

 Reassuringly, the entire panel agreed on one key thing – being at the top of the league, or in the Final, should not dictate whether communications campaigns are successful.

“Your team is not always going to be good. I’ve been with some unwatchable teams!” said Alberino. “And it’s OK if you have angry fans. You cannot have apathetic fans – apathy is the death of your business. So if you’re in a league, or a Federation where your team is not doing well, storytelling becomes the most important thing.”

Bad Times are Good Times

 With so many great pieces of advice from this panel, we’re concluding with this brilliant quote from Alberino:

“For everyone here [at SportAccord] with clubs or companies having bad times – it’s the bad times that actually make the company strong, not the good times.

“When people are under pressure, that’s when you find out about your team – that’s where consistency is created. That’s where a true team is created.”

Hit the share button on the SportAccord 2024 ‘Touchdowns, Home Runs and Slam Dunks’ video – this session is highly inspirational and insightful to team members and associates focusing on growing multi-channel awareness!

Stay tuned for more exclusive insights from SportAccord 2024, coming your way over the next few weeks. Our series reveals parts of some of the most exciting discussions from Birmingham, centred around the horizontal theme “The Power of Sport”.