One of the exciting things about the Internet is that anyone with a PC and a modem can publish whatever content they can create. … It allows material to be duplicated at low cost, no matter the size of the audience. The Internet also allows information to be distributed worldwide at basically zero marginal cost to the publisher. Opportunities are remarkable, and many companies are laying plans to create content for the Internet. Content is King, Bill Gates, 1/3/1996
If the sports fan is the target audience for the new women’s professional soccer league and the language they speak is the sports narrative then providing that content becomes paramount to any marketing plan. Bill Gates was correct when he declared “Content is King” and increasingly viewed the internet as a cost effective vehicle for publishing content to a limitless audience.
The DIY Approach
Establishing the narrative of women’s professional soccer will require a do-it-yourself approach in comparison to other pro sports, but the cost of generating quality content and deploying that content to a large audience is lower than ever.
Three immediate needs to achieving this are: 1) Identifying the team’s story 2) Planning how that story unfolds through the course of a season, and 3) Generating the content that supports that story in an organized fashion.
Cost will always be a factor, but if you spend money during the planning stages and for initial premium content the remaining work can be delegated.
Evaluate and Involve the Workforce: Players
College graduates have skills and the majority of pro soccer players have benefited from excellent educational opportunities. Players have responsibilities on the field and off when it comes to the physical side of their job and I would suggest part of the responsibilities off field should include being more involved with the promotion of their team, relationships with their city, and use of their education.
Evaluate everyone’s skills. Most players can handle basic social media like twitter, but with all of those degrees in play there has to be more talent available for use. Find players comfortable with writing, radio, podcasts, video, photography, language skills for outreach to large Spanish speaking and soccer loving audience, and even some of the office side of things. Make sure players are comfortable with what they are doing, but make sure they are all doing something. From the stars on down to the rookies.
When it comes to social media there are many inexpensive ways leaving a footprint, building relationships with fans, and adding to the narrative. It is important to not neglect even the smallest opportunities.
For example, the Charlotte Bobcats include twitter handles with their roster list. It’s a simple idea, but not every team does the obvious.
Social media has been included in past league incarnations to varying degrees of success. Being intentional with the narrative for the season, establishing a plan to tell that story, and executing it is something that can finally bring all of the pieces together. What also has improved is the scope of social media’s outreach. The sports conversation on twitter is huge. YouTube provides a free place to upload videos. iTunes and it’s competitors provides a place for audio. Tumblr and Instagram have their own fandom cultures primed and ready for content.
Identify types of content that can support the plan for the year. Content that promotes the personality of the team, documents the journey, provides educational material for youth teams, fun and spontaneous moments, or simply setting up a camera at a short-side scrimmage and let the game speak for itself. Invest in a small HD video camera, a tripod, and basic video editing tools to use when appropriate.
These are a few examples that I thought worked well:
These are types of content. How different types fit or not into the season plan depends on what the marketing team decides during the early stages.
Seattle Sounders Women: Video Blog
Nothing like hours on a bus, airport, hotel, or at a post game victory meal to get players feeling creative. The team may be out of town for a week, but fans can be brought along for the ride.
BleacherReport: Trick Shots
Showing off your soccer skills is never a wasted moment. Some players will feel the most comfortable in this environment. It’s both useful to show the skills of individual players and provides content that would appeal on a sports education level.
US Soccer: Ball Trick Battle
Something easy for people to share online.
US Soccer: Short-sided Scrimmage
This is set up the camera and let it roll kind of content.
FC Gold Pride: Day in the Life
Being fun is encouraged. Personalities are a plus.
Jeremy Lin’s Official YouTube Channel
It’s all good ideas.
Studio FGFC: Player Interviews
Not every interview has to be a on the silly side. Feel free to be soccer nerds.
Sponsor backdrop opportunities too.
It gives people something to look for after they get home from a game.
Involve International Player’s Experience
I see a lot of this for Americans abroad. It would be nice to give more of an effort in the reverse.
Portland Timbers Instagram Feed
Great for quick behind the scenes shots.
Hopefully some players already have been blogging about their soccer experiences.
Be a Guest Blogger
If the local paper doesn’t want to cover the team see if they would be willing to take on a player blogger. (I’m not sure what this particular relationship was, but it would be nice if every team could infiltrate the local media.)
Push Your Message to Multiple Platforms
Once you create content you can do more than just put it up on the official site or Facebook. Push the same content out through as many social media avenues as possible. Tumblr, as just one example, has a community of soccer fans that remains largely untapped by any direct interaction with official channels. Post videos and teasers with links back to the official site to draw them in. Post photos from games. Tag the players names to make to visible to the soccer fandom on tumblr. Instagram has made a surge lately too. Once the content is made it can be used in more than in one place.