Sports Illustration

Sports Marketing: Creating Digital Content in North American Sports

In this series, we chat to Envato customers about their experiences of working in creative industries. We recently spoke to six digital content creators in the sports industry, about how to continually create impactful video—and uncover what resonates with fans.

Sports marketing has evolved hugely in the last ten years. For digital creatives working in the sports industry, changing viewing habits as younger fans edge away from live broadcasts means new challenges, but also a host of new opportunities.

Across the major leagues, sports teams in North America are embracing these changes to create engaging sports video content.

Jeff Lewis, Senior Video Editor/Animator at LA Kings (NHL) and Ontario Reign (AHL), explains it wasn’t that long ago that the industry was solely focused on the in-arena experience—largely on center-hung video screens and LED fascia around the arena.

Now, video content is also published across YouTube, social media and other platforms for advertising and promotion. The benefits of this? “It makes it easier to track trends in our industry and know which teams are excelling at what we all are trying to do: entertain our fans,” he says.

As with all industries, sports content marketing relies on authentic storytelling, consistent messaging, and building fan communities. And in an inherently fast-paced and visual space, video is a mainstay of the industry. So how do they do it?

What Are the Creative Tools of the Trade?

The obvious spring to mind—for most, lots of work using Adobe’s design suite, including After Effects and Illustrator, as well as 3D graphics software.

For Jeff Lewis, working across multiple sports brands means a chance to experiment.

Sports Marketing quote LA Kings HL

“This is a perfect time to use a template from VideoHive to get me started in the right direction,” he says. “I begin these projects by editing a preview version with a template from Envato to give everyone an idea on the direction I’d like to take the video.

“I’ve learned so much from the templates in how to organize an After Effects project and it’s certainly made me a better, faster designer.”

He recently used the Freeze Frame Trailer by Envato author videolancer for the “Kickstart My Heart” introduction for the LA Kings, and for the Berlin Playoffs in 2018 he used the Geometric Shapes Opener by EnesM.

Berlin 2018 Playoffs by Jeff Lewis, LA Kings (NHL)

Rogerio Barbosa, Video Producer at Montreal Impact (MLS), echoes the value of starting with templates, as well as looking to Envato’s available tools for sound. “We mainly use Envato for our music needs,” he says. “We produce over 600 videos a year and we need good, original content music for our stories.”

To this list Chris Mead, Game Production Manager at Phoenix Suns in the NBA, adds that good file management is the most crucial thing to get right. “We deal with a lot of footage and a lot of project files, and sometimes they need to be shared between multiple editors or designers,” he explains.

“Having the storage space and staying organized is vitally important, and will only keep getting more difficult as video resolutions increase and file sizes keep getting bigger,” he adds.

Where Do Creatives Go for Inspiration?

For many sports marketers, inspiration comes from an array of places. As Chris Mead says, it can come from anywhere: “from graphics I see online to billboards I see on the freeway.” A taste of his playful work in NBA video can be seen in his “Basketball Shuffle”.

 
 
 
 
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The Phoenix Suns: Basketball Shuffle by Chris Mead

“The inspiration for most of my projects actually comes from ads or TV and movies,” says DaQuan Sims, Motion Graphic Designer at Memphis Grizzlies (NBA). He also finds communities a helpful resource to turn to. “Creative communities are very helpful and important when one may run into creative blocks or feedback. Seeing the different styles and results is my favorite part of communities like Behance, Dribbble, and Envato.”

Sports Marketing quote

His Motion Reel makes use of a video template by an Envato author:

 
 
 
 
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Monster Transitions by YashkovskiyMD2, available on VideoHive

Dennis Docil, Director of Video Production for Florida Panthers (NHL), most often looks to the industry itself.

“We scour the internet and social media for current topics or trending videos that we can draw inspiration from,” he says. “We also study what other professional sports teams are doing and use best practices.”

Brace Hemmelgarn, coordinator of publications and photography for Minnesota Twins (MLB), spends a lot of time looking for inspiration on social media—and specifically finds plenty on Instagram and Twitter. While he has a few favorites from the world of baseball (Matt Dirksen (Colorado Rockies), Billie Weiss (Boston Red Sox) and Alex Bierens de Haan (Houston Astros)), he also looks to portrait work from the likes of Sean Berry, a sports photographer from Dallas.

What Are the Biggest Challenges in Sports Marketing?

Achieving a consistent message without being repetitive takes skilled planning. Marketing to sports fans, in particular, often means balancing this with appealing to a varied fan base.

Dennis Docil cites this as a particular challenge for the Florida Panthers. “Our fan base is wide and spans many generations and one idea that sounds great may not resonate with the whole fan base,” he says.

For the Minnesota Twins, Brace Hemmelgarn takes a tangible approach and encourages getting back to basics if you’re stuck for creative inspiration.

“It can be repetitive and that’s where the creative challenge comes into play,” he says. And in these cases, it can help to pose a question: “How can I be different from yesterday? I find myself walking around the ballpark and finding different angles to shoot from to keep the creative juices flowing.”

How Can You Break Into Sports?

Ways to get into the industry are many and varied, but for those with a passion for sports and entertainment marketing, transferable skills can come from backgrounds in graphic design, photography, or broadcast.

“I was a sports broadcaster for our high school news program and went to a community college because I would be able to edit on AVID in the first semester,” says Jeff Lewis. “I was fortunate to get an internship with a minor-pro hockey team while at school and I turned that into a full-time position before I graduated.”

Rogerio Barbosa combined his background in film studies and sports journalism, and applied it to creating sports video content. “After my studies in film production, I was a press photographer for 10 years, covering all news and sports in Montreal,” he says. “After being the team photographer for 3 years I’ve decided to go back to the video world and accepted a full time job at the Montreal Impact.”

What Are the Benefits of Working in the Sports Industry?

The fast-paced nature of fan reactions is cited by many as one of the best things about their work. “It’s great to know immediately if the crowd liked a video or not,” says Jeff Lewis. “There is immediate feedback from the crowd if they laugh, cheer, or connect with a video.”

“In-game entertainment especially is a very unique medium for someone in video/graphic production,” agrees Chris Mead. “Not a lot of people can display their work live to 18,000 people and get immediate feedback from them based on their reaction.”

For Rogerio Barbosa, it’s also about working in a stimulating and collaborative environment. “I love being on the inside,” he says, “Getting to know the players and the staff, developing friendships with amazing people and being able to be creative and get appreciation from the staff, players and fans.”

Advice for Budding Creatives

Working in live sports, a strong passion for the content and awareness of the time commitment are essential—Brace Hemmelgarn says he’s usually in the office by 10 am for a 7 pm game.

“If you love what you do, it never feels like work,” he says. “Days and seasons can get long, but it’s a special industry to work in.”

“You need to be passionate about the work you do and be willing to work just as hard on less glamorous projects that may not be seen by thousands of fans,” adds Chris Mead.

Keeping creative communities and the tools available in mind can also set you on the right path early.

“[When I started] I wish I knew more about the various resources out there,” says DaQuan Sims. “I could have started my studies and sharpening my skills way sooner than I did.”

And lastly, as Dennis Docil says—always wear comfortable shoes on game day.

Sports Marketing Tips

  1. Don’t just check out the competition; draw inspiration from the things around you. Everything from creative communities to billboards can spark ideas.
  2. Aside from the tools of the trade, organization and agile planning are essential. (Don’t underestimate good file management!)
  3. Being consistent without being repetitive is key.
  4. It’s a highly competitive space, but embracing the challenges of fast-paced execution and instant reactions from fans make for a unique opportunity which can be hugely satisfying.

Feeling inspired? Check out Envato’s top Sports Broadcast Packages and get started:

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