Sports Venue Production Summit: How To Keep Your Fanbase Engaged Year-Round

In today’s nonstop–news-cycle world, pro-sports franchises are responsible for serving their fans content well beyond the game itself. With the rise of social media and live streaming, teams are finding ways to satisfy year-round demand by utilizing their own in-house training facilities. At the recent SVG Sports Venue Production Summit at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, leaders from the 76ers, Eagles, and Flyers provided an inside look at how they invest in video-production capabilities to boost the amount and quality of the content they deliver.

Lincoln Financial Field, located in South Philadelphia, opened its doors to SVG's Sports Venue Production Summit last week.

Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia hosted SVG’s Sports Venue Production Summit.

“The reason that teams are investing in production [resources] at their practice facilities is access,” explained Mark Leblang, studio/live manager, Philadelphia Eagles. “Just being in close proximity to team activity — press conferences, practices, access requests with players — makes a big difference in getting coaches and players to cooperate. We understand that, sometimes, we aren’t going to be their top priority, so we put ourselves in a position to be as efficient as we can be when it comes to getting that access. It’s all about making it as low-impact on them as possible.”

A Year-Round Production Calendar
When it comes to the NFL, there is no offseason. Although the Super Bowl may mark the end of the season, fans continue to clamor for information regarding their team’s plans at such tent-pole events as free agency, NFL Scouting Combine, and the NFL Draft. In the case of the Eagles, for example, preparation for its Draft coverage started in January — more than three months before the event actually takes place. The extensive preparation is so extensive that the Eagles even outsourced some of the content production in order to have the best possible coverage once the Draft rolled around in May.

“In the NFL, there is no offseason for us,” said Leblang. “We have the distinct advantage to offer fans access and enhanced exposure to these events that we think are most important to the team. Throughout the offseason, we are making sure that fans stay engaged. An Eagles fan wants to know what the Eagles are doing at these events. We are in a position to offer the kind of coverage that no one else is in the position to do. I think we do a pretty good job of taking advantage of those opportunities through the offseason. It’s a significant resource cost for just one weekend, but we believe that it deserves to be covered, and we can cover it in a way that no one else can.”\

If You Can’t Be First, Be the Best
Although in-house news and video-production teams may not have the ability or resources to break big stories the way that ESPN or national outlets can, the teams’ access puts them in a unique position to deliver one-of-a-kind content quickly. These in-house departments may not have the capabilities of traditional breaking-news organizations, but they can react quickly and often have instant access to the players, coaches, and executives involved in high-profile breaking-news stories.

“We are not going to pretend we are in the same game as ESPN in terms of scoops,” said Rob Johnson, VP, business development, Philadelphia Flyers. “But, if we can’t break news first — which many times we can’t — we will try to deliver the first high-quality piece of content. If we’re not first, then we still want to have the highest-quality story or message out there before anyone else.”

Diversifying Social Content
Another key to engaging fans is understanding that every fan is different. Hardcore fans are interested in very different content than casual fans are. As a result, diversifying content and going beyond just sponsorship considerations is becoming more and more integral to a franchise’s successful digital product.

“I don’t want to jam all of our content out to everyone,” said Charlie Widdoes, director, digital content and media, Philadelphia 76ers. “I want to give die-hard Sixers fans cool Sixers content. We are looking for content streams that they can access that [aren’t necessarily sponsored] like a podcast or newsletter. Will we use those eventually to sell sponsorships? Sure. But not everything needs to be a ticketing push.”