An exploration of sports content, storytelling, digital and social media. Speaking to players, executives, coaches, creators, journalist and specialist about their sporting passions.
Grant Wahl: Covering soccer in the USA
Grant Wahl is perhaps the most respected journalist working in US soccer today.
During his two decades covering the sport Stateside, Wahl has seen the men's national team gain tangible popularity, the women lift the World Cup on numerous occasions and a stable domestic league garner global respect. All were unprecedented.
Having myself spent two seasons in Major League Soccer, the enthusiasm at the grassroots level is clear. Translating that into a truly world-class professional league is not so easy, especially as the major names of Europe are widely shown on television, touring regularly and starting to make in-roads into the American market.
In this podcast, we discuss all of these issues and more.
Andrew Ryan: Running FIBA Media
The origins of FIBA go back almost 90 years and it has been organising a basketball World Cup since 1950 but only in the last decade has the federation truly obtained a prominent global profile.
Last year's World Cup enjoyed a television reach of 3bn. The victorious Spanish side took 45 per cent of their nation's active television audience when they beat Argentina in the final. The success of the tournament in China and elimination of holders USA at the quarter-final stage showed there is life in basketball outside the NBA and the sport is unequivocally the global No2 behind football.
Content has been at the heart of FIBA's recent growth, as exemplified by an astounding 1.5bn video views on social media at the World Cup. Andrew Ryan is MD of FIBA Media, he explained their approach to content, broadcast properties, OTT, personalisation and data, influencers and esports
Barrie Tomlinson: The Content Strategy of Roy of the Rovers
Barrie Tomlinson played a major part in my childhood. As editor of Tiger & Scorcher and Roy of the Rovers, he was in charge of the two comics that dominated my reading before I went to secondary school.
At their height, these publications sold 300,000 copies per week in the UK and enjoyed guest writers including the England manager and Duke of Edinburgh. Of course, this was decades before digital media but, in this podcast, Tomlinson provides useful lessons in content strategy, character development, the importance of feedback, editorial control versus commercialisation, being prepared to 'kill your darlings' and much, much more
Chris Millard: The Barmy Army Story
The Barmy Army started 2020 by celebrating their 25th birthday, ended the summer with official recognition from the England captain but will see out the year, like so many of us, ‘battening down the hatches’ for a difficult 2021.
The story of this supporters’ group is well-known. Paul Burnham, Gareth Evans and David Peacock were part of a cluster of doughty fans watching Mike Atherton’s men slide to another inglorious Ashes defeat in Adelaide in the winter of 1994/95. They sang and drank with gusto, seemingly oblivious to the score, the opposition or the need for sun-block. The Australian press branded them “the Barmy Army”, a name that the trio were shrewd enough to copyright in the UK and Australia. They printed and sold 100 T-shirts with their new name. By the next Test, they would need 3,000. Since then, the Barmy Army have followed England though thin, thinner and occasionally ‘thick’, providing loud, passionate support from the stands. Outwardly they conform to the stereotype of the travelling English sports fan, however, their ethos has always been different. Aware of their behaviour and self-policing, they have raised £500,000 for charities in the countries they visit. Their funds helped to rebuild a Sri Lankan village destroyed by a tsunami. It was renamed in the group’s honour.
Managing director Chris Millard told the Barmy Army story to Sports Content Strategy - its past, Covid-hit present and how it is the trying to shape the future of international cricket supporting
Chester King: The Role of the British Esports Association
One of the issues that has dogged the emergence of esports is the very word sports in its name. The uninitiated want to bracket this new phenomenon as a virtual version of more traditional competition when entertainment is a better bracket. However, for now, it still tends to be shown on sports channels and reported in sports sections.
Then there is the question of best practice, development and governance. Although game publishers hold the power, there is a crucial role for national bodies. That is why Chester King set-up the British Esports Association in 2016.
In this podcast, we look at the myths surrounding the industry, the important social and psychological benefits of esports, why key institutions have recognised its usefulness and how UK business has not.
Achint Gupta: Kolkata Knight Riders, IPL and content strategy
In 2019, the Indian Premier League averaged 25,700 spectators per game, a figure that left the cricket tournament nestled neatly between La Liga and Serie A as the eighth most popular annual sports event in the world.
The content created by IPL franchises is generally excellent and the crowds are as passionate as you will find for a relatively new event. However, it rarely gets the credit it deserves.
Obviously cricket is a mainstream sport in only a handful of countries but the self-congratulatory echo chambers of sports content would do well to take a look outside their bubble and towards India.
Achint Gupta is Head of Media and Content at Kolkata Knight Riders, a major IPL franchise with a social media reach akin to that of a major Champions League football club.
They were producing their own documentaries long before other sports teams started to eye a spot on Netflix. They are also internationalising their brand and developing unique content strands that combine Bollywood glamour, Indian music and a different attitude to storytelling.