How Sports Leagues Drive Phenomenal Digital Fan Engagement With Live Content Creators

A Live Content Creator program enables sports leagues and teams to capture special moments at events and publish real-time social media posts and stories that dramatically increase fan engagement.

Live Content Creator in stadium

Live content creation (LCC) programs are relatively new to the sports landscape. With a huge increase in preference for digital engagement from fans, we’re seeing LCC programs being rapidly introduced by sports leagues and sporting events around the world.

Major sports leagues and teams have become media powerhouses on TV. Now that fans are spending more time on social platforms, they’re not watching as many live games, but social media engagement has moved to the forefront of every sports league. Social media has eliminated the geographic constraints of broadcast rights, and enables fans to feel closer to their favorite sport, team or player — no matter where they are in the world. Leagues know that close ties and deep fan engagement spur more loyalty and revenue from sports fans.

Now, leagues and teams can evolve media partnerships for the digital age. Some are already producing millions of their own photos, videos and original content at every game through live content creators. This media is captured with the specific objective of sharing on social media. Not just through the league’s official accounts, but rather from the accounts of athletes, sponsors, broadcasters and other partners. That requires a of original and authentic content. But by leveraging this digital media inventory and providing it to their partners, leagues can reach more fans and drive more engagement than ever before.

But with 20 to 30 teams and the same number of venues, it’s hard for the digital team or social media team at a league to be everywhere at once. The growing demand from other departments – and external partners – for authentic, intimate content fueled by Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram stories means that leagues can’t simply rely on the Associated Press and similar media producers to feed their channels. Fans demand more.

For social media teams, managing this media is like holding a firehose backward. It can seem like an insurmountable obstacle. To take on these challenges and build social media engagement faster, many sports leagues have turned to live content correspondents, or live content creators, to capture candid media around each game.

Live Content Creator Programs

Live Content Creator (LCC) programs, are also known as Real-Time Correspondent (RTC), Live Social Contributor (LSC) and Live Content Correspondent (LCC) programs, have grown in importance as fans show their desire to be part of the action at every game — both home and away.

Major League Baseball launched the first Live Content Creator program about two years ago. Since then, the NBA, NHL, and NFL have also created similar programs. LCC programs are ideal for sports leagues of any size who are looking for a way to grow fan engagement as sports come back from hiatus without fans in seats. (if you’d like to be a live content creator MLB might be hiring)

Live content creators typically work at a single venue and attend every home game. They’re getting the up-close views on mobile devices not possible with broadcast footage or staff photographers. On game days, they’re responsible for building compelling storylines that capture behind-the-scenes content and memorable moments. In addition to game-related media, they highlight human-interest stories and just about anything else that brings the excitement of a game to life. Their photos and videos capture the essence and fun of the event, and create a sense of intimate access for people who can’t be there.

To construct such a correspondent-fueled “content factory”, leagues recruit individuals who know the sport, are great photographers, and love being embedded at every game. Real-time correspondents are typically equipped with a DSLR camera with WiFi, or they connect their DSLR to their mobile phone with Bluetooth to enable photos to upload directly to the cloud in real-time. Using a simple process and software designed for media collection and curation, the league receives this media to either post to the league social media channels, or routes photos and videos directly to each team’s’ social media staff, who can then post on their own channels. Some media is published right away, and some is put on hold for later use over the next 2-3 days to extend the moment.

Live content correspondent programs are not without challenges — thinking about all those media assets moving in so many directions can make a social media director’s head spin. But the benefits make these complexities worth solving, because the results can be powerful. These include more easily measured social media engagement and reach improvements and increased fan loyalty, along with difficult-to-measure improvements like more solidarity across the league, and a real sense of internal teamwork and collaboration.

Setting up an Efficient Live Content Creator Program

So your league or college athletic department has hired, trained and deployed an army of real-time creators and photographers, each firing away and producing mountains of great photos and videos. What comes next?

Those correspondents are not going to text each media file one-by-one, or send each file via Slack or WhatsApp or email from their location in the cloud. Those tools are not real-time, nor easily searchable, and can’t handle 100’s of photos uploaded in bulk. Each has significant file size limitations and does not maintain image quality. Most general-purpose communication and collaboration tools are neither effective nor efficient for media files, particularly at this volume.

Any organization managing large quantities of content is likely using either a cloud storage system (like Google Drive, Box, or Dropbox) or digital asset management system (like Photoshelter, Widen, or Webdam) to ingest content. Ideally, media assets are tagged with descriptions and metatags for classification and organization. But storage is one thing; it all also needs to be accessible in real time and on both desktop and mobile to be put to use.

Sometimes, a league will use both types of storage systems, while a correspondent might use a different one, and a team might use a third, fourth or fifth. Creating an efficient media sharing infrastructure is key to the success of this program.

This newly generated media, from five to ten games a day, has to be easily accessible by social media and marketing teams to publish. Otherwise, there are none of the benefits of extra engagements, views and shares. Social media managers don’t have manpower or time to sift through hundreds or thousands of photos, videos and GIFs when they’re covering a live game. Curation and ease of access are key drivers to putting a well-oiled content correspondent program in action.

This is where Greenfly excels. The platform enables digital marketing teams to ingest, curate, and organize media into galleries. Then, it automates the distribution of the right content to the right people, so they can publish it immediately to their social media channels. That’s true whether media is meant for the league’s channels, home and away teams, staff, coaches, and even with athletes and corporate partners.

With the Greenfly brand advocacy platform, real-time correspondents can bulk upload media directly in the Greenfly app on their mobile phones, so all media is immediately available. Professional photographers and other personnel can maintain their existing workflows and drop photos in bulk to FTP folders, sync them with cloud storage systems, or upload them to digital asset management systems. Greenfly will ingest all of this content in realtime and make it available alongside LCC content. The platform can aggregate media from almost any source. Additionally, real-time syncing with cloud storage is a feature on Nikon and Canon DSLRs, so photos and videos can be pushed to the cloud (and to Greenfly) as quickly as local connectivity allows.

When media is transferred to cloud storage or to a digital asset management system, most DAMs are able to automatically categorize and tag each piece of media. With tags, media becomes easier to sort, classify and curate. Distributing media with metatags can be completely automated. Automation significantly reduces staff time and makes assets available in near real-time. Efficient collection, curation and distribution of media are critical processes in building an efficient LCC program; automated distribution is required for true program scalability. Content correspondent programs can only be as strong as the technology powering them.

Media Delivery to Teams, Athletes and Sponsors

When media is submitted by live content correspondents, a copy is available immediately to the social media teams at the league and at each of the clubs. The media can be managed through separate instances, or “channels”, in the Greenfly platform, giving all marketers access to curate it as they see fit. Any new content is instantly recognized, whether it’s submitted directly or uploaded to a third-party storage system.

Media collection and aggregation is challenging, but routing the right content to the right place in a timely manner is usually more difficult. LCC managers at the league level as well as at the clubs can start tagging, categorizing and curating media as it comes in. Automated routing rules in Greenfly can distribute that tagged content to different galleries based on rules. These galleries can be shared at any time with the marketing team, as well as players, coaches, staff, and fans — just about anyone.

For example, a photo of a player at bat could be delivered to that player’s personal gallery. It could also be shared with the catcher behind the plate – on the opposing team. It could be included in a gallery that contains all game highlights, and/or a team-specific game recap. Or, added to a gallery containing the best content for live posts, and immediately published to the home team’s Instagram story. Galleries can also be shared with team and league sponsors for their reuse, especially if the photo contains the sponsor’s logo or signage. All distributed in real-time, all automated.

Every League Should Have a Live Game Day Content Capture Program

Sports organizations are continuing to build out their native digital marketing and media production capabilities to keep up with the demands of social media. There is always a desire for more media, more authentic photos, and more unedited raw video to create more of those personal moments that make fans feel like they’re part of the action on game day. Fans want an exclusive glimpse, a behind-the-scenes experience, and LCC programs deliver just that. The German Football League, the Bundesliga, produced their own video showcasing the work of their live content creators.

There are more followers to engage, more video views to earn, and more fan interactions to build. The success of every live correspondent program is dependent on technology infrastructure to ensure that content can be captured, collected, curated and delivered.

For social teams, it’s like managing a firehose with thousands of media assets, and it can seem like a massive challenge. In addition to the benefits of fan engagement, LCC programs also make everybody in the league feel like they’re playing for the same team (pun intended). It gets internal league staff and departments working together, better, as well as the teams themselves. It requires everyone to be connected, and on the same page — and can result in more belief in the brand as it grows internally and externally.

The leagues that are able to share the most authentic content will continue to thrive in a world of increasing competition for fan attention. A live content creator program can be an integral piece of winning that competition, with the right infrastructure and technology in place. Greenfly can be the secret weapon making your live content correspondent or RTC program a success.

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