Insights From NACDA: The Big Ten Short-Form Content Playbook

Execs discuss the Big Ten short-form content playbook for driving fan engagement, revenue & partner value & boosting student-athlete brands.

NACDA panel for Big Ten short-form content playbook with headshots of speakers and Big Ten x Greenfly logos

Short-form content has the power to unite and elevate your entire college athletics universe. 

Just ask the Big Ten, which is leading the way in tapping into short-form content made for mobile and social platforms to drive engagement and revenue for the conference and collegiate sports network and their partners. The Big Ten team is doing all this while supporting student-athletes in building their personal brands in the marketplace as they develop their athletic and career pursuits.

“Short-form content has always been really important for us. We work with our schools to invest in best-in-class tools to enable them to create as much short-form content as possible…

Our core business at the network is live events, but short-form content is an area of the business where we expect to see the most growth on a yearly basis.”

— Michael Calderon, SVP of Programming and Digital Media, Big Ten Network

In a live panel discussion at the recent National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Convention, leaders from Greenfly, the Big Ten Conference, and the Big Ten Network (BTN) shared insights on the evolving landscape of short-form content in college athletics. 

Big Ten short-form content playbook panel at NACDA - speakers Michael Calderon, Kerry Kenny and Daniel Kirschner

The Panel (L-R)

Michael Calderon, Senior Vice President of Programming and Digital Media, Big Ten Network

Kerry Kenny, Chief Operating Officer, Big Ten Conference

Daniel Kirschner, President and CEO, Greenfly; Moderator

Revolutionizing Big Ten Short-Form Content

Over the last year, there has been a strategic shift towards short-form content under Big Ten’s Commissioner, Tony Petitti. According to Kerry Kenny, the Big Ten has traditionally focused on larger media deals, but Petitti’s vision emphasized engaging fans through dynamic social and digital media.

Leveraging video content from the BTN and the Big Ten social channels to amplify reach, the team turned to technology to scale their efforts. Greenfly has played a pivotal role in professionalizing content delivery, enabling student-athletes to access and share highlights seamlessly.

Kenny noted that Greenfly has allowed them to take highlights of games and fan-generated content and make it easily and immediately accessible for student-athletes. The players can push it out on their own social channels anytime — while they’re in the locker room, traveling or more. This integration has transformed how the conference handles short-form storytelling, driving engagement and enhancing brand building for athletes, institutions and partners alike.

Empowering Student-Athletes

The BTN has always prioritized the increased visibility of all Big Ten sports and uses its platform to highlight student-athletes’ stories through programs like The Journey docu-series. 

Michael Calderon discussed the network’s current approach to supporting athletes’ brand and identity through short-form content in the past 12 to 18 months, as they’ve looked to fulfill NIL opportunities at all levels. 

Through this philosophy and their forward-thinking approach, the BTN and the Big Ten Conference drove the commitment to providing Greenfly to all of the conference’s student-athletes.

Calderon remarked that the combination of existing tools and Greenfly’s platform has enabled them to empower student-athletes with the resources they need to embrace and utilize Big Ten short-form content. This capability ensures that student-athletes can leverage their highlights and event photos to build their personal brands effectively.

Kenny added how their work as a conference in the collegiate world is to put their schools and student-athletes in the best positions for successful outcomes and give them the tools to do that. 

Driving Revenue

The panel also discussed the importance of revenue generation and the opportunities that come with short-form content. 

Calderon emphasized that while live events will remain the network’s core focus, short-form content is the fastest-growing area for monetization. The BTN has hired dedicated live content creators (LCCs) on all 18 campuses to allow the network to produce and distribute high-quality, engaging content, enhance sponsorship opportunities, and build more fan engagement.

He added that the network also creates custom content for corporate partners who want it pushed out on Big Ten platforms and even for their own platforms. The Big Ten can connect those partners with student-athletes and their reps for more opportunities. 

“Short-form content is meeting today’s fan where they are. And it’s driving viewership on our television networks; it’s putting butts in seats from an attendance-at-the-gate perspective.

Because if you’re not developing and humanizing the student-athletes beyond just the games that they’re playing, then you’re not engaging with your fans in a meaningful way where they get to understand and attach themselves to those student-athletes…”

— Kerry Kenny, COO, Big Ten Conference

Building Fandom 

The panel also discussed how social media provides student-athletes and fans with always-on experiences. 

Daniel Kirschner discussed how the industry has moved from a few national broadcasters to dedicated networks and social and other channels. He remarked, “It gives you an opportunity to tell a lot more stories, to cover a lot more sports, and to cover a lot more athletes. And for fans, especially when you think about the shorter content as well, it’s an opportunity to follow lots of these storylines and developing storylines.”

For institutions, it offers them a chance to build awareness and form connections with fans around other sports and expand those relationships. 

Linkedin post for Big Ten short-form content showing video clip of fan submission
Click the Image Above To Watch the Video

The Future of Big Ten Short-Form Content

The collaboration between conferences, networks and technology is critical to the continued pursuit of innovation, enhanced storytelling and engagement opportunities in college athletics. All the panelists agreed that the focus on short-form content is not a trend but a fundamental shift in how college athletics engage with their audience, ensuring a dynamic future for all student-athletes, fans and institutions.

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