If you missed Greenfly’s recent LA is Changing the Game: What’s Next in Sport Tech and Content panel event with Event Farm, you missed an enthralling discussion with major sports executives at brands based in Los Angeles. A rapt audience learned how these sports leaders are approaching content, tech and social media with audiences and athletes around the world, and how they’re looking ahead to the future.
Moderated by 2-time Major League All-Star and Greenfly Co-founder Shawn Green, the panel included executives from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Riot Games, World Surf League and Art of Sport, who shared their expert perspectives and challenges. Sports is rapidly evolving and Los Angeles is leading the way as the place where sports content and technology intersect.
Sports brands today know that social media is where fans experience and share the daily and unforgettable moments in sports. Yet, many pain points still exist in getting the most compelling content to those fans when they want it.
As the panel discussed, content speed, relevancy and authenticity, along with the ability to harness athlete communities, have become critical factors in engaging fans and building new global fan bases in an era of multiple platforms, devices and content choices. Technologies like Greenfly help sports organizations solve the pain points in sourcing and scaling content on social media to reach and engage these fans.
Watch the full panel video or read the transcript of the conversation below to gain more insights from this dynamic evening!
Transcript: Panel Introductions
Welcome to Event Farm. My name is Ryan Costello. I’m the CEO and co-founder here. Very quickly, my job is to welcome you, give you some of the house rules, there aren’t many, tell you a little bit about us, and then introduce our esteemed panelists.
So quickly, for those that don’t know, Event Farm is an experiential marketing platform. You guys have all engaged with our platform already. And you’re all wearing our technology, so we’re tracking you. So this is going to be a lifelong partnership that we have together [laughter]. Welcome to the farm.
In all seriousness, experiential marketing platform, in our terms, means using technology to help better drive engagement and, ultimately, return on investment on events and experiential marketing. So it’s part registration. You got invited, you signed up, you registered. So that feels pretty normal to you, very much like an event, right, at Ticketmaster, what have you. Where we’re focused is really going on the B2B kind of targeting the right group of people in a room. So that’s where we’re different. And then we have a big piece of our platform that’s all about experiential technology, finding ways to engage audiences in new ways, whether it’s through wearables, apps, or text messaging. Tonight, we’re going to experiment with some of that to engage with you all. So you’ll get a flavor for that.
The last piece of the puzzle for us in our business is try to figure out how to drive results and measure the effectiveness of that. So this event tonight– will it drive business for Event Farm? I hope so [laughter]. But we have mechanisms and ways that we’re hoping that you guys engage, become a part of our sales funnel, and that you actually convert. So that’s kind of the true, honest transparency method behind the madness of our business. And that’s what we do.
House rules. There are two bathrooms. There’s one downstairs, basically behind this panel group. And there’s one upstairs at the top of the stairs to your left. So first come, first serve there.
This event is obviously in partnership with Greenfly. Shawn will get to talk about that in a second, but I want to thank them up-front in advance for bringing a lot of you out. What else? We have on purpose, one hour up-front of networking, kind of one-ish hour of panel and content, and one-ish hour of networking. We think that’s a good model to get the most out of this experience, so stick around after the panel. Drinks, music, and fun. There’s food for everybody inside if you haven’t seen that. What else am I forgetting? I have some technical assistance. Brian Chaplin over here is going to be helping me do some polling. You’ll be cued when appropriate to do that. We’re coming up on one, so get nervous [laughter]. And I think that’s it.
So first of all, welcome. The event panel here is LA is Changing the Game. All right. LA pride. There we go.
So what’s next in sports tech and content? So it’s a pretty broad topic. It should cover a wide range of conversation. We’ve got an incredible panel here. Before I actually introduce them, they actually asked me upstairs, “Who’s here?” So there’s two ways we can do that. We can go into the database and look at all your company names and run down person by person to do that, but we decided we’re going to try our tech instead. So we’re going to do a quick poll.
So, first of all, you guys all received a text message from us when you walked in. That’s the reason why you gave your cell phone number, so thank you for doing that. We’re not going to spam you. This will end here. And if you don’t want to deal with this, either ignore it or hit stop, and you don’t have to be a part of it. But we just ran a poll. So, panelists, you may or may not have gotten it. So you’re going to start to see some results that come up here in real time to see what our crowd is. So what best describes what you do? We picked four topics. Sports, media, agency, or tech to try to give us a sense of what this crowd is, and hopefully that’ll start to influence where these guys take the conversation. So that’s an example of how we’re going to use this tech to better engage you.
Before I introduce Shawn, which I keep giving you guys a preview of, my job after this is I’m your moderator. I work for you. Okay? So Shawn works for the panelists. His job is to give them softball questions and make them look great. My job is to make sure you guys look great. So if you need to know reminder where the bathroom is, you need drinks, you have questions, you’re concerned, you don’t like one of these panelists, you talk to me. I have a microphone, and I will come around and find you. So I work for you. I’m your audience moderator.
And to formally introduce Shawn, Shawn Green is the co-founder of Greenfly. He also happens to be a former major league baseball player. I’ll let him talk about his stats in due time [laughter]. Sorry, Shawn. And then, after that, we have Tucker Kain who’s the president of the LA Dodgers. Give it up for Tucker, here. Thanks for being here. Next, we have Tai Foster who’s the VP of brand marketing at Art of Sport, a newer company that you may not know of. But Tai will tell us about it and some of his background in a minute. After that, we have Naz Aletaha, who’s the head of Esports Partnerships at Riot games. And I just found out she’s been in the business for seven years, which makes her incredible veteran [laughter]. Yep. And last but not least, we have Tim Greenberg who’s our neighbor right down the street from the– who’s the president– sorry, community officer at the World Surf League right down the street here. So without further ado, welcome our panelists. Shawn, it’s all onto you.
Thanks, Ryan. I just want to start off by thanking everyone for coming and thanking Event Farm. I mean, round of applause, how great is this space and how great is this event so far? [applause]
So I’m super excited about the panelists, and I’ve got to give credit from our team to both Kerri and Paula for rounding up these four people. It’s a lot of knowledge here, a lot of interesting backgrounds. And I’ll let them give a sentence or two about themselves. Just a sentence or two. That’s it. That’s where they end [laughter]. But I feel a connection to each of them or to their industry. Tucker, I think, is an obvious one, with the Dodgers. Anyone who’s a baseball fan from LA older than about 20 or so would probably remember that I played for the Dodgers in the early 2000s. Thank you [laughter]. So I’ll turn it over to Tucker.
Tell them your stats.
Yeah. I mean, also, Tucker is partly responsible as some of the Dodgers for paying me enough to be able to do a start-up [laughter].
But the stats were the key of that one, I think. No. So I’m Tucker Kain. Nice to meet all of you. Nice to be here. And thanks to Shawn, Daniel, the Greenfly team for inviting us, and the Event Farm folks. So I work for the Dodgers, work on the business side, and really focus a lot of our time and attention on kind of the next generation, how we engage the next generation in the game of baseball. I think it wouldn’t come as a complete surprise to everyone here that our game has a bit of an aging problem. And so how do we engage the younger generation? How do we bring content to them where they are, where they like it, where they want to engage with it, and the form that they want to have it? And that’s not the easiest thing in the world in a pretty established sports industry. But I think, actually, the panel up here interests me a lot, as well, because I think we can learn a lot from these folks in terms of how we interact with the younger generation and drive some opportunities on that front. So we’ll get into all that, but I appreciate everybody taking the time, and happy to be here.
Yeah. And so here’s Tai. He’s with Art of Sport, which is an interesting startup. I feel connection to Art of Sport because I was in Hawaii last week on vacation with my family, and I’m not sunburned thanks to their great product, and hopefully I’m not stinking up the place for Tucker, here, because of his great deodorant.
Amazing plug [laughter]. I’ll give you your money after. Appreciate it. Yeah. So I’m Tai. I work at Art of Sport. A lot of you guys may not know us yet, but we launched in October. We make skincare products designed for athletes and people who sweat. So we take your everyday skincare essentials, put better ingredients, take out the chemicals you don’t need, and make sure that it’s going to work when you need them. And I think the one thing I want to leave everyone with is that we’re a direct-to-consumer brand. So you can go to artofsport.com or Amazon to check it out. Thanks.
Okay. And next here, we have Naz who is with Riot Games. She is a serious veteran in Esports. 7 years and 11 years – right? – total. And I do feel a connection there because I grew up in probably the first generation of the video game generation. I still play with my best friend from the time I was 12, Robert. I don’t play World of Warcraft, but I do play R.B.I. Baseball and [Tech Mobile?] from the 80s [laughter]. So that’s my connection to the video game world [laughter].
Thank you. Is this on? Yes. I’m Naz. I’m very excited to be here. Like Shawn said, I’m with Riot Games. I’ve been there for seven years, and prior to that was at Activision for about five years. So been in the space a long time. Riot Games is the developer and publisher of the game League of Legends, which was launched in ’09 and has now become one of the most-played games in the world. And alongside that game, we launched in Esport back in 2011. We actually were pretty much the pioneer in the space that professionalized competitive gaming. And now it’s grown to be this massive spectator sport, and we’ve launched 13 leagues all over the world. And so we’re one of the few actually fully globally-integrated sports in the world today. So very excited to be here along these amazing panelists.
Yeah. And I apologize for saying World of Warcraft [laughter]. And then here we have Tim from the World Surf League, and I also feel a connection to Tim. We spoke last week when I was in Hawaii. And I actually rode my first six or seven waves of my life. So am I a surfer now? When do you become a surfer?
How’d it go?
How many waves does it take [laughter]?
It takes one wave.
One wave? So I am now a surfer. So I feel a connection to the World Surf League, which is Tim.
Yeah. Thank you. And thank you for having us. So I’m the chief community officer at the World Surf League, which is a very Millennial title. But really, what I do on a daily basis is try to figure out ways to interact with our fans. I oversee our content, digital offering, and our social media and editorial accounts. So I’ve been with the company for about six and a half years. We like to think of ourselves as an early-stage growth company, but we’re 40 years old. We just had our new ownership purchase the league five years ago. We’re really investing in the sport and growing it, and surfing will be in the Olympics first time in 2020. And, as he mentioned, we’re right down the road from you right here. We’re on Bay Street in Santa Monica, right across from the old Zephyr Surf Shop, which is now Dogtown Coffee. So a lot of history in this area for the sport. And I just stopped by ZJ’s on the way over here. So yeah.
Love it. So, as you can see, we have a great panel. A lot of interesting viewpoints. So I’m excited to dive in. But I think first, I’ll give you a little bit of background of myself and Greenfly. I think most of the people here would probably expect me more on a panel talking about, “Is Bryce Harper going to be on the Dodgers?” which Tucker said he’d go into plenty of detail [laughter] at the end of this. He’s happy to talk about that. He hasn’t had any questions yet about that. But Greenfly– so I always loved tech, and I always had this dream of wanting to build a tech platform. I think everyone has, “Oh, I got this great idea. I want to build an app.” And after I retired in 2007 with the Mets, I had time and I had the freedom to be able to try it out.
And my idea really came around broadcast. It was about speed and relevance. I said, “Okay, I want to build a platform where if I’m–” people were still trying to contact me. If someone hit four home runs in a game or had three and was about to hit four, then I would– because I was one of the players that did that, people would be reaching out to me wanting to get a sound bite or hop on their radio show or their podcast. So the idea kind of popped up to say, “Well, why don’t I build a platform and then create a network of people and connect that network of people to the rights holders or whoever is broadcasting the game?” And when you’re broadcasting a sporting event, as everyone here well knows, speed and relevance are huge.
So I started that about six years ago. And about a year later, my co-founder Daniel Kirschner, who is also my cousin, was at Activision Blizzard, I guess a rival. Kind of. Yeah. All building the same industry together. So he was at Activision Blizzard, and he came over and turned it into a real business. We had built a prototype, and his vision was really like, “This is much more about social.” And six years ago, it was a lot different. It was more of a sideshow. Right? And each year it got more and more and more towards where all [viables?] are going and where all the resources are starting to go.
So now our platform is a collaboration platform for brands, media companies, sports teams to connect with their most important, valuable relationships to create and share content across all channels relevant to very micro-targeted as well as broader-scale type things. So that’s what we do. And the speed and relevance is, I think, even more crucial on social because in broadcast– you’re broadcasting a Dodger game. There’s one channel, and it’s pretty clear what you’re doing. But if you’re on social, some of the brands you work with have two or three channels that they’re really focused on, and others have a couple hundred channels. And then that’s not even counting all of their influencers or, if it’s sports, their athletes or their fans, and being able to give the right content at the right time or the right speed to those people to share. So that’s what Greenfly is.
Speed and Relevance Are Critical in Sports Content
And so I kind of want to flip the first question over to the two sports properties that are digital first. I’d love to hear how Naz and Tim are both focused on speed and relevance and trying to tackle all these different channels and how they’re handling that in this new norm.
Can I go first? Sure. So yes. I think speed and relevance is pretty critical for our sport and for our game. We generally aspire to be the most player-focused gaming company in the world. So our community, our player base, is at the center of everything we do. And we’re not big fans of kind of marketing at them. We really want to have that two-way dialogue. And when it comes to sports, being there for the real-time action and conversing and being part of the conversation is really, really essential. We kind of believe that the sum of the voices of our community is far greater than our one voice speaking at them. And so we really kind of want to empower them, give them the content, give them all the fun things that we’re producing so that they can go and essentially advocate on our behalf.
Yeah. Community is really important. Not just because it’s in my title, but [laughter]. I’m not going to use the term early adopter, but we’ve been working with Greenfly for a number of years, and they really started with the challenges that we have events all over the globe. We put on surfing events in these really remote locations, and I fundamentally believe that our athletes actually own the content. So if they get a 10-point ride, which is the best score in surfing, they should be able to post that content on their accounts.
To your point around the sum of the voice, we actually want our athletes to be advocates on our behalf. So we took a very different approach pretty early on in how we’re looking at our media rights. And the idea was to distribute content to our athletes as fast as possible so that they could distribute on their social channels, which is an aggregate much larger than ours as an entity. So working with Greenfly and the team, we were able to accomplish that. And there’s a lot more cool things happening in the space now around automation. But yeah. We were able to get to a place where before the athletes even left the water, they had the post or the content in their Greenfly app actually ready to go. I’m not just plugging them because they’re here, but [inaudible] has actually been really powerful, and it’s an amazing service for us to grow.
And then speed and market. I mean, yeah. It’s fast. We have people on the beach with cell phones grabbing content immediately after it happened. So, as the sport, we want to be the ones owning that conversation. It’s okay people post, but we definitely want to be the first to market with that content and owning that narrative first.
Pain Points in Creating Content
Hey, Shawn. I’m going to interrupt you.
Oh. There we go.
It’s audience guy.
Looking around. Where is this guy?
Yeah. It’s God. This is God speaking [laughter]. These people have voices, too, you know.
I know. We want to hear them.
Okay. Okay. So they’re talking about some pain points. We’re going to do a quick poll. We want to hear about your pain points when creating content. So you’re going to get it real quick, and maybe you guys can continue to riff just for a quick second after this. What is your biggest pain point surrounding the creation and sharing content? Is it sourcing, organizing, distribution, or reach? Probably all of the above is an answer, too, but you can only pick one. So I don’t know if you can continue to riff on this at all, Shawn, but this might be interesting.
Yeah. I know. I mean, it definitely is. There’s a lot of pain points. And I think the more channels and the more focused you want to be on your different targets and your different– you got Instagram stories now. You got all these– a lot of brands will have channels for– if it’s a sports apparel brand, they might have different ones for Europe and US and all these different channels. So I think it is really important to be able to get the right content to the right places. One other thing before we leave that subject. How have your athletes– because they want to use your halo, I’m sure, to build their brand. How has the response been of your guys’ efforts to get content through them and get them to share on your behalf?
They’re really supportive. I mean, it’s always been a challenge. So before we were using the app, we were actually just emailing. And every athlete uses a different form of communication. So we have one athlete who only snaps back to us. That’s the way that she communicates, so. Or Whatsapp or email. Or, actually, none of them use email [laughter]. Just the way it goes. So for us to have a singular place where we can distribute content and we can actually have that one-to-one conversation– not only has it become a distribution point, but it’s also a conversation point for us to actually ask our athletes what they want. Do they need anything? Or they can actually request content from us directly. So it’s essential hub for us to actually have that conversation with our athletes.
Very cool. And then, yeah. Tucker.
Yeah. I was just going to add a little bit of a different perspective from more of a traditional media platform into more of a digital age. And I agree with everything that was said, and I think this is a pretty poignant survey because I think– when I step back and think about the Dodgers as a media platform, all these problems just a few years ago or all these items were problems for us just a few years ago. And how do you start building a really authentic voice in a marketplace that expects a certain thing out of you from a brand perspective? And so in a lot of ways, envious of that digital first, digital native build. But we’ve kind of taken a little bit from the other angle.
And I think, again, the ability to organize the message around a platform and around kind of a content strategy and have the technology and the tools in place in order to do that has been transformational for us. Now I don’t want to pretend like we’re there. We got a long way to go to get to more of a digitally native type of environment. I don’t know if we’ll ever be digitally first. I hope we will, at some point. But it’s just been an interesting transition, a little bit different perspective. Just trying to take an older-school distribution method that is quite frankly pretty sticky from a financial incentive perspective at the moment and try to continue to augment and build into that without putting that piece at risk immediately.
So there’s a little bit of a different dynamic, but I think the principles still remain of creating a community, creating a voice, a narrative that creates dialogue, two-way communication, and try to avoid being overly prescriptive and, “Here’s how you should consume dodger baseball,” in our case, versus, “How do we talk about Dodger baseball and put it in places that you care about from a content perspective and a conversation perspective,” so.
Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. And now, Tai, I want to hear your– we talked last week, and I loved hearing your experiences at Under Armour.
And maybe you can tell a story or two about a really well-known basketball player [laughter] who Lakers fans probably don’t like. But I want to hear those stories and how that’s kind of translated into your new venture with another player that the Lakers don’t like very well [laughter].
Hey, Tai. This is God again [laughter]. When you answer this question, can you speak into the microphone like you own it?
And set the bar high for the other panelists who are talking like this [laughter].
So yeah. I think this goes back to your first question a little bit, but even more about speed is real-time. Right? Because that’s what social allows you to do. Allows you to interact in real-time, and sport is the ultimate real-time conversation.
So a couple of years back, I was lucky enough to be the head of marketing for Under Armour Basketball. We signed some kid named Steph Curry at the time, and we all knew that he was going to be what he was today. But, in reality, we didn’t. But somewhere along the line, he just kind of started to change not just the game of basketball, but how fans interact with the game of basketball. And it became a nightly moment when he would play and basically go out of his mind making threes. And as a brand, we had no idea at first how to take advantage of this. Right? You’re paying a guy a lot of money. He’s wearing your shoes. You get that awareness. But every night you just felt like there was a missed opportunity to engage with fans in a more meaningful way. So we kind of went an entire season trying to figure out what the solution to that was, and ultimately, with a lot of smart people, prior to the playoffs– this was the year they went– he had 400 threes that year.
So we got Steph in April and we ended up shooting 400 different scenarios which were basically three-second commercials so that every time he would make a three-pointer in the playoffs, we would have a new commercial on Twitter come out. And it was like the– it comes from an insight first. Right? So use the platform based on an insight that’s relevant to your brand, and then approach a platform based on the content and the way that people want to absorb that content. So I think at that time, as a brand, we would shoot a commercial, and then we would say, “Cool. What part of this commercial goes on Twitter?” I think this was the first time that, strategically, we kind of looked at the platform first and the technology first and then our athlete, and we built a strategy around that. Right?
So we started with the technology and the channel first and really just thinking about how people are behaving and how they’re consuming within that channel. And so obviously, it did really well for us. People responded in the way that we were hoping they were. And now, as we’re working with other athletes at Art of Sport, we have James Harden on the roster. We have Sage Erickson from the World Surf League on the roster. We’re constantly thinking about, “What are we seeing during real-time that’s relevant to our brand that allows us to interact with the consumers?” And then, “How are we building content for those channels first?” So I think there’s– a lot of times, you look at the channels as tactics. But you should look at it as a platform and build the strategy around the platform before you look at it as a tactic.
Yeah. No. That’s great. It kind of goes back to something I asked Tim. But I think a lot of people expect some of these– [you worked?] with the biggest names in US sports. And Tim has anyone from Kelly Slater, but then you have a lot of, I guess, more micro-stars, as well. It seems like– and tell me if I’m wrong, but it seems like everyone is willing to get support because they all know how important it is to build their channel. So it’s not like Steph’s saying, “I don’t want to do this stuff.” They all understand it. And I’m curious to hear what your guys’ experiences are with that.
Yeah. I would say they’re all willing to support, but nobody wants to put anything on their social channel that they don’t like. Right? And so that’s the hardest thing. Right now, Kobe Bryant’s a founding partner in the business.
Your fans like him [laughter].
Definitely [laughter]. Javier Baez of the Chicago Cubs. Juju Smith-Schuster, who I don’t know if you guys follow foot– but JuJu has a– yeah [laughter]. Shout-out to JuJu. He has his own YouTube channel with a million followers on YouTube, which is unheard of for an athlete. And we can’t just go to JuJu and say, “Hey, man. Here’s you and the deodorant,” or, “Here’s a clip from the stuff that we shot. Put it on your–” It doesn’t work that way. They’re a brand.
So I think the biggest sort of thing to think about is not everybody’s going to want to do the same thing on their channels. More so now than before, I think every athlete that we work with wants to put the content into their own words, use their own voice, and they want to have a say in what their social channels are putting out into the world. I think back in the day, before people really understood the power of social, athletes were a little bit more willing to kind of just take what you gave them and post it up. And it’s no longer the case. So I think you’re constantly working with their teams and with the athletes individually to figure out what works best for them and the brand, obviously.
Yeah. Naz, do you feel like some of the up-and-comers are hungrier? Or what do you see in Esports?
Yeah. I think our athletes are maybe a little unique when it comes to– compared to the traditional sports world where these guys are streaming on Twitch. Right? So they’re kind of used to having this following watching their every move when they’re gaming. So I think talking to the audience directly comes– I won’t say naturally, but it comes maybe more naturally. They’re kind of accustomed to, again, that two-way dialogue. But we are also– as the league, we do try to kind of provide the training and getting them to kind of understand the importance of building their brands. And social media is such an important platform to do that on. So we actually bring in experts a couple of times a year to kind of give them that type of training. As you can imagine, Esports athletes have not been preparing their entire lives for being on a global competitive stage and the attention and scrutiny that comes with that. So we do our best to kind of provide them with the tools necessary to succeed.
The Changing Face of Content Creation and Authenticity
Very cool. Tim, I’d love to hear you dive a little bit more since you are a Greenfly power user. I’d love to hear more about kind of your workflow and how your content communities and your creation has changed over the last few years and where you see it kind of heading.
Yeah. And just to echo, authenticity is so important. There’s a really high bullshit test for surfing. People will know when something doesn’t feel right. I mean, you watch any marketing asset that you’ve seen in the sport or even some of the films that have come out in the past, and you can tell when it’s not authentic. So, for our athletes, it’s actually– they were digitally native. They grew up with this being their primary way of communicating. And social media has been really important. But for us, it’s actually about the humility problem. So a lot of athletes in the past were actually really unwilling to promote themselves on social because it looked as though they were bragging about themselves in a community where it’s actually not that– it’s not respected to do so.
So I think the ones that have adopted early and done a really good job of that, you can see the growth in their followings. But the ones that were a bit late, it’s actually a bit of a challenge.
But for us, in terms of workflow, just to answer your question– so when we go into an event, and specifically [revise?] how we do service our events, we have a team. And we also work with WSC, as well, which is an awesome service that I recommend checking it out if anybody does have it. So it’s automated clipping which has learned our sport over the past two years. So we actually have a bank of content sitting during any event. So our events are about eight hours a day, so it’s a lot of content. So for us to scrub through that in real-time and clip that ourselves is a massive undertaking.
So when I look at this chart, I think I actually think it’s resourcing and editing that’s actually the biggest challenge for us. So for us, we turned to technology to solve this problem. So using WSC, we can pull all of Kelly Slater’s waves. In real-time, we know– and we can create the timestamp on that, so we have 30 seconds to a minute. We know how long we want the clip to be, and then we can export that and then deliver it to our athlete. So it’s about leveraging this technology for us and then servicing these requests because it really has to feel authentic when we deliver to an athlete, and we never tell them what to post or say.
What about tracking tools? Is that a big part of your–?
Yeah. It’s really important, and we want to know how our content’s performing relative. So we keep a really close eye on that, and we’re getting much better at data and analytics. And I think for us, too, it’s about nuance of formatting. We know that content is going to perform much better if there’s a wave in front or, if it’s from an athlete, it’s actually their face. It took us a long time to realize this, but if you have a beautiful drone shot of the beach and there’s no context, that doesn’t perform well necessarily. You actually have to have that personality layer.
So we look really closely at analytics to make sure that we’re delivering content that– we just don’t want to keep serving the same thing over and over again if it’s not actually performing well. So we’re learning a lot, and it changes every day. Honestly, it changes every day.
Yeah. No. It’s cool. With our platform, we show who shares it and how it does. And it’s kind of interesting to see– sorry. It’s kind of interesting to see one of our sports properties, when players lost the game, they were less likely to share the content of this great play that I was a part of. So you kind of see these things and you see the trends and you can really shape it.
Social Team Structures
But you brought up WSC which is a really great product that I know Tucker’s involved with, as well. But I’d love to hear what your guys’ teams look like in social because when Daniel and I started working on this years ago, the social team was usually a 22-year-old intern, and that was about it. But now a lot more resources are getting pushed through. I’d love to hear kind of your size of your teams as well as what tech you guys like.
I’ll go real quick. I was the social media manager for three and a half years, myself. So when I started, that’s what I did. Luckily, we grew. But we’re still only three people. So we’re three people for a league that is servicing 200 events a year across the globe. So for us, leveraging technology to help us be as efficient as possible is really important because I wish I had 10 more bodies, but I just don’t have that capacity right now. And there’s other resources that we need to be focusing on. So for us, it’s about being as efficient as possible, using these services like Greenfly and WSC.
Yeah. [inaudible]. Yeah. No. We’re a little unique, and so maybe not super informative [of?] everyone here, but baseball’s built a central [entity?] called Baseball Advanced Media, so we’ve got a lot of centralized resource on the digital front and from the social side, but on the team side, we’ve got four or five people that really focus on that. And I think the most kind of compelling component is if you look at kind of the composition of how we spend on kind of marketing and that part of the business. The transition from traditional to digital media has been almost complete at this point. You don’t see a lot of Dodger billboards on the 10 or the 405 these days. We’re trying to be a little more direct and authentic in our messaging and a little more kind of a call-to-action, direct kind of responsive component as opposed to canvassing the area.
So I think that would be, for us, more of the insight. Our team, I think, would be dramatically bigger were we not to have that central resource at baseball. But as a league, we really invest a lot of money, time, and resource into that piece as we try to continue to build that narrative in what is otherwise a pretty traditional media landscape.
Yeah. So for us, we’re operating a pretty large global sport, so we have people on the ground, essentially, across all 13 of our regions that spans 5 continents. There’s people that are obviously dedicated to social media, which is a critical component of how we talk to our player base in each of those. And in fact, in most of our territories, we don’t use social media agencies, as an example. And it all goes back to the authenticity, and that doesn’t mean agencies can’t be authentic. But the trust that our player base has in us is something that we hold so near and dear that we want to make sure that we’re there to respond and we’re there to converse directly with them in real-time.
So we essentially have people dedicated to social, people dedicated completely to community relations. We have people dedicated to relations with our key influencers for the game, and we have whole teams also dedicated to managing our relationships with our pro teams and the owners of those teams and the managers of those teams. And when it comes to the content that we’re producing, our content, the broadcast itself is almost totally digital, actually. At our world championship this past year, less than 10% of our content was viewed on traditional forms of distribution, so on television. So it’s pretty much all digital, and it’s broadcast out to 30 different platforms globally and in 18 different languages. So I think you could imagine the teams necessary to essentially take that content, localize it, make it really kind of resonant for the market they’re trying to serve, and then be there to also interact with the players as they react to that content.
Shawn, I’m going to come in here. I’m a umpire now. I’m an umpire. So we’re just past half time. What’s funny about that is that none of these panelists care about halftime. Maybe you used to care about halftime?
I still care
You still care? But there’s no halftime in surfing. Is there halftime?
There is not.
The seventh-inning stretch.
All right. All right. We’re not going to do all that, but I care about you people. Remember that. So anybody needs a wine refill, beer refill, I got some people coming through the aisle to make sure you’re comfortable. We’re going to do a 10-second shot clock here. We’re going to do one more poll real quick. Here comes out. What type of content do you feel most engages your audience? That’s what we need to hear from you guys. Sorry I threw the flag there, but somebody’s got to call bullshit on these people [laughter]. Right? So raise your hand if anybody needs a drink. All right? We’ll have some people passing wine and beer. Shawn, it’s back to you.
Relationships and Authenticity
Yeah. No. Naz, you said something that resonated with me just on our experiences is that a lot of brands are actually taking these relationships that they already have in-house and are really nurturing them. And agencies obviously have a role, but it’s changed. And I’d love to hear maybe you expand on that a little bit because you touched on it already.
Yeah. So like I said, we kind of treasure that relationship with our player base. And it kind of boils down to the authenticity and the credibility and really the trust that they have in us. I think if we put people who didn’t really know what they were talking about at the helm of our social media, we would very quickly lose that trust. So yeah. Interestingly, I think, just in terms of brands outside of our brand, some interesting things that we’ve seen with partners who have come into our space is I’ll kind of give two examples.
Mastercard is our big, global sponsor that joined us at the end of last year. And when we announced our partnership, they were on our socials. So they were looking and they were surprising and delighting various players. And one, in particular, that he drew a great champion, character in the game, and Mastercard essentially got his information from us and rewarded him with these amazing rewards. And social media just went off because this player posted essentially the email that Mastercard sent him onto Reddit. And Mastercard just– I mean, TY Mastercard. Thank you Mastercard has since become a meme in the community in a good way. Right? So all that goodwill has kind of attributed to them.
Back a couple years ago, another one, Coca-Cola. We were partnering with them and urged them, “Hey, you should get on Twitter because that’s where our player base is,” and for a company like Coca-Cola that’s very traditional, that wasn’t just like a flip of a switch that they could just go do that. But they did eventually, and the Twitter handle @CokeEsports became the fastest growing Twitter handle within the CPG world in 2014. So within Coke, it was the third biggest Twitter handle behind Coke Red and Diet Coke was their Esports handle. And again, it kind of just goes to the nature of this audience, this demographic, and what they’re kind of accustomed to which is being able to talk directly to you. And it’s super important.
Yeah. I think it’s also– yeah. It’s the rawness, and that stuff does better on certain social channels. And I think also just the speed. Right? Because you’re able to get stuff out there. [When?] you have an agency or somewhere in the middle, it changes the dynamic a little bit. But okay. Cool.
Los Angeles as the Center of Content
I want to shift gears a little bit and just talk because part of this is being an LA-based– all of us are LA-based companies, I think. We’ll start with Tucker because clearly they’re the most necessary LA base if they are the Dodgers. Right? So–
We’ve been here a while.
I’d like to hear what opportunities, being in LA, because I know you guys do a lot of investing and you got– Peter Guber is one of the owners who’s tied to Hollywood. You guys are involved in– at least some of your owners are involved in Esports. And it’s interesting to hear what LA– as an anchor, how that was done for you guys.
Yeah. No. LA, the market opportunity that we enjoy– and we inherited all this just by virtue of the work [that’s?] been done with the franchise prior to when we came in 2012. But the marketplace dynamic is completely unique, I would argue to any other pro sports market in the US, in particular. And a lot of that just is built off an incredibly deep and diverse fan base that for us, in particular, is historically loyal in terms of leading the league in attendance and all those types of things which are great. But what it also does is gives us a pretty amazing platform to do some of the things you talked about which is really expand the brand and expand our reach and start using the Dodger brand as more of a lifestyle or more of a sports and entertainment broader brand than just in the confines of playing baseball.
So to your point, Shawn, we’ve gotten to the venture investing world where we’ve run accelerator programs trying to bring young tech companies closer to our brand. It’s hugely beneficial to us to learn what’s going on around us, and I would be a little measured in [inaudible]. I’d encourage people to ask other people every now and then what they think your problems are because the answers you get back are pretty interesting [laughter]. It makes you kind of be a level of self-reflection that I’m not sure people do at all times. And so it’s brought us to place where we’ve been able to leverage that, and I think if we were in any other marketplace that those opportunities would be dramatically smaller. And we’re trying to do everything we can to take advantage of that, including across our ownership group, you mentioned, is pretty diverse and steeped in kind of LA business and kind of the Hollywood scene, which has been great for us, so.
Yeah. And the other thing kind of to flip that is it’s interesting that baseball’s always had a challenge to expand outside of Latin America and Asia. Right? Europe’s been a tough place. Africa’s been tough. I’m just curious what you– I know next year there’s going to be– I think, what, the Red Sox and–?
Red Sox, Yankees in London.
In London. What are you guys doing there?
So I think the nice thing for us is we’ve got a couple examples. The NBA has done a really nice job with this, and so it’ll be a long, long run for us. But I think we’ve try to identify areas of the world where bat and ball sports like cricket and things are at least understood and followed. And so we spent a lot of time thinking about Europe, a lot of time thinking about India and kind of the Asian subcontinent. And then, also, I do think one of the things we’ve been doing is trying to plant a few flagpoles in Africa. I think it’s a pretty amazing opportunity for us. We just opened, a few weeks ago, a pretty big training camp in Uganda. It’s the seeds of some things that we think will grow over time.
But, again, I don’t think there are a lot of brands in our sport that could actually have a chance of breaking out of that kind of very domestic focus. So we’re trying to act in a little bit of a leadership role there, use our brand. London, with the Yankees and Red Sox going over there is clearly leading with kind of our strongest content from that perspective, and so it’s definitely a challenge. It’ll take a long period of time, but we’re committed to committing time and resource on that front.
Yeah. And Tim, I’d kind of like to hear the same thing because you guys could be a lot of different places and you’re based here. We talked earlier. Orange County is a big surf industry hub, all the Quicksilver and Volcom and all them come out of Costa Mesa. I’m curious why you guys are here and how you guys address your world market.
Yeah. We could be down in Costa Mesa, but the decision was made when ownership came on board – new ownership came on board five years ago – that we really wanted to be in LA for a lot of reasons. But number one, it’s the center of media and entertainment, and we think of ourselves as an entertainment brand and a media brand. We’re a surf brand, for sure. But we also want to be creating storylines and telling great stories, and there’s no better place to be than in LA.
I remember a story I was– back in 2013, Snap had their office on the boardwalk, and I reached out to them. I’m like, “Hey, we’re your neighbors. Do you want to do something together?” And we ended up being great partners with them, and that’s how the partnership kicked off. But that was just the neighborhood relationship that happened just because we were in this location. And that never would have happened had we not been where we are located right now.
But we are global. We’re international sport. We have offices in Australia, France, South Africa, Japan. Brazil is one we’re investing in heavily now. So it’s an international sport, but being in LA, it allows us to– we’re close to LAX, which is nice. We can fly quite easily. But yeah. It was a conscious decision that we made to be in the center of the action. Not to say that Costa Mesa’s not incredible. It is. But we make a lot of trips down there to see our friends at the endemic brands.
Yeah. It’s pretty cool you get to go to all these exotic places. Tucker flies to Pittsburgh and St. Louis and [laughter]– no offense to the Steelers.
Yeah. Tahiti’s not too bad.
Shawn, I’m going to cut you– it’s starting to rain in the back.
So we do have more seating up front for those that are suffering out there in the weather. That’s number one. Number two is we’re kind of on a 10-minute shot clock. And then we’ll get in the Q&A. But we do have several seats up front, so please, guys, come up if you’re getting wet. And you can cuddle with me if you want to. But back to you, Shawn [laughter].
Continue. Yeah. Yeah, so now as we were talking earlier about regional, it sounds like when Esports really started going, it was, you said, in Korea. Right?
Yeah. I’d say Korea is kind of the birthplace of competitive Esports. Our founders kind of that the foresight back in 2010 or so to see what was going on there and say, “Hey, we should maybe look into this.” And for us, it was 2011, and at the time, Esports was not an organized competitive sport. It was more of a hobby. It was tagged onto a gaming conference here and there. There was no set schedule, and you certainly could not make a living as a pro player in it.
And 2011, our world final – and I use that term loosely, given the production value that it was back then – was during a DreamHack, which is a gaming convention out in Poland. And we live-streamed it just because. And we have photos and videos. And again, production quality is awful, but there was probably less people there live than– far less than there are here. We live-streamed it, and we had 2 million people tune in. And that was our aha. The lightbulb went off. Hold on a second. Our players want this. This actually really delights them, and we should do it. And we should do it right.
And so starting in 2012, we said, “Look, we’re going to bring it all in-house. The sports operations, the broadcasting, the commercialization. We’re bringing it all in,” which publishers at the time, game publishers, none of them had done that before. And we said, “We want to do this, and we want to make a real, viable sport. A sport where pros can compete, they can make a salary, where there’s a viable business model and a path to become a pro.” And we set out starting in 2012 to essentially build the competencies needed to run and operate and broadcast a sport completely in-house. And that 2 million number from back then– today, this past world final was 99.6 million people who tuned in, globally. So it’s been an incredible trajectory, and we still think that there’s room to grow. So yeah. It’s very exciting. But we are absolutely servicing a very global player base and fan base.
Yeah. And I guess, to close it off, I would imagine you guys are focused in the US.
Us? Oh yeah.
For sure. Yeah.
Yeah. I mean, you guys have been going for how many months now?
We launched in October.
So you’re focused here. You do have the luxury of having some global superstars.
I mean, I would say anecdotally, maybe 15% of our social audience is people outside of the US. James Harden has a huge following in China because the Rockets are still a very popular basketball team there. Coby has a huge presence in China. Sage has fans all over the world because of surfing. So I think we’re in a unique position where the communities that our athletes have already built have built a very large, strong community for us just off of that.
Yeah. And to tie it all back to us because that’s what I like to do guys [laughter] is I think to have platforms and have tools where you can leverage a small team that could reach all these local markets is super valuable, and that’s what our customers– we have a lot of brands that are all over the world, and they’re able to hit this Turkish sports league and target this team and this small place in China. I don’t even know any cities in China. That’s why I’m like [laughter] trying to think– but they can do these types of things with technology and with social, and it just casts this huge web. So I think you said we have questions. Don’t we?
God. I hope so.
We probably have one more thread, and then I’m going to start working my crew here. This is my crew.
This is your crew?
Yeah. It’s my crew over here.
That’s your crew.
Sports Content Outlook
Okay. So I guess a good question to end it on would be where you guys see– I mean, I’d probably start with Tucker because you’re in the VC space. But where do you guys see things heading over the next five years as we approach the ’20s?
So it’s a big, broad question. That’s a good way to–
It’s very broad. Yeah.
So I think we’re focused– and it may be a little bit different from the rest of your group up here. I mean, we’re definitely focused on trying to figure out how to build dramatically more valuable one-to-one personalized relationships with people that consume what we’re putting out. And it talks a lot about what we talked about at the beginning, going from kind of the to the masses to the kind of one-to-one and, to your point on technology, our ability to kind of scale those relationships to the– we’re not quite 100 million people around the world, but we’ve got 30 or 40 million people around the world identifying themselves as Dodger fans, and we need to deliver them content in the right time and the right place and all those things. So that’s a huge focus for us, for our sport, our industry, over the next five years, I think, on the kind of the balancing out kind of the industry.
I think sports betting will be a really, really fundamentally different introduction to the sports landscape for us, in particular. In baseball– I mean, we’re talking our own book here, but we like to believe with 300-ish discrete breaks in a game, the ability to actually layer in some really predictive gaming mechanics and start infusing that into what we do naturally through either our linear broadcast or some of our more natively digital channels. So we’re keeping our eyes on that.
And then for us, again, it’s not maybe the sexiest thing in the world, but youth sports, participation, trying to drive real equality, valuable sports. We think technology is going to be a big piece of that and how you integrate your youth sports experience with your social and your online and digital person. And in some sports, those are natively linked. In ours, they’re not. So we need some technology advancements to help us do that, and–
What about AR, VR, AI, all the A–
Yeah. Yeah. All the A’s are interesting [laughter]. No. Yeah, I think we’re definitely trying to leverage some of those technologies. Again, are trying to keep the end business objective in mind. I think you can get kind of distracted running down some AR projects and things like that. But if we can find some really organic use cases, we’re definitely spending time there. I think machine learning and getting more thoughtful in how we aggregate our data and understand our data and then turn that into content production and distribution is where those things will really impact what we’re doing in the near-term. And things like WSC that can kind of help you automate some of those what are today super manual functions to make that personalization more feasible for us.
So yeah. So those are all on the radar, but we’re trying to stay very focused on some of our business objectives and then use those as tools to move us through that process.
Yeah. Anyone else have a technology that they’re really excited to start pushing towards in the next few years that [would?] have an impact? Or is it just kind of wait and see what happens?
Wait and see.
Yeah [laughter]. There’s too much going on. Right?
I think there’s a lot of really– [inaudible] there’s a lot of– there’s a lot of vendors in the market, and I think finding the best vendor for what serves your purpose because we do spend a lot of time meeting with incredible technology brands and companies, and some of it is very distracting if you don’t necessarily know what your objective is. So to your point, it’s actually finding the right service to meet your need. And there’s a lot of cool things out there, for sure. And I think automation and personalization is where it’s going to go, along with that, we’re really interested in micro-influencers as well and how we can start to get that into more of our marketing strategy right now.
You said AR, so I have to say we’re very excited by AR more from an entertainment standpoint, not necessarily in the game of League of Legends. Every year for our world championship, we put on an opening ceremony. This is the equivalent of our Pepsi halftime show, so to speak, where it’s a big, live performance. We produce an anthem, and we partner with artists to do it, vocalists.
This past year, we put together, as part of our opening ceremony, a K-pop group, a virtual K-pop group made up of characters in our game. So four female characters in our game, we essentially re-skinned them so they look like a K-pop band, and we released a animated music video, a song, which has now received 180 million views on YouTube and 58 million views on Spotify. But the fun part was that during our opening ceremony, we had the female artists perform on stage, the song. And then using augmented reality, we brought the K-pop band to life on stage alongside them. So technology like that that enables us to really kind of bring together our entire world if you think about you’re bringing in-game. And so we had merchandise for the K-pop, we had in-game items for sale for– you could essentially be that character when you play League of Legends. You had the music video, you had the story. And you kind of bring that all together and you put it on display on a platform that’s as powerful as our world final, and it’s essentially kind of transcends just being a game and just being a sport. It suddenly becomes a cultural phenomenon. And so that’s the type of technology that’s really exciting for us.
Yeah. I would say we’re focused on moments. So how can we reach you in the right moments with the right message where we’re adding value? So after a game, after a workout, at the gym, where are the moments, the kind of small moments that are happening in your life where we can provide value whether it be through content or just a message that connects back to our brand in a way that’s authentic because I think it used to be you only had big moments as a sports brand to kind of reach the masses. And to Tucker’s point, there’s more value, specifically for a business that’s growing, in these one-to-one relationships and interactions. And if we can do that through moments that make the most sense at the right time, I think we’ll be effective at growing our business the right way and relationships that actually matter to both us and the person on the other end.
That makes a lot of sense. God?
God is here. He is here. Thank God because these people can go for days. No. Kidding. I love them [laughter]. We’re going to have some questions, Q&A. Quick anecdote that you guys just mentioned that made me think of– I love that you answered the question wait for tech. Right? We’re a technology company. I was at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, and we were there with Nike, no offense. And we finished–
We make skincare. I don’t know if [inaudible] [laughter].
I’m kidding. I’m kidding. We’re back in ’16. Nike’s cool. So anyway, we wrapped the games, and we came out of debrief and like, “Okay, here we go. 2020. Tokyo. Ready to start planning?” I was like, “You better not call me until 2019 because the tech is going to change dramatically. I can’t possibly answer you what I could possibly deliver for you in the games in 2020. And if I said that, you should fire me.” So that’s a really– I think it’s a really mature response to understanding how technology evolves.
But before I open to questions, let’s hear it for these guys. This is incredible. What a great panel. LA is changing the game. [applause] It actually is. You guys have mentioned a lot of awesome, interesting dynamics about our market, but I think they’re incredible. Socioeconomic, all the dynamics. It’s really incredible, and I’m proud to be an LA guy. But do you have any questions? Here we go. Thank you. First one.
Q&A: Accessibility of Sports and Communities
All right. Hey, guys. My name’s David from Divert. We’re essentially a top [golfer?] action support. So we’re neighbors. Maybe we should talk. I think content does a great job of making sports consumable for a lot of people, but I’d be curious to understand how you guys for– you represent different, various sport formats. How do you make your sports and the communities that surround them more accessible to people who otherwise have various obstacles that face participation?
I’ll be quick. So we just acquired the Kelly Slater Wave Company, so artificial wave technology. And we believe that there’s a democratization of the sport. There’s never been a more exciting time to be in our sport, surfing, because we have the Olympics. We have wave systems popping up all over the globe. There’s investments across multiple regions in this area, and surfing is a participatory sport. So most of our fans are– currently, most of our fans are watching because they do actually participate. So for us, we are really interested and excited about the opportunity to get more waves in front of people who in areas that may have never had the opportunity that weren’t coastal. So it’s a really exciting thing, the technology and the sport, surfing, that requires mother nature to actually do are converging in this really interesting time in history, so.
And from there, grassroots programs. It’s simple. It’s really straightforward, but we’re going to be doing those at every single one of our events this year. And we’re really just trying to encourage that youth relationship where we can get people excited and create that interaction between athletes where– I think I read a stat somewhere. I’m going to butcher the stat, so I apologize. But if you go to an event with your family member or when you’re a kid, you actually do stick around with that sport through your entire life. So you need to create that connection early on. So we’re really excited about that, specifically, and for our women’s initiative and how we can grow female participation in surfing.
Yeah. There have been a– you’re right. There have been a ton of studies that have proven that early engagement creates participation over time. And so for us, very similar. How do we make the game more accessible? Not only in underserved communities. And major league baseball has an incredible program called RBI, Revitalizing Baseball in Inner Cities. And in LA, we’ve got almost 12,000 kids that come through that. That’s funded by the Dodger Foundation, and that’s a huge part of us trying to create some accessibility.
But at the same time, we were very focused on the instruction. And I’m sure Shawn has seen this through his career. Trying to create a really quality experience in baseball and softball for the youth that are interested is really important to us right now. It’s an extremely fragmented and kind of broken system that unfortunately kind of overuses kids and focuses on specialization way too early and all the things that I think we probably all see in our everyday lives. And so if we can use our brand and the league [is?] use our brand to go create valuable experiences at that young level, not only in our mind helps create value for the kid, the participant, the family, all those positive benefits that come with participating. But also, a little bit selfishly, creates lifelong fans that we can kind of bring up through the organization.
And we believe that the Dodger brand in Los Angeles– if we’re not in front of every kid playing baseball and softball, what are we really doing here? Right? So that’s a big initiative that we’re working on. And I actually just launched a company with Nomar Garciaparra last year that’s focused on some of those things. So it’s a great question, and it’s a huge focus. I think it needs to be for all sports.
Anyone else [have?] questions back here?
New Media Platforms
Hi. Dan [inaudible]. I’m a serial entrepreneur just starting a new business – good to see you, Tucker – in sports media and fan engagement. And I’m curious to hear your thoughts on some of these new media platforms. This might be a question for everyone except Naz because it’s about Twitch. And I’m curious to actually hear from people– I know your business is grown around Twitch. But hearing from a team standpoint, a league standpoint, Shawn and Tai from a brand standpoint, how do you think about new platforms like Twitch or Caffeine and those and how you play from a traditional media model into these new medias?
Well, we just did a deal last year with Facebook. So we streamed exclusively last year over 500 hours of content on Facebook. So we have been a digitally native sport. We direct-to-consumer. We broadcast from the beach and distribute on our apps and our website. That’s actually the primary distribution point for our sport is digital. So looking at a platform like Facebook and the reach it can provide and the access to a sport that may never have been presented on linear television because quite honestly, surfing is nearly impossible to program.
We just did a deal with Fox this year for linear TV in the US. They’re going to take 500 hours of content on Fox 2 and FS1, but it’s still a challenge. Right? We wake up at the beach, look at the waves every day, and we say, “Are we going to go?” So for us, we had to turn to these platforms like Facebook, like are owned an operated to tell our story. So we’re extremely interested in where it’s going.
Back to your question, I don’t know where it’s going to go. I think there’s some really interesting players in the space. I think what Amazon’s doing is really interesting. I think Caffeine is a really cool platform, and Fox just acquired that. So there’s a lot of interest in the market, and all of our rights are up in 2020. So all of our media rights deliberately are ending at the same time, so we’re going to be looking at every option for us for how we’re going to be distributing our content and sport in the future.
Yeah. I think they have the potential to be transformational for our industry. We’re a little bit of the Titanic moving down this linear media path and we see the iceberg out in the future, and so we need to figure out collectively how we’re going to address that. We do have a lot of contracts and rights and things that run over time. But I think what you’ve seen, and it’s starting, is you start to see leagues and teams putting other types of program– maybe not the game, itself, through some of these other channels like Facebook or places like that. Youtube, Youtube TV, those types of environments where we’re trying to start the shift to be a little more digital from that perspective. But we watch as a league.
In particular, we watch these people like Twitch growing and the audience that they have, and thinking about how do we actually put our content in those environments authentically. Right? I don’t if you took a linear broadcast from ESPN and dumped it on Twitch, it would be worth anything. Right? So how do we think about our game as media property over time? How does it transform? And how does the broadcast transform to be more native to what that environment looks like?
So we’re not there yet. I mean, we’re definitely not there yet. We did a deal with Facebook, as well, to start some of that push. But again, right now, it’s really just taking a traditional, linear broadcast, jamming it in a digital channel. And at some point, we’re going to have to start thinking about how that shifts. Right? There are some people out there doing some cool stuff like Second Spectrum and with the Clippers and stuff like that. That’s starting to, I think, get to that point for traditional sports. But we’re not quite there yet, but we’re watching it closely. That’s for sure.
Yeah. We at Greenfly– it’s actually an interesting question because we take in the position early on of trying to support whatever is the next big thing. So you can think of as more like Slack where we’re this collaboration tool for a different type of relationship than Slack is. And we don’t know what’s coming next. We don’t know what’s [moving in?]. A few years ago, Instagram was great, but it wasn’t where the sports brands and media companies that we work with– they weren’t as focused on it. It was more Twitter and Facebook. And all of a sudden, Instagram’s eating everything. So you never know what’s going to be next. Our attitude is we’ll integrate with whatever’s the next big thing and support it, and I think it’s kind of like Whac-A-Mole in some ways, if you’re trying to always figure out what’s the next big thing.
Anyone else? Another question here.
Sounding Boards in Technology
All right. So Shawn, this kind of goes for you. But I think all four of them would be someone you’d lean into. So you played baseball in the 90’s and the 00’s. You could’ve fallen behind really easily because you’re so focused on your myopic and your kind of training and what you do. You’re a father, you can be a husband, and you’re a baseball player. And that’s what people know you as. But you fall behind in technology because you’re so fixated. How often do you lean into people like this to tell you what is now? But also do you think that’s also an advantage because you’re not so linear thinking, “This is what I’m focused on now.” You come into it and you’re like, “I can do whatever I want, and I have this blank canvas, and I have so much resources.” Is it necessarily a bad thing to fall behind?
Yeah. I don’t think so. I mean, I actually– one of my deep dark secrets is starting this social media staging platform is I’m very much not active on social media, so I kind of came up– I was always the type of player that was like, “Hey, I’m going to earn my money on the field.” And I love tech, but it was more like, “I want to learn to code,” or, “I want to learn to do Illustrator,” or these different things, try to build something. So I think I’ve learned a lot over the years, and had I played in the social media– I retired in 2007, so do the math. Facebook was just a few years old, and Twitter was just starting. So there really wasn’t much of it. With personality type, I probably wouldn’t have gone as deep into social media. Knowing what I know now, I think I would’ve said, “You’re crazy to not do it.”
But yeah. No. I love having conversations with people like this panel, and that’s why this LA tech scene is so invigorating is because there’s so many people doing great things. And you learn kind of, I guess, how to approach things you don’t think of. People give you the answer. So we have these great customers like World Surf League, and they’re telling us what they need. And we know, we go down the line, our other customers need the same thing. So it’s really helpful to sort of have that blank canvas and just listen. That’s been key for us.
Here we go.
User-generated Content Use
Hi, everyone. My name is Diego. I’m with [inaudible]. I wanted to know a little bit more about how do you guys go about user-generated content? How do you plan? How do you take in all that and produce something with it? And I’m interested in different stories because they’re probably going to be very different.
We’re very lucky. Surfing happens all day, every day across the planet. I actually looked at this before I came over. 10 out of the last 12 posts we put up on Instagram were from the community. So we’re either giving content or sourcing content from our athletes, our photographers, our videographers, our fans. And a lot of the content you’re seeing, whether it’s produced or not, we can actually put our own filter or branding or edit on top of it, is actually from the community. And that’s because we want to be everywhere at once.
So we’re interested in telling stories. And that story might not happen in a jersey. The best surfing in the world is happening in a jersey, but there’s still stories that are happening across the globe whether it be a big wave, a swell popping up at Nazaré in Portugal that we want to be there. And we can be everywhere at once because of these platforms. So ours share a voice, and we heard from some of our constituents in Hawaii, and [he?] actually told us how much it meant to them when we actually showcase a grom, which is a young surfer, on our channels. To hear from that on the ground, grassroots in Hawaii, that when we promote those athletes who are coming up on the ranks, how much it means to them to showcase on WSL, it’s really powerful. And it’s some of our best-engaged content. So we had a video two years back, 155 million views, and it was of dolphins surfing [laughter].
Hey, Tim. It’s actually interesting. Go back to our poll real quick. Right? So what type of content do you feel engages your audience most? And the answer was the hybrid of user-generated and produced. Is that–? It’s interesting.
I think there’s a couple leagues that are doing this really well. I think F1 is doing a great job. I think if you go take a look at what they’re producing, they’re using content from their athletes, and they’re putting these really fun, engaging storytelling graphics over top of it. And we’re going to get there, and we’re going to be investing in that area a lot more this year. But yeah. It’s a combination of that and adding your own layer and lens. Surfing, to a certain degree, you can put a piece of content up that has no filter, and it works. But I think that for us, we’re going to get into that next level of storytelling. We’re contextualizing content rather than just posting it. We’re trying to find our voice and our values and make sure that we’re always promoting the sport in a specific way when we talk about it, so.
Anyone else on the panel? No? Good? Another question over here.
Traditional Sports and E-sports Collaboration
How’s it going, guys? My name is Josh. I want to thank Dan for teeing me up because I work for Caffeine. So Tim, I’ll see you in 2020 [laughter]. My question’s kind of for Tucker and Naz, and Tim, also is– two things that we– two verticals that we’re really focusing on there at Caffeine with live streaming is sports and Esports and gaming because those are the two proven verticals in live streaming right now. We hope for them to expand into music and stuff like that. Where do you see these sports and Esports and the collaboration between the two going in the future? And is there a big market for that type of collaboration?
Good question. I’m sure there is. I would say I think it depends on who the fans are and what they’re into. So when we’ve surveyed our players, we’ve seen that half of them are not watching traditional sports regularly. Esports is their sport of choice for those 50%. And so that’s where I say we just have to be careful. But we’re really excited by new streaming technology and how our viewers can watch our sport and our content. Right now, especially because they’re gamers. Right? Gamers want to be engaged. If we can gameify the viewing experience, if we can take passive viewing and make it active and make it more engaging, that’s a huge win.
And we’ve started to do some work there that we think is exciting with watch rewards and different kind of features that we’re building on top of what Twitch and YouTube– essentially on top of their streaming player. So that’s kind of what excites us. But yeah. I would love to uncover how the sports world and the Esports world can come together to make magic. What do you think, [Tucker?]?
Yeah. No. I think you’re right on. I think the authenticity of it’s really the key. Right? And so we’ve seen a couple instances where JuJu Smith or– yeah. Plays for the Lakers. Hart. Josh Hart. Right? Some of these guys. All our players are taking their gaming consoles on the road and playing Fortnite. And so this idea of potentially bringing our personalities into the Esports world, getting them engaged around that, and then trying to bring them back is an interesting concept. Right? We have a few experiences. Last year – sorry Naz – we ran an Overwatch night at Dodger stadium where they brought all their All-Stars [laughter]. We’ll do League of Legends this year. It’ll be much better [laughter]. Thank you.
It’ll be much better. But we had all the All-Stars from the Overwatch league come out and they threw out the first pitch and they signed and we sold a bunch of tickets to Esports. People wanted to come see their players, and then they all sat in the box for a few innings, and we kind of expect it’ll take off because we kind of know those stats. And it’s funny because they all went into the locker room before the game, and they met a few guys, and they started building some personal relationships, and they started watching them on the field, and like, “Oh, that’s Joc Pederson who I met back there who’s a Fortnite player who’s out there, just hit a home run.” They start kind of connecting these authentic dots, and they start thinking about it. Then they start going out to their social networks like, “Hey, this is what I just did tonight. I was at a Dodger game.”
And you start building some authenticity of those connections. I’m not sure they’re going to come colliding together inauthentically, but I think if we start doing those things and find those areas where we can bring our players into the Esports world, they can bring their players in the traditional world, and it kind of starts there because they can help move fans across that chasm a little bit, I think. I don’t think it’s been proven, and I’m speculating a bit off a very small sample size of a few things we did in the last year or so. But I think that’s where the idea of being– and if you could actually turn some of that into content– right? If you could create a really interesting kind of tournament-style live stream, big traditional sports names playing, and add a Esport pro in– I think there’s ways to do it if you guys are thinking about that as how to create authentically. But I think that’s where it lives, how that kind of all comes together. I don’t know exactly, but that would be my two cents.
Time for a couple more. In the back. Hopefully not in the rain.
Franchises To Support Content and Build Brands
Hey, my name is Don. I’m with the Shamrock Studio. My question is actually for you, Tucker, because it’s a franchise-based question. Nowadays, a lot of athletes are basically becoming their own studio. You see Lebron James in UNINTERRUPTED. You see what James Harden is doing. How do franchises sort of help support and propel that, internally? Is there any sort of internal mechanism that you guys are creating or constructing to sort of help do that? And then the second part of that is are you at all worried about the brand that they’re putting forward if they have that much control?
Yeah. So there’s definitely supporting– actually, I’ll give another plug for Greenfly. I mean, there are tools like that where we collect a ton of media. Right? Photos, videos, all sorts of things that we proactively share with our players very frequently. For us, again, I forget – I’m sorry – who exactly mentioned it. But through their social channel, it has to be authentic. I think I was mentioning that. It has to be authentic to their brand, and so we’re trying to provide as much content as we possibly can that they can scroll through and then start putting that through their channels. Right? And they’re building their brand.
And Greenfly, again, as a plug, is an incredible tool to facilitate that on our behalf and makes it easier for the players. But ultimately, I think we aspire towards reaching a younger generation that’s a little more driven by personalities. Right? You watch the NBA, and you watch a Lebron James, and there are a lot of Cavs fans who are then Heat fans who are Cavs fans who are Lakers fans. Right? You see that mechanic working kind of in that environment, and so how do we [seed?] our players with the type of content and the type of kind of instruction on how to do that? It has to be authentic to them. It has to work for them.
So we’re not going to– we wouldn’t take a Shawn Green who is reticent to do that and push him into that, but there are players these days who want to build those brands. And we’re very supportive. We try to help them, give them guidelines, and give them some– not guidelines. We try to give them some advice, I would say, on what to do and what not to do and how to get in trouble and more just show them examples of some of their peers that have gotten themselves in trouble and just bring that front and center as a way to kind of teach some of those lessons. But for us, that’s really a positive thing. We want our players out there. We want them talking. We want them engaging with fans. If they’re doing it in a Dodger hat, all the better. Right?
It just kind of continues to build that brand relationship, so we spend a lot of time trying to do it. We’re very successful, I would argue, with some people and not with others. But I think, in aggregate, it’s a good practice if done thoughtfully and in coordination with your players. So I don’t know if you guys have a different perspective.
Maybe yeah. Yeah. Just two more. We got one in the back here. Thank you.
Content and Monetization
Thanks. So my name’s Dan. I appreciate all the conversation about organizing and segmenting comments. And this might be mostly a question for the team and the leagues, but as you’re developing the authentic content and relationships with your talent and your audiences, how are you monetizing that? And how are you monetizing it from a viewership and maybe also from an advertiser perspective?
Who wants to go first?
It’s a great question. I don’t know if we’re doing it particularly well, at the moment. But we are trying to be thoughtful about how that content is produced and the content of the content, if that is not overly redundant. But for us, I mean, it flows through to things like can we drive ticket sales? Can we drive some of that transactional piece? Can we drive eyeballs, which helps us feed into our sponsorship business and our relationship with our corporate partners? So can I say that we’re doing a really excellent job of monetizing that content specifically? Probably no. Or Shawn and Daniel and the team at Greenfly are going to figure out how to do that for us [laughter].
But it is about engagement. It’s about audience. It’s about organizing that so we can send the messaging from a ticketing and sales perspective or a sponsorship perspective and give some of our brand partners real reach from that side. So for us, it’s more the ancillary monetization. We’d love to figure out how to quantify it more specifically, brand it a little bit more authentically and clearly. And I keep using the word authentic, but I think it’s important. And I think we’re still learning on that front, but it’s clearly a tool to drive eyeballs, engagement, and therefore reach for our partners, our corporate partners, and our events on kind of a nightly basis during the summer. But that’s how we’ve been doing it for the most part.
Yeah. Most of our deals have a branding content component baked in. So most of our sponsorships and– we’re very lucky that we work with very authentic brands to who we are as a sport. So we have Jeep, we have Corona internationally, we have Michelob Ultra in the US, and we work very closely with those brands to help tell stories on our platform. So, like you said earlier, it’s very important to have that authenticity. And there’s a place for agencies, absolutely. But for us, they rely on us to bring them into this world. So we have a brand and content team. They work closely with our marketing group and our content group, which I sit in, to make sure that we’re telling those stories. And we’re always using the athletes as the way to integrate and have those ambassadorships.
So we’re learning, for sure, but I believe there’s a lot of opportunity, and we’re going to be doing a lot more in this space in the next two years. Every piece of content we produce will have some sponsor attached at some point. And some of this will be through media partnerships, like with Facebook, we created a show called All In that Facebook helped fund through our partnership. And others will be more overt and more branded but in a subtle way. You can’t just slap a logo on something these days. It doesn’t work.
Hey, guys. Stealing the mic. Question. You guys all mentioned youth at some point. It’s obviously a big factor in growing your brands, growing your business. But piggybacking off the monetization, when the young customer is so fickle with their platform of choice, their game of choice, their sport of choice, their brand of choice, how do you engage them in the short term to potentially monetize them in the long term? Is that how you analyze it at this point? Or are you just looking at pure engagement strategy at this point?
Sure. I can go. So for us is Riot, and when it comes to the game– I mean, we take the long view, really. We’re not looking to have our audience monetized with us on day one or buy something with us on day one. In fact, our game was built so that you never actually have to pay us a dollar if you didn’t want to. And it was really important to kind of create a level playing field so that essentially your financial position couldn’t help you to progress in the game and become better. That was really important, the same way you can go pick up a bat and a ball and just because you have more money– you hope that kids can play baseball from the start and have that opportunity. And so that was our goal.
When we advise our partners and our sponsors to your point, we kind of advise them in the same way. We say, “Look, come into our world. Use us almost as a consultant.” Right? Because oftentimes this is an audience that they’re not usually directly marketing to. “And let us kind of help you to speak to them. Let us help you kind of– we will weave you throughout our ecosystem so that you become an authentic player in their world.” And that’s really important. So it kind of first starts with establish your credibility with this market, and then you can try to get them to transact. I think if you start with the flip, at least with our audience, you pretty much fall flat.
Yeah. I mean, from the guy up here talking about authenticity all day, I’d be lying if I said we didn’t– we have a view of what we think a customer is worth. Right? A lifetime-value type of concept. And so I think as we think about where we engage in the life cycle of the customer, that’s kind of always informative to how we want to engage, at what level, and those types of things. Obviously, how we do it needs to be authentic and kind of build that relationship. But just to be totally candid, and we’re thinking about kind of the life cycle of a customer and how that value looks over time and how do we invest relative to that and what’s it cost just to acquire that customer.
And so we’re trying to be– well, we’re trying to build a community and build a relationship with our fans is unique to maybe a brand-customer relationship versus a fan-team relationship. And we try to be very respectful of that. But at the end of the day, we are running a business, and so we do look at that kind of lifetime value dynamic and think about how can we spend our resources against that and build our fan base against that to drive the best results. So there is a piece of wanting to build the biggest, broadest, most comprehensive community possible. But it’s also making sure we’re focusing resources and time on things that are going to drive value for the organization. So that’s I guess the truth of it all [laughter].
We don’t really see any of our competitors that are basically committed to sport 24/7 like our brand is. So when it comes to the youth consumer, I think an advantage that we have is that other skincare brands may show up during big sporting moments and in traditional media channels, but from the start, our brand has actually been sponsoring and supporting grassroots sports events. So we go to high school tournaments on the weekends. We set up a booth. We introduce our brand to people. We’re partnering with sports performance training centers. We’re partnering with gyms, AAU teams. We’re showing up where those kids are and starting the relationship there, where with a lot of other people, it’s going to be transactional only. We’re not as concerned with a transactional relationship with youth consumers right now. We kind of want to be where they are and have them see us a brand that’s committed to what their journey is in sport. And we think ultimately that will pay off down the road, so.
I think we’ve got time for one more. And I think someone raised their hand. Last question or no? Was someone back here? That was your question? Wow. Two for one. Last question here, and then we’ll give these guys a break. Thank you guys so much.
Who’s Doing Content Well
Thanks all for coming. So I have a quick question. Obviously, being in the role that you are, you’re always keeping abreast of others that are doing it really well that you might want to emulate. So I’d love to hear from each of you as who you think is definitely hitting, no pun intended, the ball out of the park. But what part of that really attracts you? And would you like to emulate?
I would be remiss if I didn’t say the NBA. I think everybody in our space in sports looks to them as the gold standard for how to program, how to treat your athletes, how to bring them along for the journey. And Adam Silver has been incredibly forward-thinking in the way that he approaches his player relations and content and technology. And they’re in a very fortunate position where they can go and play in spaces and take the long view and the short view at the same time.
But I think more specifically, we’re actually very impressed with F1. Formula 1 is a sport very similar to ours which has been around for a long time. There’s incredible stories. There’s incredible back history. And they’re actually very structured similarly to how we are with the point structure, so I’ve been very impressed in the past couple of years with them and how they’re creating content, specifically on social and it’s scale, in a way that incorporates graphic elements and storytelling in a fun voice that I think has really taken them to– and their numbers show that they’re exploding in a big way relative to what they were two and a half years ago. So I’m really impressed with them. Yeah. That’s it for me.
I was going to say the NBA, too. So I’ll say something different. I’d say I think we really admire the Super Bowl in terms of it’s just can’t miss. Right? It’s a can’t miss day, night, event, halftime show. You may not even be a football fan or watch a single football game for the entire year, but you probably tune into the Super Bowl. And you might turn in for a number of reasons. You tune in for the competition to see the best of the best. You’re tuning in because you want to see that amazing performance at halftime. You’re tuning in to see the amazing commercials. All of that is super admirable, I think. And so when we think about our world championships, our world final, we kind of aspire to be that eventually, where if you are in the League of Legends universe, Worlds is your can’t-miss, must-watch event of the year, even if you didn’t tune in for any other part of the season.
I’ll actually choose a sport media company that I’ve been really impressed with recently. It’s a company called Overtime. I think Overtime is what SportsCenter was when I was growing up. I think Overtime has managed to sort of capture that kind of essence for young athletes and just built a really sort of organic, engaged community of kids who enjoy not just sport but entertainment and the culture of sports. And they’re doing it through personalities, they’re doing it through content, they’re doing it with relationships with big athletes and high school athletes.
And as I think about sort of the democratization of media and what the future is going to be, I think these media companies that understand social first are going to be the ones that challenge ESPN in the way that we thought Fox Sports or another company was going to do that. I think they’re going to get into more sports. They’re going to just sort of be what every kid grows up, sort of how they consume sports are going to be through those media companies. So it’s interesting, as a brand, to kind of watch that space and understand how we can start to integrate with what they’re doing.
Yeah. I think that’s a really good one. I think Overtime is a great example of a really kind of organically-grown kind of media company built for a consumer by that same consumer. So I think that’s a pretty aspirational type of relationship to build. I think the panel had some really good ones, so I’ll try to go a little bit different. I think as you think about someone like Nike who’s been over time been able to create an arc of kind of a message that’s spanned the mediums– right? They’ve done the big, epic, probably multi-million dollar commercial type of thing all the way down to really organic which, again, plugging my buddy Shawn, Greenfly produced kind of user-generated [inaudible] really at the athlete-user level type of marketing.
So the ability to span that is something that we’re kind of aspirational around of how do we tell a brand story hopefully at the level that we kind of believe the Dodgers can be and should be on a broad scale but also be really kind of micro and personalized. But I agree with the panel. I think all these people are doing a really great job, and we’re definitely looking and learning as much as we can. And I learn from all these folks on the panel. As I was saying at the beginning, just the ability to kind of organize the communities they have and touch and interact with them is something that is very aspirational for us.
Yeah. I feel the same was as Tucker. I was going to say Nike as well just because they come from a world where they’re so polished, and content has changed, and now the stuff that is really polished isn’t as effective on Instagram or on Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, and these places. So they have evolved, and they realize that they need to make changes. They still do those great things. They still have incredible campaigns with Kaepernick or whoever it may be. But they understand the shift, and as a really big company, to be able to make that shift elegantly has been really impressive.
God, I’m here. This is the moment where I’m looking for some– it’s almost like a Broadway show. I’m looking for that rolling, slow clap. Thank you so much for these panelists. Thank you to Greenfly for doing a lot of the legwork of getting these panelists here and the incredible technology they have. Thank you to Event Farm for having us and the technology we have. We do have food, drink, and– rolling clap. It’s a little slow. Come on, guys. We do have some food and drink here so hang around. We do have some product demos of some techs that you guys can kind of figure out if this makes sense for you guys. Shawn, thank you so much for leading a great panel.
Thanks, Ryan. Appreciate it. Thanks, everybody.
Thanks for being here, guys. And LA is changing the game.
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