Why Short-Form Digital Media Is Critical for Sports Fan Engagement

Short form digital media drives fan engagement today. Short-form videos and photos engage sports fans like no other content on social media and mobile platforms.

3 male basketball fans watch game on TV and mobile for short form digital media.

Get ready to get your short-form media game on, because bite-sized video clips and mobile-ready images are here to stay! According to the latest marketing strategy and trends report from HubSpot, short-form content is only going to keep getting more popular in 2023. In fact, a whopping 90% of global marketers plan to either maintain or increase their investment in short-form videos this year.

That’s not surprising, as 66% of consumers reported short-form video to be the most engaging type of social media content in 2022.

To stay ahead of the curve, we’ve rounded up the top short-form content best practices you need to know for 2023. Our roundup is complete with the best distribution methods to use to get as many fans to engage with your short-form content as possible.

What Is Short-Form Media, Exactly? 

Short-form media (or short-form content) is any photo or video that was created for consumption on mobile devices and/on social media platforms. Videos are short, and both photos and videos are usually captured in portrait view (9:16 ratio) for mobile devices.

Generally, any video under 60 seconds is considered short-form. But the exact length varies depending on the platform. For example, TikTok videos can range from 15 seconds up to 10 minutes long, while Instagram Reels can be anywhere from 15 seconds to 90 seconds. Short-form video is “minutes long”. That’s certainly long enough to feature a game highlight or player interview, but short enough to be used on a social media platform.

And yes, short-form digital media also includes photos that are sized for mobile phones with a vertical orientation (for stories) or square (for feeds) or horizontal (for Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn). The length of content really matters here. Fans consider short-form videos to be 2.5 times more engaging than long-form videos.

The amazing thing about short-form digital media is that it has many applications far beyond social media – there are many digital and non-digital uses. We’ll get to that in a bit! 

Capturing and Creating Short-Form Digital Media

To create compelling and engaging short-form digital media, you won’t need any professional camera equipment, sound equipment or professional lighting. There’s no makeup, no hair and no catering. Today’s fans want immersion, authenticity and the feeling of being there. Polished and highly edited videos don’t resonate or engage as much as a first-hand snapshot that delivers a unique view or exclusive peek into an event, a player or other fans. Big marketing budgets don’t directly translate to big fan engagement

Short-Form Video Is Essential: Fans’ Media Consumption Has Shifted to Digital

In fact, the most engaging short-form digital media is better if you DON’T use pro lighting, cameras or sound. All you need is a smartphone and some creativity. Then you can start recording the scenes and moments that really matter to fans.

That’s why leading sports organizations have started to hire live content creators (LCCs) (sometimes called social media creators) instead of or in addition to photographers. Capturing short-form media is part of creating it. It’s the content itself, but it’s also the vision of the creator on how that content will be shaped in post-production, too. Sound, music, graphics, editing – they’re all part of the creation process. The creativity of creators is the key (yes, we just said that). Creators know what will resonate on social media. And they will deliver cut and uncut short-form video that engages fans differently and more passionately than a traditional staff photographer who’s capturing for print or a broadcast camera person capturing for TV. 


make that a hot dog with ketchup only, no mustard thx!! #mlb @tigers @Minnesota Twins #clevelandguardians #fyp #foryou #sportsphotographer

♬ original sound – Monica Joyce Bradburn

You might need to do some editing with creator-led media capture after the fact or during a game or match. But first-hand and up-close shots are what today’s fans are looking for. 

Short-Form Videos

One of the best things about short-form videos is that they grab and hold your attention. They’re so addictive that TikTokers find videos longer than a minute “stressful.” And videos under 60 seconds make up a whopping 57% of YouTube views. With attention spans getting shorter and shorter, short-form videos are the perfect way to keep viewers engaged.

Short-form videos are also easily digestible, making them ideal for watching on the go. They’re concise, informative and entertaining, delivering the nugget of any topic right away. And because they’re so snackable, they’re super shareable, too. Brands love short-form videos because they’re a great way to start conversations and raise brand awareness quickly.

One of the best things about short-form videos is their spontaneity. They’re often filmed fast and on the go, making them perfect for sharing viral trends and unfiltered opinions. And consumers love them too – 73% of them prefer to watch a short-form video to learn about a product or service.

So if you’re not already on the short-form video bandwagon, now is the time to hop on. In 2023, marketers plan to invest more in short-form videos than any other format, with 21% planning to try it for the first time. With these statistics in mind, it’s clear that short-form videos are the way to go if you want to win over more followers and customers.

The Most Effective Types of Short-Form Digital Media for Sports

There are many things that a creator and their mobile phone can capture before, during and after sports events. But the more it looks like a broadcast, the less compelling it will be for younger fans. They’re looking for authenticity, new experiences and behind-the-scenes digital content. They want to be entertained and crave short-form digital media that resonates. They want highlight videos, sure. Also, they want short-form content that looks like it was produced by their favorite influencers, TikTokers and creators. These are just a few of the many different types of short-form digital media that resonate with fans.

Game Highlights Are Short-Form Videos

When they hear “short-form video,” many sports marketers and sports execs immediately think of game highlight video clips. Yes, game highlights are a type of short video. However, they’re not the same as videos created for social media by a creator. Highlights are usually clipped from a linear broadcast using a video editing suite. Some of the leading cloud-based suites are from Grabyo or Wildmoka, or perhaps from an AI-based solution like WSC sports.

Event highlights are great; they deliver the key moments of the game, race or event. Yet they’re not the same as short-form content that keeps fans continuously scrolling on Instagram and TikTok. 

Original short-form videos might include game highlights, but they’re more than the linear clip. They have color and a viewpoint, and they aren’t just news — they’re entertainment. That’s why short-form video consumption is going through the roof.

All-Access Content, Captured by Creators

All-Access” content delivers an exclusive view into the event for fans. From pre-game arrivals to warm-ups, post-match wind-downs and player exits, there’s no shortage of content to capture for fans. Die-hard fans really want to be part of the experience. And casual fans can be converted to become more devoted when engaged. 

All-access digital media, filmed on mobile phones rather than broadcast equipment, is immersive. Creators can take cameras places where broadcast crews just can’t go. These include dugouts, benches, locker rooms and hallways — anywhere a person can fit. Behind-the-scenes (#bts) media is incredibly powerful and engages and captivates fans. Delivering All-Access content on social media channels or through the team or league’s mobile app differentiates those channels from a TV broadcast. The content is not just a repeat of the same game in a different format. There’s exclusivity in this content. There is potential media rights revenue. And to take it all in at the same time, fans need to watch two screens (which 94% of Gen Z does now).

Personal Player Interviews

Fans want a peek inside the lives of athletes. Short-form videos are perfect for capturing exclusive and impromptu interviews immediately after the game. Fans want to know about the athlete’s training regimen, daily routine and mental framework. Player interviews give them an inside look at how this superstar stays at the top of their game. They can be on the sidelines or court, in the player’s house, or anywhere apart from the official broadcast interview booth or step-and-repeat. They know that the official interviews will most likely be sterile, and fans want authenticity.

When it comes to exclusive content recorded on phones, athletes’ stories stand out. They give fans a glimpse or a sound bite of just what it takes to be the best of the best — such as what they had to overcome and how they stayed mentally strong (or didn’t). This type of short-form content is even better when the athlete grabs the creator’s phone and films themselves – an athlete-created selfie video.

Athlete-Created Selfies

What could be better than an athlete beating a club record and announcing to his cameraphone what that means to him?  It commemorates the moment, delivers emotion and passion, and gives fans a unique insight into an athlete’s thoughts. Athletes sometimes need prompting to be creative, and maybe a media brief or a script to create a more structured short-form video. And sometimes, athletes just need a phone and can deliver an impromptu monologue conveying their thoughts and personality. 

Pre-Game and Halftime Scenes

There’s no opportunity to get fans in the right mood when broadcasts start immediately before a game or race. Pre-game shows are fine, but they don’t deliver the experience of being there, of watching athletes and teams warm up, taking practice laps, or fans filling into a stadium. There’s magic in the atmosphere. And some teams are known for their elaborate pre-match introductions, like the LA Clippers and Seattle Kraken. 

When broadcasts can’t or don’t deliver these pre-game scenes, social media or mobile apps can. Fans can get immersed in the traditions and pageantry beforehand and feel like they’re actually at the venue.

User-Generated Content (UGC)

Lastly, short-form digital media can be created by fans and distributed by teams and leagues. Gathering fan-created UGC content is tricky, and getting sign-off to use submitted content can be torture. But delivering fan content engages fans on social media like no other form of digital media. Fans have an opportunity to participate and contribute — to be a part of the sport they love. They’ll promote the content and share it with their own audiences. 

And even better, fans are capturing views that broadcast teams and creators can’t or might miss. That buzzer-beater basket? What does a 360-degree view look like? Fans have captured that basket from every angle, and sports marketers can put each swoosh into a compilation that delivers a truly immersive experience. 

Watching short-form videos mobile phone while watching live TV broadcast

Short-form Content Distribution

Most people think that sharing short-form digital media on social networks is the only use.  But, as fans demand more of it, we’re seeing short-form content show up in traditional distribution channels, too.

Shortform Content on Social Media

The main place fans consume short-form content is on social media platforms. Social media is an ideal place to engage loyal fans and casual fans alike – it’s great for league and team accounts. Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts and TikTok are especially popular places to watch. Facebook has amazing reach, and short-form is popular on LinkedIn now, too. Short-form media is clearly shaping the future of social platforms. They’ve all adapted and added more functionality to enable this media to travel far and wide when it’s captivating and entertaining.

Player Sharing on Social Media

But, organic reach for official social accounts only goes so far. Social platform algorithms favor individual accounts rather than accounts run by businesses. And fans prefer authenticity. It’s easy to keep up with news by following your favorite team or league. However, connecting with an organization isn’t like connecting with a person. That’s why fans connect directly with athletes. They get a first-hand account and all the feelings and emotions, and they go through the ups and downs through that person’s eyes and ears.

When athletes share short-form digital media on their own accounts, they engage fans directly. They can also have more reach — and definitely more engagement — than official accounts. Giving them a continuous feed of short-form digital content is critical – they won’t post if they don’t have videos and photos to share. And sharing their story publicly helps them build a personal brand. It actually helps their team and league more. Players are a team’s biggest influencers. When they speak proudly of their achievements, it reflects positively on the sport. It provides implicit endorsement for the player’s team, league and sport. It also helps sponsors with more impressions and engagements.

And, we’ve seen that sharing short-form digital content with athletes improves player relations — almost every time.  

Broadcast Promotions and Programming

Beyond social media, short-form content is being used by broadcasters and OTT operators. They’re sharing short-form digital media for promotions on digital platforms. They’re using both organic posts and social ads to attract casual fans to watch full games. 

With so many platforms and channels, it’s necessary to remind fans where and when to tune in. And broadcasters are now using short-form digital media, especially photos, in their programming. Hosts now reference in-studio monitors to showcase highlights and behind-the-scenes content. It’s happening in pre-game shows, post-match wrap-ups and halftime shows. And fans love it.

Branded Mobile Apps + Short-Form Video

Lastly, we’re seeing leagues publish short-form media in their own mobile apps. The NBA does an especially good job with this in their new app. There’s an entire section in the NBA app titled “Must See Moments” that showcases short-form videos formatted perfectly for mobile. FIFA also published short-form content in their FIFA+ app during the 2022 World Cup. Some of it was captured by creators at Fan Fests around the world.

If you’re part of a sports league, team, competition or association and you’re serious about capturing short-form digital media, it’s time to take the next step. That’s also true if you want to deliver the short-form digital media you already have to the staff, athletes, and partners that need it. Let’s talk. Greenfly is the leader in short-form digital media management for sports organizations.

Young black man on couch scrolling for short form content on TikTok


What is “short-form media”?

Short-form media is any type of photo or video content that’s typically less than 60 seconds in length. However, a short-form video can be as long as three minutes, especially on YouTube Shorts. Short-form digital media is designed to deliver a message or snapshot instantly. Short-form photos and videos are immediately accessible, easily digestible pieces of digital content that fans can scroll through quickly. And they’re typically formatted to view on mobile devices, using a 9:16 portrait aspect ratio.

Why is short-form content important?

Have you ever found yourself scrolling through your social media feed and stumbling upon a short, catchy video that made you stop and watch? That’s the power of short-form content!

Short-form videos are the fun-sized version of traditional videos, perfect for people on the go who want to consume content quickly and easily. They’re easy to share, and they can reach a wider audience because of their shareability.

But why are short-form videos so important? For starters, they’re engaging and can effectively convey a message or information. Plus, they fit into even the busiest of schedules. So, if you want to create a video that can make a splash in the online world, short-form is the way to go!

What makes a good short-form video? 

Well, you want to keep it short and sweet, focusing on one specific topic. Use strong visuals and invest in good audio to make your video stand out. And don’t forget to tell a story! Creating an emotional connection with your viewers is key. For sports properties, it’s all about bringing players’ personalities to the fans, giving fans an insight into their humanity.

Short-form digital media isn’t just limited to videos, either. It includes all types of content that can be consumed in a short amount of time, like images, pictures, tweets, Instagram posts, and Snapchat stories.

In a world where attention spans are getting shorter, short-form digital media is the future. They’re perfect for busy people who want to be entertained or informed without taking up too much of their time. And with their shareability, short-form videos can easily go viral and reach a wider audience.

Does short-form video help drive audience tune-in to live broadcasts?

Yes, it does. When used as a promotional tool, short-form media creates awareness on digital channels for upcoming events, games and programming. Giving right-holding broadcasters access to short-form media helps them drive more tune-in to live games. Google’s latest research shows that 59% of Gen Z watch longer versions of videos they discover on short-form video apps. t helps the team, league and broadcasters pull audiences from their digital apps to larger screens. 

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