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3 Key Tips to Great Storytelling for Sports Marketers

Sports storytellers are playing a game that moves as fast as the matches they cover, because fans have an insatiable demand for content. Not only do they expect to see realtime, high-quality content, commentary and updates of a game on social media, they also have a keen interest in learning more about their favourite teams. From score updates and event highlights during the game, to player training sessions and behind-the-scenes content about the players.
Fans want it all! This demand for content has put an immense amount of pressure on sports writers to come up with innovative ways of not only giving the fans what they want, but also engaging with them. If people can’t remember what you said, they won’t take action or feel compelled to support your team. This is where the power of storytelling comes into play.

Using these three tips to great storytelling, we highlight the keys to success for creating, repurposing, and maximising content in sports marketing.

1. Use feelings rather than facts

A story activates the part of the brain which is responsible for experiences, while information activates the part of the brain which processes language and understanding. This is why we retain 70% of information obtained through stories, but only 10% from data and statistics. By using feelings and emotions, rather than facts and information, you elevate your brand’s messaging by humanising it to connect with people. The result? You build brand love, loyalty, trust, and inspire supporters to want to join the fan club and give them affirmations that they are supporting the right team. You’ll find that fans become more than just supporters, they become self-appointed ambassadors of their teams, as we have seen from the great fan support for Mzansi rugby and soccer teams.

Storytelling also goes hand in hand with cognitive psychology. In Lisa Cron’s book, Story Genius, she says that in order to receive a positive emotional response and the desired decision making from the audience, storytellers must use the core principles of human perception, thinking, and memory in their narratives. Ultimately, a great story makes a lasting impression.

2. Make the fans the heroes

To master the art of storytelling, marketers need to know the core elements of a message for it to become a story. Fiction writers have been using this formula for centuries, and brands like Nike, Adidas, Brand South Africa, Vodacom, Investec, Consol and Virgin Media have adopted it in recent campaigns. The formula is threefold: set-up, narrative arc, and resolution. How do marketers use it for brand storytelling?

A hero (your target customer) leaves home on a journey to solve a problem, overcomes hardships and challenges, and comes back with a reward (your product/service). Given that 92% of consumers trust media and word-of-mouth to inform their buying decisions, it is important to always make the fans the heroes in sports storytelling. In doing so, you build a bond between them and the brand, so they would want to keep supporting the team. That’s why Nike’s 2018 “When you're born to do it—just do it” advert with Caster Semenya was so well received by the public. The heartwarming campaign takes us on a reverse time lapse of a young runner’s journey from childhood, to becoming one of the greatest of all time, amidst adversity. This is a powerful narrative that speaks to being resilient in your pursuit of what you want; something that all South Africans can relate to.

So, here is the winning formula for a compelling hero’s journey:
  • Turn people into the protagonists of your story
  • Include opinion leaders or public figures to tell your story
  • Make your story hard to forget and impossible to ignore

3. Share content to social in real time

The advancement of technology has empowered creative teams to keep up with fans’ compulsive ‘fear of missing out’ and the growing demand for fast content delivery. American baseball team, the Colorado Rockies, adopted a lightning speed photo workflow to transfer photos from camera, to social media. #27 Trevor Story swings and hits it out of the park. He rounds the bases, circles home and high fives his teammates. Minutes later, fans in the stands and those watching at home have photos of every one of those moments in the palm of their hands sharing and reposting it with their followers. But how?

Photographers link up to a wireless network or an ethernet connection and transmit photos from their cameras straight to their editors. This eliminates an immense amount of pressure for photographers on the field who can shoot freely without worrying about rushing to a laptop or workroom to send off images. This technology is critical in sports storytelling because in a time when brands are sharing massive amounts of content, it’s crucial that your team shares the best content as quickly as possible.

More and more professional sports teams are adopting real-time social media workflows. They will continue to pick up the pace in an effort to engage their fans while their stories are still hot on the trends. And most importantly, they will use cutting-edge technology to strike a balance between speed and quality. Although the workflow has changed dramatically, one thing will never change in sports storytelling: a good story is a good story.


Editorial contact
Zubeida Goolam

14 Jan 2019 10:58

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