The single most effective step a small organization can do to market itself both to its fans and the general public is to team with a blogger who is passionate about it. Nonprofits figured this out years ago, but other industries have been slow to come around, including sports.
Major sports, like football, basketball, soccer, and baseball, already have countless blogs written about them. Whether it is a fan blog or a professional journalist’s blog, seemingly infinite amounts of content can be found on the money sports, marketing the teams even further.
But what about a minor sport like gymnastics, track and field, or swimming? The general public is not consuming any articles about these sports unless it is during the Olympics where the athletes are front and center or when the athlete has made news in some other way. I bet the last time you saw anything about 18-time Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps was when he got a DUI, right?
So how do these types of sports teams gain new fans during non-Olympic years? They do it by teaming with a blogger who is already passionate about that sport.
Case Study: Florida Swim Network
At Florida Swim Network, I have been blogging about competitive swimming in the state of Florida since 2011. My husband is a swim coach and my son a competitive swimmer, and so it makes sense that I have picked up on their passion and embraced it. Whether it is 10-year-old Joshua Zachowski setting new age group records or Olympian Alia Atkinson breaking a new world record, I am covering it with blog posts, photos, and video. My readers — coaches, swimmers, and parents — are dedicated and fiercely loyal, often sending me photos or stories I wasn’t able to cover in person.
In fact they have helped my blog grow into one of the top swim sites in the country — and I just blog about Florida!
Starting the Relationship
Although we cover all 14 collegiate swim programs in the state during college swim season, the University of Florida immediately saw the value of us covering the Gators. No other news outlet or website was covering their team in the same manner – we had been writing about many of their swimmers for years as they came up through the high school ranks, and they saw how many fans engaged on our blog, Facebook, and Twitter.
So, in 2012 UF began paying us to live stream their home swim meets. They knew my team specialized in live streaming, even providing commentators who approach swimming in a friendly, conversational manner that draws a viewer in and makes swimming exciting. We also feature a chat room where viewers can ask our commentators questions about the swim meet or what was happening on deck.
The Pay Off
For the first few meets, we had some of the Gator coaches stopping by during the broadcast to ask how many viewers we had and to see who was chatting. Thanks to our continuous promotion, we had 2,000+ viewers per meet, and some of the chatters were parents of international swimmers. Mitch D’Arrigo’s father, who lives in Italy, would tune in. Vanessa Rousseau would be in South Africa watching her son Sebastian swim.
Imagine what a strong recruiting tool this is for the Gators when going after out-of-state or international swimmers: “Hey, Mom and Dad, you can see your child swim every home meet and even talk with the commentators!”
And swim alumni tuned in, too, especially for the big rivalry meets like when the Gators faced off against Georgia or Auburn. How is that for keeping your alumni engaged!
Soon Florida’s sports information department began to rely on our post-swim meet interviews with swimmers and coaches. (Can you imagine being a sports intern with no swim experience and then being told to go interview Gator coach Gregg Troy who was the head coach for the 2012 Olympic team? Yikes!) Instead we provide them with interviews done by knowledgable reporters who ask relevant questions.
So, when the Gators traveled to the SEC Championship last year, the athletic department asked us to travel along. There, we were embedded with the team, having all-access to interview coaches and athletes and create as much content as we could. Everything we created we willingly shared with the sports information department, because what blogger wouldn’t want a major university pumping out her videos to their fans?!
Since we are an independent blog, we could even do some things the university probably shouldn’t. The swimmers like to photo bomb each other during our interviews – which makes for hilarious video and gets even more looks than a regular old interview would.
Watch for the photo bombs – yes, there are several!
We even had a swimmer do her entire broadcast in German for her family back home. Also, we can clown around with the athletes – taking selfies, filming them chanting with a set of bongo drums, and letting them give shout outs to their parents back home.
And since we cover all swimmers from the state of Florida, we even grabbed interviews with local swimmers who now swim out of state for other schools – so it was a win-win for us all around.
Why Paid Media Works
Click here to read Part 2 of this blog series to learn the real reason why paid media works and the importance of the “Trust Factor” when dealing with embedded bloggers, plus see how we created a viral video for the Gator swim team that had over 12,000 views (organic reach – unboosted) in the first 24 hours.