"What Bleacher Report has done with highlights since 2016 is nothing short of groundbreaking." - Bill Simmons Podcast
In order to truly differentiate its offerings in the market, Bleacher Report focused heavily on reinventing highlights. We needed to develop a value offer that was specific to our business in order to survive in the ecosystem since, as a league partner, we shared the same usage rights and access to footage as they did. We also knew that we couldn't compete with them in terms of speed to market. My suggestion was to let the leagues take the lead in the early stages of highlight sharing while we concentrated on the user-generated angle through our House of Highlights channel and used the Bleacher Report social moments team to transform the highlights into a fresh, new experience designed especially for social, a move that would go on to drive over $42 Million in revenue.
As the multimedia director for the Social Moments team, I was uniquely tasked with developing our overarching brand voice as we developed a content playbook and built out a talented group of producers, designers, and collaborators to rapidly produce relevant high quality social content for our core user demographic in away that would surprise and delight them in comparison to any of the other content being produced online. The following is a taste of some of the content me and the team I was managing from a creative standpoint were able to create in our inaugural season together (If you only watch one or two videos on this entire page, I urge you to watch these, in their entirety as they help give a sense of the scope and type of content I was helping to create and scale while managing the team from a creative perspective) -
This entire undertaking would have been impossible without a deep understanding of content creation in the social space, social media platforms, and sports news to go hand in hand with the design and creative capability to create engaging pieces of static and video content targeted at our key demographics. Furthermore, as we built the voice of sports social media, hiring and interviewing the right talent for the team with a skillset that would elevate and complement each other in a synergistic fashion was a key element of our success.
This meant that I had to help develop and instill a distinct understanding in our team of creatives and producers that we hired to have an eye for production value and storytelling. Essentially developing a playbook for them to refer to and reference as we scaled the team and built out new executions around sustaining technological and content innovations. Video highlights would become a brand defining revenue stream and a way to show our ability to be tastemakers in the cultural zeitgeist by creating a window of relevancy that was all our own.
Reinventing highlights was a major point of focus for Bleacher Report as a way to really differentiate it' products in the marketplace. As a league partner, we had the same usage rights and access to footage as they did, and we weren't going to beat them in the speed to market game, so we had to have a value proposition unique to our company that would allow us to still flourish in the ecosystem. My proposition was to let the leagues win the initial phase of highlight sharing and for us to focus on the user generated angle through our House of Highlights channel and to use the Bleacher Report social moments team to elevate the highlights into a brand new experience packaged specifically for social audiences.
As Multimedia Director my role was to build out this creative team and I was asked to manage and train multiple producers and designers on the social moments team to develop more of an art directorial instinct. I also started and maintained relationships with many creative studios and independent contractors and served in an art director role for elevated social moments content. The focus was on four areas, highlights, head swaps, jersey swaps and static graphics/quote cards/illustrations. Over time there would be many more elements of the day to day structure of this team that would be developed from an operational standpoint like budget guidelines, art direction templates, and even pod structure and team scheduling techniques that I had a hand in building out. I was responsible for being able to see the big picture while taking care of any creative fires that might need putting out on the team during that time.
Big picture, my job was to put all the chess pieces on the board, and figure out a strategy of attack. Which meant outside of just hiring the folks on our team and being an overarching creative voice and architect of our project management and art direction structure, I also built out a rolodex of artists, videographers, and illustrators that we continue to use to this day. I coordinated real-time and predictive social media content for Moments and workshopped social monetization options for social content while also managing team members. I also developed documentation for design procedures and best art direction practices for producers on the social team and began music and video asset libraries and expanded them to include various tools and resources for our designers to work with and to share amongst each other. This would form the basis of our early elevated highlight packages which would become a staple of our monetized social team.
The content would end up being the perfect example of speed and elevated motion graphics editing that would manipulate footage in a way to mirror fan sentiment and tell the narrative of the game in a creative way. The idea would be to balance two variables, one being speed to market because it was still important to get the post out as soon as possible to be a part of the peak of the ongoing sports conversation on social, however the second variable was elevating the content in a quality manner that would set us apart from other publishers. I was constantly setting our north star and working with executive leadership to map a vision for the content and the team. This meant working with our talented group of designers and motion graphics artists I helped hire to build out the type of content recipes that set the stage for the team.
The idea behind these highlight edits early on was to accentuate an existing storyline like Aaron Gordon's strength in breaking the glass, or Steph Curry's long range being exaggerated or LeBron or Paul George Getting more air on their dunks. We were essentially enhancing the overall emotional impact of the clip by editing it to make it feel more exaggerated. In away this is a great metaphor for social media where you always have to one up somebody, but that is a tangent for another day.
Bleacher Report was offering consumers new refreshed content on their feeds by giving it a fresh spin and making us a worthwhile follow. One of the major directives of my job was to help creating this content, then helping to scale and build infrastructure around it, and then building out the team with the right tactical hires to find new ways to create content that our users would be delighted and surprised by. The goal was to essentially create a new market segment for consumption of these highlights for a second or third time by repackaging them in a way that amplified their core emotional value propositions for consumers.
We would go on to do many highlight treatments based on the basic groundwork that I had laid out for the team and as we grew out to build more editors onto the team I was able to oversee development of new treatments as we expanded our capabilities and pushed the boundaries of this type of editing. Early on it was your basic NBA Jam style edits, but over time we developed a system that allowed for greater intricacy and a pod schedule that would allow for groups of a few team members to tactically tackle individual projects to increase the team optimization.
Initially the idea was to elevate or make players jump out of the gym and feel superhuman, but as time moved on we realized there are a number of different tones these types of edits could take as I led the team to make more. Early on though, much of our video editing focused around this aspect of making the play seem larger than life. As time went on, we would tap more into humor or sarcasm or inspirational tones as we experimented with our storytelling.
A good example of this is the D'Angelo Russell "Ice in My Veins" video that I did after he hit one of his first clutch shots in his young Lakers career. The video was something that was turned around quickly but elevated enough that it felt different than the other sports accounts on the social platforms just posting the same old replays of the highlights that fans had seen before. Getting it up quickly differentiated us and the clip blew up compared to other publishers content. What was amazing about this treated highlight was that the GIF of it was uploaded to our GIPHY account and took on a second life, garnering over 1 Billion uses across imessage, instagram and other apps and even spawning a TikTok trend in 2021 over 5 years later with the Sheesh trend.
Similarly, something like our GOAT head swaps that Jerry and PJ were so masterful at compositing, were amazing representations of the conversations going on when we posted them. Brainstorming and editing done in concert to match the momentum o0 fa social moment from a game that just happened that captures the heart of the ongoing social conversation. The push and pull we would have would be centered around how do we best capitalize around that ongoing social conversation and it was through this collaborative process of feedback and storytelling and a little bit of head butting that our best content made it's way to the masses.
Bleacher Report would come to become known by our ability to pump out these high quality edits. Not only did these motion graphics edits look to amplify the overall fan emotion that the play evoked with its game action, the edits were also meant to use tools like typography to add a new layer of storytelling. I always felt that you could add a new dimension to a video with the addition of something like kinetic typography, and this type of treatment that I helped pilot would become a staple for the type of treatments that we could take to market in a packaged deal to sponsor social content. These type of executions laid the groundwork for our sales team to go to market with these clips and develop bundles that brands could monetize around this type of a video execution. Over time, these would become some of our biggest drivers of return on investment and oftentimes lead to a high amount of added value in executions as they often over performed compared to the expected benchmarks.
The "I feel like LeBron" series of motion graphic videos that I produced for the NBA playoffs using real time high quality footage of LeBron's latest and greatest playoff exploits is a great example of using the social moments playbook to elevate great plays in a way that adds great music and effects that really give the consumers something new and a piece of content that they can share and save and engage with. It was this idea that the full package would transform these highlights into something our audience hadn't seen before and would be extra excited to share with their friends and fellow fans. As instagram became more permissive increasing the length of videos over 15 seconds and introducing new features like stories or IGTV we found new ways to innovate as well.
Understanding the ongoing conversations about LeBron and the debaters going on social about whether or not he is the GOAT led us to create content that would act as firepower to these back and forth arguments going on. We knew that we could provide tools for fans to engage in these debates by creating content that would reflect their sentiments, this would lead to them sharing the content and give us numbers we could turn around and take to market to monetize our other content offerings. a
Working with members of our social team like PJ Selzer or Jerry Wang, we were able to get these out at a rapid clip and bring awareness around hot topic social conversations while building brand awareness for Bleacher Report. These type of executions fell under something we referred to as evergreen content, the type of stuff that can be relevant far past its use date in relation to a single game.
This care to the audience and what they want beyond all else is what made our content resonate at such a deep level with so much of our audience. If you look at the metrics, compared to all of our biggest competitors that have way more followers than us, our interaction rates blow theirs out of the water. This means that even though they have more followers than us, we have more engaged content than them and our followers engage with our content at a much higher rate than theirs do. In other words, we have built a true community. I think this is the mark of content that truly resonates because you are being authentic and giving your audience something that they see themselves in. It allows the content to be sticky and something that consumers remember down the line. This is key in building that brand awareness that you can take advantage of over time as you do more experimental types of content.
Something that I do think is important to mention is that the video content that I was attempting to build out and scale as a part of our social moments department wasn't always this kind of highly edited and fast paced more hyped up content, there were also opportunities to do more sentimental or emotionally different content that was more on the nostalgic or evocative side. Others were far more informative in natures and some downright hilarious and taking a elevated humor approach rather than an elevated edit approach.
These edits, like the one I oversaw and helped as a creative strategist on the big picture execution with Mikey Navarro and CJ Toledano and Max Frishberg around the NBA Finals were just as involved and intricate from a storytelling and creative lift standpoint, but simply a different tone. This was an ability our tactical team was often able to capitalize on using the structure that we helped develop early on as a part of the social moments team production template. Collaboration was a key aspect of the whole enterprise.
There was a distinct difference between this sort of more predictive content, like the below motion graphics video Dan Worthington and I collaborated with Joey Merkel and Kasper Nyman on for the NFL draft, that were developed ahead of an event because we knew that there would be an audience demand for that type of content. real time content required a quick response, while predictive content was more long term planning and developing those relationships with studios and brands and artists who could work on larger scale, more easily monetizable projects.
The distinction between the predictive section of our social moments team and the real time section was the ability to plan out highly curated high level executions, such as our series of stop motion battles that I worked on with Dan Worthington. They represent far more time consuming artistic executions and allow for more room for deeper and more impactful references or higher end special effects. These bigger executions are tied to can't miss events on the spotrts calendar and become a month to two month long undertaking. The predictive team would lay the blueprint for what our tactical and innovation teams would become, taking big swings that really help change the breadth of what we could offer from a digital and social standpoint. Predictive content expanded our ability to do some really high quality stuff while making sure it was still socially relevant.
From a predictive standpoint, one of my favorite pieces of content that I helped pioneer at Bleacher Report and really launch into a viable monetizable product was the concept of "Instagram takeovers" which would feature 9 separate video piece that all stitch into one overall piece that is shown on the instagram grid as an overarching collage. The 9 panel takeover was something that would dominate our social feed for the day and become a conversation point for our fans. Knowing that each post was sequentially numbered, there was an expectation for more content. The concept to turn these into monetizable vehicles was something that was essentially taking some of our most valuable social real estate and turning that into a content billboard for native advertising integrated into the content well.
The first of these takeovers was spearheaded by me for the retirement of Kobe Bryant, on the night of his final 60 point performance we uploaded a collage honoring his entire career, and this became one of our single most engaged social moments of all time as Kobe delivered a game for the ages and people were visiting our social feeds in throngs as he lit up the entire internet with his performance. This takeover vehicle was used for things like a dunk contest all-star weekend sponsor integration with Verizon in our predictive Dunk Dominators series, as well as a Superbowl lead up takeover for the Eagles and Patriots sponsored by Museum of the Bible. These types of deals drove over $12 million in total social revenue over the years to Bleacher Report and were a great example of the type of thing our team could build and scale and help grow out the team.
In contrast to some of these more predictive packages, one example of real time content would be the quick response Kobe Bryant free throw edit I put together the night of his retirement, grabbing footage of different key moments throughout his career and editing it into a cohesive video to post within minutes of the buzzer sounding on his 60 point finale. Similar to the Dunk is Back piece, I leveraged access to footage in a real time basis and paired that with an existing edit to quickly get something out to consumers, but this had a distinctively different emotional vibe than the dunk contest video.
It was by testing out these quick response social production methods that the larger projects became further developed over time and the type of thing we could build larger executions out of. Developing this blueprint was an important part of my initial responsibilities on the team and it helped create an overarching look and feel that would come to define the type of content our social team would continue to create.
This type of video production vehicle and cadence was a unique differentiation factor for our social team compared to other competitors in the market. Most of our competitors were still playing catchup and merely struggling to get up the highlight itself. By that time, our team had usually gotten out the original highlight, then produced an entirely original piece around that moment as well. The social moments team prided itself on being two steps ahead from a content production standpoint.
Due to the success of these types of social moments experimental content we were able to continue to build out the team with talented creatives who could collaborate to create this type of content and we could slowly scale the team to cover more and more sports and big events. Elevated highlights were specifically seen as something that could become one of our calling cards and I was responsible for publishing and scaling out the creation of these type of videos as seen in the sizzle reel below -
I actually won employee of the month honors at Bleacher Report for my work as multimedia director on the Social Moment team during this time, or as we referred to it at the company, the Ass Kicker of the Month award for my contributions in building out the team in hiring similar creative people to build out this type of social content that I had helped to perfect the playbook for. The idea was to now scale the experiments and initial work that I had shown was capable of making a dent in the social world. To quote host Adam Lefkoe in the video, I helped "reinvent the look and feel of social highlights." for Bleacher Report Social. Take a look in the clip below -
Outside of simply straight up creating these type of elevated video highlights I was also tasked with building out a library of video assets that were broken down into categorized "highlight treatment packages" on a remote server on the cloud that our editors could access anywhere as a means to use templates or assets or plugins that would expedite the treatment or creation of these type of highlights. The idea was to build out as much work as we could beforehand and then divide and conquer when it was time to execute to reduce the time to market as much as humanly possible. The difference on social can really come down to milliseconds, as being the first publisher to get their content out can result in becoming the definitive voice of that moment.
For instance, I rendered out a ton of pre-rendered flame and smoke assets that could be easily motion tracked on to any footage instead of having to be created on the spot. These type of small things where we could cut time to market was what the moments innovation was all about. Think of it as a Nascar pit crew, every little second that you can shave off your time the more likely you are to win the race. Moments was a balance of speed and quality.
Knowing the different factors that would result in a piece of content being viral, I knew how important speed to market was, and being able to shave some time off the process in this way could lead to massive engagement returns over time. From an art direction and product management standpoint being able to optimize and develop this process over time to be faster to market and more capable of delivering high level content consistently was what the entire department was aimed towards achieving.
The LeBron James edit above where the basket is engulfed in flames as he dunks the ball is a great example of a quick turn elevated highlight that was created using the flames assets that I had pre-rendered in cinema 4D to be composited and tracked on top of the footage in angles that I knew we would be getting from the broadcast footage. All these factors combined to allow us to quickly publish this type of a highlight to our social channels and maximize on engagement before other publishers even knew what to do next. Being able to be both the highest quality as well as the fastest to market was a two-fold advantage that catapulted our content to the front of people's feeds. Working with the algorithm and using a data driven approach that measured the success of various types of content while also optimizing things like post time, cadence, format, and captions helped us create a fast and efficient team that was able to push out these type of videos regularly.
Above you will find an example of a LeBron James highlight that our team was able to turnaround within 15-20 minutes turnaround time with a swift rotoscope on LeBron, and motion tracking a pre rendered 3D glass shattering effect I had rendered out on alpha in the angle that we new the broadcast camera's would be covering. The asset was specifically created to be able to use on in game footage like the clip above, and once applied we were able to publish during the finals and it became one of our more engaged with highlights as it was the start of the Cavs epic finals comeback pulling in 3.8 cross platform views within the first day and nearly 6 million by the time the series was over. This ROI for the advertiser was huge as we were able to capitalize on one of the biggest moments in basketball on the biggest stage for a huge partner. This would really become the bread and butter for the department in terms of a video monetization perspective.
The highlight assets included everything within the library from elemental effects like smoke or water or snow or ice, and they also included things like debris or dust and smoke along with light flares and various different transitions. Included 3D assets that they could track and use like trophies or models of basketballs. This library was meant to be a huge boon for our editing team and a way to decrease the time they had to spend rendering out some of these effects. Especially with sponsors involved, the more we could cut down in terms of time to market, the more we would be able to maximize engagement for our ad partners. Publishing quickly and getting to be a part of the social conversation meant more likes to our sponsored content which meant more money for the company in the long run. This was a sustaining innovation for the team as it allowed us to create products that would bring in budget to the team over time to help us hire more creators and build out more robust offerings.
The library that I was tasked with putting together included a number of assets rendered out on alpha transparency so that our editors could composite them properly when the right moment arose. It also included typography templates, end cards that could easily be integrated, sound effects that were commonly used. I was also in charge of building out a free to use royalty free music library for this type of content the team created.I even included libraries for rendered out Cash flying around the screen or snowflake transitions. These simple time saving measures were key in the scaling and implementation of the whole department. The idea was to make turnkey video content products in a way that would be new for our audience and give advertisers a way to stand out in a crowded market.
These things were meant to be tools for our team to go to war with, things that would reduce our time to market and increase our dominance as publishers. On social, you see new content posted every day and there is a constant flood of new things to capture your attention, so having a nimble social team capable of pushing out new content on a regular basis while capitalizing on relevant conversations was extremely important. Sponsors were drawn to the ability to attach their brand to relevant social content that would amplify the second screen experience. Being able to take a campaign on linear and extend its touch points to digital for endemic NBA brands was really something that our social team enabled in a repeatable and consistent fashion.
One thing that was unique about what we were doing at the time was that we were really mashing up a ton of aspects of pop culture in the memes and edits that we were creating, for instance, when you have an event like Steph Curry breaking the three pointer all time in game made shots record against the Pelicans, we were able to add in the popular trending movie Dr. Strange as a nod to the Marvel film franchise multiverse in the highlight edit as a way to widen the fanbase and appeal of the clip and amplify the social engagement even more than it normally would have been capable of generating by opening up the content to a whole new set of eyeballs as related accounts curated the current. And it wouldn't always have to be a huge marvel movie as can be seen in our Kawhi Leonard Raptors "Shot" edit that features a nod to the 90's classic Angels in the Outfield.
From a pop culture perspective the storytelling had to intertwine properly with the emotions that the game had evoked, and so having a very sharp eye for these scenes or these type of references where we could cross pollinate was of utmost important. All the folks whom I helped hire on the team needed this type of taste for social content and our brainstorm sessions were intended to tease out new ideas by challenging the team to think in these ways. Being up to date with what our audience would most resonate with was a key part of building out the team from a headcount and leadership perspective. The team that I helped build out was trained to do this like clockwork and I think it is a testament to our creative group of designers, from RayRod, to Jerry Wang, to PJ Selzer, to the freelance editors we worked with like Caleb Natale or Chris Ashley when you look at our full body of work and what our team was able to accomplish. We found ways to innovate within the space and really build engagement from the ground up.
This all around approach to storytelling and content creation was what I was brought in to nurture as the multimedia director on the team that took a hands on approach to content creation. Each piece of content had to include various elements to increase the probability that it would go viral. Whether it was humor or music or any sort of effect that would help bring the overall experience to the top, the idea was to keep increasing the bar. The more effort we gave as a team in those initial brainstorm and editing stages would show in the final product. An inherently collaborative creative and production approach that maximizes all the talent in the room while building upon that early framework that I had developed as we launched and built out the team.
These brainstorms really were the essence of the team, they were the heart and soul of everything that made social moments what it became and perhaps the most important habit that I helped instill into the team from an art direction standpoint was to continually push creatively and from a pop culture perspective what we were capable of. We didn't just want to do something fast and good, it had to be new as well. We were constantly challenging ourselves to do better and to push the bar higher and higher.
One of my favorite moments was when we actually found that we could manipulate footage in a way to give fans the delight of seeing a play that never happened. The above DeMar DeRozan dunk was actually altered from a miss, one that LeBron thought would have been one of the greatest dunks of all time in game if it had gone down. PJ was able to use a clean plate to clone out the ball and put in our own that went through the basket as I found the right sound design to make it feel like a believable reaction by the announcer and crowd. We flipped the miss into a make for the culture and this really opened up new playful ground for us to be more experimental with our edits.
On top of the speed and balance was also an attention to detail when it came to our best content, and that meant going the extra mile to include small details like sound effects or an effective music track that really mirrored the emotion of the clip and added to the overall emotional impact of the piece on our consumers. The Nas highlight edit above that we published as a part of the social moments directive is a great example of the effortlessness of the shot and facial expressions that LeBron exudes in the clip as he drains the jumper on Ibaka as he absolutely dismantled the Toronto Raptors in a masterful playoff performance he was unstoppable in being perfectly matched and mirrored by the bravado and lyrics of the king of NY rap Nas rapping the "World is Yours" in the soundtrack.
Entertainment goes hand in hand with informing our audience, whether that be a statistic or a quote or some sort of interesting game information or background about a player and as can be seen in the above example that breaks down the stats that LeBron James had in a legendary "Do it All"patented championship run he had in 2016 to come back from being down 3-1 against the Warriors. The piece seeks to contextualize his numbers across the series with a paired highlight that shows how effective he was on the court as well with an overall motion graphics look that establishes a cohesive aesthetic and turns it into a piece of content we can pair with some strong music and sound editing to publish for our fans right as the series closes. The piece informs them of his stats but does so in an entertaining manner.
The content that I was creating was meant to be informative, energetic and entertaining while still being capable of feeling elevated enough to carry the weight of a sponsor. In order to mitigate the inevitable drop in performance due to content being sponsored, the actual editing and creative had to be top notch to get consumers to suspend their disbelief or interact with the content solely off the strength of how good the content was. Acting as the multimedia director it was my job to both create and to set the bar for others to have a north star to aim for as we attempted to scale our operations. As we became a department that was driving a significant chunk of our year over year revenue goals and eventually became the largest sector of the business there were opportunities to further scale the operation and try out new and even more innovative content experiments carried out by increasingly specialized teams.
We were able to create 3 very different and distinct levels of highlight content that took a different amount of time and creative effort, three tiers if you will. The first being rapid reaction quick turnaround social content meant to be posted as soon as possible. This tier was meant to be created with existing assets to expedite the process. The asset library that I built out was a tool along with various typography templates and other assets even from a static graphic standpoint that would get us started. This methodology borrowed elements from a lean sigma six style project management framework that aimed at reducing costs and improving speed to market. This allowed for rapid expansion and the development of new styles and techniques that our audience could respond to regularly.
These simple low level edits were intended to be churned out quickly in the first wave of reactions to a moment, something that could be done within the immediate 10-45 minutes that would still have an impact without a huge lift from a creative standpoint. Similar to the Harden piece below these are pushed out on a regular basis while the team is continuing to brainstorm more ideas but it lets us immediately get something out to cover our bases early.
Often times these were things that we could even get out live during games the better out team got at recognizing and producing them. With a combination of predictive assets and a team organization schedule that utilized pods of specific team members together in a tactical manner to execute the content quickly and get it on our social feeds before our competitors. Using pop culture references or movies that resonated with our audience allowed our content to surface quickly.
Tier 2 would be higher level treatments that require more time, a few hours or perhaps overnight turnaround time. This would be much higher quality and still timely but would take longer to achieve. These pieces would still hit while the conversation was going on, but in the second wave of the reactions, not the initial burst of chatter. Our team was great at creating these as they were ultimately in a goldilocks zone for the majority of content we did as often times the play or moment had to be really big or massive to warrant an immediate or next day or week reaction. It allowed for the creative process to take place within a solid window of time where the ideas had time to marinate but the creative also had time to develop and it became a sweet spot for most of our sold executions.
This is the type of project I would take on early in the history of the team and then later on I would act more as an art director over time in a more hands off role as the rest of the team scaled the approach to produce this type of content that could be shared in the next hour or two after the game. At the most these would be things that we post the day after and would be content we would often have to work overnight on. Tier 2 highlights were intended to provide value the day after for consumers by creating a transformative value addition to the highlight that heightened the emotions the fans felt the night before. This amplification would allow our treatment to stand out from the rest of the noise in the marketplace and give our users a chance to relive that moment in a larger than life manner.
In many ways these highlight edits were the ones were were able to monetize with partnerships with brands like Sony, State Farm, Filtrete, Powerade, Clamato, SoFi and more for multiple 6 and 7 figure deals around primarily this type of tier 2 highlight content, driving millions of dollars of revenue for Bleacher Report and building a reputation for our social moments team as a major profit driving sector of the overall business. These type of video content vehicles were repeatable and something that could easily be scaled for brands.
Mountain Dew came in for a while and even applied their signature Kickstart branding on some of these highlight packages as a way to further integrate themselves in to the treatments. From the jump, I pitched these type of vehicles as a way to drive revenue, build audience, develop audience affinity, and really push the boundaries of what was being done in the sports social media space. This type of sponsor integration made sense and our team was more than capable of executing against it consistently.
Often time using teamwork to collaborate and split the load, these would still do quite well as the content was fresh but we would lose some engagement as the chatter would die down. The quality increase was worth it because that immediate audience sacrifice that we were making was less important than going big and creating a highlight that will be shared the next day as something fresh rather than something from last night. The Wave 2 concepts would be a fresh take on something and this is why that extra time was worth it, if the treatment was transformative and we felt it made it into a new item then we put in that extra time. Especially for big plays, we knew that everyone will have seen the highlight a million times by the next day, so the question becomes how do we do something novel with it?
The third tier would be high level projects that would take weeks or even months at a time and would often rival television quality work. This would rival the quality of the motion graphics commercial work that we would do for bigger brands at this higher level and would be the high touch predictive content that we would take to market to monetize. Being able to offer brands a variety of options and tiers of treatments based on their budget was a key in our market strategy. The key was to empower the sales team with genre defining motion graphics that set an industry standard for this type of social content as to become an industry leader in monetizing this type of stuff and create a viable business sector for the company to operate within.
Elevating video highlights really did become a point of innovation for me at Bleacher Report and these different executions around them really allowed us to find effective brand partners who were eager to associate themselves with a company creating fresh and feed-stopping content. What can be said about our content is that it stopped people in their feeds because it would demand attention because of how unique or fresh the execution would be, this was always the goal. The numbers bear this out, as in contrast to social posts made by other departments, moments content would consistently rank as not only the highest engaged or shared, but also the most often saved post (Something that I personally think is a unique honor, it shows people want to come back to your content again, and that is one of the best compliments you can get as a media brand.)
Outside of just creating dope hype tapes or elevated motion graphic edits that really took a play and make a player feel larger than life, it wasn't the only tool we had to amplify social sports content. Despite how great our epic highlight edits and the mixtapes that I helped bring to prominence and then built out a team to scale and produce them, this can really only be seen as one big arm of the type of content we produced from a video standpoint. One other category that Identified early on as a major priority with leadership as we built out the team was the importance of headswap content as we used to call it.
The example above shows a cross between LeBron's locker room drama and Pixar's movie The Incredibles where Frozone is looking for his super suit. One of the major stories of the playoffs was how LeBron had purchased suits for all the Cavs players to wear and this was something that could be played out in the content. These type of relevant information factors contributed to how viral our content was able to go once it began to capitalize on these ongoing cultural memes and pop culture moments.
If elevated in game video highlights was one bucket of innovation that I helped innovate around on our Social Moments team, then the next big contribution was an offshoot of this which would basically motion track the heads of characters from popular movies, tv shows, or commercials and create a comical or serious scene around the narrative drama in sports conveyed through a popular clip. Once the clips were cut, and the heads tracked, we could overlay player's heads onto those characters and with the right puppet tool and warping and using stop motion to make the mouth move or the expressions to change, we could make a believable edit that placed players into these meme like situations. Honestly me describing it doesn't really do it any justice, itis just worth looking at the work that our talented team was able to produce using the techniques and playbooks that we developed.
Of course we weren't the first ones to do this, the style had been popularized through jib jab and a number of gifs on the internet through the years, but no sports publishing company had produced themat such a high quality at such speed at the perfect moments to capitalize on in game storylines. Some of my earliest memories of creating this type of content was for NBA forums where we would put player faces on viral gifs and use them as reaction fodder or in signatures online. This early experimentation would be the foundation for more elevated executions around this style and the desire to build out a team that was capable of handling the creation of this type of content n a nimble and responsive manner to sports news triggers.
The magic of headswaps really came in the ability to take relevant pop culture moments from music videos, tv shows, movies, viral clips and user generated content into hyper customized sports specific memes released in a timely manner to piggyback on the wave of social momentum generated by a big win. Early on while building a road map and a project charter for the management of this social moments department initiative we decided that we would look to expand on these type of offerings and hire based on the ability to produce these rapidly. The hiring practices I helped institute were driven towards building out a team that would understand the production side of picking the right storylines with the right moments in sports and then the creative team that could execute against it. This recipe was a major pillar in the content strategy for our team as it grew to be a leader in the sports social media space.
Social capital was a major point of focus for me as I helped shape strategy with Bryan Graham and Jermaine Spradley as we grew out the Social moments team. This meant being at the forefront of the cultural conversation happening on social media at any given moment and being on top of the production of content that would further ignite a fire around that spark. So for instance. when we saw a trend like the "savage patrick" meme pop up on twitter amongst the smaller circles we were following and observing, we were able to work with our producers to ideate around a concept for a major NBA dunk moment and tap in a creator like Ray Rod to turn around a 3D visual that elevated the highlight into a super memorable, borderline strange, but extremely relevant social asset that amplified the conversation and is brought up to this day as one of our most fun and timely pieces of social moments content. It was viewed more than 20 million times cross platform with nearly 8.3 million on twitter alone.
in fact the sticking power of a piece of content like this was so strong that it went viral once again an entire year later in March of 2020 and even prompted a hilarious response from Cavs player Larry Nance Jr. on twitter reacting to the absurdity of the piece. The fact that the content was still relevant and capable of sparking such conversation so long after the initial publish date when it had an equally large impact on the space is a pretty cool indicator of the quality of the storytelling and the efficacy of the content vehicles that I was helping the team build and develop. The content was unique enough to continue to stand out in the market for a long time and this was always the goal with this type of content, that it would resonate on a deeper level with folks and stick in their minds longer than your typical ephemeral piece of social content.
Consistently tapping in to viral moments in a way that transformed them into culturally relevant sports content was a huge part of the team's day to day responsibilities. While building out the structure of the team, I made sure to work alongside our operations team who could help us organize the team of creators into individual teams where each team, or pod as we referred to them, had an assemblage of talent that would be able to handle creative, production, publishing, and storytelling for a given set of games within a time period on the calendar.
Because sports never sleeps, we had to have different team members in various locations around the world who could come together dynamically to collaborate on this type of content. On the same token, viral content can come from anywhere and from anyone, so having a team that was up to date and constantly participating in these trends and conversations was key as well. Something like the classic Paul Pierce reaction clip below could only be created by being aware of those social storylines and finding something that was worth pairing with that trend.
With NFL highlights we didn't have explicit footage rights headswaps became a major way to communicate postgame fan sentiment in the form of content. Working with our team of producers to identify relevant pieces of content from different sectors of the online world, be it memes, viral moments, commercials, music videos, or even user generated content we would have a bank of options to pair our relevant sports moments when they would happen. It is fun to see what it would have been like if we were able to treat National Football League highlights in the same brash and fun attitude with which we were able to edit and infuse NBA clips with personality, and we even put together a reel of what that would look like as seen below. But simply due to the restrictions that we were placed under, we were also able to come up with creative solutions that perhaps we otherwise wouldn't have explored.
We had to find ways to supplement our traditional coverage of the sport, which saw a ton of it's own traction but wasn't in the same space. For instance, we had power rankings from Matt Miller as a written piece that would do numbers for us, or our live studio Team Stream Now reaction with Adam Lefkoe and Chris Simms to the NFL draft for instance that always garnered great viewership. Our data analytics team constantly identified an audience hunger there and we were aware that we had to solve for this.
We knew we had a huge base of NFL fans and it was important for us to find new ways to capitalize on this audience. Headswaps, animations, and other social moments staple playbook executions became a solution for the team as it would allow us to tap into that audience despite not having those footage rights. Being able to provide coverage to our audience and fill that hunger in a sustainable way was integral to the growth of the department and company.
For a league like the NFL where there are often times large personalities and overarching storylines about their tendencies or character quirks, you can easily take a superstar like OBJ and pair him with a music video when he signs a new contract. Being able to provide distinct visual content for moments like this really setour brand apart and gave us an edge on our competition. YG even reposted the video to his instagram page which shows just how far content like this could be amplified within our ecosystem.
Being able to take NFL storylines and run with them like this actually gave us the runway to do things like Gridiron Heights, which was also originally a social moments initiative. The social moments department was all about thinking on your feet and finding content solutions for our audience. NFL footage rights restrictions gave us constraints that we had to work within and Ithink we did a great job engaging with our audience despite those issues and hurdles that may have limited most other publishers from creating at the same pace and cadence that we managed to.
Similar to the development of Game of Zones, I had an opportunity to be a part of Bleacher Report's second foray into the animated content space as I worked with CJ Toledano and Dan Worthington under the watch of Jermaine Spradley as we looked to develop a new show concept that we could rapidly turn around as a week to week content series for our social department. Unique, engaging, and comical are three words that perfectly describe the series. It takes what many may comically express through text, takes it to a much higher level, and displays itself in the form of a video that you can’t help but retweet and share.
Falling under that same umbrella of finding ways to create content despite not having highlight right, Gridiron Heights became a weekly animated series that would satirize and add comedy to the drama around Monday Morning quarterbacking. Chronicling the exploits of National Football League players, coaches and executives within a fictional city known as Gridiron Heights, similar to the OC or any of the dime a dozen docu-reality television series you see now days. I worked with Dan to find Flicker Labs which was an animation studio based out of New York City that could handle the weekly workload, and we developed the first season of episodes written by CJ and added to by the Malamut Brothers and any NFL fan we had on the moments team or within the larger Bleacher Report office to voice characters, making it a true collaborative enterprise.
Understanding this network effect that our content had when we published it really meant that we had to rely on a broad swath of the team to provide a collaborative backdrop for content creation and storytelling. Getting varied and diverse perspectives on the storytelling and references that we would work into these pieces of content was an important aspect in the content creation process. On the same token, on projects having multiple creative perspectives was key as well. For instance, the Game of Thrones edit below was done in the course of the Warriors run through the playoffs by flipping the famous scene of Khaleesi emerging from the flames as away to celebrate them beating the Thunder in a tough fought 7 game series that went back and forth. While working with Ray Rod on this piece I helped him figure out the best way to use a static asset of Curry standing and pair that with rotoscoped footage of him looking up while speaking during a press conference and combine it into a believable asset to be used in an edit like this. This type of creative back and forth and using the team to find the right fit or tweak to make something cleaner or funnier was important to our initial dominance in the space.
Another sustaining innovation for the team was pushing the limits of headswaps in even more experimental ways, fori nstance, the example below where we had a moment with Jimmy Butler's love for Country music and singing and Carmelo Anthony during the Rio Olympics where we were able to flip a classic clip of Terry Crews singing in the seminal White Chicks with 3D lip synching technology to get an accurate swap for the portions where Jimmy was shown to be singing. The ability to continually push the medium forward in small gradual forms was something that the team would continue to cultivate. This Is what kept us ahead of our competition and kept the content fresh. From a creative standpoint this would mean more ways to manipulate footage, but from a production and storytelling standpoint it meant that more content opportunities for remixes or mashups were on the table.
Attention to detail in making sure we were doing our research and finding the best images to use as headswap assets was an important part of the process of putting together executions like this. Image research was something that could be done prior to the idea even being crystalized as we could find different angles that might work or decent facial expressions that would help elevate the final product. This paired with the right story, for instance the South Park clip below that PJ was able to pair with Kevin Durant's burner twitter account story was something that played out perfectly and actually became a case study for how we could elevate content like this in the future. Prior to this we had not done a ton of animated base content for our headswaps but this execution showed that not only was it possible but that it could work really well from a storytelling and audience perspective. It would become something that we further explored with future executions.
Learning new methodologies to elevate content was a foundational part of the DNA of the social moments team, and our motion graphics designers and the rest of the team would often find ways to work in illustrated heads into this content from Park Tyson, a freelancer that we would often work with, and then PJ began illustrating his own heads in Adobe Illustrator to integrate into the after effects composition and it really transformed what we could pull off. With this newfound capability to add headswaps into animated content using our own illustrated heads designed in the style and aesthetic of the show we were swapping them into our pool of available headswap opportunities grew, and as can be seen in the compilation below we were able to take advantage by pairing some iconic shows and scenes with certain sports moments to really put our content over the top in a way that no one else in the space was doing.
We saw a huge response to these type of content executions from our audience, and it was this approach that was constantly pushing our bar for success higher and higher that was what the social moments team was all about. Headswaps began as a problem solving solution for infusing cultural capital into sports moments, and over time as we honed our teams ability to elevate the content in different ways, whether that be with unique scenes from commercials, music videos, or film scenes or through the infusion of voice overs or other elements that would add new meaning, and finally through the evolution of the heads and image assets that we were using in edits becoming more specialized as we found more specific use cases for it.
From a larger scale holistic perspective the aim here was to build sustainable solutions across different subgenres that could encompass the myriad of emotions that run through an average sports fan's mind after a big game. Using the vehicle of a meme we can harness these emotions for social engagement and to build brand affinity through a shared language that takes into account social capital and an overlapping pop culture lexicon.
Shared meaning was at the core of these executions and the more we could really hit multiple layers of shared meaning, the more our content would resonate with our audience. At the end of the day, this is really what all good storytelling is, allowing space for empathy and to cause a biochemical reaction that fires off some neurotransmitters in our audience's mirror neurons and can create a moment of shared fandom. Similar to religious experiences, sports bring people together when you are at a game you will hugor high five the person next to you in the event of a game winner. Our social content was meant to convey this feeling in a digital format where we can all share and revel in the same shared sentiment.
Within the context of the larger Warner Media ecosystem, Bleacher Report was able to find cross promotional marketing opportunities within content executions to scale broader partnerships with HBO, TNT, TBS, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, CNN and more. These types of partnerships, like the Rick and Morty one above leveraged owned and operated IP in a manner that would allow for cross promotional synergy in that we could bring a sports focus to a content launch or offering in another sector and bring the conversation around that show or property to the forefront and to develop, package, and produce the sports entertainment content that fuels culture and bring fans closer to the teams and athletes they love. The Rick and Morty portal piece above featuring Kristaps Porzingis became one of our most beloved executions and the fan sentiment reflected in the comments was overwhelmingly positive and supportive.
Over time Bleacher Report was able to expand social moments to be more of a pop culture social account that touched on topics that felt outside the realm of sports but within the cultural lens of sports. However perhaps none of these is capable of showcasing just how far we could stretch our ability to be a part of the conversation as one of my personal favorite examples of clever and relevant headswap content as the moment we flipped of Derek Fisher getting posterized into a meme around Harriet Tubman replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.
This was a project that was completed in the middle of the night on a whim that it would be an interesting piece of content to activate around, what was unexpected was the piece blowing up and going absolutely viral and becoming a central focus of the conversation as people took it as Tubman "dunking on" Jackson quite literally. What this really showcased is that brands are built across every single touchpoint and that a strong brand POV is essential. We were able to build an audience that grew the conversation and added a new element to spark the flames.
It is important to note that these type of content elevation innovations are not limited to highlights and epic hype tapes built around plays on the court but it also applied to how our team tackled brainstorming and editing and publishing clips like the parody of the Salt Bae meme that we created for the NFL playoffs when the Falcons defeated the Packers in the final game at the Georgia Dome. Our Social Moments team was able to flip the viral Salt Bae video with Matt Ryan's face in an advanced face swap with elevated elements such as the motion tracked L's being sprinkled onto the 3D cheese with proper gravity simulation or the aforementioned 3D model utilized in a quick turn social post. Working with multiple stakeholders who shared different aspects of the project we were able to increase our speed to market while maintaining our creative vision. This was also the project management intention from a tactical standpoint a sthe teams were put together to optimize for an elevated creative product that hit all the right notes storytelling wise.
The content took an existing meme that was trending in pop culture and social media in Salt Bae while the video itself was relatively fresh and hadn't gone super viral to the point of feeling oversaturated just yet. Working with our editors Jessica Dorricott to create a 3D cheese model and Ray Rodriguez on the editing side to motion track the L typography to respond to physics and fall tracked to the gravity of the pieces of salt. This level of content elevation even for a humorous edit like this was what really set us apart in the market. Social media is avery saturated place, and in sports you have millions of voices trying to be heard, so being able to stand bout by banking on so many cumulative viral factors allows for a higher hit rate and probability for success.
Building off of meme culture was a central part of what we did and a core part of what we discussed while brainstorming new ideas while in the office or while on call during a game and discussing the action remotely while creating content at the same time. Hiring a team that knew what the conversation was and how to be a part of it in an effective way that wouldn't feel too "Fellow Kids" was of paramount importance and I think we managed to nail the storylines we were covering in a nuanced enough way to come off as informed enough to publish that type of content. The social moments team and department as a whole was developed and built out by myself and other founding members to partner with athletes, teams, brands, and publishers to increase the value of their sponsorship opportunities and make them the destination for premium sports entertainment.
A great example being the Hurt Bae parody above that would normally fall far outside of the scope of our sports based coverage, but it became a viral trend we could capitalize on and be apart of by incorporating the classic OKC thunder NBA drama everybody knew and was talking about. Content had to feel authentic and not like it was being forced for engagement sake, the idea had to fit. You couldn't just throw a sports and viral trend together, it had to be considered. This was key in developing and cultivating a true back and forth between the account and our audience as we could surprise them with socially relevant content to amplify the conversations they were already having on their timelines.
This would later become a central part of our commercial campaign where you had to "Get the Game" to understand the game. This really meant that in order to truly understand the popularity of the NBA you had to understand all of these little easter eggs and hidden references that hardcore fans would understand. The foundational aspects of this required a team of culturally invested producers who are up to date with the latest trends, and that combined with a team of talented graphic designers and motion graphics artists who could execute rapidly against these ideas.
It was by combining these two factors from a creative direction and project management perspective that I was able to shape the content vision of the department. Something like the below "What it do baby" switch for Kawhi was a simple and quick free agency edit that was able to be flipped when he left the Raptors in free agency was indicative of this cultural investment.
Our social content was built to inherently reference these memes to increase it's shareability. This meant that our team had to constantly be aware of what was trending and what memes were popular and something that could be remixed or elevated with a a sports angle for us to be able to get in on the conversation. This really became the backbone of so much of the dedicated social strategy we aimed to encourage the team to develop.
Using an agile project management framework as the team evolved, and a matrix style hierarchy based on a pod scheduling system we were able to optimize the team to become a force in the sports content creation space. Different personalities and various creators coming together and brainstorming and ideating together while embarking on the content creation journey would result in surprising and very apt mashups that told stories inc ompelling, relatable, and new ways that would consistently surprise and delight our audience.
Finding ways to take part in these larger internet trends and doing it in an informed way really changed the brand perception over the years as well, giving us credibility in the space. In order to become apart of the larger NBA Twitter ecosystem you have to constantly be plugged into the most relevant information coming from all sides of the league, and us being in the center of it all with our memes and edits made us a gathering point for fans and a way for them to engage with each other. This community was authentic and a big part of our overall success. Every video or graphic we published had a distinct effect on the long term voice and brand positioning, and I did not take that responsibility lightly. Small details like song selection or picking the right players whose faces appeared in the background as supporting characters all play a role in making the content more relatable.
Another thing that is an important distinction to make is that the treatments that we do on these social moments clips doesn't always have to be some over the top epic edit, there is also space for taking storylines or jokes and simply amplifying them. In one of our most viral clips, and in a sport like baseball where we generally get less engagement than a more popular social sport like NBA as well. When the Cubs won the world series in 2016 we did a very subtle edit where we had the Marquee at Wrigley Field in Chicago edited to show an LED message announcing that the Indians had blown a 3-1 lead as a nod to the Warriors epic collapse earlier that year to the Cavs. Even thought the clip was super easy to actually create, the engagement numbers were through the roof as it truly captured the fan sentiment at the time and amplified it in meaningful way. This was always the decree of the team and finding quick ways to get that social engagement in a creative yet innovative way that was different than any other sports publisher out there was our main goal.
A constant desire to remix and elevate content was at the heart of our social moments strategy. Often times due to our ability to have our ear to the ground and recognize trends before they blew up allowed us to become a part of the conversation early and even drive the direction of the initial reaction for the moment, but from time to time we would be caught abit flat footed and catch a trend a little later in it's trajectory.
When this would happen, it would often be due to us not having a sports moment to tie into the viral moment, and so it would require a patient and measured approach as we couldn't bank on getting in on the conversation early and capitalizing on that inherent growth factor. In these cases we knew our execution had to be tight, and add to the conversation. If we were merely piling on top of the rest of the content, it wouldn't move the needle or have any affect on the overall fan sentiment so we had to make sure our executions were thoughtful enough and had those extra layers of easter eggs baked in to really elevate the conversation and add something new to it.
The above shooting stars piece is a great example where we were able to flip something a little later in the process of the trend. We caught the tail end of that viral trend, but in adding and elevating the content we were able to add a second wind of reactions with a sports tie in. In this type of a situation we would add layers of complexity and find new relevant storylines to tie in easter eggs from other current events as a way to amplify the overall message. In this instance we were able to take the viral story of bow wow pretending to take a private jet before flying economy and a recent viral video of a whale that was beached exploding into a James Harden flopping moment. By layering all these options and easter eggs into one video we were able to build something more relevant and able to extend the conversation in new and novel way by adding value for our audience.
This is also why the brainstorm sessions were such an integral part of this whole process as ideas were encouraged to come from anyone and anywhere as it only mattered whether or not we were hitting the fan sentiment and engaging in the right conversations with our audience at the right times. Our Slack room, which is where we communicated ideas would often be buzzing with concepts for ideas and everyone would have their fingerprints on an idea as we would workshop it together as a team to make it the best it possibly could be. For instance, one example that I love to bring up is working with a flipbook artist to tell the tale of Giannis' journey to the MVP award as a nontraditional, non highlight driven content execution that came about through brainstorming as a novel way to give our fans a story they were used to in a new way. As always the goal was to surprise and delight our fans.
Pushing these boundaries from a content production perspective was built into the ethos of the team as working with new artists and finding new ways to visualize these things was built into our culture. Not only was it an art direction framework that I helped instill, it was something that we would continue to explore as experimentation was always a part of the overall growth trajectory of the team. In order to test new ideas we had to think of them and publish to get our audience's reaction, and then we could keep exploring and building.
Like we would always say, steel sharpens steel. The ideas that were thrown around in those slack rooms shaped the best content by holding each other to a high standard and being willing to drop ideas and head constructive criticism but also having the ability to get inspired and run with ideas. For instance,the unreleased piece above that was made for game 7 of the 2016 NBA finals if the Warriors had won featured scenes that the entire team contributed to as me and RayRod put the video together from a motion graphic, sound design, and color correction standpoint.
With all of that being said, I can't even begin to explain how big of a role music plays into this whole equation as it can truly be the factor that puts a piece of content over the top as is evidenced by the beautiful creative audio work done by Mikey Navarro on this elevated St. Patrick's Day social moments highlight edit we created below featuring a 3D coin flying through the air to a pot of gold to the hypnotic bagpipe remix of Future's mask off. The amount of comments we got asking us to drop a soundcloud link were pretty insane. The fan sentiment and the fact that they noticed that attention to detail was what mattered to me more than anything, there wasn't just a market for this type of high level content, there was an appreciation for it. Attention to detail and developing a multidimensional production approach for the team was something that I was always trying to be cognizant of in the creative process.
To me the audio really is half the battle, despite what statistics will tell you about the amount of consumers overall on social media who listen to audio on mute (Hence the importance of closed captions on our social content along with being friendly to the hearing impaired) being relatively high, I truly think that you can elevate the level of storytelling in a video edit with the music you select. It can elevate the video from being a standard fun highlight treatment to something that fits a narrative, or elevates a nickname and furthers the mythology of a player or character they have created. This was the primary role of our social moments team, to amplify the existing narrative in away that would provide content that would surprise and delight our audience. There would often be times where we would spend weeks or months searching for the right song or commissioning something just for the right fit on a project due to the importance it had in shaping the piece.
Continuing that ability to tap into our existing ecosystem for authentic creatives who we could plug into our art direction infrastructure, we tapped remix god suede for instance to develop a song for the Warriors as they were headed to the finals for a consecutive season. Building off of in house executions that Mikey had done with a wonderful "Forgot about Dre" remix using his press conference quotes, and an impromptu Kanye "I miss the old Curry" parody that we recorded and produced completely in house with our own music and lyrics and instrumentation. There was a level of attention paid to these pieces of content that went above and beyond what most media or social teams were doing, and I really think that the end users realized and saw this difference.
When all these elements were working in concert was when we were able to take these examples to our sales team and they were able to take them to market and get them monetized by brands as a huge new revenue driver for the company. Something like the Bud Light Free Agency jersey swap project that I spearheaded that would focus on new players and showcasing the brand new teams they were now apart of with a lower third presented by Bud Light. This type of opportunity would open up multiple 7 figure deals around this type of social content creation.
Driving revenue with these type of vehicles was a huge part of our departmental growth strategy and what sustained the company through lean periods like the Covid-19 pandemic as a revenue source. Advertisers would consistently want to come in and partner on elevated video and motion graphics executions. This type of content became the baseline for one of our most consistent social revenue driving series, the Ford Offensive Line of the Week series. The Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Week recognizes the NFL's smartest, toughest and most capable O-lines who are in the trenches every game making sure the work gets done with a non intrusive title sponsor integration.
What brands like Bud Light saw value in was that our social content was so ubiquitous amongst their target demographic of young men in that age 21-24 demographic still in school or fresh out of college who love sports and the culture that surrounds it. Our ability to create a conversation in the summertime, a period that was normally dead for us from a revenue standpoint from an article/seo perspective during years prior allowed us to create content against a summertime RFP from Bud Light while they were promoting a summertime drink. This type of opportunity wouldn't have been available without social moments creating a lane for this type of content and then me and the team being able to execute against it in such a high quality manner.
From a monetization perspective, partnering with these brands to create endemic native social content that incorporated them in a creative way was a super effective method of growing out the department. Brands were able to partner with us and we were able to create high level storytelling based content that was still loved by our audiences. Because the quality of the content stood that test, the sponsorship felt natural and not forced and our engagement numbers didn't significantly suffer like it does for many other online publishers. Due to this we were able to consistently overdeliver on our view count and engagement goals which often lead to repeated opportunities to work with that advertiser on bigger and bigger campaigns subsequently. Brand partnerships were a key aspect of growth for the department and something that we were acutely aware of as a way to develop more equity in the space within the overall ecosystem that BR fit within the larger Turner Sports network.
I love bringing up our State Farm Right Combo campaign because it was one of our most successful 7 figure social content deals that leveraged our brand's unique voice, position, and skills to create a content package around a sport our audience loves. State Farm was able to get a huge ROI as their engagement expectations were blown away by over 2562% due to the sponsored content being timely, having big names attached, using a treatment that was hype yet nostalgic and something people would stop scrolling to watch or check out at the very least. These type of projects were the lifeblood of the team and really did become a staple of our social playbook. They are indicative of what we were capable for doing as a digital arm of the NBA media machine with a major national sponsor leveraging a relevant NBA highlight and adding an element of sports nostalgia to it.
The content that I helped create for the Social Moments team really sat at the intersection of sports and pop culture, as is evidenced by so many of these pieces of content that I had a chance to work on. A prime example is the Ray Allen retirement project that took classic Spike Lee movie footage and mashed it up with his actual career highlights in an emotional mashup that combined the worlds of sports and film in a seamless way for social media consumption in a great little package. The great thing about so many of these projects is that so many folks were able to influence them and help mold their final form. I got to build out the story while our producer Spencer Oshman sourced the footage, and our editor Max Frishberg put it all together and I handled the publishing and cross promotional marketing.
As the team grew larger my role evolved into more of an art director and creative director that was in charge of implemented standards and developing infrastructure that would orient the vision of the department and give the team the tools to create new content in the same vein as the pilot pieces that I had created to help get the greenlight and budget to build out the department. The focus would be on user friendly content that worked on multiple levels and showed attention to fan sentiment while maintaining a high level of quality when it came to video, sfx, vfx, audio, music, and storytelling. This high level role meant overseeing the team and developing the employees I was managing to be better creatively and as producers while maintaining artist relationships and elevating our overall content and storytelling sensibilities.
Over time the team would rack up milestone after follower milestone as our content would consistently go viral and often drive upwards of hundreds of thousands of followers at a time to us within a weekend. PJ Selzer put together this great edit to celebrate our hitting 1 Million subscribers on Youtube, and the speed with which we reached this milestone and others on social platforms such as instagram, tiktok, snapchat, or facebook and twitter was something that our social moments team always had a huge influence on. Having a chance to be there from the beginning and be a part of uploading our first youtube video or publishing our first instagram post , to see where it has grown to now is actually pretty extraordinary. It is a testament to the consistency of high level content executions and to a team that was collaborative and capable of super engaging storytelling on a day in and day out basis. Hitting these milestones shows how far the team has come and how much there is still left to grow.
In terms of platforms that really showcase voice, twitter is one of the best ones to examine for this live real time back and forth with our fans. Bleacher Report is the second most engaged account on all of Twitter - not just sports - ALL OF TWITTER. That’s a testament to our ability of owning the conversation surrounding sports. Bleacher Report generated the most video views out of all media publishers on Twitter in 2019, with 2.81 billion views. With 193 million engagements, B/R was the most engaged Twitter account of any sports media publisher in 2019. The only account to beat us in engagement is that of Donald Trump. Let that sink in for a second. Those results are proof of both starting and owning the conversation surrounding sports.
At the end of the day, it comes down to creating a conversation between yourself and the audience by using the content as the entry point for the engagement to begin - and this is exactly what the team was able to get really good at. We were able to create conversations around the biggest sports moments by combining good planning with high level art direction and strong content creation to publish at the perfect time to optimize for fan engagement and sharing as can be seen in the #NBATwitter promo below:
Experimenting with mediums and formats was key to the proliferation of highlights and sports content in alternate forms that went beyond the overtly oppressive rights deals traditionally negotiated in standard sports licensing agreements and led to new conversations and dialogue around things such as hand drawn two dimensional animation as well as three dimensional computer generated content. It was this spirit of innovation that was tasked to tap into and further dive into so that we could future proof the business.
Publishing content to social is equal parts art and science because outside of all the numbers and measurable indicators that you can use to inform your decision, it all comes down to fan sentiment and the current temperature of your audience. Even with all the right indicators, there can be so many complex confounding variables in the social landscape that it can be hard to truly predict from a numbers standpoint how content will do. Being able to trust your guy and know the pulse of the audience and fan demographic becomes even more valuable of an asset at times like this. There are certain subtleties of human behavior and engagement on digital platforms, nuances that are so entrenched in human psyche and social dynamics that no spreadsheet or analytics can truly shed light on these things completely.
Constantly and consistently publishing high quality content to our feeds was the best way to measure this tough to quantify element of fan sentiment. The next stage after consistent publishing that allows you to gather ample data points that can define the content execution is to use those in such a way to guide the path forward and to implement and scale that concept as a template that other team members can run with and build upon. This framework would allow the DNA of the creative process to evolve over time in a deeply collaborative team centered process that put the content first. Implementation meant repetition and scale, something that could be copied and applied to other departments and by less specialized employees who could automate and grow the process so that the team could continue to find new things to work on.
A great example of this art direction concept in action was the way that we were able to build out an animation infrastructure and template that our team could carry out as we scaled the department. The key to the process of project management for this department was a long term goal to develop relationships with the artists and collaborators on our list and really elevate the content throughout our partnership with these folks. We wanted to constantly build on the existing ideas and find new ways to add value on top of what we had already built. While building out our initial rolodex of artists to work with I helped identify Parisian illustrator and animator Khammy Villiasang with whom CJ andI collaborated early on for some All Star, Finals, and Olympics content before we were able to pass that playbook off to one of our social producers Eric Yeboah who was able to run with the infrastructure that we had built and create a new elevated execution around Tray Young's pursuit of Rookie of the Year. Building this long term relationship with one of our independent contractors and giving them varied levels of increasingly intricate and amplified storytelling was the aim of the team. This was a great example of implementing the knowledge and applying that institutional know how to really bring our content to that next level.
My role as multimedia director required me to simultaneously be taking a long term high level picture of the department and the trajectory and scale of the team over a period of time, but also right in the trenches day to day with the team executing on projects, providing that guidance and art direction knowledge first hand when needed, doing little things like motion graphics or sound design that would help take projects to that next level, and really constantly pushing the team to be better and that we were hiring the right individuals for the job.
Then it was my responsibility to take the recipes and plays that I put in our playbook and find ways to scale that influence with other creators. A great example of this would be my initial Frozen Moment user generated content experiments on my own that were then translated into Bleacher Report content that I oversaw and Luis Domingo and our social team executed against. This ability to scale and amplify and produce on a repeatable basis was what allowed our content playbook to grow and develop over time. This constant process of iteration and elevation pushing the bar highera nd higher.
I really acted like an architect of the team and the infrastructure we used to enact change upon the sports social media landscape. By trusting the process we were able to develop an award winning social moments team that would create amazing content at a very efficient pace and within budget constraints that could immediately be shared with a ravenous audience that was hungry for new content at scale and with the ability to monetize against it long term. By trusting the framework of constant iteration, and creation, and collaboration while publishing to garner feedback from our audience, we were able to scale and grow and monetize at a rate that was huge for the company and taught me the fundamental skills of building out a talented team and setting their north star.
Key Collaborators: Kenny Dorset, Jermaine Spradley, Bryan Graham, Arman Walia, Dan Worthington, Spencer Oshman, PJ Selzer, Jerry Wang, Ray Rodriguez, CJ Toledano, Luis Domingo, Kasper Nyman, Luke Booth, Quickframe Animation, Khammy Villiasang, Max Frishberg, Lorrie Cartago, Jessica Dorricot, Adam Powell
Tools: Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, ToonBoom, Flash, Cinema 4D, Maya, Procreate
Deliverables: High Resolution Social Content (Videos, Illustrations, Augmented Reality Filters, Quote Cards, Jersey Swaps, Motion Graphics, Animations, Interactive games)
Category: Creative Direction, Producing, Art Direction, Motion Design, Project Management