Learnings from our Sports Social Summit


Sports fans will be in paradise this summer, with a veritable feast of action from around the world to help them through those long, hot, lazy days. There’s UEFA EURO 2016, the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Ryder Cup and the Copa America, not to mention annual events Wimbledon, the Tour de France and The Open.

For brands, sport can be a fascinating challenge to activate. Do you get involved? How do you join the conversation? How do you make an impact? Well, fear not; at our Sports Social Summit event last week, we had it covered.

We heard from BBC Sport’s Ian Singleton, Alexandra Willis from Wimbledon, Kate Dale from Sport England’s This Girl Can and We Are Social’s very own Joe Weston and Tom Richards. Powered by pizza and popcorn, and our host for the evening, We Are Social Business Director Will Allen, we learned a few things.

Assess and refine to help strategy flourish
Creating a strategy is one thing. Executing it is another thing entirely. BBC Sport’s Online Assistant Editor, Ian Singleton, spoke of the challenges his team faced when developing a plan to help their channels succeed.

“Getting the balance right between building a strategy to succeed and creating the team structure and processes is key,” he explained. “Get it right and the strategy can take off and enable best-in-class social media content.” Ian’s team measures, reviews and refines all of its activity as it looks to maximise the impact of BBC Sport’s content and assets.

Plan ahead to  make your own luck
FIFA World Cup 2014 provided @adidasfootball with a new challenge: to be the most talked about brand in the tournament.

“Planning for the event started 18 months before the tournament kicked off,” said Senior Account Director Joe Weston.

A content bible was created divided into three categories: Planned, Anticipated, and Reactive. With this in place, the team created over 1,000 pieces of dedicated content featuring over 100 players from around the world, ready to use reactively when prepared scenarios played out on the pitch.

This strategic approach allowed @adidasfootball to truly own the World Cup with 1.59 million brand mentions and 5.8 million fans added to global social channels.

Innovate and develop to keep ahead of the curve
“Each year, we look to improve and innovate what we do with digital,” said Alexandra Willis, Head of Communications, Social and Digital at Wimbledon. “The challenge with an annual event is that we only have two weeks to get it right.”

Every year Alexandra and her team develop their digital platforms to improve the way they cover the Championships. As well as connecting with fans around the world, these platforms have to stay true to the values of the competition and the All England Club, and the heritage that comes with it.

Wimbledon embraced Periscope and Snapchat during the 2015 tournament, bringing fans closer to the on and off court action. The team also analysed its global reach and created  content for  overseas markets, such as bespoke Japanese language Facebook posts. All of this helped to drive Wimbledon’s credentials as a truly global brand and connect with fans like never before.

Think like a fan to leverage your advantage
“Sponsors of major sporting events have an unfair advantage by default,” says Tom Richards, Senior Account Director at We Are Social. “As an official sponsor, MasterCard had access to tournament assets, exclusive content, use of branding and perks like being the name behind the Man of the Match awards.”

MasterCard wanted to become the most talked about brand in the 2015 Rugby World Cup. But it was up against other sponsors which were much more closely associated with the sport. With  little obvious relevance to on-pitch moments as a brand, the team had to think differently. They had to think like fans.

Tom and the team worked with MasterCard to execute a fan-centric campaign, picking the moments which would be most talked about, releasing content when it mattered the most and giving fans something to share without competing with sports media.

Harnessing a social insight can be a powerful thing
Behind every great campaign is a great social insight. That’s just what Sport England had before launching This Girl Can. Their research told them that fear of being judged was one main reason why women were less active in sport than men. This insight formed the basis of the campaign – the desire to change behaviour in order to have an impact on the health and wellbeing of the women in England.

In This Girl Can, Kate Dale and her team used the insights they found from in-depth research in the creative process. They harnessed the power of their insight to talk to people and spark not only conversation, but a change in habit. The results? 1.6m women have started to get back into sport.

Thanks to all of the speakers for talking us through some fantastic campaigns and getting us in the mood for the busy summer of sport ahead. Keep your eyes peeled for some first-class sports content on social this year.