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How the Big Ten Network is Leveraging Tech to Drive Social Engagement

Adam White



The network has used opendorse to deliver over 28.5 million impressions and 199,000 engagements with athlete-driven content since 2016.

A look at one of BTN’s production trucks. (Photo via

Over the course of the last decade, the rise of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have impacted nearly every part of our day-to-day lives.

From phone cases equipped with selfie lights, to people going viral because they did it for the Gram’, social media has helped build brands and in some cases build massive followings for individuals.

No area might this be more true than sports.

Athletes like Lebron James, Steph Curry, Conor McGregor and even Tom Brady have social followings bigger than some countries, and brands, seeing the potential, want in on the action.

Not only have brands been able to see the ROI, but now rights holders such as the Big Ten Network are finding the value in being able to use the social channels of their former Big Ten collegiate stars to help drive engagement on social and tune-in via their linear and streaming distribution channels.

Having run campaigns with the likes of Frank Kaminsky, Draymond Green, Melvin Gordon and Ameer Abdullah, BTN has utilized its partnership with opendorse, the Lincoln, Nebraska-based athlete marketing platform, to deliver over 28.5 million impressions and 199,000 engagements with athlete-driven content since 2016.

“I think I may have seen a story or reference to opendorse and I ultimately got in contact with Derek and we started talking,” said Jordan Maleh, Director, Digital Marketing & Communications, Big Ten Network. “I was always a big fan of the company especially when it comes to influencer marketing and we gave it a shot when the first deal went out during the Big Ten Basketball tournament in March of 2016.”

Since then, both parties have grown alongside each other, something Maleh credits to the overall success of their campaigns.

“We were able to get in early and get feedback from fans and followers when it came to what the reactions would be to posts with #ad and #sponsored. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

As a rights holder, BTN is in a unique spot because of the high-quality content they can distribute to the athletes they do deals with.

“That is why it works for us. We are talking about a super targeted and super focused athlete and audience,” added Maleh. “As a rights holder, that is the beauty.”

While finding the right platform to leverage might be half the battle, if the quality of content isn’t up to the standards the players and stars have set for their personal feeds, adoption rates for this kind of technology can suffer.

Luckily, quality content is the last thing BTN has to worry about.

“From our end, the fact that it is so targeted and that the content can bring that nostalgia back for the athlete and their fans is really why the adoption and engagement is so high,” said Maleh in reference to having the ability to distribute their own content through the channels of athletes.

As social media has continued to evolve Maleh and his team see these types of campaigns as an overall media buy and not just a one-off piece of content.

Much of this has to do with the ability for social teams, including Maleh’s, to leverage paid social and the power that it has in extending the “bump” of a piece of quality content beyond the 2–3 hour “bump” a typical organic piece of content has.

“Our sweet spot has been and is Twitter. What I value from the Twitter perspective is that we can go in and promote it. We are asking opendorse to whitelist an athlete so we not only get the organic bump, but also the promoted bump that can extend the relevance of the content for 24–48 hours.”

Being a rights holder, BTN uses its socials channels to not only distribute content, but drive app downloads, linear tune-in and digital streaming, all three of which rely heavily on paid social to help hit key KPIs.

“From our end, we already have a heavy paid presence,” added Maleh. “We’re a network so we are hopefully driving viewership, streaming and app downloads. Our paid campaigns have ranged heavily in all three of those verticals.”

“There’s a high volume of organic content we distribute on a daily cadence, but when it comes to social paid media, our messaging will look and feel different than our organic content in order to better reach a targeted audience.”-Jordan Maleh, Director, Digital Marketing & Communications, Big Ten Network

Whether it has been running a campaign to promote BTN Tailgate or hype up fans surrounding March Madness, opendorse has played a key role in the social strategy of Maleh and his team.

“It has been fun. When we mention opendorse here, people have become more comfortable with it and understanding what they do as a company and because of that have become more intrigued by the concept.”

This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.

Front Office Sports is a leading multi-platform publication and industry resource that covers the intersection of business and sports.

Want to learn more, or have a story featured about you or your organization? Contact us today.

Adam is the Founder and CEO of Front Office Sports. A University of Miami Alum, Adam has worked for opendorse, the Fiesta Bowl, and the University of Miami Athletic Department. He can be reached at

Digital Marketing

A New Chapter

Front Office Sports



Why our new look is more than just a look.

Starting today, the old round logo with the briefcase, the baseball, the football, and the basketball will become part of our past, serving as inspiration for what we have done, and what we aim to become.

In its place, we bring to the table a new look just over six months in the making, and one we believe represents the ethos of our brand, and most importantly, the ethos of the community of professionals that have allowed us to have some success while getting to this point.

The Past

Anchoring our brand for the last three years was our black and white circle with big bubbly letters, and a nod to the intersection of sports and business with the briefcase and ball mix.

As we grew up, it helped us shape an identity in the industry as well as unique color scheme that no one else was using. When designing it with my friend Andrew, I asked for clean, recognizable, and different. He delivered on all three.

It will be tough to say goodbye to a mark that was synonymous with setting the tone in how we would engage on social media, how we would make our content insightful and fresh, and how we would build a community around the brand that we now cherish.

It’s amazing how far a logo that cost $40 dollars to design can take you, but oftentimes it’s not solely about what the logo looks like, and more about what it stands for.

The Making of Our New Logo

After three years of the old logo, we felt it was time for us to make a change. A change that people could see and feel as part of our evolution as a brand.

We reached out to numerous professionals, sent surveys, and talked to our trusted close connections to get the answer to one question, “What does FOS mean to you?”

As those answers came in, we started to notice a trend, a trend that made it clear in the way we wanted to approach this.

The trend told us that most, if not everyone, saw FOS as a community over anything else.

Armed with that feedback, as well as some other things we had noticed, we got in touch with Centerfold Agency and told them that we were looking for a logo that paid homage to our old one, provided us with a crisp and professional feel and approach, and that created a deeper sense of community.

The first round of designs came with the above, as we both tried to feel each other out and see where we wanted this to go.

After round one, we settled on option three as the one we wanted to explore further. There was something about it, something that made us say, this could be it.

So, for round two, Centerfold presented us with the logo we have today alongside different font styles.

Whether it was something about the font styles or just being afraid of commitment so quickly, we turned down all of these options and asked Centerfold to give us a few more icon options to make sure we were certain with our choice going forward.

So, for round three, they took our feedback and came back to us with the following new icons.

We asked them to push the limit and they did. From a cryptocurrency looking mark, to ones that exude almost a motorsports feel, they gave us five different and unique options, but we still gravitated and found ourselves liking option one.

After the third and final round, we all huddled to make a choice. Were we going to go with one that was completely abstract and out of left field, or the one that we had been drawn to since the beginning because of what it represented in our mind.

As you can see, we went with the latter and we are so happy we did.

The Present and the Future

As we now head into the second half of our third year in business, we move forward with a new logo and typeface that we believe combines the best of our old logo, with the best of the feedback we received.

So, what does each aspect of the logo mean and why did we choose it to look as such?

Here’s why:

Beyond just being a cool logo (in our opinion at least), we wanted there to be a true meaning behind it and one that our audience can understand as soon as they see it, or read this.

Pushing forward through 2018, this new logo will set the standard for Front Office Sports as well as guide us when it comes to our new mission and vision statements.

Mission Statement:

To inspire collaborative and community-driven professional, personal, and industry-wide development.

Vision Statement:

To use impactful storytelling and content creation to empower and transform the sports business industry.

Front Office Sports has already exceeded what we wanted it to be and we can’t wait to see what comes next.

To all those who have been with us through the ups and downs, the shift from Wix, to Squarespace, to Medium and now to WordPress sometime this month, we can’t thank you enough for enjoying what we do, how we do it, and why we do it.

We look forward to continuing to serve you with the best content, insight and commentary possible, and as always, if there is anything we can do to make it better, drop us a line at (yeah, we are getting rid of the .org too).

From one #FOSquad member to the next, thank you!

— Adam White

Founder and CEO

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Digital Marketing

How The Jacksonville Jaguars Have Seized the Moment On Twitter



The Jags’ three person social team has relied on planning and preparation to keep the team on brand and in the conversation.

Image via @Jaguars on Twitter

Prior to this past weekend, most of the NFL world didn’t give the Jacksonville Jaguars much of a chance to reach the AFC Championship. To do so, they would have to defeat the six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers on the road.

But before that, the Jags won their first playoff game since 2007 on January 7th against the Buffalo Bills. To tell the story of such a pivotal moment in the history of the franchise, the social media team, led by Darnell Brady, were ready with their A-game.

“The first game was about how important it was to the city, our fans, and capturing that excitement and euphoria, especially for the die-hards (#DTWD),” explains Brady.

“It was our first home playoff game in over 18 years and we wanted to make sure it was as special for our fans as possible. We had no idea that coach was going to give the game ball to the fans and the city. It was a perfect moment that played into it our story line. Having our entire digital team for a home game allowed us to capture a ton of content.”

In the time between that first playoff win and their trip to Pittsburgh, most of the national media and the Steelers themselves wrote off Jacksonville completely. Many were already anticipating a matchup between Pittsburgh and defending champions New England.

This, along with it being an away game, changed how Brady and the Jaguars’ marketing team prepared for the second round battle.

“Against the Steelers, the story line changed early on in the week. We saw how much our fans and players felt disrespected by the media and the Steelers players. We knew that our digital team would be limited as I was the only one in Pittsburgh while the other 2 on our team (Carlos Olivera and Savanna Wood) would be back in Florida. Because of this, we made sure to prepare ahead of time for any scenario the game presented.”

The scenario presented was the Jaguars held on for a 45–42 win. As most social media managers would be, Brady was ready with content celebrating the victory. Additionally, all the doubt surrounding Jacksonville’s chances in the buildup to the game opened the door for another type of content: exposing cold takes. Brady and team were ready with this content as well.

The team’s official twitter posted a few tweets in the hours following the game calling out specific instances of people doubting that they could win in the first place. It was all part of the plan.

“Before we even arrived in Pittsburgh, we had 5 or 6 posts that some could categorize as sassy/petty planned for ‘if we win’. We had communicated exact details like creative and what tweet to quote-tweet to everyone. All content was planned ahead of time and nothing was out of nowhere.”

Several of Jacksonville’s players also took issue with how they were treated in the days before the game and made it known publicly. The marketing team let that energy feed into their social strategy.

“Our job on social is to tell the story of our team and our fan base. If our players and fans are talking about something, then we’re going to be talking about it. We were confident in the player to take care of business on the field.”

With situations like this in sport/marketing, clapping back at criticism with wit and clever replies can be a great way to gain traction on social media. But if it’s not done correctly, social media managers can end up creating a bad situation for themselves either because they open themselves up for criticism or their superiors may feel it doesn’t fit with the organization’s brand. The Jags’ social team has found that it’s all about reading the situation.

“Being petty isn’t something that we set out to be,” Brady states. “But if we feel that is the best way to reflect our team and fans, we’re not going to shy away.”

“The biggest key to give us confidence in it has been the internal communication. We have group texts, daily meetings, and email threads between our PR staff, digital staff, and most importantly senior leadership. It has been great to vet different ideas, brainstorm, and react quickly.”

Joe Centeno, art director at Team Infographics, has helped teams across college and professional sports implement winning social strategies in times of triumph and echoes this sentiment.

“It is ok to take a different approach after a win or loss. The Jaguars execution from this weekend shows that if everyone is on the same page and has planned accordingly, it can turn out great. Being ready is just part of it. So many pieces have to fall in place, that you need the support from everyone on your team.”

“The Jaguars also didn’t cross any lines, which I’m sure was part of the entire discussion when creating their game plan. For their team, I’m sure all the hard work leading up to game was well worth it.”

An aspect of how the Jaguars executed following the Pittsburgh win that especially worked for their brand was integrating an NFL partner (EA Sports) into a tweet calling out Steelers’ safety Mike Mitchell.

Brady describes why this was his favorite tweet of the weekend.

“The Madden one is my favorite because it perfectly tied in a partner with our social media. It was a post that not only went viral, but can help the larger monetary goals of the organization.”

In interviews following the win, Jacksonville’s players indicated that they aren’t yet satisfied with how far they have come and have intentions of winning the Super Bowl. As the team moves on to face New England, look for Brady and the Jaguars to continue their winning ways on social media as well.

“We don’t want to give too much away as we head to Boston, but we’re going to continue to make sure we understand our brand, our team, and our fan base in everything that we do. If we do that, plan ahead as much as possible, and communicate to maximize our resources, then we will continue to be successful both on and off the field.”

This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.

Team Infographics is a proud partner of Front Office Sports.

Front Office Sports is a leading multi-platform publication and industry resource that covers the intersection of business and sports.

Want to learn more, or have a story featured about you or your organization? Contact us today.

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Digital Marketing

What Facebook’s Changes Could Mean for Sports

Greg Esposito



The company’s decisions could impact the way social media professionals create and distribute content.

Facebook changes could impact how much content fans get from their favorite teams.

If Facebook were a country, its 1.37 billion daily users would make it the second-largest in the world behind only China. Also, if it were a country, its citizens would be bracing for a seismic shift in the way they are governed.

On Thursday night, the worst kept secret in social media was officially announced. According to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook will soon be “putting more emphasis on meaningful social interaction between people.” AKA, publishers, companies and other pages will soon see even less distribution of their content to those who like their pages than ever before. This is all being done under the guise of “the wellbeing of Facebook users” but you also can’t ignore the fact that it comes on the heels of the platform admitting that Russia used ads and well placed boosted content to try to influence the 2016 Presidential election.

As social media professionals, this means our jobs are about to again become even more difficult. The constant game of chess with Facebook’s, and now Instagram’s, algorithm will soon go from regular to three-dimensional. The size of your likes will matter even less than before and it will increasingly be about how well you can engage the small audience you will reach. The one benefit of working in sports is that there is a passion and desire built in that is rare in other industries.

The key to success will be being creative and dedicated enough to tap into that passion on a consistent basis. Gone are the days of simply posting a link or a video without a solid strategy, although, in fairness, those days should have been gone long ago for most in the industry.

Oh, or you could do what inevitability Facebook has been pushing content creators to do for years, pay to play. The reality of that, at least in my five years with the Suns, is that getting budget approved to promote content is next to impossible if your superiors at the highest levels don’t believe in the power of brand building. That leaves you with a small budget to promote sponsored content, another losing game if higher ups don’t believe in storytelling, or finding ways to defeat the algorithm.

But what if there were another way? What if Facebook stopped controlling what we see and let us get the content from the pages we’ve liked and the people we’ve chosen to let into our digital-circle?

I know it’s a pipe dream, but why does Zuckerberg and the powers that be at FB think they know better than we do about what we want and don’t want?

Why do they get to control the stories, posts, and photos we see? Does a mathematical code really know better than we do?

The simple and least sexy answer is, Facebook — like any company, regardless of what they say publically — is driven by one thing and one thing only: profits. The irony is, while acting as if they’re trying to protect us from foreign powers, they’re really taking a page out of their playbook. Controlling information and what people see is power and where the profit is. Facebook, in that sense, is far more dictatorial than democratic.

Unless there is a drastic and unlikely change of heart, we’ll have two options as content creators. Either migrate from the digital country we’ve called home for over a decade to a new and less used platform or find ways to create truly engaging content and build budgets to promote it. Unlike how you see content on Facebook, the choice is yours.

This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.

Front Office Sports is a leading multi-platform publication and industry resource that covers the intersection of business and sports.

Want to learn more, or have a story featured about you or your organization? Contact us today.

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