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How the Winnipeg Jets Tell their Story in Midst of Historic Year

With a renewed dedication to its digital voice, the rewards have matched the commitment.

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The Jets have relied on a commitment to digital storytelling to boost their online brand, (Imagine via NHLJets on IG)

*Team Infographics is a Proud Partner of FOS 

In 1996, hockey fans in Winnipeg, Manitoba watched as their beloved professional hockey team, the Jets, was relocated to Arizona before winning an NHL playoff series. The region kept their passion for the sport, however, all through the NHL’s absence until 2011 when Atlanta’s franchise was relocated to Winnipeg. Now in 2018, that passion is on full display after the Jets’ defeated Minnesota in the opening round and continue their march through the playoffs.

There to capture the energy and fervor of Jets fans and the team they cheer for has been the organization’s digital team, led by True North Sports + Entertainment’ Director of Digital Andrew Wilkinson.

“We’re the smallest market in the NHL, but we have always had some of the loudest and most passionate fans in the league,” Wilkinson explains. “Obviously losing our NHL team in ’96 left a mark on our community (including myself) but it has been amazing to not only see how this city has been reinvigorated with the return of NHL hockey but to also have a key role in helping write this new chapter. There is a storied history of hockey in this city and it has been thrilling to not only see how our longtime fans have embraced the team since its return in addition to welcoming the new generations of Jets fans to be a part of it. We’re fortunate in that we don’t have to encourage our fans to show their passion for our team, most of the time our goal is to amplify what they’re doing already and show the world how great the city and our fans are.”

The intensity of Winnipeg hockey fans has been personified in the Jets’ social content all throughout the season and especially in their playoff slogan: “We Are Winnipeg”.

“Our slogan is really meant to speak to the pride that we all have in the city and that we’re proud of who we are, where we live and the values that we and the team embody,” said Wilkinson. “And you can clearly see that in our fans and how they consistently communicate that.”

It has also become a tradition for Winnipeg fans to whiteout the arena (and now street party) in order to show a collective unity while adding an intimidation factor to visiting teams. The white is also meant to match the aesthetic of the snowy weather that is common during Manitoba winters. This look has also beautifully bled over into the Jets’ digital presence.

“From its start in 1987, the Winnipeg Whiteout has really taken on a life of its own and it’s a tradition the city revels in,” added Wilkinson. “Fans dress in the most outlandish, fun, crazy outfits they can find or make that incorporates an element of white into it. We’ve seen everything from people wearing polar bear suits, wedding dresses, and everything in between, you name it and a fan has probably thought of it. We love to see their creativity.”

No shortage of white at the #WPGWhiteout Street Party!

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On the same level as the fans, Wilkinson and Social Media Manager John Delaney have made sure that the city of Winnipeg itself has remained a star in the heat of the Jets’ exposure by highlighting fan events throughout the city including the official street parties that have seen as many fans cheering the team on outside the arena as inside.

Strong video content is a big reason why since the start of the 2018 season, despite being the smallest market in the NHL, the Jets are in the top five growth rates for the league on both Facebook (3) [+3.32%] and Instagram (5) [+14.89%], and the top five interaction rates for Instagram (4) [3.01%] compared to the other 30 teams in the league.

This is also thanks in part to a stronger emphasis on pre and post-game live shows produced by Director of Hockey Content Ryan Dittrick and his JetsTV team.

This live content recently peaked in game five of round one vs the Minnesota Wild at 64,000 viewers of their post-game show. That number jumps to 98,000 when you include the pre and post-game show for game five. The Jets stream these shows through WinnipegJets.com, the teams Mobile App, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages.

Since expanding their digital team to include people like Delaney as well as shifting their strategic focus, the Jets’ numbers across all of these platforms have reaped the benefits.

“Our focus has really been quality over quantity,” said Wilkinson. “We saw the changes in a lot of the algorithms of the mediums and we made a conscious effort to focus on the quality of what we’re putting out there and making sure that whatever we did we were measuring and making sure that it was content that was overperforming. A lot of the credit also has to go to Creative Services Director Josh Dudych and his team who continually create amazing looking still and motion graphics that are true to our brand and marketing campaigns.”

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The Jets have a renewed devotion to their Twitter voice as well.

“With Twitter, we’ve always had the same goals and we’ve tried to stay true to our voice. We always want that voice to be fun, positive, and authentic. We realize that we are in a hockey market that is very knowledgeable of the sport so we always want to make sure that we were authentic in our approach to it,” said Wilkinson. “Our challenge, like most teams, is balancing professionalism and being humble while finding opportunities to add personality where we can as we know that’s what many fans enjoy. That’s something we’ve really focused on this season, to add a little more playfulness into our account and John has been great with walking that line.”

To add to that authenticity, for the Jets WE ARE WINNIPEG playoff campaign they incorporated some locally born influencers to get fans excited about the start of the Playoffs and grow their social audience, including WWE wrestler Chris Jericho, musicians like Tom Cochrane and Chantal Kreviazuk as well as Amazing Race Canada Host and Olympic Gold Medalist Jon Montgomery. This has included video messages and tweets in support of the team as they continue their march through the playoffs.

While the Jets are now able to continue their social growth with a full creative services team, they turned to Team Infographics (TI) in years past in order to create and maintain a consistent brand image for themselves.

Team Infographics was great to work with. They were very open to marrying our brand and all the elements of it into the templates that they made for us. They were very open to feedback as we evolved, and that makes you feel comfortable using them as an extension of your team and brand,” said Wilkinson. “At the time, we had a very small digital content team who didn’t have a lot of time or experience with creative graphics from scratch, so TI allowed our team to be able to do that as part of their daily routine without having that background. We also knew that any challenges that would come up, they were very quick to be there to support us.”

As the Jets get set to face Nashville in the second round, fans in Winnipeg and all over Manitoba and Canada continue to rejoice as their perseverance is rewarded for the years without a team and struggles to get deeper into the postseason. As young digital professionals all over the world continue to work toward their dream jobs in sports, Wilkinson reminds them that perseverance pays off.

“I find there is not always a lot of opportunities open in sports compared to other industries because I think individuals that end up in these roles have a deep passion for sports and don’t always want to leave once they are in. For those that can get a foot in the door in any organization I would encourage them to put in the time, continue to learn from those around you, and earn the trust and respect of their colleagues by being willing to do whatever needs to be done as working in sports isn’t as glamorous as some think And most importantly, remember to have fun, even on those 14 hr. days with multiple deadlines and pressures I try and always remind myself how lucky I am to get to be working for such a great organization and in sports.”

Follow the Jets on all social platforms as they continue their playoff run @NHLJets.  

*Team Infographics is a Proud Partner of FOS

Joe is currently a freelance marketing professional, writer, and podcaster. His work can also be found on the SB Nation network. Joe earned his bachelor's degree in communications from the University of Louisville in 2014 and a master's degree in sport administration from Seattle University in 2017. He can be reached via email at joe@frntofficesport.com.

Digital Media

Bleacher Report’s New Revenue Streams Showcase Publishers Capabilities Beyond Its Digital Walls

After a successful 2018, Bleacher Report has plans to continue to leverage the power of its platform to drive revenue in unique ways.

Adam White

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Like many publishers in today’s media landscape, events have become a key way for Bleacher Report to create additional monetization opportunities for partners, as well as new ways to bring a brand that is inherently digital, into the physical world.

Hosting six events in 2018, the strategy behind the events was finding ways to capitalize on the biggest sports moments of the year.

Their latest event, while somewhat in the “pop-up” side of things, is an opportunity for fans as well as influencers to connect in real life over their love of Kicks.

Finding success with the events they hosted in 2018, Ed Romaine, B/R’s Chief Brand Officer, sees events going forward for the publisher falling into two separate categories: editorial driven and partner-driven.

Their last event of the year, B/R Kicks x The Drop Up, is an example of what an editorial-driven event for the brand looks like.

Spun out of the event, B/R will launch “The Pre Heat” and “Sneaker Shock,” two new content editorial franchises that will be connected to this celebration with seamless values of giving fans experiences that they normally wouldn’t get the opportunity to get their hands on.

“Our tentpole franchise events like this will remain in 2019, but I think you will see us do more advertiser-driven events that are based on in-store retail opportunities,” said Romaine.

READ MORE: Bleacher Report Takes Next Step in Evolution With B/REAL

Executing opportunities like this are what Romaine credits to B/R being able to see revenue growth up over 44 percent year over year. It’s also part of how media companies like B/R are finding ways to diversify their revenue in an age of digital ad dollars being dominated by the likes of Google, Amazon, and Facebook.

“All content providers now are tasked with being a solution center for people who invest in them. Whether it is through media agencies or through client direct buys. Being a 360-degree solution for partners like Levi’s has helped us win business that we probably wouldn’t have been able to win.”

What exactly did B/R do this year to grow its revenue in new ways outside of events? Romaine points to multiple key initiatives, including thought-leadership capabilities and a newly established influencer marketing platform called “B/R Squad.”

Through the thought leadership platform, B/R has worked with different companies and brands in the industry build custom solutions to pressing research or industry questions that they are having trouble answering.

All of the new initiatives come down to one thing according to Romaine: staying competitive.

“I think if any content provider wants to be competitive, then they need to have a comprehensive set of solutions that they have in the marketplace that people can tap into.”

BR Kicks - Bleacher Report - Sports - Revenue

With the “Drop Up” and events like it going into the future, Romaine is most excited about B/R being able to build out opportunities that focus more on cultural moments and not just sports moments.

“I’m excited about the ‘Drop Up’ because it’s the second time that we’ve expanded beyond just the sports moment and started focusing in on the journalistic culture moments that we’re creating throughout the calendar year. Where you’ll see an evolution from us or where you’ll see a more comprehensive set of events will actually come more from the editorial vision that we continue to dig into.”

While being a media company in 2018 has its challenges, B/R is an example of what can happen when you are able to leverage the attention that you have on your brand.

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Digital Media

How College Football Teams Celebrate Bowl Eligibility on Social Media

Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and FIU offered a handful of examples on how social media departments can capitalize when their football teams become bowl eligible.

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Vanderbilt celebrated their bowl eligibility with a slick graphic. (Image via Vanderbilt)

At the start of every college football season, one of the main goals of most FBS teams is to reach a bowl game. These high-stakes events are not only a chance for the program to accrue more revenue, but players get one more chance to compete on the field while fans have one more opportunity to see their team before preparations for the new season begin.

In many cases, the excitement from a team qualifying for such a game can provide inspiration for great graphics and social content. Teams like the Vanderbilt Commodores all over the nation churned out striking posts on Twitter celebrating that all-important sixth victory that qualifies teams for bowl eligibility.

That win kicked off a host of festivities centered around the Commodores getting to a bowl, which, in turn, provided the digital team with even more chances to make content.

While reaching bowl-eligible status is an achievement that on its own is worth celebrating for many teams, some programs have the opportunity to celebrate a streak of consecutive years achieving this milestone.

READ MORE: ‘Ask Amelia’ Puts Customer Service in the Palm of Fans

Wake Forest, for example, celebrated its team reaching bowl eligibility for three straight seasons. This was just the second time in school history that the Demon Deacons were able to do this.

Assistant Director of Athletic Communications Dan Wallace explained the specific design elements and parts of the school’s expansive style guide (which recently underwent a rebrand) that went into creating these graphics.

“The black and white was something that we’ve been using for a lot of the score graphics this season. For a couple of years, we really put a lot of emphasis on using the black backgrounds; so this year, we went with the white backgrounds instead. Now, you look at the content going out on our social media accounts all year and you will see a very similar theme. From there, we try to use certain elements that can make each one unique, but still you can recognize that it’s a Wake Forest graphic when it comes out.”

The Demon Deacons now know that they will face the Memphis Tigers in the Birmingham Bowl on December 22.

In the final weekend of the season, many teams learn their fate in terms of going to a bowl game or not. Some programs, however, learned specifically which event they would be attending immediately following the game. This was the case with the Florida International University Panthers, who discovered they would be heading south for the Bahamas Bowl.

FIU Athletics Director of Marketing Scott Yogodzinski explained the thought process behind the design of the announcement posts for the Panthers’ bowl game on December 21 against Toledo.

READ MORE: Will Snapchat Still Be Useful in 2019?

“We wanted to make it look bright and tropical-looking. We’re in Miami — already somewhat of a tropical climate anyway — but we just wanted to push that this is a reward for our team. We have eight wins this year for the second year in a row and just the third time in the program’s history. This bowl is a reward for achieving that.”

Through these specific examples, it’s clear that bowl games can provide a university’s social media department plenty of extra opportunities to drive brand awareness and showcase immense creativity.

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MLB Network Completing the Cycle Towards Opening Day With Winter Meetings

Baseball’s iconic network continues to roll out fresh content throughout the off season starting with the annual Winter Meetings

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There truly is no offseason in the sports world.

For Major League Baseball, the offseason is a chance to fine-tune rosters, revamp on-field protocol, and solidify new strategies and areas of focus heading into the next season. No event plays a bigger role in this than the Baseball Winter Meetings.

Held in Las Vegas from December 9-13, the 2018 Baseball Winter Meetings provide an opportunity for club managers and general managers from throughout the league to congregate. Player signings, potential trade deals, and shuffling young prospects through the farm system are all topics for discussion.

Former Colorado Rockies general manager and current MLB Network studio analyst Dan O’Dowd has leaned on his former experience in the majors when talking to current team officials. He noted that there is a certain energy to the Winter Meetings that makes it a distinct event from the rest of the offseason.

“It is the one time a year where the baseball cycle doesn’t stop for an entire week,” said O’Dowd. “Everybody in the game gathers under one roof to talk baseball.”

With teams sending their lineups of general managers and roster decision-makers to the meetings, the goal of the Winter Meetings is to help ensure that each team’s roster takes shape. Agents, on behalf of individual players, meet with team executives as contracts are negotiated and terms are discussed.

READ MORE: Transmit.Live Sees Future With Live Streaming Tech

“Clubs talk amongst each other but there is a bit of competitive tension,” said O’Dowd. “Every club has suites within the hotel where they talk strategy and meet with agents. With personnel sometimes traveling from one side of the hotel to another to meet with various representatives and clubs, it is usually a flurry of activity.”

In today’s social media landscape, news is breaking at a record pace, ultimately allowing MLB Network to share that news to the baseball world.

“For general managers, it is very difficult to contain their plans regarding free agents and trades,” said O’Dowd. “It is more about controlling the outcome as it will find its way into the media one way or another. Everyone is looking for news.”

Due to the amount of breaking news and storylines to keep fans updated on, MLB Network utilizes a full crew and new show segments to keep the public engaged. With over 45 hours of live, on-site programming from the beginning of the Winter Meetings to the end, there is plenty of content for fans to digest.

From live coverage provided by Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci amongst others, to interviews with managers and insight into club strategy with O’Dowd, Dan Plesac, and the rest of the MLB Network crew, there is no shortage of communication and planning that goes into the day-to-day operations for the media outlet.

“Our team is excited to get to Las Vegas to cover the Winter Meetings,” said Dave Patterson, SVP, MLB Network Production. “The adrenaline of our analysts and production staff will be pumping for four straight days because the next big transaction could come at any time from any club. We’ll be on our toes and ready to change direction at a moment’s notice.”

What’s new this year? Coverage of the Winter Meetings across all of MLB’s media platforms will be presented by the advisory, assurance and tax firm CohnReznick. As part of the collaboration, MLB Network will produce a new series, “Business of Baseball.”

The series will go in-depth within the issues that surround clubs both on and off the field. The first episode of the series will begin on Saturday, December 8 at 8:00 p.m. ET and feature general managers Alex Anthopoulos (Atlanta Braves), Rick Hahn (Chicago White Sox), Dayton Moore (Kansas City Royals), and Mike Rizzo (Washington Nationals) whilst being moderated by O’Dowd and MLB Network host Brian Kenny.

“During filming, there was such authentic communication amongst the managers,” said O’Dowd. “Those guys were so transparent with their thoughts when we were discussing topics that were not easy to be so vocal about. We talked for over two and a half hours discussing everything from analytics to general manager/club manager relationships.”

MLB Network’s content doesn’t stop after the Winter Meetings either. Directly after the conclusion of the meetings, MLB Network Presents will roll out with its latest program, “Eck: A Story of Saving.” Hosted by Bob Costas, the original series, which launched in January 2015, covers some of the most iconic moments and players of baseball from MLB Network’s own unique lens.

Weekday programming staples such as “Hot Stove,” “High Heat with Christopher Russo,” “MLB Now,” “Intentional Talk,” and “MLB Tonight” will continue to provide expert analysis and captivating debates throughout the offseason.

And with the start of the new year marking MLB Network’s 10-year anniversary since its debut, content will reflect the best of what the network has to offer. The “Top 10 Right Now!” series returns for its ninth season after the new year. The series, which ranks the top MLB players at each position, will be followed by the six-part series “Top 100 Players Right Now!” which reveals the pecking order of the best players in the game.

READ MORE: Through New Company, Former Pitcher Hopes to Change Baseball

While there will be plenty of discussion highlighting today’s elite players, MLB Network will also take time to honor baseball’s greats as it announces the results of the 2019 National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot on Tuesday, January 22. The network will also air the first interviews with the new electees. This will transition into the start of spring training and the beginning of another edition of regular-season coverage.

MLB Network certainly keeps busy throughout the year; highlighting the build-up towards the playoffs and breaking down highlights throughout the postseason and World Series are staples of its programming. Yet, the network has continued to keep fans informed of offseason headlines, roster reshuffling, and new content to surely fill the craving as we look towards Opening Day.

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