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How The Players’ Tribune Is Expanding Its Global Impact

Earlier this year, The Players’ Tribune acquired global media company Unscriptd to expand its global reach. Now, it’s looking to leverage the platform.

Bailey Knecht

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Photo via The Players’ Tribune

In today’s media landscape, fans have more access to information on athletes than they did in the past. From athletes’ personal social media accounts, to brands like Uninterrupted, fans can easily get a peek into their favorite players’ lives both on and off the court or field.

Over the past four years, The Players’ Tribune has strived to be at the forefront of that athlete-driven media, allowing athletes to tell their stories of trial and triumph firsthand.

Now, the brand is expanding its reach, having recently acquired Unscriptd, a global athlete media and technology company. The deal will afford more opportunities to athletes to generate their own content and engage with fans.

“We’re always exploring new tools and services to better serve the athlete community,” said Jeff Levick, CEO of The Players’ Tribune. “The acquisition allows us to diversify our content and distribution models as we scale our business, which means more ways we can help athletes create content, increase engagement and inspire others.”

READ MORE: SeatGeek Knows It Has to be More Than a Consumer Brand

With offices in Barcelona, New York City, London and Australia, Unscriptd enables athletes to publish their own content and boost their personal brand, as well as that of commercial partners.

Thanks to Unscriptd’s pre-existing community of global athletes, the deal will help double the number of athletes in The Players’ Tribune community, all in the hopes of reaching a more diverse audience.

“We will be adding more than 2,500 global athletes to our existing community as well as bringing on various roles to support the integration of Unscriptd onto the TPT platform,” Levick said. “Additionally, the acquisition will allow us to further diversify our content and breadth of sports represented on our platform, giving us the opportunity to connect with new fans and partners from all over the world.”

With those new athletes comes an expanded list of sports represented on the platform — including global football, Australian rules football, surfing, tennis, cricket, track and field, and rugby.

To keep up with these additions, The Players’ Tribune is adding to its global repertoire with multilingual content and a focus on video.

“We have a team of editors abroad who will use the same fundamental blueprint we developed in the U.S., which is partnering with athletes and providing a high-quality approach to content production as well as a platform in which they can tell their stories in a unique and authentic way,” Levick said. “Global content will be multilingual, with an elevated emphasis on video to further complement our powerful and signature written storytelling pieces.”

The platform will also take advantage of Unscriptd’s signature mobile technology to launch an invite-only app exclusively for The Players’ Tribune athlete community called The Players’ Post. The app will allow the athletes to manage their own creation and distribution of content, right to their personal social media accounts.

“The Players’ Post will use industry-leading technology to more efficiently manage an athlete’s content,” Levick said. “It will serve as a single source for content submissions, approvals and distribution. It will streamline the process so athletes can publish content simultaneously to social channels, TPT and partner channels — all in one click.”

The changes come at an important time for The Players’ Tribune. According to Forbes, the company has doubled its revenue each year, but it has not yet turned a profit. The deal allows the platform an opportunity for growth, as well as the ability to keep up with the shifting media landscape.

READ MORE: Bulls Strive to Digitally Innovate While Honoring Their Past

“We want to continue to reimagine the world of sports and entertainment through the players’ points of view and expand our unique way of connecting players to fans through as many platforms as possible,” Levick said. “Creating immersive content that brand and strategic partners want to support will always be a focus. Experiential and original content development are also areas we’ll be putting a larger emphasis on.”

Between the shift to video and the embrace of global expansion, The Players’ Tribune is making a clear push to be at the top of the athlete-driven content game. Even with the changes, though, the company will continue to stick to its original goal of helping athletes tell their stories in a way that can’t be found anywhere else.

“It’s important that athletes have a platform they can trust,” Levick said. “Athletes see the value not only in controlling their own narrative, but also in having a place where they feel comfortable enough to open up and be honest about topics important to them — from personal issues, sports-related issues and social issues. It’s led to richer and more substantive storytelling, and that’s why both athletes and fans come to TPT.”

Bailey Knecht is a Northeastern University graduate and has worked for New Balance, the Boston Bruins and the Northeastern and UMass Lowell athletic departments. She covers media and marketing for Front Office Sports, with an emphasis on women's sports and basketball. She can be contacted at bailey@frntofficesport.com.

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NBA, Instagram and New Era Deliver Shoppable Championship Moment

As Instagram expands into e-commerce, it’s teaming up with the NBA and New Era to offer fans the opportunity to buy officially licensed championship gear.

Michael McCarthy

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Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Sports fans are most likely to open their wallets and make an impulse purchase after their team wins a championship. As Instagram expands into e-commerce, it’s teaming up with the NBA and New Era to offer either Golden State Warriors or Toronto Raptors fans the opportunity to buy officially licensed championship gear as they’re popping champagne.

Here’s how the digital “tap to shop” promotion will work: The minute the buzzer sounds ending the 2019 NBA Finals, Instagram will instantly offer a $50 cap/t-shirt bundle for the winning team via New Era. The combo will be exclusively available on Instagram for 24 hours after the game’s conclusion. After that, the gear may go on sale at NewEraCap.com.

The 37.7 million followers of Instagram’s NBA account just have to tap on the post for details, then tap again to buy. Instead of being sent elsewhere they can handle the entire purchase within the app.

As the “authentic cap” of the NBA, New Era is currently selling Warriors/Raptors hats emblazoned with the gold “2019 NBA Finals” logo. The NBA, Instagram and Fanatics offered a similar “shoppable moment” after the Warriors won the Western Conference Finals.

“As the Authentic Cap of the NBA, we’re excited to honor the championship team with the official New Era Authentics: Championship Series Cap and Team Celebratory Tee Bundle exclusively available through the NBA’s Instagram,” says John Connors, New Era’s director of basketball. “This partnership gives us an opportunity to reach fans and provide them with product that helps them celebrate their team’s NBA championship.”

Paige Cohen, a spokeswoman for Instagram’s tech communications, notes fans “want to be part of” the winning team’s celebration. “They shop the gear, they get all decked out,” Cohen says. 

Cohen has a point, according to sports retail expert Mike May. Capitalizing on the thrill of victory can create a “financial windfall for those who have the right product at the right time.”

It can even inspire couch potatoes to put down the clicker and play the sport they’re watching on TV.

“When (fans) emotions are high there’s often a disconnect between common sense and spending — and spending just takes over,” says May, who consults for PHIT America. “It’s an interesting day and age that we live in. It gets faster. The immediacy of Instagram just adds to the festivities — and the spending.”

READ MORE: Canadian Craze Carrying NBA Finals Viewership

Instagram and New Era previously partnered with the NFL to offer a digital shopping experience during the 2019 Draft in Nashville.

The ceremonial act of young college football stars putting on the cap of their new NFL teams has become part of the NFL Draft day ritual. A photographer shot photos of the players in their New Era caps. The photos were shared to the NFL’s Instagram account, complete with shopping tags, driving fans to NFLShop.com. The caps sold for $30 to $38.

The NBA can tap into a huge pool of hoops fans on social media. The NBA’s Instagram account boasts the most followers of any pro league account. The account has drawn 11.8 billion views, and 1.3 billion engagements, this season alone. And Instagram’s new role as a digital mall keeps growing.

In March, the social media giant launched a “Checkout on Instagram” button that enables users to shop and buy products without leaving the app. Users enter their name, email, billing information and shipping address.

Over 1 billion people use Instagram every month, according to Hootsuite, with 500 million on the platform every day. Roughly 60% utilize Instagram to discover new products.

READ MORE: NBA and Twitter Team Up to Bring “Virtual Sports Bar” to Life

Sam Farber, the NBA’s vice president of digital media, said the Finals offer the league an opportunity to “test innovative initiatives” during its biggest event of the year.

With the Raptors leading the Warriors 3-2 in the NBA Finals, the series returns to Oakland for Game 6 Thursday night. If the Warriors survive, the Finals moves to Toronto for Game 7 Sunday night.

“We’re excited to partner with both Instagram and New Era to bring exclusive merchandise to fans in a new way.”

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Stanley Pup Correspondent Fetches New Fans for NBC Sports & NHL

According to NBC Sports, the Stanley Pup campaign has had more than 18 million impressions this postseason.

Ian Thomas

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Photo Credit: NHL

The multiple-month grueling road to the Stanley Cup Final annually catches the attention of the sports world. This year, one of the most dogged chroniclers of that journey has helped the league gain even more traction – Sunny, the Stanley Pup correspondent.

The idea for a Stanley Pup correspondent was the brainchild of Matt Ziance, manager of consumer engagement at NBC Sports. After seeing the way that Sunny, a labrador and guide dog in training, had captivated audiences as the official Today Show puppy, the idea of having a dog being a continued part of the network’s coverage of the NHL playoffs was spawned.

“Each year during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we’re always searching for new, organic ways to stand out in our overall marketing messaging,” Ziance said. “While looking at successful campaigns across our properties, we saw a strong connection between our fan base and utilizing puppies in our campaigns.”

That led NBC Sports to incorporate the Stanley Pup across its broadcasts and social posts on a weekly basis. Across the playoffs, Sunny traveled more than 10,000 miles across the country while attending games in Boston, Denver, San Jose and St. Louis, as well as appearing at the network’s studios in Stamford, Connecticut – creating unique content while also finalizing his guide dog training by working in high-volume areas and new surroundings.

That content has been a boon for NBC Sports, the NHL and the reach of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. According to NBC Sports, the Stanley Pup campaign has had more than 18 million impressions this postseason across collaborations with The TODAY Show, the NHL, the We Rate Dogs Twitter account and the Guide Dog Foundation – an audience that includes many who are connecting to the Stanley Cup and the NHL in a new way.

Dan Palla, director of consumer engagement marketing at NBC Sports, said the network spends significant time in the build up to the launch of the playoffs each year thinking of “every single way we can make the Stanley Cup Playoffs bigger than it has been before.”

“The tagline we use is ‘there is nothing like playoff hockey’ – there is an inherent truth to that and every hockey fan knows that,” Palla said. “It’s also about growing the game and making the Stanley Cup Playoffs resonate off the ice, and thinking of new ways to draw people into the compelling games and the culture.”

Palla said when he first heard of the idea of bringing Sunny onto the hockey team, he said “it’s hard not to smile when you think of a Stanley Pup correspondent – we knew it was an opportunity to bring hockey to audiences in a different way that felt like a shot worth taking.”

The NBC Sports team worked with the Today Show staff to understand what worked well with Sunny in terms of content, as well as with the Guide Dog Foundation to ensure that the experience would also be beneficial to Sunny’s training.

READ MORE: Like Novak Djokovic’s Outfit? NBCUniversal Wants To Help You Buy It

The ability to capture hockey-related content with Sunny has allowed the two NBCUniversal programs to have cross-company promotion on-air as well as on social media, while also having hockey content reach new audiences. For example, the Stanley Pup correspondent was featured on the popular We Rate Dogs Twitter account, which has more than eight million followers. That also helped spark user-generated content coming from hockey fans and dog lovers alike on how their own ‘Stanley Pups’ were enjoying the playoffs.

Palla said NBC Sports has made it “mission critical” to help raise awareness of the sport and the NHL outside of the traditional ways of marketing hockey, something that he thinks has helped viewership. The NHL 2018-2019 regular season averaged 424,000 viewers across NBC Sports’ TV and digital platforms, up 2% from the previous year.

Both Palla and Ziance said the network has been thrilled with Sunny’s contribution to this year’s playoffs. While Sunny is now leaving the NBCUniversal family to become a full-time guide dog, Ziance said the idea of another future Stanley Pup Correspondent is something the network will consider not only for the 2020 playoffs, but potentially for the regular season as well.

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Twitter Doesn’t Want Sports Rights

Front Office Sports

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*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

You can count out at least one social media company from the TV sports rights game. 

According to Max Mason of The Australian Financial Review, the company is not interested in battling for major sports rights, but wants to partner with rights holders, such as TV broadcasters, to extend their audiences and bring in more money.

Friend, not foe…

While Twitter does have deals to broadcast games on its platform with leagues like the WNBA, NWHL and more, the goal for the platform is not to be a linear TV broadcaster.

“The way that we’re approaching our business and our partnerships in the space is not to compete with rights holders. I don’t want to be a linear television broadcaster.” – Kay Madati, Twitter’s vice-president and global head of content partnerships

Bigger together…

Instead of competing with one another, Madati and Twitter want to serve as a way for traditional linear broadcasters to be able to amplify their content and drive new revenue.

“We’re here to make those events bigger by marrying the conversation that happens on our platform around those things. We’re here to actually come to them and say ‘we can make your event, your investment in this property that much bigger and that much better’.” – Kay Madati

More video is good for Twitter…

According to Mason, video has become the dominant source of revenue for Twitter, comprising 50% of money coming in.

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