When I was younger I used to play a *lot* of Kick Off 2.

(side note, I was amazing at Kick Off 2.  My brother was terrible at Kick Off 2. Ignore anything he says to the contrary)

(side side note, Sensible Soccer was for people who couldn’t play Kick Off 2 properly)

Anyway, I used to play this game as it was a digital representation of real life football, a game in which I was obsessed.

But it strikes me that the relationship between football and video games has changed.  Kids now come to football via FIFA.  They get their player knowledge via FIFA.  They start supporting teams because they play with them a lot in FIFA. They have an expectation of what a football broadcast should look like, and the content it should have in it based on their experience of FIFA.

The game isn’t a representation of the sport – more the sport is a kind of cosplay for the game.

How are the football content and football media industries responding to this trend?


Defining the new normal

A lot of the supply side in the sports media industry relies on creating a new normal.

Take your regular run-of-the-mill football broadcast these days, and what you expect from it.  You’ll expect a certain level of statistical analysis, a certain level of graphical sheen, a certain amount of camera angles, a certain picture definition etc.

Each of these things that you take for granted was once an innovation – sold into the broadcast industry by the plethora of companies that exist up and down the value chain.

Innovate, sell in, normalise.  Repeat.

When I started at Opta back in 2009, we dreamed of the level of data analysis that we now take for granted becoming commonplace.  We used to talk about it in the office.  We knew if could be, we just needed some others to believe as much as we did.

And it happened gradually.  A small deal here, a freebie there, a growing and increasingly influential twitter account highlighting the fan’s appetite.  And then once one or two of the media guys, online and broadcast especially, started to use it, it got interesting to a critical mass.  And now, it’s the minimal viable standard for sports media, at least where data is concerned.  It’s completely and totally normal.  You’d question where it was if it was missing.

And the same happened on the graphics side with brilliant, innovative companies like RedBee, DeltaTre and VizRT all innovating, drip-feeding and hoping to become the new normal.  And the same happened with slow-mo cameras, and with online match centres, and iOS apps.  And so on and so forth.

So, what’s next?  Who knows?  But you can be sure that somewhere, in offices up and down the land, there are groups of people all helping to work out what the new normal will be, and working out how to convince others that they’re right.

Appointment too few?

Sport’s big thing, it’s big comfort blanket and safety net was that it was always the big ‘appointment to view’ TV?

As other markets fragmented and binge watching took over from TV scheduling, sport still had its kick off time.  The time where everyone would be sat, huddled round, all waiting for the action to start.

Other types of programming desperately tried to copy – X Factor, The Voice, etc all set themselves up like sport, with unmissable cup finals in which people were made to cry, Gazza style.  Appointment to view was the only way to make sure you could promise your partner brands that those eyeballs would be there, pointed at your advertising.

The opportunities for interruption marketing have been diminishing day on day.  The effectiveness of display advertising is poor, bordering on aaaargh.

So appointment to view was the thing.  And sport absolutely owned it.

But is this position diminishing?  Has the appointment changed from ‘the match’ to ‘the goal’ or ‘the piece of skill’.  Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, and fragmented media has allowed for the main bits of the appointment to extract themselves from the action and get to you anyway.  You don’t even need to attend your appointment to view to get to the best bits of the action these days.

Some of this is the rise of illegal clipping and sharing on social media, followed by the rights holders following suit by offering their own short form pieces of action.

But why sit through the whole 90 minutes if you’ll see all the goals seconds after they’ll happen?  The actual football is merely a distraction from the transfer rumours and the training ground nutmegs anyway. If you can see the best bits without having to even bother with watching the match, you can get back to doing some other stuff.  Or doing a lot of nothing.

So what’s the next step for live sport?  More content?  A more immersive viewing experience? VR? AR?  Who knows.

All I know is that the appointment may well becoming less and less a critical one to show up to.



Spontent Marketing

I’m a B2b marketer somewhat by accident.

Graduated with a standard marketing degree, scrapped my way into my first marketing job, then my second, then third, and so on.  And it happened to be that this path took me from educational marketing into a variety of B2b focused roles.

So, like many people I’ve had to learn somewhat on the job.  And more than a decade in I’m still learning.  It’s a fast moving space, and there is a lot to get your head round.

Over the last year or so I’ve become fascinated and obsessed by a missing link in B2b marketing – that of what I’m calling ‘sponsor content’ (spontent? no? sorry)

Like many B2b marketers, I’m also a buyer of services.  A money haemorrhaging cost-centre, some might argue.  Anyway, as part of this bit of my job, I’m often having to source services, compare suppliers, do due diligence and implement various tools.

This is all fine.  I can find excellent content assisting me with solving my problem, helping me to narrow down my supplier choice and advising me on what to do when I’m implementing the service itself.

But in 99% of the cases I’m doing a lot of this work myself, or someone in my team is.  I’ll be the one who understands that we need tool X to solve problem Y.  But it’ll be someone else that I need to get on board with signing the cheque to make it happen.  Often they’ll be happy using tool Z to muddle on with half-solving problem Y.  They won’t know any different.

So why don’t more B2b vendors help me make that case internally.  This isn’t “a sales guy will come in and present to a wider team”, this is more equipping me with tools to sell their service into my organisation.  The guys I need to convince (could be sales, the exec team, the HR team or a combination) don’t want to do your demo with you on the other end – but they’d listen to me.  Possibly.

So, B2b vendors, you’ve got me, you’re on my shortlist, I’ve followed your fancy content (look at you being all helpful and not at all salesy) and I’m sold on it.  I now want to click on a link that gives me a shit load of stuff that helps me make that case internally – without your involvement at this stage.

Let me demo your product to the stakeholders here.  Trust me to do that on your behalf, and equip me to do so.  It’ll be a damn sight easier to get a deal done if you let me be your sponsor internally here, so take some of the road-blocks out of the way.

In my recent work, and recent searches for solutions, I’ve not seen anyone do this well.  If anything, a lot of vendors want more information out of me – who are these other people? Can we get them to sign up for our newsletter? rather than just helping me make the case.

One to add to the ever growing list of ‘new stuff to think about in the wonderful world of B2b’


You’re doing B2b social media wrong, and so am I, mostly.

I’m increasingly convinced that if you’re doing social media in B2b, and you don’t have it tagged to an employee advocacy programme, you’re doing it wrong.

Sure, it works in some cases, and you’ll get  hashtag numbers.  You might even get some hashtag engagement.  And possibly some sales.  That you won’t be able to track, but hey, it’s fine, you know it’s happening.

I think more and more that B2b social should be a middle step, an important island situated somewhere between your content strategy and your employee engagement strategy.  And you really need to do all three for it to work properly.

Regardless of industry or size of company, employees will be socially connected to relevant people who trust them, who are interested in what they have to say and who treat them like information filters.  They’re the ones capable of sharing, contextualising and socialising your content.  Not your crappy corporate account.  Although stick it up there as well, just because.

So stop wasting your time obsessing over the growth of your corporate accounts. Stop jumping from platform to platform, stop following the shiny stuff and start getting your content into the hands of those who can put in front of the real audience.

(if you’re interested in employee advocacy strategy, give Sarah Goodall of Tribal Impact a follow on Twitter, she posts some very good stuff)



It took me ages, but I think I finally get Snapchat.

I didn’t understand the UI for ages, didn’t get how stories worked, didn’t see what else it offered over and above other messaging apps.

But then it clicked.  I think.

It strikes me that Snapchat is the first of the mainstream apps that allows people to have skills (skillz, sklz, sssklllzzzzz, skiiiillszzzzzzzsss etc).  Others, like Vine, have spawned a lot of highly creative high-end users, showcasing some really high quality work.  But that’s always felt highly different to the normal users’ experience of it.

Snapchat, however, has skills (skillz, sklz, sssklllzzzzz, skiiiillszzzzzzzsss etc) baked into the everyday experience.  It’s lowered the bar for creative content, and done it in a (fairly) user-friendly and (increasingly) mass market way.

It allows for people to showcase their own creativity within their own peer groups, and be an app that normal users can “be really good at”, all the while not taking away from the main purpose of one-to-one and one-to-many messaging and retaining the “burn after reading” functionality from which it gained popularity.



Time to rebrand Sunday League football

Owen Gibson in The Guardian recently (ish) described adult’s grassroots football in England as “in crisis”.

Participation is dropping like a stone and saturday and sunday league football is in danger of dying in this country.

As someone who dedicated a massive part of my life to sunday league football, I have a huge problem with this.  But not only do I find it upsetting, I also find it very weird.

Consider the following:

  • Interest in football is possibly at an all time high
  • Adults (both male and female) are absolutely falling over themselves (no pun intended) to put themselves through regular physical challenges, and events like Tough Mudder and The Spartan Race are absolutely flying
  • Social sporting activities such as ParkRun and CrossFit are getting ever more popular
  • People are getting into tough, outdoorsy pursuits like Triathlon at a record rate

So, put all that together and you surely have a recipie for adult football to be a massive success story.

What’s gone wrong?  There is obviously an issue with pitches, and access, and referees and all that stuff.  That’s clear.

But isn’t this simply a marketing challenge?  Sunday League football needs a socially focussed rebrand.

Someone, somewhere, is going to nail a “ParkRun for Football” type thing, I’m sure of it.  After all, parks are for kicking a ball about, not running around.  Everyone knows that……