"How Instagram Are Using Storytelling & Live Video To Create Authentic Fan Engagement Experiences"

Will Yoder, Sports Partnerships, Instagram

Athletes have some of the most influential profiles and accounts on social media. In your view why do these voices have so much impact with fans and how are networks such as Instagram striving to support them?

Sports fans on Instagram love authenticity, and athletes are amongst the most authentic users on the platform. Whether it’s LeBron James sharing his offseason workouts alongside Dwyane Wade on Instagram Stories, or Paul Pogba showing off secret handshakes with his mother in feed, these moments bring fans closer to the athletes they admire. On our end, we work with our athlete partners to better help them understand the tools we’ve given them to connect directly with their fans. 

Over the last several years we have seen a number of examples of where an athlete’s digital presence has taken a prominent role in brand’s sponsorship strategy. What campaign’s/messages have particularly impressed you?

Athletes have been able to build massive audiences on Instagram by sharing moments from their lives, both on the court and off, that resonate with their fans. Brands that have been the most successful working with athletes have integrated directly into that existing conversation. We also now have a new Branded Content Policy and tool on Instagram that now allows athletes and their brand endorsers to be more transparent with their audience, which we hope will help encourage more authentic content from these relationships. 

What types of creative content are you seeing as the most engaging for sports fans?

Sports fans love to be transported to the action through Instagram. The best sports content on the platform makes fans feel like they are there experiencing the best sports moments in an authentic and meaningful way. ESPN does a great job at this on their College Game Day account’s sideline cam, where they have producers capturing the best moments of the game from the sidelines using the cameras from phones. The content ends up looking like a clip one of your friends may have taken and posted directly to Instagram. Another great example of this was when Odell Beckham Jr. celebrated the launch of Instagram Live by creating an impromptu dance contest in the New York Giants locker room. 

How are college sports teams using Instagram to build enthusiasm with fans? (eg. Instagram Stories etc)

College sports teams use Instagram for many different purposes. On game day, they will use Instagram Stories and Instagram Live to connect with fans in real time around the big game. Throughout the year, they will develop creative content that helps them solidify their school’s brand while also providing a taste of campus life in order to connect with their alumni base. More and more, we are seeing college sports teams utilize Instagram Stories, as well as Instagram Direct, as a way to help recruit future athletes as well. 

On our end, we partner with over 50 of the top college sports programs in the country on the Instagram Student Section. This program encourages schools to pick a student at their university who is interested in social media, and connect him or her with our team for training on how best to utilize Instagram Stories. Once the selected student has been trained, the school hands over the keys to their Instagram account to the student to perform a takeover during game day. The result is amazing content on Instagram directly from the student’s perspective. At the end of the year, we pick one student whom we feel performed the best and let him or her take over the official Instagram account’s story, which broadcasts to over 220 million people.

This week I read a WIRED article entitled ‘Why Instagram is suddenly the place for sports highlights’. What are the innovations Instagram have driven in sport over the last 12 months (eg. video, integrated approach to rights holder engagement) and what is next?

In the past year, Instagram has really evolved into a platform that has brought video front and center. In fact, time spent watching video on Instagram is up 80% year-over-year and we’ve seen a 4X increase in video produced per day on Instagram in that same time. Part of this has been a result of Instagram’s focus on creating new ways to share video, such as Instagram Stories, Live, Carousel Posts, and the expansion to 60 second video. The rapid rise of the community, from 500 million monthly active people to 800 million monthly active people in the past year, has also made Instagram great place for sports rights holders to reach a massive audience.

Finally, what are you hoping to get out of speaking at the Sports Performance Data and Fan Engagement Summit 2018 in SF next January?

It’s a great opportunity to share how leagues, teams and athletes can leverage Instagram to connect with fans through authentic visual storytelling.

For more information on the Sport Performance and Fan Engagement Summit USA taking place in San Francisco on January 30-31, visit www.sports-performance-fan-engagement.com