When it comes to covering sporting events, how much planning goes into these events on the coverage side?
Hi there folks. It's Josh Clarke and James Bass here from Snack Media over in the UK. We're having a few technical issues with James's laptop so we'll be lumped in here together for the time being if you don't mind!
On FootballFanCast.com (the flagship football site for Snack Media) we work very closely with our editorial team, probably about two weeks prior to any sporting event we're looking to cover. We look to preplan and have engagng content set up to cover any eventuality of the game. If we're working with a client on a campaign, this would also involve a lot of thought about how best to implement that client's brand values into our coverage.
Josh and James: What type of content do you prepare in advance?
At Sports Illustrated we plan months in advance for mega-events such as the World Cup and the Olympics. There's the content part (writers, reporters, photographers), logistics (housing, credentials etc..) and infrastructure concerns (IT, connectivity). Most importantly on the content end: Have a day to day plan blueprint well in advance and then react when news changes it up.
Hi there, digital media veteran Brendon Hanley here. For the bigger organisations I've worked for, the planning can begin as soon as you have time. That's especially true for tougher locales. Best practice is to split it up like Richard says along party lines. In some cases, it's possible to overplan, so the flexibility is important too. It also depends on the quality of your editorial team, whether they can take care of themselves, etc.
First and foremost we want to cover football in the unique tone and personality that has made us one of the most popular blogs in the country. It's when we're working with clients that the issue of content preparation becomes more tricky. We brainstorm around real-time imagery that both adopts our tone and the brands and can be shared at moments that would guarantee maximum exposure for the partners we're working with.
How much does that planning play a role in your success or lack thereof? How much flexibility needs to be built in?
It's a chess game. You have a strategy and a frame, but you have to be able to react well at all points. The stress and length of big events can be a problem without experience.
Success is getting the most out of the pieces you have in place. That's all about planning, which includes hiring and managing.
Having an editorial road map helps the overall thinking of the group but ultimately we react to the news. For instance, you can't plan for Neymar to be out of the World Cup -- and all the stories that go with it -- but you can plan to have the Brazil-Colombia game staffed onsite and at home. That sets you up for success across your platforms (In SI's case here: digital and video).
You always need a certain about of flexbility, as you never know what is going to happen during the 90 minutes. Speed and originality need to go hand-in-hand to ensure and this is why pre-planning and working closely with the client ahead of the event is so important. Creative brainstorms are essential. That gag that got left of the no pile might actually re-surface in real time as it suddenly works in the context of what has just happened.
Agree with Brian. Search and social media metrics like Twitter's trending give you a great resource into what your audience is interested in. Even in the States, people wanted to take a bite of anything Suarez.
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I'm a reporter and writer so my challenges at something like the Olympics -- I've been assigned to the Games since 2002 -- are about access. I think fans would surprised at how little you get to players and coaches at the actual events. There's a mixed zone after competition, where the world's press scrambles to get quotes. It's like human bumper cars.
So now that we have some sense of what goes into planning, what are the most difficult challenges you face when covering sporting events? What are some of the less obvious challenges that fans might be unaware of?
Having performed a number of real-time marketing campaigns for clients such as Strongbow, RBS, Capital One and Ford, we've found that the logistics of planning with a client will always be challenging as it involves the rights holders and the specific sponsorship contracts/rights that have been agreed for use by that brand.
In terms of being on the ground, there is a lot of just being present and persistent. Transport, passes, access, there are all sorts of things that you just have to push for. That's not the easiest thing in these high-pressure environments. I imagine the public wouldn't know how much time is spent just being in position and being annoying, so as not to get caught in the wash.
And by annoying, I mean friendly!
As the saying goes “Content is King”. To make the second screen experience something people enjoy and want to invest time in you have to tell a story that compliments what’s going on at the event. Don’t tell fans what they can already see live or via broadcast.
Brendon and Richard, does being associated with FIFA or Sports Illustrated not buy you some additional access? Is it just a free-for-all?
Of course. It just gets harder the fewer people you know, or who know you. FIFA is a bit of a special case.
Being part of a brand name publication/outlet gets you more access on the whole. For example, our photogs, given SI's long history of covering the Olympics and the size of the mag, get premium placement at events. On the writing end, SI will get phone calls answered faster from handlers and agents. I realize it's not just because of my charming personality that the call is being returned.