Once upon a time, many moons ago, I did quite a bit of sport - playing basketball throughout secondary school and then a little later on, doing a bit of rowing as well. Rowing was the sport I did with the most serious of intentions, training 3 times daily. The work ethic instilled by this dreadfully boring sport has stuck with me ever since, however, my real passion was always basketball. Anyone who knows me, knows I watch basketball everyday and love to learn more & more about the players and what they think and do, how they train, what they get up to in their private lives etc. For all intents and purposes, I am a fanboy.
As I watched the NBA Playoffs progress over the previous months, a number of things struck me. Firstly, was the pantomine of it all, but secondly was the way that the way we consume sport and its associated content has changed.
Of course the traditional ESPN, Sports Center channels and the local papers all give their opinions but of late outlets like the Players Tribune, Uninterrupted, NBA Open Court/NBA Players Only or even a player's personal channel are increasingly common sources for original, authentic content straight from the horse's mouth and it made me think about why this content is more engaging we like this?
Well, because it is authentic. It has not come via a sports journalist who already knows what they want to write before even interviewing the player, it is the unique perspective of someone who has been there and done it. When you have legends like Shaquile O'Neal, Charles Barkley or Dominique Wilkins commenting on why a certain tactic hasn't worked, it carries a certain weight which is inimitable and cannot be copied.
A huge amount of the way we consume sports now comes directly from the players themselves. The rise of 'players only' sports outlets is notable for many reasons but probably the most important is that they are authentic and give us a unique perspective into that individual's life and their area of expertise: sport.
Quite often, these outlets come across as very raw, unedited soundbites but they are by far and away the most engaging. We all love and adore the sport, and we all want to get inside the heads of these great athletes. Most importantly, it is impossible to replicate the thoughts and opinions of that individual.
What are the parallels with business?
The parallels between sport and the corporate world are extolled daily by retired sportspeople who give motivational speeches to salivating executives around the world talking about the importance of teamwork, adversity, hard work, marginal gains etc., so I will not bother commenting on that.
The parallels in this instance are that these channels are successful because they provide something unique and inimitable, the players. Whilst the widespread appeal of a mainstream athlete differs enormously to a Tax Accountant or an Enterprise Software Salesperson, the principles remain the same.
If you view your specialist's knowledge and skills as unique, then 2017 affords a great opportunity to leverage those special skills and cultivate an online community around your valuable resources.
A regular drumbeat of content ensures that your specialist stays one step ahead of the competition by remaining forefront of mind within your community and importantly, it cements their marketing leading position as the go-to expert. It is these 'marginal gains' (to pinch another sporting term) which will allow you and your business to separate themselves from the pack.