Having consolidated its marketing and communications department Basketball Victoria went on the offensive in 2017 as it activates a participation base of 450,000 leading to impressive social media audience growth across all channels.
Shunt Creative sat down with Basketball Victoria’s Communications Manager Rebekah Lacy and Communications & Digital Media Officer Craig Freeman to discuss the sporting body’s approach to digital communications.
Shunt: Let’s start with participation, you’ve got the largest junior competition (Victorian Junior Basketball League) in the world?
Rebekah Lacy: “Our junior representative competition, the Melbourne Utd. VJBL is growing year on year. We have got over 1,300 teams participating across 46 weeks a year and up to 10 players in each team.
S: Have you run the numbers to see how much this adds up to?
RL: “We have. When you add in team managers, coaches, assistant coaches and participants we’ve around 14,500 to 15,000 attending junior games on a weekly basis.
“With regards to general participation, over 450,000 Victorians are participating in basketball related activity annually.
“In terms of our footprint, it’s a huge audience.”
S: You’ve been with Basketball Victoria for 10 years (three years in the role of Communications Manager) now Rebekah, what was it like when you started out on this journey?
RL: “There were no real communications resources to begin with, while program leaders managed their communications and marketing in silos. Each brand was disjointed, with no unified tone of voice or platforms to work from.
“I started working three days a week in what was essentially a new department. I needed to build it up so I brought in an additional staff member within the first six months while I went full-time. So, we went from one part-time resource (me) to four full-time staff members pretty quickly.
“At the time, we had some Facebook competition pages but we certainly weren’t active on social media. We developed a strategy for the department from scratch and then started to execute.”
S: What was the thinking behind hiring a second person?
RL: “It was more around graphic design and branding. At that time, we were outsourcing all of our program collateral and what we were producing was primitive. From a marketing point of view, there was plenty of room for improvement and we were spending a fortune on graphic design because we were paying a premium by outsourcing.”
S: I understand you initially were dealing with around 20 separate websites for the sport? Have you now got that down to just the one?
CF: “It’s one major site with sub-sites off it but one general homepage. If you go to Basketball Victoria’s page you can then find all the other pages from there.”
RL: “It’s managed centrally by Basketball Victoria’s communications department.
“The current website is built around regular, good quality content and being able to take those unique stories that are happening at a local level and develop them into interesting reads.”
S: Basketball Victoria has had pretty decent social media growth through 2017. What’s the strategy or approach you’ve taken?
RL: “It’s taken some time but it’s about understanding who the audience are and what information is relevant to them. We have a handful of events throughout the year that are big winners for us, such as state and national championships where we produce daily, highlight videos and recaps of games. We know we are going to have a lot of eyes on our social channels and we resource accordingly during this time.
“Outside of that it’s just about how we can engage people and develop content that creates conversations. The big challenge has been that people just don’t know who we are – their touch point with the sport is at a much more local level. Having said that it’s also works in our favour as it means we’re doing well and not having any major controversies but it’s challenging to create engaging content if the public don’t quite know what our role is.”
S: What metrics are you looking at on a regular basis across each channel and what do you see as the priorities?
RL: “This is certainly an area that we will be need to do a lot more of, as we don’t do a lot of inward analysis.”
CF: “We do some recapping, looking at how we performed over the past week more so than before the week starts and setting goals. It’s a work in progress.”
S: The CEO and board took what could be considered a brave decision to make some changes to how the sport communicated by bringing you on board? What was the catalyst for that?
RL: “We have always been criticised for not celebrating our wins and we were constantly picking up the paper or hearing on talkback radio about how good netball or football were doing. Our numbers were comparable if not better but we never had a voice because we didn’t have anybody who was driving it. The new strategic plan meant we had to promote basketball as a whole both internally and externally.”
S: From the groundwork you’ve laid the new strategic plan has then taken a much more focussed approach to marketing and communications?
RL: “We’ve got four pillars and communications is one major pillar in its own right but it also plays a major part in servicing the other three in regards to building our profile and brand.”
S: Has any particular communications pieces or campaigns gone viral?
CF: “We made a video for this program called walking basketball. It’s basically a group of senior citizens who aren’t able to run anymore but who still wanted to participate. It’s an adaptive way of playing basketball.”
“The video ran for a minute, then things went insane!
“It went all over the world, 70 countries I think and got a mention on the Channel Ten news and The Project.”
This could be the best highlights video you'll watch all day (game footage starts at 30 seconds).For more information on Walking Basketball, contact Kyle via email: email@example.com or phone: 9837 8000 VicHealth Physical Activity Innovation Challenge
Posted by Basketball Victoria on Monday, 1 August 2016
S: Did you know in advance it would perform so well?
RL: “In a way it came about by accident as we were helping to gather video footage for a government funded program.
“Certainly watching the program it’s entertaining, everyone’s having a great time and I thought it was really neat, but we had no idea that it would get the traction it did.”
S: Is there a secret to social media success?
RL: “It’s about, wherever possible, showing personality. We’re competing in a crowded market. Yes, we are required to drive ticket sales and sporting programs but we should be bringing to life the sports unique personality.
“It comes back to knowing your audience. Our Facebook followers are players in their late teens, early 20’s and mothers.”
CF: “In the last year, we’ve shifted from just awesome players and highlights and balancing it with more people based stories.”
S: Are you in the luxurious position where you have more material to work with than you need, or is content aggregation an ongoing challenge?
RL: “It depends on the time of the year.”
CF: “I think we can always find content. We can always do something because our spectrum is so broad. During the NBA season, I can pull highlights from any day. If I need content, we can find it.”
RL: “That’s been a huge shift for us too. We look at our charter and its Victorian basketball but the basketball market is so much broader than that.”
CF: “We went from Victorian basketball to basketball in Victoria and how it relates to Victoria.”
RL: “Even what’s going on at a national level and looking at what Basketball Australia is publishing. We’re often reporting on the same content they are but with a different spin. It might be highlighting the Victorian players or talking about their pathway through our programs. We’re looking at other ways to tell a story that is uniquely us.”