The World Surf League (WSL) ranks third among sports leagues in social interactions and video views, behind just the NFL & NBA. Tim Greenberg, Chief Community Officer at the World Surf League, tells Portada about his social media and influencer marketing strategies. Greenberg explains what content the WSL produces and how they use TikTok and other platforms for social media distribution. Surf’s Olympic debut and more…

Greenberg, an avid surfer himself, joined the World Surf League (WSL) in 2013 and has focused on helping the league grow its digital presence. He oversees numerous innovation projects for the WSL while he also manages content, original programming and strategy for the brand’s social and digital channels. In 2017/2018, WSL ranked third among sports leagues in social interactions and video views, behind just the NFL & NBA.

Tim Greenberg, Chief Community Officer, World Surf League
Tim Greenberg, Chief Community Officer, World Surf League

Big Wave Content: Capturing the Imagination of the Consumer

“We are very lucky. Our content is incredibly beautiful and aspirational. There is something about surfing that speaks to a non-endemic surf fan. It’s the lifestyle, the freedom and the adventure,” Greenberg notes.

Content helps the WSL capture the imagination of the consumer through something Greenberg calls “Big wave content.” According to Greenberg, the visual of surfing a 60 foot wave is not difficult to understand (although hard to comprehend – even if you’re a core surfer). “When a big wave location called Nazare in Portugal breaks – it garners international news coverage. To ensure that we’re generating the most from these cut through moments, this year we have a strategic and tactical plan for what we’re calling ‘strike missions’. A strike mission is when, on short notice, a swell pops up somewhere in the world. We are capturing the content and distributing across social in real-time. In addition, for major moments throughout the year we’re creating 22 minute long-form episodes of a series called ‘WSL At Large’, which is then distributed through our website, app, youtube , AVOD and linear TV partners.”

A strike mission is when, on short notice, a swell pops up somewhere in the world. We are capturing the content and distributing across social in real-time.

WSL Social Media Strategy: Leveraging TikTok for Early Adopters …

A crucial element of the WSL engagement strategy, according to Greenberg, is to be everywhere consumers are engaging and leveraging emerging platforms as early adopters. “We were one of the first sports properties on TikTok and because we crafted our content for the platform our follower count and engagement reflects this strategy.” In fact, the WSL was just named #11 on TikTok for follower growth last month (right behind Netflix). “In 2020 and 2021, we will increasingly be looking to distribute surfing content on linear TV, SVOD, AVOD, OOH and YouTube. We have built a passionate and loyal fan base on our owned digital channels, but one of the keys to our success will be placing surfing content off-platform in as many places as possible”, Greenberg asserts.

One of the keys to our success will be placing surfing content off-platform in as many places as possible.

…and Surfers as Entry Points for Fans.

As stated by Greenberg, surfers are the WSL most important asset:  “If you look at your own behavior, likely the first entry point for being a ‘fan’ of a team or sport is through an athlete. It’s the same in our sport. When Brazilian Gabriel Medina won his first World Title and the first world Title for Brasil in 2014, he became a national celebrity. This translated into new fans for the WSL and for the sport in general. We need to help create heroes.”

Likely the first entry point for being a ‘fan’ of a team or sport is through an athlete.

Preparing for Surf’s Olympic Debut

Surf is going to make its Olympic debut in Tokyo this summer. Truly a milestone for the sport. “This is an incredible moment for our sport. The Olympics is a global stage and, for most of the world, this is the first time they will experience competitive surfing. So it’s crucial that the education process for how we, the IOC, the ISA and the global broadcasting partners communicate clearly how surfing works. Who are the athletes? Where are they from? How do you win? What makes a good score? etc. We believe that a new generation of surf fans will be born from this moment and for the WSL it’s about the consumer journey back to us,” Greenberg notes.

Greenberg adds that ahead of the Olympics the WSL has a team of internal WSL staff dedicated to supporting athletes, partners, broadcast partners and the ISA (International Surfing Association). Promotional efforts started last year. The 2019 WSL rankings provisionally qualified 18 of the 40 surfers heading to Tokyo. Qualification was a constant narrative through the back-half of the season as surfers earned enough points to represent their country.

The best thing we can be doing as a league is helping to create heroes.

As surfers provisionally qualified, the WSL Brand Marketing team created gift boxes with custom country flags that were presented to each athlete the moment they were made aware they qualified. “These emotional moments were then shared across our digital and social channels, the athlete’s channels, on our broadcast and to the media. In 2020, we’re working closely with each of the provisionally qualified athletes, the national governing bodies, management teams and sponsors to develop strategies to amplify their profiles. The best thing we can be doing as a league is helping to create heroes,” Greenberg concludes.

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Portada Staff

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