Sports Storytelling: How to Use Sports Events to Boost Your PR Efforts

While not everyone is a sports fanatic, sports are essential to our social experience. Whether it’s getting together on Sunday to watch an NFL game, or cheering on Team USA in the World Cup, sporting events bring us together. 

In digital PR, leveraging the timeliness and emotional connection to sports is a must. In this blog, we discuss the power of sports storytelling and how to use it in your next content campaign.

[Related: The Ultimate Sports Storytelling Calendar]

What is Sports Storytelling?

Sports storytelling involves using sporting events throughout the year to your benefit. Successful sports storytelling in digital PR strategically uses major sporting events and seasons to guide content creation and outreach strategies. 

Just like seasonal storytelling, this isn’t hard to do, but it does require planning… and don’t worry we have you covered here too. Just like we compiled the ultimate seasonal storytelling calendar, we’ve got the ultimate sports storytelling calendar that’s got all the major games, seasons, and events you need to be aware of. 

Why Journalists Love Sports Storytelling

Journalists, bloggers, and media love sports storytelling whether they know it or not. We’re not just talking about sports writers, analysts, and broadcasters (although they love it too). Local and national news outlets, as well as publications in the lifestyle and entertainment verticals all cover sports when major events happen.

Media coverage of sports content

These publications aren’t providing game predictions or analysis like sports writers do, but they love getting in on the hype and excitement around sports. 

Types of Sports Storytelling

We’ve had a lot of success using sports storytelling in our content campaigns. Local outlets love to write stories about the professional teams their readers cheer for, and the entertainment vertical loves to cover fun pieces that bridge the gap between sports and pop culture.

We’ve had a lot of success using sports storytelling in our campaigns, and we’ve found there are two main types of sports-themed campaigns.

  1. Team-specific content
  2. Sport-fandom content

Both types of campaigns cater to the world of sports and entertainment, but they cover different aspects and target different audiences.

Team-specific content

Team-specific campaigns are all about providing unique and new data about professional or college sports teams. These campaigns often pit teams against each other in the realm of fan opinion and can be about anything from the NHL teams with the best mascots to the college football teams with the rowdiest tailgates. 

Fans are protective of their teams and want to see them take the top spot in just about everything – not just the scoreboard.  Anything relating to specific teams is fair game… sometimes the most unique angles are the ones that go viral!

Sport-fandom content

Fandom content campaigns take a broader approach and tap into the cultural connection in sports and entertainment. This type of content usually appeals to a wider audience and connects sports to themes of finances, food, fashion, etc. 

Not everyone has a preference on which team wins the Super Bowl this year… but everyone can relate to the importance of having good appetizers during the big game. Fandom content can be anything from the most popular Super Bowl food in each state to a ranking of the cities that are spending the most money on their Super Bowl parties.

By focusing on broader themes you have the opportunity for media coverage in a wide variety of publications.

Team-Specific ContentFandom Content
Who typically covers it?Rankings pieces tend to do really well for team-specific content. You can conduct a survey or do an analysis of Google search data to gather new insights for your campaign.· Entertainment/pop culture reporters
· Niche publications
· Local news
· National news
How to produce it:Rankings pieces tend to do really well for team specific content. You can conduct a survey or do an analysis of Google search data to gather new insights for your campaign.Trends, statistics, and state-by-state lists tend to perform well for fandom content. You can do a social media scrape, run a survey, or analyze Google search data for your campaign. 
Why it works:Team-specific content is perfect if you want to land coverage in big-name sports publications. 

Sports reporters are experts when it comes to things like player stats, trades, and team records… but they often turn to outside sources for the lighter topics. 

Ranking teams on non-performance based metrics gives sports and local news reporters a new, buzzworthy angle. These types of stories often spark a heated debate online – leading to more clicks and shares of the journalist’s story… benefitting them, and your client.
There is no limit to where you can go when creating sports fandom content.

This content bridges the gap between sports and pop culture, opening the door for you to earn media coverage in a wide variety of publications. 

Not everyone is a sports buff, but there are certain themes everyone can relate to. By focusing on something more broad – like finances, food, or fashion, you can earn media coverage in all types of publications, and potentially even niche outlets that are highly relevant to your client’s industry.

The Do’s and Don’t of Pitching Sports Reporters

Sports reporters get hundreds of emails each week, so how do you capture their attention and make sure your digital PR media pitch stands out in their inbox?

GIF of email inbox

There are a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to pitching sports writers. 

  • Know their specialty 
  • Show you have knowledge of their team, sport, season
  • Pitch during downtimes 

Make sure you know their specialty. There’s nothing a journalist hates more than receiving pitches that just don’t apply to them. If a writer only covers hockey, don’t pitch them content that has to do with the NFL. It just won’t play. 

When you pitch sports journalists, show them you know what you’re talking about. You don’t have to be a sports expert, but it’s important to make sure you’re up to date on the latest headlines surrounding their team or sport. 

Timing is key. You don’t want to pitch sports writers fluffy lifestyle pieces if they’re busy with analysis. But timely content about their team can be perfect for filling their story obligations during slow times (in between seasons, the all-star break, etc.). Some good times to pitch sports journalists can be during the early preseason, days between games, or even after a season is over. 

Earn Media Coverage Using the Hype Around Professional Sports

There’s no denying that Americans love sports. The NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB command the most media coverage and attention… So why not give journalists new content and original data to share with their audiences? 

GIF of NFL teams.

There are several ways to use America’s obsession with pro sports to create buzzworthy and viral content, guaranteed to get people talking.

1. Capitalize on the Excitement of a New Season

When creating content pieces for specific leagues it’s important to keep timing in mind. Launching campaigns at the beginning of the season will often allow you to capture the largest audience. 

Sports reporters (and newsrooms as a whole) often start their coverage weeks before a season starts. They know fans are ready to see their team take the field, and love sharing statistics about fan preferences and behaviors for the upcoming season. 

For example, you can conduct a survey to find out how many games fans plan to attend, how much they’d be willing to spend on tickets, how they feel about rowdy crowds, tailgates, and more. Get creative and find angles that journalists haven’t already covered.

2. Use Financial Themes to Show the Cost of Fandom

Give your sports content campaign a harder news angle by tying in a topic everyone can relate to, money. 

Journalists love new insights when it comes to how, where, and when people spend their money and there are plenty of new ways to create sports-related content around this theme.

In addition to a survey about fan spending habits, you can use league data to look at ticket prices for each team. Maybe you determine which stadiums have the most expensive nose-bleed seats, the true cost of renting a suite, or even which team sells the most expensive hot dogs.

Fans love to see how their team stacks up – and journalists will be eager to share the data.

3. When Fashion and Sports Collide

We get it. Not everyone is sports-savvy. Sometimes it’s the most “superficial” themes that go viral. 

Another way to use sports storytelling techniques for your next campaign is to cast a wider net and ask about a topic that requires little to no sports knowledge, like fashion.

You can ask Americans which team has the best/worst colors in the league, the ugliest logo, the most outdated uniforms, etc. Sometimes the key to gaining widespread coverage is as simple as bridging the gap between sports and fashion!

4. Newsjack Trending Sports Topics

Besides the major plays that keep analysts talking long after the game is over, there are other moments that make headlines. It’s important to keep an eye on media coverage that is about sports but not exactly about the game. Here’s why. 

Let’s say an NHL mascot gets into a fight with a spectator. There’s no doubt video of the incident will be viewed millions of times online and fans will be buzzing – wondering if that could ever happen with their team.

This provides the perfect opportunity to use Google Trends or a quick survey to compile a quick ranking and pitch journalists a new angle related to the trending topic. Maybe you determine America’s favorite mascots, the most intimidating mascots, or the creepiest mascots… journalists want to keep talking about topics of interest to their fans, and your content can help them further their coverage.

Sports Storytelling and Major Events

Some sports events are much larger than just the game itself. The obvious example we already mentioned is the Super Bowl. Besides the game, the Super Bowl is a major event for advertisers, music, food, and general fanfare. There’s even a conversation about turning the day after the Super Bowl into a national holiday (content campaign idea anyone?)

GIF of Super Bowl Halftime Show

There are sporting events like the Super Bowl that happen throughout the year. Events like: 

  • The Kentucky Derby
  • March Madness
  • The World Series
  • NBA Finals
  • The Olympics (every two years)

These events will generate general news and sports coverage year after year without fail. 

The reason this is important is because events like this command attention way beyond the sports world. They are ingrained in our social lives, creating a huge opportunity for content creators. These events can be counted on and planned for, with the potential for media coverage in multiple verticals. 

Sports Storytelling Using Everyday and Lifestyle Activities

And we can’t talk about sports storytelling without talking about lifestyle sports. Many people still participate in sports leagues and enjoy sports as a way to stay fit. You guessed it, there’s an opportunity for sports storytelling here too. 

GIF of a rec league

Lifestyle sports such as tennis, pickleball, running, and biking have exploded in popularity over the past few years. These are great topics for your sports storytelling campaigns because they appeal to a broader audience and can bridge the gap between dedicated/professional athletes and people looking for a fun activity or way to stay fit. 

You can still use the pros to help with outreach for these campaigns. For example, you could pitch a campaign about states that love playing tennis the most late in the summer months and leverage the popularity of the U.S. Open to make your content timely.

Campaigns about lifestyle sports not only appeal to local and general news outlets – but they also provide a unique opportunity to tap into the health and wellness vertical.

Health reporters love covering new trends, so a campaign about America’s favorite sports to play to stay healthy, or the most-loathed ways to get fit is right up their alley. 

Production and Timelines for Sports Storytelling

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to content production and outreach timelines when it comes to sports storytelling. As we mentioned at the top, sports storytelling isn’t hard but it does take some planning. It’s important to factor in these things when you’re mapping out your content production for the year. 

Use our Ultimate Sports Storytelling Calendar to help guide your planning. And remember,  sports storytelling is for everyone! You don’t have to be a sports lover to create sports storytelling content and it’s not just for sports writers. Have fun and watch the links roll in for a big win. 

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