The National Hockey League (NHL) is putting the human stories of its athletes at the heart of efforts to connect with fans in new and compelling ways on social media.

Heidi Browning, the NHL’s chief marketing officer, discussed this subject at CES 2020, an event held by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) in Las Vegas.

“We’ve really started to evolve our voice and our content that we’re sharing on social media,” she said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Inside the NHL’s social media and digital content power play.)

The league is attempting to foster a “more personal conversation with our community and our fans,” Browning continued, rather than simply focusing on highlights.

“We know, through looking at all the data – through engagement data across all the platforms – that those human moments are the ones that resonate; they’re the ones that are most likely to be shared, most commented on etc.,” she added.

Powerful insights also support the NHL’s human-first storytelling strategy. “There are 700 million sports fans on social media,” said Browning. “And they follow athletes first, then the teams, and then the leagues.”

The problem: “As we looked at our numbers, our athletes are the least involved on social media of all sports out there,” she conceded.

“It’s part of the culture. The culture is about the name on the front of your sweater – the team name – not the name on the back.”

To “peel back the visor” the NHL set about offering a granular lens on the interests, talents and community work of its players – or what Browning described as “the lives, the wives, the dogs” as well as “what good humans they are”.

Educating players, coaches, general managers and other relevant stakeholders about the benefits of social media – alongside creating tools that helped them access and share content – has been critical to this endeavour.

The outcome? “We’ve seen big … momentum around adoption,” said Browning, with younger players leading the charge in this area.

One demonstration of this success is “Cup Confidential”, a digital-video series launched in 2019, and that saw one player from every playoff team give a behind-the-scenes perspective on the battle for the Stanley Cup.

This content was made available on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – and generated millions of views and impressions. “That was a game-changer for us,” said Browning.

Sourced from WARC