SGP 059: Peter Stringer on Celtics, digital & podcasting

Peter Stringer from Celtics and Media Masters Podcast on Sports Geek PodcastGood to catch up with Peter Stringer from the Boston Celtics one of the first guys I followed and connected with when I started Sports Geek.  Pete and I discuss how the digital landscape has changed and his foray into the world of podcasting.  On ABC Grandstand we discuss security issues around the celebrity iCloud hacking scandal.

On this podcast you’ll learn about:

  • What Peter’s role looked like in 2005
  • Why getting data our of Facebook was important
  • How mobile is becoming the primary platform for sports fans
  • How pre game became a driver for Celtics mobile app
  • What Peter has learned as a podcaster
  • What athletes need to do to secure their phones
  • Why teams are using video on Facebook

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Podcast Transcription

Sean: Welcome to Episode 59 of the Sports Geek Podcast. On this week’s episode, I catch up with Peter Stringer from the Boston Celtics to talk all things Celtics digital and about his foray into podcasting. On an ABC grandstand, we talk about the celeb hacking scandal and how it affects athletes.

D.J. Joel: Welcome to the Sports Geek Podcast, the podcast built for the sports digital marketer. And now here’s your host, who watched his first NFL games, sitting behind Bills owner Ralph Wilson, Sean Callanan.

Sean: Thanks, D.J. Joel, my name is Sean Callanan and you are listening to the Sports Geek Podcast. And yes, my first NFL game was sitting behind Ralph Wilson. At the time, I did not know that. I think it was around 1999, maybe 2000. I was in Seattle catching a game at the old Kingdome. And lucky enough to secure us some tickets through Gary Wright who was at the Seahawks.

And we actually were sitting in the media area. And for those of you who are in the business and know about sitting in the media area, you can’t be sitting there chugging beers, and screaming out and yelling, and enjoying the game as a normal fan. You have to sit there because there are people doing work.

But me and my mate Mark Seymour, “The Professor,” as he’s known on Twitter, we were watching the game and we could not figure out for the life of us why the man in front of us was cursing the Bills quarterback Doug Flutie. For those of you who have been following the NFL for a while would remember Doug Flutie.

Did not like the way Doug was performing in that day. The Seahawks won the match but he was cursing every single time Doug Flutie made a mistake. And it wasn’t until after the event that we figured out that it was Bills owner Ralph Wilson. He preferred to sit in the media area when he was visiting stadium. So that’s the story of my first NFL game.

And I’ll have to go to Peter Robert Casey’s newly launched site, Football Passport. We spoke to him earlier about Hardball Passport; he’s now launched Football Passport. You can go to and you can log every single NFL or college football game that you have been to. As I said, when we had him on, a really good way for you to document your fan experience.

On this week’s podcast, I have Peter Stringer from the Boston Celtics. I met Pete back in 2011 when he was out here for a conference and also caught up with him again when seat was in Boston. We’ve been going back and forwards trying to get a time to have this interview now that Pete has joined the land of the podcasters as well. We’ll chat about that and what he’s up to at the Celtics on this interview so I hope you enjoy it.

I’m very happy to welcome one of the leaders, a guy I’ve been following for a long time. I am lucky enough to meet him a couple of years back when he was in Sydney. Peter Stringer from the Boston Celtics, welcome to the podcast.

Peter Stringer: Thanks for having me, Sean.

Sean: So Pete, you are the senior director of digital media at the Boston Celtics. You’ve been there since 2005. The landscapes definitely changed since that time. Do you want to take us back to those early days and what it was like getting started?

Peter Stringer: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, talk about a complete difference in not only the job, but just in terms of the responsibilities and the platforms that existed. When I first got here and I came into the job in 2005, it was really just We had our e-mail channel and that was a big way in which we sell tickets. And frankly, today, that’s still a big channel for us on e-mail. But at that time, nobody was using Facebook for public properties like a sports team like the Celtics and Twitter didn’t exist. No Instagram or Pinterest or any of these other platforms that are out there and video was a much different world. You really couldn’t distribute video in the way you can do it now in terms of high definition and it wasn’t something that teams were producing on their own. But in that time, our business has changed drastically and I’ve been fortunate enough to kind of have that opportunity in front of me. And so, as I’ve gone along, when I came in the door, it was, “Hey, here’s Keep this up to date.”

I really took us down this path of developing content and so, that kind of was a natural fit for all of these different social media channels that came up over the years and now here we are in 2014 and heading into 2015. That’s really what my group is responsible for. I’ve got five people that are all cranking away on regular content throughout not only the season but through the off seasons as well. My pieces of business has changed and increased drastically since I got here.

Sean: Did you ever have, like Jeremy, Pete. Did you ever have the title Webmaster?

Peter Stringer: I never had the title Webmaster, necessarily. But I certainly had most of those responsibilities. The way the NBA runs, they kind of own the infrastructure, if you will. And so, I did never have to deal with server administration, that type of stuff. But from the standpoint of writing HTML code, I was doing it off HTML, Photoshop, JavaScript, jQueries, CSS. All that stuff. Which if I had to dive into now, I’m not really sure how well I’d be able to handle it.

I know enough to be dangerous now but so many things have changed especially with responsive design and things of that nature and trying to develop your sites for mobile apps and all the different aspects of mobile that exist now. I’m not sure I’m really qualified to do that job anymore. It’s changed drastically again since I first came in, I was writing code in 2005.

Sean: One of the big case studies that you guys had was the three-point play on Facebook early on. That experience of then, it’s still something that people are still trying to figure out. How do we get the data out of Facebook? How do we drive them into our database, into our CRM? Start the e-mail conversation. As you said earlier, it’s still a messy way for you guys to sell tickets. Do you wanna take us through on the genesis of that idea and how it worked? And how that has evolved over time?

Peter Stringer: Sure. I think Facebook is obviously one of those things that I think when it first came out; nobody quite knew what to do with it. But it was pretty clear to me early on that regardless of the size of the audience we may have there, we didn’t really own those people. And I’d argue to this day, you don’t really own your Facebook audience. You’re just really helping Facebook collect data on them. And so now, it’s a matter of, how do we get those people off of Facebook and into our database, and get them to buy tickets and turn them into customers. That aspect of it hasn’t changed.

And so, yeah, three-point play back in 2009 was pretty new at the time from a sports marketing standpoint. And it was basically just taking what we already knew is that we need fans to be in our database and trying to come up with a way to leverage which was Facebook apps were still pretty new at that point. And companies were trying to figure out how to leverage them to get fans engaged but they weren’t necessarily thinking about building customer bases with them. And to me, if you work in sports marketing, your number one job is to get people in the building. And so, I was always thinking about it in terms of how are we going to get people to become customers of the Celtics.

Fast-forward to 2014 and how we’re looking at Facebook, it’s a much different landscape. Really, for us, we have that large audience. Obviously, it’s well-documented that you don’t reach anywhere near the audience you used to. Where it used to be a post would hit 20%, 30%, 40% of our audience. Now, we hit 2%, 3%, 4%, 5%. But what we have seen a lot of growth with recently in the last month or so has been organic video on Facebook. And so, actually uploading video directly to their platform versus trying to send people back to to watch it. And we’re seeing some pretty big numbers in terms of. . .for a couple of different reasons. But we’re seeing large numbers in terms of the amount of views we’re seeing on videos that we would never get on our own website. Just because we don’t have the type of traffic that would be able to support that. But with Facebook’s recent change with their auto starting videos for people now and they’re incenting you to put that content into the stream, we’re really seeing a lot of consumption on those videos now.

And so, now we have kind of a choice to make. Does it matter to us where people view our videos, right? So for me, I don’t really care where you view them, as long as you view them. And if one of our corporate partners is paying us to have some branded content that reaches our audience so we can reach a much larger audience on Facebook than we can on our website. Because we don’t have to wait for them to come to us, we just go to them. That’s something we’re looking at and we’re spending a lot more time thinking about how that works. Right now, our move has been, “All right, let’s upload this video natively to Facebook and taking advantage of the fact that they’re creating an audience force that we never had before.”

Like anything else, your strategy has to evolve and change. And as you see the platform making major shifts, you have to be willing to make those shifts as well and be nimble in terms of having strategy and adapting it to what’s actually happening in the real world. I forgot what the stat was today. I think it was something along the fact that they’re serving a billion videos a month or something like that on Facebook. So really, you have to keep dialed into this stuff and be ready. Obviously, if you’re Facebook, you have to expect that the next move is going to be auto-playing video ads. I think that’s pretty clear, that’s what they’re trying to prime the pump for. But again, when you look at these things and you see these kinds of sea changes, you have to be ready to change your strategy and that’s what we’ve done.

Sean: Yeah. Completely agree on the video. They’re definitely diving in and they’re almost getting a free pass on the interlink for anything video. If you scroll down your feed at the bottom, it’s all video and sports are just all over it. They’re ideal for it. You don’t really even need the auto-play. You want to play it.

So it’s a really good way from a sports point of view. I say there’s a massive opportunity to reengage your audience and say, “Maybe you haven’t watched a Celtics video in a couple of years, but here are some of the things that we’re doing.” And you can do those teaser type of things to send people back to your website or to say, “Don’t forget, you can get it in the mobile app and consume all our videos.” So it’s a really good way to reengage your audience to show the stuff you’ve tried doing on the video platforms. Because so many people in your position and sometimes, when you get to the scale, it’s not a big deal but you’ve still got these K.P.I.s. And there will be people higher up saying, “What are our video views? How are our page views? What visitors are we getting?”

And so, it goes against the grain to say, “We’re going to go put it on Facebook.” Because, yeah. It’s not your backyard. It’s not your land, that you’re doing it on Facebook’s land. But sometimes, you’ve got to use that to say, “Hey, don’t forget, we have got this killer content. We haven’t been showing it to you on this platform because they haven’t provided a really good video player. But now we can.” And it will just engage them to watch more and will start driving people back to your site.

Peter Stringer: No question. And just looking at our metrics for the month of August alone, we’re pretty dramatic in terms of the amount of reach we were getting on videos compared to regular posts. For our articles, we were doing about 3%, 4% reach. Our videos in August did almost 10% reach which is a huge difference when you’re talking about an audience of eight and a half million.

Sean Stringer: Exactly, exactly. And I think if I’m not mistaken, there was an article recently just by the Facebook newsroom talking about the latest on video and pretty much saying, like you just said, a billion. But also, the effect the auto-play is having on the video views and what people are doing. I guess a tip for everybody is, have the settings it’s not auto-playing on your data because it would be a few that would shock Telco bills when they check their data plans. If everyone is now pushing out videos, you’ve got to make sure it’s only auto-playing on WiFi. Otherwise, you’ll just completely cream your data pack on your mobile.

Peter Stringer: Right. To that end, we’re going to keep looking at that because who knows? They may change their minds in a month and say, “You know what? People are really complaining about their data plans. “And so, it may be that they change their attitude on the auto-play and things different, and so we’ll go in a different direction if that’s what the strategy calls for.

Sean: You told me before about being responsive and the mobile nature of the fan now, that the fact that a lot of your content will be getting consumed on mobile. A lot of the content that people are seeing on Facebook is from a mobile point of view. You’ve developed the Celtics app. I remember talking to you in Boston when I was there for seat, “Hey, you were putting that together.” And that was back in 2012. And it was a bit of a, “Why are we building an app? We’re doing an app because everyone else is doing an app.” Not quite sure what it was going to become. And from that experience, you’ve sort of started getting to that. . .talked a little bit about Home Court Advantage and what that offers and why it drives people back to the app each week.

Peter Stringer: Yeah. So Home Court Advantage is a program we launched in conjunction with American Express last year. It’s a live-streaming pregame mobile show half an hour long. And it has a couple different functions. One, I think we came into last year kind of knowing that we had a team with a roster in shift, in transition, obviously. We had a few of our big stars move on to other teams. And so, one of the things we were looking to do is we needed to come up with a way to build interest in our team. And just let people know ,”Hey, we’re playing tonight. “And I think that was a big motivating factor for us, so driving changing awareness.

And so, the mobile app is ideal for that, for a couple of different reasons. One, certainly fans have that thing in their hands from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to sleep. And I always say people have an intimate relationship with their phone because they take it everywhere. They go everywhere with it. It’s always on their purse and they don’t let it out of their sight. And so, it’s a great way for us to reach fans and remind them, whether it’s with a push notification and say, “Hey, we’re playing tonight. Here’s a live pregame show from the TD Garden. So you can catch up, listen to Coach Stevens pre-game presser, all those types of things. It’s a really great way for us to reach our highest value fans who are really engaged and make sure that they stay with us and they’re dialed in throughout the season.

I think the other big thing is obviously more and more of our continent being consumed on the mobile device. Like you said, our websites’ evolved and switched over to responsive design to accommodate for that. And I think teams across the league are seeing it. It’s anywhere from 40% to 60% of their website traffic now is starting to become on the mobile device. Not to mention just your app itself and the amount of traction we were getting on the app.

And so, increasingly the sports fans and Celtics fans, we’re having those conversations. They’re viewing content on that device. And so, whereas a couple of years ago, it wasn’t as clear as to why we needed to have an app. I think now, it’s a very clear way for us to reach our fan in a place where there are spending a ton of time.

And I think that’s the thing. Whether it’s Facebook or the mobile app, you’ve got to reach fans where they’re spending time. And for us, Facebook is a big place where they’re spending time, Twitter is a big place, Instagram and on the mobile app as well.

Sean: And the thing with the mobile app, that there was a great picture tweeted by Banksy or at least I think it’s Banksy’s account. The mobile phone it effectively had roots coming out of it and pretty much integrating into our hands, which is exactly that relationship you were just discussing. It’s always within reach. It’s always within a meter of your person.

So it’s just that relation that’s getting tighter. And the fact that what I liked about Home Ground Advantage is it gives a reason for the fans to check back in into the app and that’s one of the big concerns. When you’re building an app for a sports team is why are they going to go to our app? There are so many options both from a league level, from a media partner, whether it is Fox or ESPN, to consume everything around the barrier or any particular sport. The team, specifically, has to provide something in their app to get them in. And it’s either that check-in style appointment viewing type of thing with the pregame show you’ve got with Home Ground Advantage. Or it’s that utility type of thing which we’ve seen with some of the venues where the app changes when you’re entering the venue and it becomes the utility day to watch replays in the stadium or find out where the closest concession or the shortest line, that kind of thing. It’s something you’ve really got to make sure that your app has that function for your fans to open it up and come back all the time.

Peter Stringer: Yeah, no question. I think for us, the arena integration is a piece that we’re looking at a little closer now. We don’t own and operate the TD Garden where we play. We’re tenants there and so we don’t have complete control over the infrastructure in that building. But certainly, when you talk about iBeacon, for instance, I can imagine in the not-too-distant future where if you’re riding up the escalator to your seats upstairs, we may hit you on the iBeacon and send an alert to your app and tell you, “Hey, there’s seats available downstairs for a premium.” and offer fans the opportunity to upgrade their seats for a few dollars more. Sitting upstairs, you want to spend a little bit more, come downstairs and have a better seat, have a better experience. Those types of things that we can accomplish by understanding, “All right, we know this telephone is going up to the balcony because of the Beacon technology. Let’s see how we can bring them downstairs and make that offer.”

For us, it helps us move maybe unsold inventory, helps the fan get a better spot. And really, I think that’s probably the most powerful thing we can do from a revenue standpoint as a team but also just increasing the fan experience. Because at the end of the day, who doesn’t want to sit closer to the court, right? That’s ultimately what fans always want to have, is a closer view of the action. And so, if we can help facilitate that for fans who might be coming in on the first time and have the app downloaded on their phone, I think that’s a pretty powerful plan and I think most teams will be looking at that this year and the coming years as we go forward.

Sean: Yeah, I was talking to Kevin Cote at the Warriors and they actually did implement that in their stadium. That exact scenario you said at the top of the escalators on the top level, little ping on the phone that says, “Would you like to upgrade?” And it’s really important that those kind of. . .it’s not intrusive, it’s like adding value to the fan. It’s not just, “Hey, welcome.” Or it’s not just, “Buy our stuff.” or “Here’s a sponsor message.” It’s really valuable to the fan and increases that fan experience, gets them to come back to multiple games.

Pete Stringer: No question. I think when you think about how you’re going to address the fan. . .you have to respect the fact that yes, this phone is in their hand constantly. They do have an intimate relationship with it, like I said. But at the same time, you have to respect the fact that you can’t just spam them with messages and marketing and content every single time they look at their phone when they come in the building. So you want to be adding value and I think that’s really something that we think about. With regard to any content that we generate or any type of digital initiative where we’re going to take that opportunity to reach out to our fans, we want to be bringing them value every single time we do that.

Sean: Well, the other reason I want to talk you, not only in your role in the Boston Celtics, but recently, you’ve started your own podcast Media Masters. And you can find it at on iTunes and SoundCloud. How have you found jumping into the world of podcasting?

Peter Stringer: It’s been an interesting ride. It’s been something for me, I always make a point of trying to keep in touch with people who are thought leaders in the business and the industry. Not just in sports, but just an industry in general. And so, much of the thrust of that has been, “Hey, this is a good excuse to get back in touch with people who I talk to here and there.” Whether I text or e-mail with them and talk about issues that are facing people in digital and media.

But also, kind of talk about their career path and kind of how they got to where they are and what are the lessons they’ve learned along the way. And what I found is that everyone’s story is different and I’m fascinated to find out, everything from talking to Bonnie Bernstein who is one of the most famous sportscasters in the country. Probably ten years ago, was at the height of her powers and now, she’s taken her career in a different direction, launching into a Digital Network Campus Insider. Having that conversation with her and talking about what she learned from her early career and how she applies that now to a completely new digital business has been fascinating.

Talking to somebody like Dan Harbison who spent nine, 10 years with the Portland Trail Blazers. Now, is in the casino marketing industry at Caesars. Everything from that, from talking to a friend of mine Brad Rutter, who’s the greatest Jeopardy! Player of all time, and talking to him about winning the million dollar term at Battle of the Decades. And talking about how he approaches Jeopardy. It’s funny. When you think about. . .you have these conversations with people. It may not necessarily be a direct parallel to your own business but when you hear of their journey and kind of what their approach is and how they’ve solved problems, there’s a lot to be learned from speaking with people who are kind of leaders in their field. And so, really, that’s been the idea with the name Media Masters. The idea is that these are people who are masters of the medium that they’re in.

And I’ve had a blast just having the conversations. I don’t think it’s anything. I don’t envision myself becoming a full-time podcaster by any stretch. It’s just really more of a hobby than anything. Although, I’ve learned it’s a very time-heavy hobby in terms of the amount of time it takes to go through and edit the podcasts down and put them together and make them suitable for download. But I’m having a lot of fun with it and it’s been good. And I think for me now, it’s kind of just figuring out who to bring on the show next. I think I’ve done about 16, 17 episodes over the last four or five months, and we’ll see where it goes from here.

Sean: Yeah, exactly. I’m the same. The fact is, just talking to different people, you find out their different background. Especially in this space and again, I’ve got a daughter that’s now in college. And five years ago, a lot of the people that we’re talking to and a lot of people in the industry that might be listening, these jobs did not even exist. So it’s really, you can’t go to a college and say, “I want to be trained for this role.” because they didn’t exist. You’ve got people like you and I that come from a techie background and we were able to dive into the HTML and the coding and that kind of thing, to having guys that come from a journalistic content-type of background. You have video people coming in. And everyone is sort of evolved in the industry to find their space on what they’re doing. And that’s the thing. There are so many different roads that can lead to this area. So it does provide fascinating listening and just discussion to find out how people are going.

And also, the applicable of what is happening in other industries as well as sports. I’ve met with Dan Harbison and had him on the show as well. Everything that he learned and did at the Trail Blazers is being applied in a completely different manner. In a new industry in Vegas, in the hotel, and entertainment industry. But it’s fascinating to hear what’s working in that space. And then, how you can flip it back and use it at the Celtics or use it with your sports team.

Peter Stringer: Oh, yeah, no question. I’m thinking about some of the people I’ve had on like, Just Jolio, from Dunkin’ Donuts. And obviously doughnuts are very different than sports but there are a lot of parallels in terms of the way that they market to their fans.

I spoke with Chris Nowinski who is a former WWE wrestler, Harvard football player. And basically, he has become a one-man crusade to fight the concussion crisis in pro sports. It’s fascinating to hear him tell the story of how it went from him being a wrestler who was basically retired because of this problem to then starting up this entire foundation and seeking out experts in the field to gain as much information. It was just a fascinating story about how it was so personal for him, it’s become this entire crusade. And the amount of work he’s put into it, and he’s changing lives. It’s really fascinating to talk to people like that. And then, just random stories. Somebody like Lindsay McCormick who’s a sportscaster here and spent the year last season on the Sunday Night Football bus going all over the country living on a bus as kind of a social media correspondent for the games.

In talking to all of these people, you hear their unique stories. It’s inspiring in one way, but also just. . .there’s a lot to be learned from people who have kind of figured out a way to emerge in their field. And a lot of unique tactics that maybe aren’t necessarily something the average person would think about. But I think if there’s any thread that kind of ties all the people I’ve brought onto the show is that they’re all kind of highly-motivated people, but they’re also, in many cases, people who have thought outside the box or saw an opportunity and jumped on it. That’s what I find inspiring and that’s what I love uncovering on those podcasts.

Sean: Your last podcast with Caity Kauffman from the Tampa Bay Lightning, I liked her discussion. And then, when you tapped in on talking about Facebook ads, she just. . .

Peter Stringer: Oh, yeah, she’s got that stuff locked down. Caity is a rising star and I’m curious to see where she’ll end up next in her career because she’s super bright. I learned a lot from just having that quick conversation about Facebook ads. Something that we the Celtics are starting to dive into. And so, that was just as much educational for me, having that conversation and then following up with her off the air and getting some more information and picking her brain. Again, the thing from our standpoint, I’ve got a lot more experience in the industry but I don’t have the specialized experience that she has in that particular field.

And so, to be able to pick her brain and learn from that and hopefully help a lot of other people listen to that podcast and learn just a touch about what that is all about and to be able to pick up some of that knowledge from her. . .that’s fantastic and it’s great for her. Again, talking about a rising star, she’ll be. . .I can’t wait to see what she ends up doing because she’s going to be somewhere, and she’s a player in the industry, for sure.

Sean: Yeah. I listened to that one. And I was loving it because I’m all in on all the analysis you can do around your Facebook insights. But then, the things that you can do with an ad to both sell tickets, promote your sponsored content. And the fact that she’s got just in her role, it’s not just the Lightning. She’s also working with the venue. She is in that spot where one week, she’s selling tickets to Rod Stewart and then the next week, she’s trying to sell people to go to the Lightning or to those kind of things. The laser focus that you can get with the Facebook ad stuff. It’s creepy, as a user but as a marketer, it’s really awesome as far as what Mr. Zuckerberg allows us to do and allows us to target. There are some really cool options in that space.

Peter Stringer: Yeah, no question. Again, the opportunities to learn from people who have similar jobs. But in her case, it’s very different, as I mentioned, with the arena. I believe they have an Arena Football team as well tied to the business. You can talk to Jeramie McPeek over at the Suns. He’s been with the Suns for 20 years and it started out working in the pro shop, him telling me that story was just hilarious to hear how he got involved with the Suns.

And there seems to be no shortage of anecdotes, or Alex Restrepo who’s over at the New Orleans Saints. And we did a whole podcast basically talking about why they use Snapchat. And I’ve got to be honest with you, I wasn’t much of a believer in Snapchat heading into it, but I had to kind of reconsider my thoughts on it after having that conversation with him. And so, again, I’ve learned something from every interview I’ve done in that space and that’s my goal is to continue to do that. And apply those techniques and tactics to what I do here at the Celtics.

Sean: So the season ahead, you’re in planning mode. There is no offseason in digital. There’s always something. . .

Peter Stringer: There really isn’t.

Sean: You’ve got to keep the interlink gods happy and keep content coming out. What are some of the plans that you can talk about for the season ahead? What are you looking to do from a Celtics digital point of view?

Peter Stringer: I think the biggest thing, again, for us, from a content generation standpoint. Like I said, I’ve got a team of five people who are all full-time, dedicated at creating content. I’m in the process of adding a few more people to my team and we’re going to continue to crank out more content than we ever have before.

I think two years ago, we did about 15 hours of video content. I believe last year, we did over 50 hours of original video content on all our digital properties and platforms. We’re going to continue to do that. So I expect to have even more content this year. And so, really, there’s no specific platform or specific social media outlet or anything that we’re really focusing on. I would say it’s going to be just more content about the team going forward than we’ve ever done before.

We want to bring Celtics fans closer to the guys who play on that team. At the end of the day, you want people to care about the people on your team and build that relationship. And so, the more we can let them inside the lives of these guy. . .who are these guys on and off the court and grow that attachment to them. I think the more they’re going to be willing to want to spend the money to come to the arena and experience the games live. So that’s a big part of it. And for my group, our function in terms of developing content around these players, whether it’s covering practice, whether it’s covering games or behind the scenes features and talking about their lifestyles and what they like, what they don’t like, all those types of things. That’s really where my group is focused on in terms of bringing Celtics fans closer to the team.

Sean: Exactly. In the end, we’re seeing a real big shift from teams being tagged as digital. But really, they’re more content and editors and seeing them as, to take your term Media Masters, but to tell the story. And that’s your job to tell the story. You’ve got a great story there with the history of the Celtics and all the championships and that kind of thing. But now, you’ve also got to tell the story of the team. Help the fans fall in love with all the players on the team. Know everyone from the star down to the 12th man. Because the fan that is all in wants those stories. I guess one thing I wanted to. . .you’re sort of pushing your chips in on video, which everyone is doing. And when you’re seeing startups like 120Sports come out and more and more people are consuming these two-minute videos, do you think there’s any stopping that or is video just going to keep going? The appetite for video is still there, it hasn’t been satisfied?

Peter Stringer: No, I think the appetite for video is not going away. At the end of the day, I think video is just such a more powerful medium than the written word can be for a number of different reasons. Obviously, the time it takes to consume it is generated less. I can watch a 30 second video in 30 seconds and learn a lot. You can tell a story there quickly that maybe you can’t do in 800 words, 1200 words or whatever it might be. There’s really no substitute for visual. And I think if you look around the popularity of social media platforms. Why is Instagram so popular? Because it’s a visual communication medium. At the end of the day especially in sports which is already highly visual, the ability to communicate in a visual manner. You’re seeing why Facebook is favoring photos and videos. Those are getting much more distribution in the EdgeRank news feed. That’s not going to stop.

And so, I think for us, that’s where we need to be in terms of telling our story visually. As you’re seeing, even new iPhones are coming out tomorrow with bigger screens. And why are they coming out with bigger screens? Because people are staring at it and they’re spending more and more time on the phone. And so, if you’re going to be looking at it, it’s got to be in a comfortable experience. So I think bigger phones are going to lead to more times spent viewing video.

Sean: And the thing is, I think hopefully, leagues get out of the way of themselves. We’ve seen recently, both at the World Cup, recently at the recent Premier League deal and things like that and even the Ryder Cup where they’ve tried to stop fans sharing clips and taking clips at games and stopping them sharing video. I think it’s something you can’t stop and leagues just need to realize that it is going to happen but it does help fans want to come back to your sites. Just because you quickly see someone who’s Vine’d a dunk on Vine or Instagrammed a video straight off their TV, it’s only going to deepen that relationship. Eventually, they’re going to come back to the properties because it’s going to be too hard to manage. And the leagues just pretty much have to throw their hands up and let it go, don’t you think?

Peter Stringer: Yeah. It’s one of those things where, obviously, from our standpoint, if people are going to watch highlights, we’d rather they watch our highlights than maybe some bootlegged highlights or something along those lines. But at the end of the day– and I can’t speak for the NBA or leagues, in general. I think that’s up to them to describe their philosophy on it. But I think you have to realize that you’re in a world now where you’ve got an HD video production studio in your hand now. And what you can accomplish in terms of capturing, it’s funny. I remember going to a U2 concert back in 2001 and taking a video camera there and they didn’t want you shooting video with your video camera. And I remember somebody from the tour coming over to me and saying, “Hey, you can’t use that video camera in here.” It’s just a little handheld palm camera and I captured some footage from the show.

Here we are in 2014 and your phone can do that. And what are they going to tell everybody, put their phones away? That they can’t shoot footage of the concert? Obviously, from a policing standpoint, it’s pretty much impossible to stop it from where it was. But the reality is, yeah, the video that you can capture, the content that you can capture with your phone is so much drastically different, even in the last three or four years now, that there’s not really anything that leagues can do about it.

It’s funny. A lot of arenas won’t let you bring in a professional lens for a camera. Ostensibly because they didn’t want you capturing photos that were high enough quality that you could resell or somehow monetize. Again, no-one is really bringing an SLR into the game as a fan, but they’re certainly bringing their cameras in and taking video and snapshots and whatnot. And some of them, obviously, the quality are not going to be great.

Again, I don’t know that you can police that really well. But at the end of the day– if fans are seeing the Celtics in their stream, whether it’s from photos that I’ve taken or our team photographer’s taken or just a fan that’s at the building– at the end of the day, I think it’s a good thing that fans are seeing our product in their timeline, in their stream. Because it’s reminding them, “Hey, that’s a Celtics game. That’s a place I want to be.” But again, policies differ from league to league and I can’t speak with much authority on that. That’s up to the leagues to speak about but I think just, in general, it’s good for fans to see our product in their timeline, in their streams on their phone, so the Celtics are on their brain.

Sean: That’s why Instagram has blown up so big, because people want to take a photo when they’re at a game. They want to brag to their friends and they can take that shot. And it’s only good for your brand because it enhances the live experience. It’s like you have to be there. You can’t take that shot from your lounge room. You can’t take that shot from a bar. If you’re at the game and you see that historic shot or the crowd going off, you want that shared. Although, I do agree with the guys at Manchester United, more on the point of rules against stupidity, where they’ve banned iPads because too many people were holding them up and recording whole games and blocking the view. They look quite silly when people holding up iPads to take shots and videos. But that was primarily because they were blocking people’s views. I think common sense will prevail in that kind of stuff because you can’t police that.

Thank you very much for coming on the podcast. People can find you. . .Where’s the best place for people to find you?

Peter Stringer: Probably on Twitter. Just @peterstringer is the easiest place. And you mentioned the Media Masters podcast on Twitter. That’s @MediaMastersPod or You can certainly find it in the iTunes store. Go ahead and subscribe. Like it, provide a review and hopefully, Sean, we’re going to have to have you on the podcast as well. You’ve got a wealth of experience in this space and I’m sure I can pick your brain on a million different things. So we’ll have to get a time for you to call me back and we’ll have you on there as well.

Sean: Definitely. Go to SoundCloud, Stitcher, iTunes, all the good podcast outlets. And be a good podcast listener. Leave a review on iTunes, both for Pete and if you want to give one to me, that’d be great as well.

Thank you very much for coming on the podcast. And I’m more than happy to catch up another time for another chat.

Peter Stringer: All right, let’s do it. We’ll get it on the books. Thanks, Sean.

Sean: Cheers, mate.

D.J. Joel: Sign up for sports geek news at

Sean: Thanks again to Pete Stringer there from the Boston Celtics and from Media Masters Podcast. is where you can find it. And as I said there, in the end of the interview, available in all good podcasting outlets. And some really good discussions with both people in the sports digital industry and also, those, I would say, adjacent to in the media space. They’re always good to listen and learn from other industries.

What are your thoughts on what we discussed there? especially on the Facebook video. We discussed some stuff around what Facebook had just released. In fact, they’ve serving up a billion videos in some of the stats that they’re released. That was only launched only a couple of hours before Pete and I had the chat.

Definitely something you want to be keeping an eye on the trends. If you’ve been listening to this podcast, I’ve been banging on a bit about it. And it’s also part of the Seat eBook where I talk about the Socceroos reaching 7.2 million people with their videos around the World Cup. I had to catch up with some of the guys at Facebook last week and pretty much confirmed everything that I’ve been seeing and saying around the video. They are making a big play into that space and really looking to take a little bit off the market share off YouTube. So as Pete said, they eventually will run ads. So while they’re making this change, make the most of it, get that engagement up and get some videos out. All the NFL teams have been doing a lot in that space as the season has kicked off. So I expect more to do that and I expect more to do it in the AFL, and NRL final season.

Especially those are the ones that we are working with. On ABC Grandstand this week, I caught up with Andrew who is filling in for Francis. And we discussed the celeb hacking scandal that sort of took over the Internet. And really looked at it from a point of view of what does it mean for athletes and sports teams as far as security?

Francis: So I talk security issues today with both Twitter and Facebook and all forms of social media. Something ,which is pertinent both to celebrities, but also to everyday Australians who are obviously using these technologies more and more. Talk to us about some of the issues that run along with that?

Sean: Yeah. I guess part of what triggered this discussion is the iCloud hack that happened with celebrities during the week where the iCloud was backed up and it was really good to see the Daily Mail clear it up for everybody. They put it in the newspaper to see the Cloud. Not an actual cloud, just to make sure for everyone. But it’s actually,what it is, what the technology is that the iPhone, when you sign up, it will automatically back up your photos and everything that you’re doing, which is great. If you’re taking photos of your baby and precious moments of your kid’s concert or you’re at the footy and you take a shot and you want it backed up, because you lose your phone, you drop it or whatever, great idea. But the thing is, if you don’t want that to happen, it’s also doing it as well. So that was one of the main issues. That all of these celebrities had iCloud turned on and it was saving all of their things that they were doing. And if they’re not doing things that they didn’t want shared, that was the issue.

Apple has come out and said iCloud wasn’t hacked, their specific accounts were hacked. I guess the lesson for anyone is don’t have really bad passwords. Normally, the first thing I do when I’m talking to anyone, whether it’s an athlete, a club, a brand is, have super-strong passwords and a super-strong password isn’t on a Post-It note next to your monitor. It doesn’t include your dog or your birthday, so there’s all those things. There are tools that can help generate those type passwords for you.

Francis: Tell us the criteria. If someone was making a password for the first time for social media, what would you recommend it?

Sean: This is not a password for social media. This is a password for your router, for your bank, anything. It should be 20 characters, impossible to read, hard to type out. You have to write it down to figure it out and type it in and it’s got to be hard. If it has any connotation of names and birthdays and dogs, that’s where pretty much, again, all reports, the hackers that went after these accounts did it by pure brute force. So they pretty much just tried everything and pretty much ran an algorithm over it to say, “We’re going to try this and this and this.” and eventually, they cracked it. Whereas if it’s 20 characters long, has uppercase, has lowercase, has symbols, not recognizable, the chances diminish quite quickly.

The other thing you can do with a lot of services is to factor authentication. So that is when you both have a password, but your phone will get a message or an SMS with a code. So the person who is logged in has your phone. Again, if they have those kind facilities on your account, then if someone is trying to hack it with brute force, you will get a notification. And that will stop it right there and then because you’re the one with your phone.

It’s always something that when I’m doing training with athletes, is I’m saying, “Well, you’ve got to secure your presence online. You’ve got to realize what you’re doing, where it ends up.” So whether it’s in something like the iCloud or whether it’s using an app that you think, “Oh, this is private. No one will see this. This is direct messages on Twitter.” or “I’m using WhatsApp and just the group, it’s just the players using it.” That might be fine and you might think it’s okay, but then I’ll ask them and I’ve done this a couple of times to groups of professional athletes. I say, “What if someone loses their phone?” forgetting all the hacking in the world. If player x leaves his phone in the cafe, he doesn’t have a lock on it, and someone can open that phone, open the app, they will see the entire conversation on the whole team. They will see all the photos shared with WhatsApp. So that’s one of the major concerns and you should see the blood rush from their face when you put that to a bunch of Australians. They’re like, “We’re okay.” and then I say, “And what if your girlfriend gets that?”

They just have that normal locker room banter and they think it’s fine. But again, or what if a journalist gets it? Automatically, they sort of see the consequences. So there’s those kind of things, securities on multiple levels. So there’s security that you can do from a password point of view. There’s understanding the services where your presence hit. And it’s not just Apple and iCloud and iPhones. Google, for instance, keeps track of everywhere you’ve been. And you can go in and say, “Hey, Google.” and you can do it personally. It keeps it all inside your own account. But anything in that mean can be hacked and found out. You can go into your Google account if you’ve got it tracking and telling you where you are. And it will actually plot where you’ve walked, driven, been everywhere like on a map. So again, that’s another issue potentially for you.

So you can close down a lot of these services to say, “Don’t track me, don’t send it to the Cloud,” all of that kind of stuff. But it’s all about finding out and using the right apps in that sense.

Francis: How do you find the right app?

Sean: So probably a good example is things like WhatsApp, It’s a messaging app that people think, “It’s cool. It’s private” and stuff like that. But WhatsApp has been bought by Facebook. And we sort of know the, I don’t want to plot them but they’re very loose with what they consider is privacy. That’s probably a good way of putting it. They change their privacy rules a lot.

But then, you’ve also got the concern of anytime you send someone something in WhatsApp, they’ve got it. So you don’t decide that, “I don’t want that out there anymore.” they’ve already got it. So if I send you a message in WhatsApp, you can save it. You can save it to your phone. You can say, “Hey, look what I got from Sean.” So that’s a concern, too. Your privacy is only as good as your friends. Or only as good as the person you’re sending it to.

So Snapchat is another one where people can send photos and they’re meant to auto-destruct, Mission Impossible style. You’re saying that this is going to destruct as soon as you move your thumb. It doesn’t. One, it ends up in the memory of the phone. It’s still on Snapchat servers. And there are apps that are called Snap Save, Snap, and people can save the Snaps. So you send a Snap and we’re seeing videos and that kind of thing from athletes get saved, sent to mates. Goes viral via e-mail and things like that and it ends up in the press.

So again, you’re in this space of you’re thinking it’s okay, you’re thinking I’m doing the right thing of sending something backwards and forwards. It might be risqué or it might be off-color or whatever. But it can be saved. And Mark Cuban, who is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and a tech guy has built an app called Cyber Dust that’s trying to fix that problem. And so, what Cyber Dust is, it’s exactly the same. It’s a messaging app but it is truly super secure. So you send something. One, you can’t screen shot it or anything but then, it just disappears. So it has that security of, “I know I’m sending you something.” but as soon as you’ve read it, it’s gone. And too bad, so sad, you can’t keep it.

So I think there will be more and more, that secure messaging space where there is no digital footprint. And that’s pretty much his pitch because he was holed. . .the S.E.C. was chasing him over allegations of trading and things like that. And they were using his digital footprint of tweets and texts that he’d sent and taking them out of context and trying to build a case.

And so, that was his impetus to do it. But from an athlete point of view, if you’re just trying to text someone or have a normal conversation with someone you think is your friend or is your current partner. At some point, they might not be. And that always becomes an issue later. That I’ve sent that message or I’ve sent that photo or whatever it is. They’ve got it, they own it, when really, and it’s yours.

D.J. Joel: Want to understand Facebook advertising options? Go to

Sean: Yes, love to hear from you if you’re looking to sell more tickets, more membership, more merchandise. Get your sponsor promotions out there, we’re doing a lot with our clients around Facebook advertising, helping them understand the space. Understand the costs of the space. But also, understand the opportunities, as I said with Pete.

As a marketer, it’s scary good. The laser type of focus you can do. Targeting people to visit your website, consume your content on your e-mail lists, opening your e-mails, engaging with your content. There are so many different things that you can do in quite a cost-effective way. You don’t have to spend thousands. If I can give one piece of advice, please do not use Boostpost. That is effectively just donating money to Mark Zuckerberg. It’s a waste of money. So that’s my public service announcement for this week. Don’t use Boostpost. It’s all about the power editor.

A couple of things to wrap up. On our discussion with security and understanding that as I’ve said before, secure passwords are a must. I am now on Cyber Dust, if you want to add me and send me a message, Sean Callanan. It’s exactly the same as my Twitter handle. I will be more than happy to connect and have a discussion there because you cannot take a screenshot and use it elsewhere. And that’s the idea behind it.

So I think it actually might be a platform that athletes might start using. But again, it’s not going to have that viral nature, but it might be a good way to communicate with fans. It’d be interesting to see what’s your space with the teams, jump on board. It’d be interesting to see what the Mavericks do with Cyber Dust.

This week’s social media post of the week goes to NASCAR, using Facebook video to promote their new Sprint Cup series. Here’s a snippet.

Sean: You can watch that full video on NASCAR’s Facebook page I did share it on the Sports Geek page. As I said, great way for you to reach your fans by using video and as you can see throughout your feed, plenty of teams doing it. So if you’ve got something to launch and you want to get your fans fired up, especially with an educational piece like what NASCAR are trying to do, they’re launching a completely new concept, great way of doing it with Facebook video.

Okay, that clock is telling me to wind this episode up. This is episode 59. You can find the show notes and links to things we discussed on the show like Pete Stringer’s podcast at As well, you can find it on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher. Your reviews, retweets are very much appreciated.

This week’s sound of the game comes from the Australian Ice Hockey League Grand Final. This is the final minute where the Mustangs got up, beating their crosstown rivals, the Melbourne Ice.

Sean: Thanks to Robert Bannerman, the Commissioner of the Australian Ice Hockey League for inviting me along to the grand final. A packed Medibank Icehouse saw the Mustangs win their first championship 6-1. It was a rout in the end, but fun was had by all.

That’s it from me for this week. If you haven’t got the SEAT eBook and you haven’t signed up, you can do so at If you’re on the list and you haven’t got it, please just send me an e-mail, happy to pass it on.

Also another initiative, I’ve started my own Facebook page which will be very similar to my Twitter account in sharing some of the content. A bit more long form, more than 140 characters. If you feel like liking that, you can. Just simply go to

Until next week, my name is Sean Callanan, from Sports Geek. Cheers.

D.J. Joel: Check out which teams work at Sports Geek at Find all Sports Geek podcasts and Please a review on iTunes. Go to Thanks for listening to the Sports Geek podcast.

Winning a Super Bowl, what is it like for the digital team? – ICYMI – @SportsGeek News

Kenton Olson chats about Seahawks DigitalWhat @SportsGeek reads…..

Why Google’s CEO only buys companies that pass his crazy toothbrush test.

Ever tried networking when you’ve lost your voice?

What is it like running a digital team in lead up to Super Bowl?

It’s over: The rise & fall of google authorship for search results

Why it’s a mistake to piggyback on someone else’s business

How this man built a $3M business a year after four years in prison.

This is how the NFL is getting butts back in the bleachers

“Football passport” A great digital addition as the season kicks off…

AFL club memberships hit record mark but ACCC not happy.

See 43 years of Nike sneaker evolution in “The genealogy of innovation” video.

How iCloud flaw caused nude celeb pictures leak (this should concern coaches and agents)

Here’s a map of every device connected to the Internet

In case you missed it – Reprint of Sports Geek News – Wednesday 3rd September 2014

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Important news on Facebook feed, it will change how you post – ICYMI – @SportsGeek News

SEAT2014 Keynote PanelWhat @SportsGeek reads…..

Important Facebook news – Click-bait to be penalised and why you should be using Links in Facebook

How are the NFL and MLB reaching fans via digital?

EVENT Killing it with Content panel discussion with Sean at Churchill Club this Thursday

NFL CIO: Quarterbacking A Digital Revolution

Manchester United bans iPads from home games

Nielsen data shows mobile devices & social networks are making TV better

The future of media in sport through the lens of MLBAM’s success

AFL memberships reach 800K

Facebook remains ‘Top of the food chain’ in sports

A billion push notifications later, insight from Yinzcam

Keeping it simple: Why “The ice bucket challenge” works..

Savvy campaign by Juventus #PirloIsNotImpressed

In case you missed it – Reprint of Sports Geek News – Tuesday 26th August 2014

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#IceBucketChallenge accepted

What is the #IceBucketChallenge?

Have you been living under a rock?  The Ice Bucket Challenge is a viral fund raising and awareness raising phenomenon for ALS and MND (Motor Neurone Disease as it is known in Australia).  So far many celebrities, athletes and technology and political figures have accepted the challenge to tip a bucket of ice on their heads and donate.

With water from the Yarra River...

How to donate?

One pushback for online campaigns is “digital slacktivism” where people click like and feel good but don’t donate or change behaviour (see Kony 2012) but it looks like people are donating in large numbers to ALS and MND.

You can donate by following these links:

There is concern that people may not donate to other charities due to the success of Ice Bucket Challenge, I urge you to rail against that and donate to your regular charities.

Why I did it?

I spoke about the Ice Bucket Challenge last week on ABC Grandstand only to find out the next day that a long time family friend, Deeds, who was only a few years older than me had just passed away a few days earlier from Motor Neurone Disease.  I was challenged by Josh Rowe from Beers, Blokes & Business and RealAs and by Kylie Caflisch from SEAT so I dedicated my Ice Bucket Challenge to Deeds.

Note: Special mention West Coast Eagles’ Neale Daniher who announced he is fighting MND on Monday, watch the Eagles boys Ice Bucket Challenge video

My #IceBucketChallenge video

Also available on YouTube

Who did I nominate?

I nominated the following people:

Keep up the good work

Here is Josh’s challenge to me on YouTube, I’ll add more as privacy settings allow.

Facebook Like gating to be banned, how will you cope? – ICYMI – @SportsGeek News

In case you missed it – Reprint of Sports Geek News – Thursday 14th August 2014

What @SportsGeek reads…..Relief after getting through SEAT Welcome Address without my voice

Facebook Like gating will be banned on November 5, what does this mean for you?

Barcelona to host first sports theme park.

Which NFL stadiums are best reinventing the fan experience?

2014 Sports Stadium WiFi: The Complete A-Z Guide every US state rated

Everything you need to know about your Facebook reach statistics.

This is the stupidest athlete endorsement you’ll ever see. At least Cristiano doesn’t demonstrate it!

2 SEO Tools unveil some massive treasure.

Here’s what happens when your joke goes massively viral on Twitter, fascinating read on internet funny

Good points by Greg Baum on AFL pushing fan engagement initiatives, what do you think?

Marc Maron interviewed Robin Williams on his podcast a few years ago, worth a listen

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Why LeBron can’t go home again – ICYMI – @SportsGeek News

In case you missed it – Reprint of Sports Geek News – Wednesday 30th July 2014

Relief after getting through SEAT Welcome Address without my voiceWhat @SportsGeek reads…..

Why LeBron can’t go home again – great article by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

New San Francisco 49ers stadium is a geek heaven

These jerseys look awful but no doubt the fans will love them – The first ever selfie jerseys are here!

Study: Mobile users who engage with fans use Facebook most

Understanding the expectations of a 21st century fan

Foursquare rebrands, unveils new app and logo

Introducing Save on Facebook

Some wise words from Ray Allen on what athletes deal with from fans on his instagram account

So you’re not up at 5am to work? What’s wrong with you? NothingGreat post

This. Is. Awesome. Here is Frank Caliendo as Morgan Freeman reading the LeBron letter

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TDF cyclists faced with a new danger – ICYMI – @SportsGeek News

In case you missed it – Reprint of Sports Geek News – Wednesday 16th July 2014

DaveSjolinDesaLogicWhat @SportsGeek reads…..

Tour De France cyclists faced with a new danger: selfies

World cup footage boosts content, viewers for FFA website

That’s the ticket: Portland Trail Blazers revamps online UX

Inside ESPN’s Social Media war room during the most tweeted sporting event ever

New Kings arena will be among NBA’s smallest, but built for profit

Hundreds of competition entrants left angry after they were unable to buy a Jeep

PUMA launches Arsenal kit trilogy

The Facebook algorithm signal no one talks about……including Facebook

#timcahilling: Tim Cahill sparks Twitter craze after response to Germany thrashing Brazil at World Cup

Throwback Thursday: A look back at NBA teams’ websites in 2004

How Google map hackers can destroy a business at will

How a password changed one man’s life for the better – must read!

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How to find killer content, content curation explained – ICYMI – @SportsGeek News

In case you missed it – Reprint of Sports Geek News – Tuesday 8th July 2014

Troy Kirby from Tao of Sports Podcast on Sports Geek Podcast with Sean CallananWhat @SportsGeek reads…..

Twitter and the World Cup: the digital match made in heaven

Learn about how Sports Geek solves content curation

5 keys to the @WWE’s hugely successful social media strategy

Where the digital sausage is made: inside Adidas’ World Cup roost

Wait, Facebook organic reach is going up?

The silence of Twitter during a penalty shootout

Now you can see almost all athletes’ Twitter analytics

How Facebook moved 20 billion Instagram photos without you noticing

The art of self promotion on social media

How to save tweets for any Twitter hashtag

Ikea built a website inside Instagram

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How Wimbledon went big in digital – ICYMI – @SportsGeek News

In case you missed it – Reprint of Sports Geek News – Tuesday 1st July 2014

Shane Harmon CEO of Westpac Stadium on crowds, stadiums and #sportsbizWhat @SportsGeek reads…..

How Wimbledon has become one of the most digital events in sport

Twitter is experimenting with a new way to retweet

Whoops! World Cup own goal – security officials’ wi-fi passwords printed in newspaper

Launch of 120 Sports a game-changer for fans

World Cup highlights “real-time” differences on social media

What’s next for the US, “brand soccer”?

Sports teams immersed in big data

Want to use Facebook Ads?  Listen to this

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SGP 052: Shane Harmon on crowds, stadiums and #sportsbiz

Shane Harmon CEO of Westpac Stadium on crowds, stadiums and #sportsbizOn this week’s podcast we chat with Shane Harmon CEO of Westpac Stadium on crowds, stadiums & technology and #sportsbiz.    Shane is a sports business lifer and is CEO of Westpac Stadium in Wellington, if you’re not following @ShaneHarmon then you just aren’t doing it properly.   Later in the podcast I chat with Al Crombie on ABC Grandstand about new sports digital collaboration called 120 sports.


On this podcast you’ll find out about:

  • What it is like moving from team/event side to stadium side of sports business?
  • What are the key issues stadiums are facing around the world
  • Why the world uses New Zealand as a beta platform and to see upcoming trends.
  • How stadiums can leverage social media for customer service
  • What is the next steps for connected stadium?
  • How Shane keeps up to date on all things #sportsbiz using Flipboard
  • Why would MLB, NBA & NHL collaborate on digital?
  • What is 120 sports and why is video so important?
  • How did fans respond to Luis Suarez Adidas promotion?
  • What do the Wiggles have to do with World Cup?

Resources from the episode

Cheers Shane

Last time I caught up with Shane at MLB in Sydney

Well done to The Wiggles

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Everyone else was having fun deciding where LeBron would go over the summer, the SEAT intern team joined in the fun.

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Podcast transcription

Sean: Welcome to episode 52 of the Sports Geek podcast. On this week’s podcast I chat with Shane Harmon, the CEO of Westpac Stadium on crowds, stadium technology and just the world of sports biz in general. And we check in on the World Cup. And at Sports Illustrated’s new digital platform.

DJ Joel: Welcome to the Sports Geek podcast, the podcast built for the sports digital marketer. And now, here’s your host, who has attended MLB games in 10 MLB stadiums, Sean Callanan.

Sean: Thanks, DJ Joel. My name is Sean Callanan from Sports Geek and you’re listening to the Sports Geek podcast. Yes, 10 MLB stadiums I’ve been to, so I’m very much looking forward to notching up to number 11 when I go to Marlins Park at SEAT Conference down in Miami and I’ll have to actually update my sports passport. I believe the app that Peter Robert Casey is building to keep track of what stadiums you’ve been to will be out soon. Check out episode 46 for my chat with Pete.

This week’s podcast I catch up with another previous guest, Shane Harmon. We’ve had him on episode 23 but a bit more of a dip and dodge discussion this week. Shane is the CEO of Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand. You would know him if you follow him on Twitter, a big share of all things sports biz. So we’ll talk about crowds, stadium and technology and his journey using Flipboard as a content curation tool and how he keeps up with the world of the sports business. Then I chat with Al Crombie on ABC Grandstand to talk about 120 Sports and a bit of a wrap of the World Cup so far. But first, here’s my chat with Shane Harmon from Westpac Stadium.


Sean: Very happy to welcome a good friend of mine who’s been on the podcast before, all the way from New Zealand, Shane Harmon. Welcome to the Sports Geek podcast.

Shane: Good afternoon Sean.

Sean: So, you have been on the podcast before but I just want to get everyone a little bit of an intro of who you are and what you do. You are currently the CEO of Westpac Stadium in Wellington. Do you want to give everyone a little bit of a background of your sports biz journey?

Shane: Sure. I’ve worked in sports for the last 15 years or so. Previously to sports I worked with Citibank in a direct marketing role and that for me was a large stepping stone into the sports business. My first job in sports was with the Sydney Swans who I joined in 2000 as Membership Manager. And as you know in the AFL background, direct marketing is a key component of those roles and I was able to transfer those skills across into a sports environment. And essentially I’ve been in sports since then. I spent three seasons with the Swans and moved on to rugby for five years as Head of Marketing for the Rugby World Cup in ’03. That was largely the ticket marketing program and then I spent three years with Australian rugby after that as their GM of Marketing.

And the opportunity then came up with a young family to maybe go overseas, so I got a contact regarding the Rugby World Cup roles for 2011 and we moved over here from ’08 to 2012. For me to date it was the highlight of my career. It was an amazing project to be involved in. It essentially was New Zealand’s Olympic Games and as an event I think that we’ll not see the scale of again in New Zealand. It was a huge ticket target. We sold $300 million of tickets. It was their only source of revenue. And we had a number of challenges through that program as you know. I’ve discussed it before, including the Christchurch earthquake and starting again with eight games six months out of the tournament.

You and I have talked at length about the whole social media scene back then and starting in ’08 it was really just beginning to blossom at that stage. We’re very proud of some of the work we did over at Rugby World Cup in that whole social media space. I think we were the first real major event that used social media to drive engagement and actually sell tickets.

I left New Zealand with a heavy heart in 2012 but moved back to Sydney and I took up the role as Deputy CEO for the Asian Cup for 2015 and expected to see that right through until I got a call about a year and a half ago to consider this role and it was a very difficult decision to make. But it was an opportunity for me to do two things: one, to step up into the CEO role, which I always had the ambition to do but also to move into the venue space because I had spent my entire career on the other side of the fence, as either a hirer or running a major event. So I just came to spread my wings, grow, learn all the time, which I’m continuing to do every day.

Sean: So I guess yeah, that was the first question I wanted to ask you about, you know jumping to the other side of the fence, going from the hirer, the tenant, someone working with stadiums. What’s it like being on the other side of the equation, being CEO of a stadium? Tell us a little bit about Westpac Stadium, where it’s at and how you’ve settled into that role.

Shane: Sure. The stadium has been open 14 years, so it was built in 2000. We are New Zealand’s busiest stadium and we’ve got the busiest event calendar and we’ve got some regular tenants in the Wellington rugby and the Hurricanes and the Phoenix. We’ve run a number of other major events during the year. We’ve got AFL, we’ve got NRL, and we’ve got the upcoming Premier League doubleheader with Newcastle and Westhampton. We’ve held the last two World Cup qualifiers for the All World as well, and cricket. We’ve got a very varied calendar. We’ve actually got two World Cup’s next year. We’ve got the Cricket World Cup and the FIFA Under 20 World Cup. There’s a lot of major events in this part of the world—Australia and New Zealand—in 2015 but I think we’re the only stadium hosting both so, a very, very busy period for us.

I suppose transitioning into this role, it’s really just given me that other side of the picture in terms of commercial negotiations and understanding the venue side of what is always a healthy commercial tension between a steady amount of hirers and really being professional about those negotiations, ensuring that both parties are going to be adequately looked after financially from events and both are in a healthy state. But more than that, it’s really for me about working collaboratively with hirers and I don’t think in Australia/New Zealand there’s enough collaboration between stadium and hirers and how we actually achieve what is essentially an end goal, which is getting more bums in seats.

Sean: Yeah, I mean crowds is I guess an issue sort of world wide. It’s unending, it’s located in any particular part of the world. There is the battle at the moment to get fans to the games. You’re competing against the big screen TV and a very comfy couch. How do you see that, just from an overall perspective, not just with your stadium but stadiums around the world and just trying to draw fans into the stadium?

Shane: There’s actually an uniquely New Zealand view to this and I think that there are things that happen in New Zealand and because we’re such a small market they happen earlier here than they happen in other parts of the world and New Zealand is actually often used by large internationals and multi-nationals as a test market for research for launching products before they roll out globally. So what we’ve seen here over the last 10 years in New Zealand is—particularly in super rugby and other sports as well—is that there has largely been a decline over the last 10 years in people attending live sports. The issue is exacerbated here somewhat by the fact that we’ve got an exceptionally high pay TV penetration in this market. We’re at 52%, where I think Australia is running at 25% Sean is it?

Sean: Yeah. It’s something like that.

Shane: Yeah. So we’ve got double the penetration here and anybody who’s interested in sport here has got a pay TV subscription. And when super rugby launched in the mid ‘90s on really the crest of a wave on the start of this century, there was pretty huge crowds but pay TV was also kicking off at that stage as well. With that level of penetration and even this year, the TV audiences have increased again, it’s very difficult for both of those barometers in a small market to be increasing. At some stage something’s got to give.

The other issue we have here with rugby as well is it tends to be a night time product and because of the nature of rugby—where it goes from one market into the next, New Zealand into east coast of Australia, west coast of Australia, South Africa—it’s great for the TV viewer because you’ve got back to back rugby for eight hours. But it also means that the vast majority of those games take place at night time and we have seen some correlation here between those events that we do host during the day we tend to get better crowds than in the evening. We understand why that’s the case. I’ve seen in various markets that you get two to three times the TV audience with a night time game versus a daytime game. But that is challenging, particularly when you’re dealing with winter sports.

On a global perspective, I’m seeing these trends now being manifested globally and I’ve paid close attention to some of the media coverage. In Australia at the start of the season, both for NRL and AFL, but I also see this as a result of both of their new TV deals. You don’t do deals at that level without making some compromises in terms of your product and I think scheduling is probably one of the bigger issues that has impacted on the codes in Australia this year, particularly when you’re playing some of those games at times that ordinarily wouldn’t be considered family or fan friendly: Sunday nights, Monday nights, that type of thing.

Sean: I mean, I think the TV deals, especially in Australia and for the people listening in the U.S., we don’t—I think it’s just in the last two years that they’ve been playing live TV on Free-to-Air and some on free TV—but still a lot of it is being Free-to-Air, not on an hour delay or a half-hour delay. And that’s sort of taken two years for that effect to roll on. We don’t have the blackout rules that they have in the NFL so if people have the option to—if it’s a cold night—to stay in, and yes the NFL has been testing a lot of things so it’s very hard to pinpoint anything in particular that might be the cause. It could be scheduling. Games on Sunday night and Monday night haven’t been a big hit, but they’re also experimenting with variable pricing and there’s a lot of people complaining that the confusion in the market and the price of tickets going up is causing people to stop going. So there’s multiple factors there, but it’s definitely an issue that all codes, definitely within Australia are struggling with and looking to.

Part of what I’ve been talking to people is sort of going back to your Rugby World Cup 2011 experience and the fact that you sold a lot of tickets using Facebook. The options now that you’ve got in Facebook as far as targeting the right fans and reaching those fans in a relatively cost-effective manner, I see that as a big opportunity for sports to be able to get that ticket selling opportunity to the right fan that currently is under-utilized in a lot of sports. We’re working on a few things with some of our teams as far as putting out the membership offer and ticketing offers to fans but there’s some really cool and—I guess Facebook offers creepy options—to target the right fans is probably one way of putting it.

Shane: Okay. And I think also, I think it’s important that sports and venues, particularly in Australia, because the crowds in general, compared to other parts of the world have been very healthy. You look at the AFL and I think it’s ranked as the fourth highest attended football code in the world for average attendance. I think it’s important that they beat themselves up too much because the numbers are still very healthy and I think in Australia it really leads the world in terms of membership programs and that’s something that we in New Zealand can learn from where traditionally we have not had a strong membership culture here. The majority of our sales for events tend to happen in the days or on the day of the game. We’ve got a big game here tonight, the Hurricanes versus the Crusaders. Thankfully it’s really good weather here. It’s a fine day so we will have a strong walk-up crowd.

However, when you’re relying on late ticket sales you are relying on hope as a strategy and hoping that the team is going well, hoping that the weather is good, whereas building up strong and loyal membership bases at the start of the season locks in a large support base at the start of the season and I think that’s what the AFL has done particularly well. I know the NRL obviously is following that model now and even in the U.S. they’re looking more at a membership type program than the season pass type program and people think they’re much the same thing, but I see them as fundamentally different. A season pass is a financial transaction while a membership is an emotional one and the AFL have been world leaders at that in that regard. That’s certainly something that I’d like to see follow suit here in New Zealand.

Sean: Yeah. I mean I’m always talking to people about membership marketing and the way it’s done in Melbourne. You’re in a role that’s had the opportunity of the past five years to effectively do what the AFL has done in the last 15 because I’ve been able to accelerate it and start that messaging of “this is why you need to be a member.” I mean, I feel membership sort of marketing at the moment is at the level where it’s almost guilt marketing. If you’re a member of that club and you see another person that says they support the club, the first thing that most fans will say is “are you a member of the club?” So like the marketing assets and everything is really put on to your own ambassadors and they’re effectively out there sparking to get their friends to sign up.

Shane: And you get the engagement at that level where the financial component of the transaction, it becomes almost more of a donation than expecting specific value in return for it and just to give you my example, I mean I’ve had the same seats at the sitting cricket round for the Swans for 16, 17 years now and I renewed my memberships for four years while I was in New Zealand even though I wasn’t getting anything out of it. We wanted to sit with the same people when we eventually went back that we’d sat with for all those years. It was also my way of supporting the club and in some respects that’s engagement nirvana if fans take that attitude toward supporting their teams.

Sean: So one other thing that’s in the solution spectrum of crowds is technology and bringing up the technologies at the stadiums, allowing fans to connect. I’ve spoken with a few seat sponsors on the podcast about the different solutions that are available as far as rolling out stadium wi-fi, whether it be popping it up at fan’s zones and events. Where do you see it, both as a necessity for a stadium to roll out and where does it play a role in getting fans through the gate?

Shane: I think, Sean, if not within five, within 10 years every stadium in Australia and New Zealand will be fully networked is my view. It will become the norm rather than the exception. I think because we’ve been relatively late to the party, say compared to the U.S., it’s probably one of those spaces where our first move or advantage doesn’t necessarily apply and what we’re seeing now are models emerging where venues and teams can actually commercialize these assets. I think the early adopters in this space put a lot of money into this and filed them and see what return they could get. But what we’re seeing now are viable commercial models that are emerging. I look at a few of the venues in Australia and I see three different models already. One is a stadium-funded model, which is completely funded by the stadium and they commercialize it then through advertizing rights and data rights. I’ve seen another model where the stadium has incurred no costs whatsoever but the cost has been borne by the telecomm and technology partner but as a result they retain the commercialization rights.

And I’ve seen a third model emerge which is these models being funded by stadiums but then a per-game fee being passed on to hirers for them to commercialize it. So I think over the next year to two years we’re going to see models emerge that show the return on investment on the technology investment and how venues and teams can actually make this work. We’re looking at this whole space like everybody else at the moment. We’ve recently constructed a new lounge on our public concourse and for me it’s probably one of the best public spectator spaces in any stadium in Australia or New Zealand. And we’ve got a substantially enhanced food menu than we had previously but we’re playing with a number of pieces of technology here as well. We’ve installed free wi-fi into the lounge. We’ve got large IPT video boards, food menus that are IPT based and mobile phone charging stations and for us that’s just a little taste of what we think is going to come here. So we’re just looking at this next space at the moment.

We’re speaking to everybody in the market and it’s a real shame that it’s unlikely that I’m going to be able to make seat this year due to commitments I have here because obviously it’s a very hot topic over there as well. I think it’s going to become a necessity. I would caution, however, that I don’t necessarily see technology as a holy grail in terms of crowds suddenly going upwards again. I just think this is going to become one of the expectations from fans that this is something we’re going to have. I don’t necessarily think that it’s going to necessarily result in massive increases in crowds. I think teams and venues, there are probably other basic elements that we need to be working on and getting right before we even make that level of investment, too. One very simple area that is mentioned to me regularly is the whole area of beer pourage and you go to any stadium in Australia or New Zealand and there’s normally a pourage partner that’s either tied to the venue or team. But there tends to be very little choice and we’re in a very sophisticated city here. We’ve got more craft beer bars in Wellington than we do in Sydney, for example and if I ask 10 Wellingtonians would you rather offer craft beer or free wi-fi in the stadium I reckon nine out of 10 would tell me to offer craft beer.

There’s a whole lot of other areas. I think it’s a component, but it’s not the holy grail in itself.

Sean: Yeah. I completely agree. I mean it is becoming—I think it was said at Seat last year—that it’s going to be just another utility of a stadium in the same way that you need bathrooms. Wi-fi will be just something that people need but the people aren’t going to a rugby game or a baseball game or a football game to be on their phone. But if you have the wi-fi, how can you enhance the experience so it is a matter of how can we do things like the Warriors are looking to do with their new app and having geo location locked highlights that only come up on the mobile app when you’re at the stadium.

Or special offers, like when you’re walking around sporting Casey’s venue here at the north end of the stadium a special offer will come compared to the south end of the stadium. I think that’s the way effect that’s really going to reach that younger demographic that really sort of loves that type of stuff. The other point of the connected stadium which is sort of–I think it’s Phase II for a lot of the stadiums that are rolling it out—chatted with Fiona Green on it during a previous podcast and she’ll be able to say it as well, it’s the data side of it. Like, how much data can you get from that implementation as far as getting more access to your fans, what they’re doing, that kind of thing. That’s a really big piece that can maybe better help inform you going down the track of attracting the right fans and those kinds of things. So, it’s not just putting in infrastructure, it’s how you go about using it and what you do with the data that you capture from it.

Shane: Absolutely, Sean and in terms of planning in advance of making those investments it’s the data, as you know, on its own doesn’t do anything. When you’re making these investments you also need to think of the resources that you need behind the scenes actually to be able to make sense of this data and to identify trends and to actually make it useable and there’s no point in collecting this data if you’re not going to be able to analyze it and get actionable insights.

Sean: Yeah. And that’s I guess the next money bowl. Like that’s the business money bowl and that’s what, with guys like Russell Scibetti and all the crew that will be in the CRM track at SEAT, that’s their value in understanding that data and then being able to come back to those fans with the right offer to get them to be coming back again and again and again.

Shane: I think so and I think again, you look at these types of offers that are coming up on phones. It’s a fine balance between sending offers through all the time and then looking at other areas of value-add. So we’re looking to develop an app at the moment. It’ll probably take awhile before we get to a place where we’re going to do video streaming in stadiums because we need to look at the broadcast rights and who owns them, et cetera. So there’s a whole minefield to walk through there but even looking at feedback that comes from fans and through social media and identifying the problems that fans incur while they’re in the stadium and how you can use technology to overcome those problems.

One very small example I just saw the other day that I said what a great idea to incorporate into the app is we’ve got a commuter car park here during the week. However on event days that happen during the week it’s closed to the public but we’re not particularly good in communicating that. I noticed a couple of tweets saying oh bugger, I’ve just driven past the stadium, it’s closed. Where am I going to park now? I’m going to be late for work, et cetera. And notification alerts for people who have the app and if there are issues at the car park. They would receive that notification the night before and it would be sweet. They’d be able to make their plans in advance and it’s just a very small example of a problem that I saw come to us via social media that I could see technology actually having a role in performing. I think when you scratch beneath the surface you’re going to find all of those little problems that an app can help and deal with those issues as they arise on game day or outside of game day.

Sean: Yeah. I think the customer service side of things is critical. It’s so easy for a stadium to do and especially if you’re building that kind of app. No one is going to go into that kind of app to check the scores or get an update. They’ve got apps for that so you’re pretty much looking at, I’d send people to J.B.’s book utility and I’ll put the link in the show notes, but he goes through a whole bunch of examples where the marketing or the app in this case is built as a utility for the fan. And so that’s the perfect example of “Oh, I need to find out if I can get to parking,” and it’s going to tell me. It’s going to make it useful to where it’s showing the shortest beer line is this one, go to Bay 13 or Bay 17. Like that is a viable app that people will want to open up again and again.

Shane: And I completely agree and I think stadiums—and I’ve seen in through social media—would sometimes fall into the trap where they’re putting across the same content as the team and really a stadium should not be providing live score updates as far as I’m concerned, via social media. That is the role of the team and the code. Certainly a halftime score or a full time score is fine, but a live commentary from me on the game from the stadium and I see some stadiums, now stadiums have probably been late to the game in social media, but I see MCG aimed at stadiums are doing some good work in this space. And I think social media also allows stadiums to develop a bit of a personality, otherwise they’re a multi-facility building that the hero is the code or the team or the players et cetera, but it really allows the stadium to develop a bit of a personality as well.

We’re finding Twitter in particular is becoming an increasingly important customer service tool for us. We’re just revamping our sales and marketing team but we are bringing on board, starting the week after next, a Fan Engagement and Digital manager and it will be a multi-faceted role, but it will be really about lifting our social customer service on match day and addressing issues and opportunities as they arise and jumping into conversations if there are problems. Because inevitably when you’ve got 20,000 or 30,000 people in a stadium, you’re going to have issues. And I think like any form of customer service or customer complaint is actually how you respond to those issues is going to be key to retaining and keeping a happy fan.

Sean: Yeah. And the critical thing, when you’re doing that kind of thing is to get whoever is driving the Twitter and seeing those posts connected to the control room so it actually happens.

Shane: I couldn’t agree more.

Sean: So there’s nothing worse than, as a social person saying yes now ours are going to get fixed, but not knowing if it got fixed because you can’t go out and see if that toilet stopped flooding or that line for the hot dogs has gotten shorter. There’s going to be a lot of trust with your whole team but if you can get that flow right, the response online can be really good because a lot of the time the customer just wants to be heard and if you’re on the process of solving it, you can turn around that complaining fan rather quickly.

Shane: Absolutely. And I see the role of this person on game day is that they’ll be roving around the stadium looking at some photo opps obviously and fan shots leading into the game. And what we’re doing as a stadium and what food items we have on special or have launched, et cetera but during the game this person is most likely going to be sitting in the control room next to the operation guys and monitoring the issues, monitoring the discussion and being proactive as issues arise. It’s a brave step forward for venues and they really need to be set up operationally to do this. My recommendation is that a venue should not be on Twitter unless it has the capability to be able to react to issues on game day because you’re really not in it seriously if you’re not able to have that discussion on those key couple of hours once a week, twice a week where you actually have a full stadium.

Sean: One thing I did want to ask you about is your meteoric rise with your Flipboard. Tell us about how you use Flipboard, where you get your content and again for our listeners I put in the show notes Shane’s a rock star in the Flipboard space with his own sports biz magazine. Take us a little bit through how that came about?

Shane: I fell in love with Flipboard very early on, Sean. It’s a very visual medium and it really takes your Twitter feed, your Facebook feed, all of your social feeds and particularly those stories that have got a photographic element to them and turns it into this online magazine. The app itself is a beautiful app. It’s beautifully designed. It allows you to flip through stories and see what’s of interest. About a year, year and a half ago Flipboard allowed its users to create their own magazines and you can curate your own content or you can add on friends or colleagues to your account to also add content to it. Because this was at the very beginning, I set up a sports business magazine. I think it’s called Sports Business Today and all I do each day is I monitor the key sports business hashtags that you see on social media. So sports biz is one, social for tickets is another, fan engagement is another. So just those key hashtags that I use on Twitter to generate that conversation around sports business.

Now it involves me each morning or each night just filtering through probably a lot of rubbish but because I’ve started to grow quite a following—I’ve had over 9,000 readers now—I do feel a personal sense of responsibility and a lot of posting on there is actually relevant. The content is probably more geared towards the digital, social, fan engagement, ticketing space so it’s particularly in the fan space but if there’s anything else of general interest I’ll put it up there. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on it. The numbers that I’ve gotten on it have been about 2,000 page flips. I’ve posted 2,200 stories, so if you’re looking to go through the minefield that is social media and RSS feeds and everything trying to find the best of sports business daily, what I’ve done is curated it so it should all be there and there wouldn’t be too many that are escaping my attention. If there are, send it my way and I’ll add it to my magazine.

Sean: Yeah, I mean like I hadn’t found a spot for where to use Flipboard for a long while and it wasn’t until I got the iPad Mini that I started using it again. I just never sort of found a space for it in sort of how I go about finding content. But yeah, like I’ll find a stack of stuff from yours, I’ll start up my own Flipboard magazine. I’m like, damn Shane’s already posted it. I get very competitive. So I do re-Flip a lot of the stuff that you’re putting up in the same space but yeah, just the fact that you can pull in all of the different streams: here’s your LinkedIn feed, here’s a specific Twitter list, here’s what people are saying from Facebook and even just the cover stories that it promotes of all those magazines, it sort of gets the rhythm right of these are things you should read.

Shane: Sure. Absolutely and it’s a relatively manual process for me. I mean I tend to look at it and curate it each morning and each evening when I go home. But I really enjoy it and as I’ve said at the start, I been in this for 15 years but there’s not a day goes by that I’m not learning something new. It’s an industry that’s evolved very quickly and we really all need to stand our guard and just keep learning and look what’s happening around the world, what best practice and every day I see something that amazes me or thrills me. It’s a great resource and hopefully I’ve taken a lot of the heavy lifting out of it for people who are looking for this content. So jump on board and subscribe to it and tell me what you think.

Sean: Yep. Well I’d better wrap this episode or this interview at least, up. Otherwise I’ll go over the optimum time for podcasts, which I’ve been told is around 40 minutes, so I’ll try to keep it around that time, keep it within a commute or a gym session, so I’ll wrap this up. I’ve got a couple of quick questions at the end to hit you up with in the world of sport. Now this one, obviously you can’t name Westpac Stadium, but what’s the best stadium that you’ve ever attended?

Shane: The best for me would probably be AT&T Park in San Francisco. I think from a customer service and an atmosphere and a technology perspective they are the leaders. And I’ve been there on a number of occasions and it’s probably why I keep going back. Anybody in the sport business of stadiums and teams that hasn’t been there should go and get a look.

Sean: Yep. I completely agree with you on that one. What about a must-follow? It doesn’t matter what platform it is. Who do you want to give a shout out on someone that people should be following?

Shane: There’s a few people in sports that I’ve followed from the very beginning. Absolutely name yourself, Sean, as one of the key people that I follow in terms of keeping up to date with what’s happening in the industry. But other people in the U.S.: Brian Gaynor, who’s been to Sydney before for a Sport is Fantastic conference and is a good friend and is an industry leader, and Russell Scovetti you mentioned earlier on and Lou Imbriano, and there are a few others there that are really good sports business Twitter handles and they’re guys that I follow on a daily basis.

Sean: And a best sports biz tip?

Shane: The fan is the number one stakeholder in sports as far as I’m concerned and I think if you get the fan right and you have a vibrant and large and healthy fan base everything else follows. Without a large fan base and an engaged fan base there are ultimately no sponsors. There are no broadcasters. There are no paid professional players and I think sports sometimes loses sight of that. So for me it’s about elevating the fan and making the fan the number one stakeholder in sport.

Sean: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more, especially with looking and working with teams at the social. A lot of the time they’re looking at growing their likes and getting more fans but your key fans, your key fans that they’re already liking you and you’ve got to go deep in your engagement with those ones because they’re the key ones. They’re the ones that are the members. All the stakeholders are turning up and in a long history of working with sport, what is your best sporting memory?

Shane: Well, it would be the whole World Cup experience, the reward at the end of the day on a very long and difficult journey. I suppose reminiscing in Eden Park after the final, when the old Blacks beat France in a game where France probably should have won. But there was this enormous emotional tension just lifted across the country after that game and it was a huge celebration and at the end of a very tough year for New Zealand after Christchurch so for me it was probably that Rugby World Cup Final.

Sean: Well, thank you very much, Shane for joining me. Don’t forget you can follow Shane on Twitter at ShaneHarmon and we’ll have a link to your Flipboard in the show notes. And I hope to catch up with you for one of those craft beers sooner rather than later.

Shane: Sounds good.

Sean: Cheers, man.

Shane: Thanks, Sean.


DJ Joel: Sign up for Sports Geek news at

Sean: Thanks again to Shane Harmon. I am looking forward to catching up with you for a beer as we did at Major League Baseball in Sydney. And I hope to catch him at SEAT next year if he can’t make it this year with the premier league match at Westpac Stadium. For those of you who haven’t registered for seat yet, there still is a few spots left. I was speaking with Christine: over 700 attendees are going to be in Miami. That’s a 16% jump in attendees from last year in Kansas City. Simply go to Obviously you can listen to a couple of podcasts that I’ve done so far with seat sponsors and the people who go to seat to understand why you should be there.

Also, if you’ve got any campaigns that you want me to profile in my book for digital campaigns around the world, please send them in. I’ve got some really great ones from NASCAR, the Kings, Tampa Bay Lightning, V8 Supercars, Portland Trailblazers and the NBA and more. So yeah, I’d really love to see your best campaigns and profile me in that book that I’m going to launch at seat.

That sound that you can hear underneath me is from the FA Cup at Dave Burtenshaw. I spoke about it on episode 50 and he sent in this is what happened after the FA Cup final.

[Background noise, cheering]

Sean: So, very fond memories there for Arsenal fans. Dave Burtenshaw did say it was one of the best moments he’s been from a live event point of view and obviously a big moment for guests, previous guests like Rich Clark, who was calling the game for Chained to the shop a little bit, this clock is telling me to wind up and get out of the podcast. This is episode 52. You get those notes at I’m going to finish up this episode with my chat with Al Crombie, who filled in for Francis Leach at ABC Grandstand, with a little bit of a chat about 120 Sports and also the World Cup.


Al: It’s time to welcome a good friend of the program. This is Sean Callanan from and I must say, he’s looking more Sport than Geek this morning. He’s got the skins on, he’s got the sporting attire.

Sean: You don’t want to put people off their breakfast. Good day Al. How are you doing?

Al: Very well, man. Great to have you back on the program. We had a little hiatus up in Sydney so we didn’t get to see you but it’s been a busy period. Social media has just absolutely been going off in this World Cup.

Sean: Oh, definitely. We’ve seen stacks of, I guess content, shared by the teams and by FIFA but it’s really the fans getting involved which has completely changed the perspective of how people are seeing and interacting with the World Cup. And so we spoke with the guys a couple of weeks ago about the different names coming in: Robert Van Persie first goal with his flying headers and people taking that and yeah, the soirees bite has been something of mirth throughout the internet. And I think it is a cautionary tale for marketers. I mean, I’ve been talking about the World Cup being the best footballs on the beach but it’s also the world’s best marketers presenting their wares. And unfortunately for Adidas, they’ve done a whole campaign around all of their athletes because they were in a fight with the other boot manufacturers and they’ve gotten messy at leading it. And if you look at the photo it’s Luis Suarez particularly chomping down or growling, looking like he’s about to bite something.

Al: That’s a lot of teeth.

Sean: A lot of teeth. And the thing is, these posters are all around Brazil, so the post ups, everything like that. So if you pretty much Google selfies and soirees you’ll see those fans taking selfies, putting their arm in somebody’s mouth due to the biting incident. So whether the added S people come back and say “Oh, look at our brand recognition, it’s all over the web.” Partly they might say that’s great, it’s great buzz, but yeah they might be reconsidering whether to have him on board as an endorsement if he keeps biting people. I think I mean as Rachel said, when the Wiggles attack making fun of you. The Wiggles have brought out a song about the biting incident. This is pretty much for your mum and dad’s kids. So if you’re getting that kind of attention it’s just sort of a completely different way to consume your sport.

Al: Indeed, indeed. Those marketing men would have been sweating heavily, wouldn’t they? And I believe Suarez has lost a big deal with a big betting agency in the U.K. just in the last couple of days so, it’s all fallen apart.

Sean: The moral compass of betting, as you see. That’s how bad it’s gotten. Yeah so, if he’s lost a betting company who knows what’s going to follow? He might even move on from his club and all that kind of stuff because he’s got to form a band and all those kinds of things.

Al: I want to see someone be bold and get a toothpaste endorsement or something, just come out and say “Well, you know.”

Sean: Oh, I’m sure.

Al: No matter what you eat, they still need to be washed.

Sean: Yeah. There was a lot of marketers that did jump on board. Snickers did a great ad. When you have a Snickers when you’re hungry you won’t be angry. There was a whole bunch of brands that sort of jumped on the moment to sort of say “Here, take a chomp out of this pizza,” that kind of thing, so…

Al: It’s incredible. Yeah.

Sean: Again, part of that, what is now moment marketing, some way that Oreo put up the Oreo tweet when the Super Bowl blacked out, that kind of stuff.

Al: It’s the immediacy, isn’t it?

Sean: Yeah. And they got a lot of kudos because you know, the fans go “Oh that’s funny. I’m going to pass it on.” And particularly it’s a free ad.

Al: Yeah.

Sean: But there’s a really big change or big announcement this week with the announcement of the 120 Sports Network. It launched just this week. It’s pretty revolutionary as far as the partnerships are involved so it’s a partnership between Time Incorporated, which is Sports Illustrated, but it’s got the Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL and NASCAR all partners with it. Which is, having the different leagues collaborating on a digital effort is quite remarkable because normally they’re all trying to work on their own patches and they’re competing against those fans in some sense and so this one tweening network is effectively a collaboration with those partners to create content and effectively its own digital channel. So it’s a little bit of a startup competitor to the ESPNs of the world and the other big media players. The 120 name comes from the 120 seconds, so again everyone is going to have a little catch, a little pitch. So what they’re going to be doing is creating these 120, you know two minute video clips of game highlights, talking heads, issues of the day, that kind of thing and it’s going to be curated and sort of populated by the popularity in social media and how much it’s getting played. And it’s really targeted to that younger generation that just wants to consume that short form media.

So it will be really interesting to see for one how it goes. It’s backed by—and I’ve spoken of Frank before about the technology behind it—but Major League Baseball advance media which is the tech company behind all of the things you see for Major League Baseball. So they’re providing all the tape to live streaming services and those kinds of things. So you can go to and just be sitting and watching videos and picking clips that you want to watch. They’ll have, I think, it’s eight hours of live programming a day so they’ll be churning out a lot of content so why are all these leagues joining up? Again it’s a way for you to get a taste for oh, I am following now a little bit more Major League Baseball. I’m not behind the pay wall that is Major League Baseball and again that is about deepening ties with your fans. They do all want to consume more content. I mean, all the studies have shown that if you give fans more content to consume, they’ll watch more. So even if we go back to when YouTube live-streamed some of the 2020 Cricket in the IPL in India, and you’re able to watch the games on live YouTube, people who are watching more clips and more opportunity to watch on YouTube meant that they watch TV.

So this whole idea of digital and mobile cannibalizing TV numbers is actually the opposite. The more people get to watch when they want to watch it means they actually want to watch it in all its glory. I mean, if you’re a massive baseball, basketball, hockey or NASCAR fan, yes it’s great to be able to catch up on the bus with a two minute video on the NBA draft or whatever is happening. But then you want to go watch it on your big screen so, sort of one feeds another. There will obviously be advertising play in there. It’s available on multiple apps, so you can get it on a mobile, get in on an iPad, tablet kind of thing, so again, I think it’s probably in the right sweet spot. We’ve sort of seen short video come along from a social media point of view about buying, which is six seconds, which, what can you tell people in six seconds? Not much.

Instagram has a 15 second video but it’s not really where you go to watch video whereas this is dedicated. You want to get the latest clips and highlights, so if a Giant’s pitcher throws a no-hitter, you can get in on there and watch it. And the idea is you would start showing your preferences and they would obviously have advertising data but then you would start saying “Oh, I’m really getting into the baseball season, I’m following that story,” and it will go back to the properties.

Al: Do they get a lot of objection from the ESPNs and whatnot in the sense that they’ll be taking away, in a sense, customers. And the fact that all these big sports are on board as well; did a cause a bit of a kerfuffle in the states?

Sean: Well, I mean, ESPN is a pretty big beast. I mean they’re probably seeing it as a bit of a side play for those leagues. And it has been, there is a bit of competitiveness in the same way it is in Australia between the leagues broadcasting their own content versus the broadcasters but I think that pretty much because it’s a digital play there’s this culture of cord cutting as far as separating yourself from cable and not paying the cable fees. That’s where the play is. Now, it’s four days old so it’s a bit early to tell if it’s going to have some success. But the thing for the teams are, why can’t they monetize that sort of thing? But yeah, where it will get interesting is if it starts affecting broadcasters deciding whether they want to pay for rights or whether the leagues decide, well we like our rights the way they are and we can monetize them better than they can pay. So that’s always going to be the push and pull between digital and TV. If they raise their game, which is most likely from a competitive point of view, ESPN will probably come back with a counter. They’ll come back with some video play. They’ve got Watch ESPN, they’ve got all these different opportunities but they might say “That’s actually working.” Imitation is better than innovation. They’ll just go and copy it and do their own spin on it. So the end result, the leagues will get exposure.

The one note of the partnership, if there’s one rather big league that’s not involved it’s the NFL. They’re quite happy doing their own thing. They’re quite happy keeping it all in-house. They don’t want to share. They don’t want to play with the other boys in town. So, like that’s about the only one that’s not there but it will still have a swag with really great content on it.

Al: Is it a free app? Is it free for us? It’s not going to be five bucks a month or do you see it progressing that way? A lot of these things start free and then you’ll end up paying the first sentence.

Sean: It could progress that way but I think because it is, I guess, league based and it’s a bit more altruistic in that they want to promote their leagues and their content and effectively drive traffic eventually their sites. I think that’s probably not the way they’ll go. They’ll be league sponsors and it will be activations through them and that kind of stuff but I don’t think it will be a paid thing. But who knows? They might head down that path. You know, Major League Baseball at Bat has done that; WWE, we’ve spoken about before, they’re on that Major League Baseball advanced media network and it’s a pay-for-play type of service. So it might be, if you can get the volume. It might be you get to watch 20 videos and if not you can pay two dollars and be on board. But then again, it’s just a subscriber thing, so I don’t think they’ll be at that point just yet.

Al: It sounds like a pretty handy, one-stop-shop though, for sports lovers, you know coming in on the train and getting all those little snippets that you need. But also like you said, I mean this is your realm. Do you see this kind of heading into the future and more collaboration between these sports?

Sean: Well, the collaboration is the interesting twist.

Al: I’m amazed that it happened.

Sean: Yeah. Well that’s the thing and that was the big announcement around it. I think that the trend for more video and more teams doing more content, more video from sports teams is definitely the way to go. Every team that we’re working with, and every one of these people want to consume more video, so finding that sweet spot of one, how you can best consume it and in that manner is the way to go. So then that’s what this is being built for. It’s being built for you to watch a quick mobile version, share it with your mate. It’s that kind of thing. So, it’s a really big player. If you look at the NBA draft, there were stacks of video going out, stacks of interviews, really great coverage by the NBA.

Al: Interesting. Watch this space. We’ll keep track of it with you, Seanie. We’ll see you next delay. For anyone who wants more data on this they can hit your website…

Sean: or Sports Geek podcast in the iTunes store.

Al: Lovely. Appreciate your coming in. Just wrapping up, heading up towards news time. Hang around after the news. Frankie will join us live from Brazil and we’ll also chat with Brent McKay and cover the super rugby action. Of course it’s back on board after a little three week international hiatus but why don’t we head up to the news and hear some of the Wiggles? It’s probably the first and only time it’ll ever be played on Grandstand breakfast side, as you say but let’s hear what all the fuss is about.

[Music] [00:51:16]

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