How NBC Sports Next Medaled in Olympic Content for Kids

Around 2016, NBCUniversal acquired a Minnesota-based sports activities digital platform that related younger gamers with native groups.

If you’re questioning what attracted the leisure behemoth to the scrappy startup (then referred to as Sports Ngin), assume subsequent technology.

“If you look at the research, the more kids play and participate in sports, the more they want to watch it,” says Rob Bedeaux, director of shopper engagement and content material technique at NBC Sports Next, the division that now homes SportsEngine (because it was rebranded).

NBCUniversal noticed the enterprise as a bridge to attach with youth audiences. Rob, who moved into content material from product advertising across the time of the acquisition, spun that chance into gold. His work on a undertaking to curiosity younger viewers in the Olympics earned him a spot on the checklist of finalists for 2022 B2C Content Marketer of the Year.

A content material advertising gold mine

NBC’s buy of SportsEngine included SportsEngine HQ, its software program product, and, the world’s largest listing of youth sports activities packages. The sports activities administration relationship software program is an operations platform that helps newbie and youth sports activities organizations handle registrations, customized gear orders, and ticket gross sales. The app lets groups monitor stats and scores and lets gamers’ mother and father talk with one another.

Partnering with sports activities administration relationship purchasers via SportsEngine HQ, Rob and his content material crew have direct entry to the gamers and their mother and father who’ve signed up for a sport, a league, or the app. They publish and share content material round coaching, gear, and find out how to hold children concerned in sports activities.

In quick, SportsEngine is content material advertising gold for NBC.

The more kids participate in sports, the more they want to watch it, says Rob Bedeaux, who spun this idea into #ContentMarketing gold for @NBCSports Next via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Preparing to shine for the Olympics

But the Olympics allowed the NBC Sports Next content material advertising crew to shine for NBCUniversal.

During the primary video games after the acquisition – the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang (South Korea) – Rob and the inventive crew labored to determine their place in the world of the Olympics and inside NBC. They began brainstorming methods to create long-term worth (NBC owns the printed rights via 2032.)

They had their reply by the point of the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games in 2021.

Their brainstorming included a crew member’s recollection of buying and selling playing cards in the Nineteen Nineties that includes a Muppet on one aspect and an NHL participant on the again with stats and different particulars.

That nugget prompted the crew to think about making a one-pager: The entrance would characteristic the Olympic Games, and the again would supply particulars about a person Olympic sport. That concept ultimately morphed into the Kids Guide to the Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games, which debuted as a 122-page information for the Tokyo video games.

Actualizing the inventive idea

It took a inventive village to appreciate Kids Guide to the Olympics. Rob labored carefully with a inventive director on his crew to develop and refine the idea. Then, they needed to get buy-in and approval.

Starting with the patron engagement crew at NBC Sports division, Rob offered the idea to the division leaders and ultimately to Jenny Storms, CMO for sports activities and leisure at NBCUniversal. She liked the concept and socialized all of it the best way as much as NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell.

Why a lot govt consideration on an Olympics information for youngsters? The piece used branding marks from NBC and the International Olympics Committee, which is notoriously protective of its intellectual property.

Rob’s crew acquired the inexperienced mild in late 2018 and started creating the information in earnest in 2019. The first accomplished part (about gymnastics) made the chief rounds once more to verify everybody favored the way it was coming collectively.

“Once we got approval for it, we just buckled down,” Rob says. He did many of the writing and introduced in copywriters to assist end the information. Research analysts and editors from NBC Sports reviewed and fact-checked every little thing.

The entrance half of the information centered on the Olympics typically – the historical past of the Games, its flag, the collaborating nations, and many others. The second half broke out every sport (their unique idea).

It took a creative village to realize the Kids Guide to the Olympics, says @Ann Gynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Adding enjoyable for all ages

The information wanted to be instructional and enjoyable. So Rob searched for fascinating tidbits and inventive retailers to entertain each mother and father and kids.

For instance, the swimming part included a number of the sport’s fundamental guidelines so mother and father and kids watching the game collectively would know what was occurring and why. But it additionally included video games in case the children acquired bored whereas watching.

For the skateboarding web page, Rob discovered a maze on-line and acquired the creator’s approval to incorporate it (he solely needed credit score in the information.)

“It really makes it that interactive family experience,” Rob says.

.@USASkateboard is new to the #TokyoOlympics 🛹

Download @sportsengine’s Kids Guide to the Olympics to search out out extra earlier than the Games start! ⬇️

— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) July 15, 2021

Holding (up) the course

By March 2020, the early model of the information was prepared. Then, the pandemic hit, the Olympics acquired placed on maintain, and so did the youth information. The Summer Olympic Games’ new dates – July 2021 – had been introduced in November 2020, and the children’ information returned to manufacturing.

At this level, the content material needed to undergo an much more rigorous overview and approval course of. Each sport’s governing physique needed to overview its web page this time, and the U.S. Olympic Committee needed to test all of the sports activities.

“There was a lot of back and forth externally as well as internally in the review process,” Rob says, noting how lengthy that overview took shocked him. But, now that he is aware of, it may be constructed higher in the manufacturing schedule.

The Kids’ Guide to the Summer Olympics got here out in June 2021.

Given the pandemic delays, the timing of Tokyo meant Rob’s crew had solely 4.5 months to supply the information for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Fortunately, he says, they may repurpose the Games historical past and overview from the summer season information with just some tweaks. They additionally created new pages for the sports activities, that are fewer in quantity than the Summer Olympics.

Repurposing #content helped the @NBCSports Next team create a Kids Guide to the Olympics for the Beijing games in less than five months, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Promoting the information

Of course, nice content material requires wonderful advertising. So, Rob and his crew members Kelsey Erwin and Keaton McAuliffe had to determine find out how to get the phrase out.

They added a touchdown web page to the SportsEngine website to gather e-mail addresses pre-launch. They supplied the information by e-mail to fifteen million households in their youth sports activities community. They reached individuals who downloaded SportsEngine HQ through the app.

But Rob and Kelsey additionally regarded exterior their enterprise line to make use of the NBC Sports and NBCUniversal belongings. They positioned inserts in the NBC Sports Olympics publication that went out thrice per week main as much as the Games. The information acquired talked about in the common emails despatched by the Today Show, Universal Kids, and Peacock (NBC’s streaming service).

They additionally acquired a bump point out (a brief video clip/point out earlier than or after conventional on-air programming) on the Today Show. During Olympic Trials, a sportscaster talked about the information, which additionally confirmed on the decrease third of the display screen with a QR code that introduced viewers to the touchdown web page.

“It’s kind of fun because depending on what’s happening, [sportscasters] can make that organic in the conversation. They could do that read through and then tie it to an athlete playing by explaining how that person started in the sport,” Rob says.

Interestingly, the most effective changing channel wasn’t one in every of NBC’s mega properties. It was the message bar showing on the high of the web sites of the youth sports activities organizations that had been purchasers of SportsEngine HQ.

Awaiting the scores

The finest suggestions Rob acquired got here from children who loved the guides. Rob explains: “That was one of my biggest worries. It was a total passion project for me. I thought it was super interesting, but is it going to be interesting to an 8-year-old, a 12-year-old?”

His reply got here in the type of social media posts with children holding up their guides.

The closing ceremony is 𝟯 𝗱𝗮𝘆𝘀 𝗮𝘄𝗮𝘆. Don’t miss out in your likelihood to attain a @SportsEngine Kids Guide to the Olympics! #Tokyo2020 #SportsEngine #youthsports #EverydayOlympics

— SportsEngine (@SportsEngine) August 5, 2021

One baby who’d acquired a print copy at an occasion requested a second copy so they may write in one and save the opposite. The crew additionally acquired direct suggestions: One household shared that they sat down with the information and picked out the athletes they needed to observe. Once the Olympics kicked off, one of many youngsters saved asking, “Is it time for swimming yet? Is it time for swimming yet?”

“That was very fulfilling,” Rob says.

And it’s the type of end result NBCUniversal had in thoughts when it first backed the crew all these years in the past.


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Cover picture by Joseph Kalinowski of the Content Marketing Institute