To stay relevant in a youth-obsessed culture like sports, it helps to stay close to young, up-and-coming talent. Slam Magazine has discovered that live events, which can be mined for Instagram-optimized video content, are a great way to do that.
This past weekend, the 25-year-old basketball publisher held its second annual Slam Summer Classic, a weekend-long event that features top-ranked high school basketball players participating in competitions including an all-star game and dunk and three-point shooting contests.
Throughout the tournament and related festivities, a team of 14 videographers, producers and social media editors from Slam followed the Classic’s participants around New York, gathering up raw material to promote both the players and Slam itself.
While the Summer Classic does not generate a profit, it allows Slam to amass exclusive raw footage it can turn into content not just in the days following the classic, but for months, or even years afterward, Slam CEO Dennis Page said. The Slam team has already put up dozens of short clips on Instagram, and it will be meting out clips steadily for the next few weeks, culminating in a 10- to 15-minute documentary on YouTube recapping the Classic; last year, a 17-minute recap of the Classic piled up nearly 450,000 views on YouTube.
The Classic weekend also helps raise Slam’s profile as a brand. Watermarked footage from the weekend has already been featured on the Instagram accounts of ESPN, Sports Illustrated and WorldStar Hip Hop. Just 24 hours after the Summer Classic concluded, clips from the weekend’s events had gathered more than 10 million views across Slam’s Instagram accounts; last year, the clips that Slam created using Summer Classic footage totaled 2 million Instagram views.
“For each activation, we think, ‘Are we going to get cool content out of it?’” said Adam Figman, Slam’s head of content.
Most of the content produced by this event will not live on Slam’s own website, but on social platforms, which Slam has made a focus of its content strategy of late.
In the past year, Slam has grown its follower count on Instagram to more than 3.6 million spread across eight accounts, including Slam Magazine, Slam High School and Slam Goods, which is dedicated to promoting its branded merchandise.
For reference, those totals are close to the nearly 3.4 million followers spread out across Sports Illustrated’s Instagram accounts, but well behind the 10 million followers that Bleacher Report’s House of Highlights has.
“We’re not hoarding this stuff for our O&Os [owned and operated sites],” Figman said. “We’re IG-first at this point.”
Sports publishers as a whole have begun gravitating more toward live events lately, said Kevin McGraw, an associate creative director at the sports marketing agency Revolution. Events help a publisher, particularly one unable to offer more traditional ad slots, opportunities not only expand their relationship with advertisers but provide a platform to support other forms of revenue, including branded merchandise and commerce; McGraw said he sees Complexcon as the event that most sports publishers are looking to for inspiration.
For example, Overtime, which has raised some $35 million in venture capital, including $23 million this past winter, plans to use some of that money to help build an events business, shortly after finding success in launching a popup shop to support its ambitious merchandise business.
To some extent, Slam is running a similar playbook. Thanks in part to a licensing partnership with Mitchell & Ness, which has gotten T-shirts and sweatshirts featuring Slam covers and other images into stores including PacSun and Urban Outfitters, merchandise now comprises 25% of Slam’s revenues. This weekend, Summer Classic invitees all got their own pairs of Summer Classic merch to wear around.
An earlier version of this story said Slam has three Instagram accounts with 2.6 million followers.