This week, I spoke with Ben Blake, the Co-Founder at InspoHub, a sports marketing content and production agency. Ben and I talked about trends to keep an eye out for, the importance of branded content and what values Ben brings to the sports industry.
Question 1: Ben, it’s great having you on Ash’s Sports Talk. How did your sports career begin?
Absolutely…I feel flattered to be invited! I have always had a passion for sport – first competing, and later in life, I was lucky to make a career. I studied broadcasting at university and pursued my love of sport to get work opportunities in sports broadcasting. I fell on my feet with my first sports broadcasting job – a work experience placement at a global sailing series stopover in Marseille. After that jaw-dropping experience, it’s no wonder I have stayed in this glorious industry.
Question 2: Let’s hear more about your work at Inspohub. What do you do, and what does the organisation represent?
InspoHub stands strong for justification. We take the strategic elements of marketing and business development and pair this with smart, disruptive creative content. Genuine business-objective return is then delivered on this investment into creative. The smart bit is doing this through content which sports fans don’t mistake for “salesy” or in-your-face marketing.
Within our team, we have a passion for equestrian (mostly showjumping), football, sailing and cycling.
Question 3: What are some of the key sports industry trends that you feel could shape the sector’s future?
In the post-COVID era, I see power turning to the athletes. We saw everything go online during UK lockdowns – from Joe Wicks PE classes up to the Virtual Tour de France. Of course, everybody is itching to get back to group training, meetings with coaches, and competition. But previously, the power was held by coaches, event organisers and governing bodies; and events/development was on their terms. The majority of people have used lockdown to increase self-awareness and have a clearer understanding of what matters most.
Competition organisers will have to cater for the needy entrant to keep attendance at a peak, and coaches should adapt to a hybrid learning style where not all coaching will be done one-to-one.
From a brand perspective – it’s time to capitalise! Post-COVID consumer spending is at record high levels. When consumers know what they want, they are willing to spend big. Upselling customers to premium will be possible when hyper-targeting a more niche audience. Brands must push their core values around sustainability and welfare to keep customers coming their way.
Question 4: Branded content is something Inspohub specialises in. I’m aware only 4% of clubs use integrated branded content. How much of a difference does this make for a sports properties digital output?
From the fan’s perspective, there is no noticeable difference to the digital output. But for the club’s commercial partners, it makes a world of difference! It’s such a simple task to integrate a brand into your organisation’s content – and I don’t mean adding a corporate logo in the corner of a video; that’s cheating. Club’s marketing/content creation departments must look at the aligning values of their organisation and those of commercial partners and create inspiring content around these. The responsibility should also fall to commercial and sales teams to highlight these aligning values to the correct departments within their organisation.
Question 5: While sports consumers are getting younger and younger, what effective marketing methods can sports brands explore to entice the next-gen?
Shoulder content is the key to attracting a younger audience. Take football, for example; the match coverage and subsequent highlights are relatively similar. The only space to stand out is in exclusive athlete access and the extra content you provide.
Gen Z has high self-esteem and are go-getters. They believe in their right to the best. If you can make them feel exclusivity, then they will consume your content. Make them feel like they are best friends with your high-profile athletes; make them think they are special and above the status quo.
Question 6: What have been some challenges you’ve experienced throughout your sports career?
The constant frustration is coming up against an organisation unwilling to change because they don’t want to upset the apple cart. To win, you must do something which your competition is not doing. But to be different is risky. Too often, there is not enough reward on the line for the decision-maker who must decide whether their marketing strategy will be risky or safe. Why should they risk losing their job when they can do the same as last year, and nobody will complain.
I do see a shift, particularly as millennials shift into high-level positions. Their minds are open to digital-first strategies and disruptive content.
Question 7: what’s your key advice for someone wanting to work in sport?
Try every role you possibly can! And make connections whilst you do it. Whatever you are asked to do, say yes and never believe something is beneath you. Once you think you’ve had a taste of the full spectrum, go back to what you felt most passionate about. Working in sports is not for the 9-5’er, so if you like, this industry probably isn’t for you. It’ll be tough on family life and friendships, but if this industry really is for you, you will never regret it.
Now that’s what I call a sports industry insight! The great thing from this is that Ben is still learning with us throughout his work at InspoHub. What was your key insight from this interview?