Sloane Kelley, USTA Managing Director of Content and Creative Services – Work In Sports Podcast

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp VP of content and engaged learning with workinsports.com and this is the Work In Sports podcast…

August 16th 1954

Sports Illustrated the magazine launches. In their first issue their most high profile article is titled “The Golden Age is Now”

“FOR WORLD-WIDE INTEREST, FOR WIDESPREAD PARTICIPATION, FOR SHATTERED RECORDS, FOR THRILLING TRIUMPHS OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT, THIS IS THE GREATEST SPORTS ERA IN HISTORY”Sloane Kelley USTA managing director content Work In Sports podcast

The imagery with the article is of a golfer, head down putting, but the photography isn’t strong enough to tell if it is someone famous. There is a gallery, maybe 30 people, and there is a man in a pink suit is standing just off the green but separate from the crowd…likely the Jim Nantz of the time. 

I’m not a huge nostalgia guy, but I found myself drawn to the article. I needed to know why they claimed this was the golden era — what stood out to them in this time to say “the time for sports is now!”

Reading further there were some interesting data points shared — not exactly Wins Above Replacement type data…but interesting for perspective sake. 

Get this… in their argument for it being the golden era of sports they cite:

  • Tens of thousands of pin boys are kept leaping by 20 million bowlers and, quite properly, the 60,000 bowling alleys around the country include one in the basement of the White House. 
  • The favorite outdoor sport is fishing. Last year 17,652,478 citizens took out fishing licenses and eight million more fished where licenses either were not needed (along the coasts) or were not likely to be asked for. 
  • Hunting licenses totaled 14,832,779.
  • Three million Americans go skiing every winter, 
  • A half-million own sailboats, 
  • There are five million golfers 
  • There is softball to be played (the Amateur Softball Association of America claims a million players) and basketball is a year-round sport and topic No. 1 in thousands of U.S. towns. 
  • There are horseshoes to be pitched in a million back yards and croquet balls to be tapped by belligerent believers who insist that it is the only worth-while game in the world.

Isn’t this amazing?

70 years ago the sports world was afire with horseshoes and bowling! No wonder your grandparents are scared to death of twitter, their golden era was spent fishing. 

It’s not exactly groundbreaking to share that the world has changed. It’s not exactly revolutionary to say social media, streaming, a dedicated sports channel for just about everything, famous athletes being accessible and sharing their own story — has changed our relationship with sports. 

But the job of keeping up with all of this sure has changed.  

Bob Ryan the quintessential sports writer, formerly of the Boston Globe and one of my personal idols, tells how when he covered the Celtics in the 1970’s he was embedded with the team, went out for drinks with them, knew their wives…and had to maybe write 3-5 stories a week. 

Now, content is different, the audience’s appetite is insatiable. There is social, there are broadcast hits, there is constant analysis and debate, there are writing demands… and then, there is everything around the corner… 

Are we developing virtual reality? Do we need to make content specific for Alexa? Should we launch a podcast? 

Everything needs a strategy and vision – or in this content world – there is chaos. There is no reactionary process — everything has to be proactive. 

Which makes the job done by today’s guest all the more impressive. Sloane Kelley is the United States Tennis Associations Managing Director of Content and Creative Services … and prior to that she was the VP of Content with the PGA Tour. 

She knows how to stand out in today’s golden era of sports, which is a little different than the one in the 50’s. 

Here’s Sloane Kelley…

 

Questions for Sloane Kelley, USTA Managing  Director of Content and Creative Services

1: Let’s get into your background a bit before we get into your career in sports content creation and management.

When I look at your bio and I see NYU broadcast journalism major with a Politics minor – I’d half expect to see you on the beat in D.C.. But you couldn’t be farther from it.  So how did this all happen for you, was there always a plan to get into sports, or did opportunity happen and you’ve embraced it?

2: Prior to PGA Tour and USTA you were on the agency side — you often hear people talk about “agency background” or an “agency working style”. What does that mean to you?  What are the key differences working at an agency vs. working for a team or league?

Follow – is that a valuable foundation? to have that agency experience on your resume? and would you recommend that to people breaking in on the content side of sports?

3: You were on the agency side at BFG communications for 7 years and then jumped to the PGA Tour as the VP of Content. Why? What was it about the PGA Tour that screamed out – “this opportunity is what I want.” 

4: A huge challenge for all brands and certain sports is attracting the millennial audience. Baseball struggles with this. I’d imagine the PGA tour skews older as well – How did you embrace and attract the millennial audience at the PGA Tour?

5: After 7 years at the PGA tour – likely traveling around the world in sunny locations – in the last year you jumped to the USTA to be Managing Director of Content and Creative Services – and likely still travel around the globe in sunny locations. Yes, I am jealous as I sit here outside of Philadelphia in an ice storm…

That’s two powerful sports associations you worked for – but they aren’t one of the big four sports – do you like being the underdog a little? Do you enjoy the challenge of having to fight for the audience?

6: So let’s talk about USTA — What are the big creative challenges you face with the USTA, and how is that different from the challenges you faced at the PGA Tour?

7: As a creator what style do you you gravitate toward? We see so many brands/teams/leagues focus on creating quick turnaround content. A twitter post. A quick video. A graphic. While we see others gravitate towards long-form storytelling, with high production value, video series, immersive fan experiences…which do you prefer and why?

Follow — is that the type of content you like to create, or the type of content you’ve determined your audience wants?

8: Content is so much more than just creativity – there is more data available than ever before – how much time do you and your team spend understanding audience data and utilizing that data to determine future decisions?

9: What about experimentation?  I came up the industry when there was an explosion of sports broadcast content, networks were launching everywhere…but then it shifted to social media and streaming… now there is Virtual Reality and Alexa … I say all that knowing there have been countless channels and platforms that have come and gone in the same time frame, never gaining traction.

So how do you know where to invest your time and what will be worth it to your audience?

10: Clearly you have a push the envelope vibe – which I love – how important was it to land at an organization that mirrors that approach and is willing and open to new thinking?

11: With the global reach you are trying to command, and the various platforms you are trying to reach your audience on, you clearly aren’t doing this alone. Let’s get into your philosophy on team building – what do you look for when hiring staff and organizing your team?

12: I noticed in your profile you use the word “mentor” a lot in regard to your team.  How important is that to have a mentorship attitude toward you team, and what do you think are the key components of your leadership style?

13: Alright we’ll finish up with this – clearly you are a forward-thinking operative in the content world – What’s next? How do we deliver our content to our audience in another 5 years, and outside of what you think will actually happen… what would you like to see on the horizon? 

 

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the sports media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

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