Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp, VP of Content and Engaged Learning at WorkInSports.com and this is the WorkInSports Podcast...
“It is one thing to have a good idea, and quite another to turn it into a reality…”
This thought kept bouncing around my head last week as I prepared to interview today’s guest Eric Stark, co-founder of Slate, a sports and entertainment social media tool that we’ll be talking a lot about.
We’ve all had jobs where we identified issues. A problem with a workflow, an inefficient tech solution, a supply chain issue. This moment of discovery doesn’t make us unique, we all see problems that need solving all around us. Awareness is common.
The better question is, what do you do with this information?
As I see it there are two distinct paths. Complain or solve.
This isn’t me being preachy, and simplifying issues down to a right way and a wrong way, and shaming you all for not picking the right way enough. Let’s be clear, I have done my share of complaining over the years. Loudly, so everyone in the back could hear me.
This is a normal part of the human condition.
We don’t always know how to fix things, so sometimes we complain to motivate others with the power to fix things to take action.
Am I right? Sound familiar?
When I was a production assistant, I would complain about our editing system loud enough for the boss to hear, in hopes she would do something. It was like a cry for help. Not exactly mature or professional, but I was young and trying to affect change in the way I knew how.
But you know what impresses me? Someone who identifies a problem, and then has the entrepreneurial ambition to solve it… like legit, create a solution.
So let’s get into this Eric Stark story -- Eric worked in the NFL for 7 years, digital account coordinator with the league, digital media manager with the Chiefs, digital and social media strategist with the Niners, then back to the league offices to be the Director of International marketing and content strategy.
Career path, on the rise.
But during this journey in the digital and content space, Eric found many problems with the process. Getting social media moments out to the audience fast, and with proper branding had a lot of friction points. It took too long and involved too many people. All kinds of areas for failure.
He didn’t complain, well maybe he did at some point I can’t confirm or deny, but that doesn’t fit my story right now, we’ll stick with he didn’t complain… he set out to fix.
He began developing his own solution to sports social media process friction, with 3 co-founders, his squad, which resulted in Slate.
Now, as I stated earlier in this intro, it one thing to have an idea, and quite another to execute it well and turn it into a reality.
Eric and his team identified a problem, solved it, and now have teams like the Golden State Warriors, Denver Broncos, NYCFC, Premier Lacrosse League, Atlanta Falcons, ole Miss, and many more using their product in their social media efforts.
That’s the overview, now let’s jump into the details with Eric Stark, COO and Co-Founder of Slate… (this is the point you listen to the podcast)
1: After graduating from UC-Santa Barbara you’ve worked for the Kansas City Chiefs, the San Francisco 49ers and the NFL league offices.
You were the Director of International Marketing and Content Strategy for the NFL – a dream job for many -- and you said to yourself, let’s go the entrepreneur route and start a business from scratch.
Simple question, are you insane?
2: We’re going to get into Slate a lot, I want to learn about it and explore the process of creating it – but let’s go back to that beginning for a second.
First job out of college you land a gig with the NFL as a Digital Media Coordinator – that’s a fantastic start to a career, what do you remember most about the process of job searching and the feeling of getting interest from the NFL?
3: I mentioned that you were the Director of International Marketing & Content Strategy for the NFL – how important is having a global lens on sports? Is that the growth opportunity in sports still waiting to be fully realized?
4: Slate is an incredible social media tool being used throughout the sports industry. As a content guy myself I love digging into productivity style tools…but I’m also fascinated by the ideation process.
Was working in content and social for all these NFL teams how you identified the need for a better tool? Is that what kicked this all off?
5: It’s one thing to have an idea, and quite another to execute it well. As you look back now, what were the key moments in taking Slate from really good idea, to a formalized product you can pitch to the Baltimore Ravens, and have them say “yes please”?
6: Let’s get into the mechanism of Slate – you don’t need to sound like an elevator pitch or a product demo, it’s a podcast you have time to explain and really dig into the product and use cases – so give it to us, how does Slate work and why is it such a great tool for sports engagement?
7: About 7 years ago I was interviewing at a well-known sports network to be the VP of Production, I was sitting with the CEO and he point blank asked me, “what would our programming look like if we hired you?” and I told him, we would focus on the world that is rarely seen, behind the scenes, real life content.
I think I scared the crap out of him as he envisioned all of their broadcast partners, the teams, saying “no way” – but isn’t that still today what audiences want? It’s not necessarily highlights, or news, it’s a unique view into the real life of our stars…
8: How does Slate play into this style of content demand?
9: Agility seems like an important part of social – the ability to move and pivot and be creative in a moment’s notice. Twitter and Insta are like flowing rivers after a storm, moments pass quickly – is that a big part of Slates role to bring agility, consistency and timeliness back to social?
10: If the pandemic has made one thing really clear it’s that the big 4 sports leagues have all been heavily dependent on the in-stadium experience – ticket revenue, suite sales, in arena sponsorship activations – they, in additional to media rights deals, dominated sports revenue streams.
BUT, a team may have a 20k seat arena and a twitter following with 2.5 million people at their fingertips 24/7. Are teams starting to diversify their revenue streams and figure out ways to monetize their social and digital followings?
11: We’ll finish up with this -- I read an interview where you discussed the need for higher salaries in the sports industry for people starting out – I couldn’t agree more, I’ve ranted for years on this show about paid internships, and salaries that comp[are to other industries.
But throughout my career I’ve heard some version of “you should just be happy to be working in sports” and “anyone would kill for your job” and “if we fired you, we could hire your replacement tomorrow” (Looking back, I guess I was threatened a lot)
Why is it important to change this mindset in sports, and how do we do it?