Since its founding less than a decade ago, Bleacher Report has been quickly climbing the digital ladder and garnering attention and accolades for its innovative approach to content and media. The site, which covers sports from all angles, has grown to reach more than 60 million unique visitors per month.
With March Madness upon us, Bleacher Report is gearing up for an even busier few weeks. The site’s frequent real-time posting will be kicked into overdrive to satisfy fans’ appetites for content during the tournament and its lead up. Backed by Turner Broadcasting, Bleacher Report continues to compete at a high level alongside more established properties like ESPN and “upstarts” like Barstool Sports.
I spoke with president, Rory Brown, for a little peek at Bleacher Report’s playbook on how to effectively market to the moment, build a loyal audience following, and learn a little more about how he has helped bring Bleacher Report into the spotlight – all now part of the marketer’s tool kit.
Aaron Kwittken: To what do you attribute Bleacher Report’s success? What did you do to grow the brand and its audience to where it is today?
Rory Brown: It’s been a pretty fun ride. When I joined in 2008, the company was very young. I was the 12th or 13th employee. We had to be scrappy. We set out to do something different in an industry that had been the same for quite some time. We still have that mentality today. We’re always trying to find the white space – new, different and compelling things that will appeal to a generation of sports fans that didn’t watch SportsCenter waiting for highlights every night; people who consume everything on mobile and might be interested in the intersection between sports and music as opposed to purely what happens on the field.
Kwittken: What role does real time marketing play at Bleacher Report? Taking advantage of moments, unanticipated moments, being able to jump quickly – how do you go about that?
Brown: Sports are great because so much of them are cyclical. The Olympics are every four years; the Super Bowl is the same time every year. There is old school editorial planning you can do around those moments. Then there’s the art of the real time – that unexpected play or trade or something said in a press conference. We’ve done a great job embracing what real time coverage means. We embrace social accounts as distribution channels and are always looking to create best-in-class real-time moments. A few nights back D’Angelo Russell pointed to his arm after a shot and said he had ice in his veins. We were able to put that on social instantly and we followed with a cool custom highlight edit that put frost all over the screen and put ice water in D’Angelo’s veins.
Kwittken: When you pitch an advertiser on your value prop, what do you tell them? What do you lead with and how do you bring them in?
Brown: We’re really the brand for the next generation of sports fans. A lot of advertisers we’re talking to are also spending TV dollars. They come to us for a reason. They want to do something different. We had a really good meeting with Gatorade where they said, “We’re talking to others but we’re talking to you because we know you’ll create content experiences that will stand on their own as different and original and compelling, let’s work together on that.” We do a good job of walking that line between creating resonating experiences and pulling brands into them.
Kwittken: Can you talk about your relationship with Turner?
Brown: Turner is awesome. It’s the ideal parent company and acquisition. Everyone there has been very receptive to our people and strategies and we’ve been able to learn a lot especially on the TV side of the business. A good example is, within a couple of weeks of the announcement that Turner was acquiring us, the network was running on air promos to download theBleacher Report app during the PGA championship and during the MLB season. That’s valuable airtime we’d have to pay a lot of money for to reach huge numbers of people to get our message out there.
Kwittken: What upcoming sports event are you most excited about?
Brown: March Madness is a big one for Bleacher Report. When you talk about capturing the moment, we’re hiring for a team that will be deployed specifically to capitalize on moments that aren’t predictable. We know someone is going to hit a crazy shot. We’ll have a staff on the job that will be able to create unique content around those opportunities. The NBA resonates really well on social – things like Kobe’s last couple of weeks in a Lakers uniform. And the NFL draft has also been a sweet spot that people look forward to.
By Aaron Kwittken
Republished with permission forbes.com