The Connected Fan: Premier Lacrosse League

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In June, the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) kicks off its inaugural season, showcasing six teams competing at a dozen or so stadiums throughout the summer in the U.S. and Canada. Games will be broadcast by NBC Sports, culminating with the league championship showdown in Philadelphia, on September 21.

Although no games have been played yet, the stage is set for digital mobilization. The teams, with crunchy nicknames like the Redwoods and the Chrome, don’t even have home markets to claim. But they’ve nested on their own landing pages, headed with authentic team mantras (the Whipsnakes: “Strike without warning”), and each of the league’s players have profiles and links to their Instagrams and Twitters. As fans begin to take notice, they’ll have resources to look to and follow. PLL apparel is available to order, at the league level and for specific teams. Through a certain lens, you can see how it’s all supposed to work out in the digital-first arena, even before the first goal is scored.

Professional sports put the skills of its players on display, but how they do it is through content. Each action on the field is amplified throughout stadium screens, and repackaged and distributed through all other media channels.

The processing of this content has been mastered by broadcasters who, by agreement, show a game live to their audience, then spin out the highlights after. At the same time, the teams and the league have their own internal channels which they can monetize through sponsorships and increased ticket sales.

The pro league’s exposure benefits from a combination of these distinct streams, but from the team’s perspective, they have marketers who’d like to leverage content as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

The problem to solve for is impeded access to content, a mismanagement of assets and workflow.

For the Premier Lacrosse League, they’ve implemented Libris by PhotoShelter, a solution adopted by other pro leagues, teams and college athletics, including the Los Angeles Chargers, the Baltimore Ravens, the Boston Red Sox and the Ladies Professional Golf Association, as well as University of Wisconsin athletics.

To get an idea of the impact such an update has on social media presence, for instance, consider that the New York Jets reported a one-year increase of 380 percent in Instagram activity after restructuring their content in this way.

Tyler Steinhardt, PLL’s Manager of Content, told me: “We use Libris on a daily basis to upload and curate the photos and content we are creating at a rapid pace.”

He added, “As we build PLL from scratch, we are operating at lightning speed. Digital content needs to be turned around at the drop of a hat, and Libris gives us the ability to do that. Libris has enabled our media team to create engaging viral posts that reach our ever-expanding fan base.”

According to Andrew Fingerman, CEO of PhotoShelter, the service originated with professional photographers as an early “cloud” offering. Although a community of some 80,000 professionals actively use PhotoShelter, it was natural to turn to the photog’s clients, providing content solutions for corporate customers who need quick distribution across their communications channels.

“On average there are about seven stakeholders who need to get their hands on content quickly,” Fingerman explained. “And as time moves on, that grows to an even greater number, from social media managers, website managers, scoreboard operators, media and PR teams. Then, later on, special events, sponsorships, tickets – everybody now who has a job to do that’s facing the fanbase or broader audience really has some need for visual content, and we aim to streamline that.”

Fingerman stated that the prospects of PLL using Libris was “very exciting.” He finds some similarities between the new league and NFL use cases, in terms of having the ability to capture footage on the field and upload content directly from the camera to Libris, where other media members can repurpose the footage. (NBC Sports is also selling a video package that streams every game this summer.)

“The upstart new league from the get-go has been embracing the valuable tools available within social media to reach the lacrosse fanbase,” Fingerman stated.

“Our content and engagement levels have been growing at an exponential rate,” Steinhardt confirmed. “We’ve built up a phenomenal in-house team of creators and producers…We have a community of over 160 players who are extremely active on social media. Having this platform enables them to create the content they want and share that with their thousands of followers.”

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