Instagram Stories are still relatively new (though the honeymoon period ended, as Instagram Live and, now, Instagram geo-stickers in Stories recently arrived). There is no right way or wrong way for sports teams, leagues, media, and brands to utilize IG Stories, but we're seeing quite a breadth of forms.
The biggest lesson is that there is no best practice - yet - but the competition for attention, retention, and to keep users coming back, is as fierce as ever. Here are a few very different examples of Instagram Stories in sports.
Polished and animated graphics
This is an visually appealing and narrative-focused use, which seems to combine the best parts of Snapchat (chronological, short-form storytelling) with the best part of Instagram (sharp, clean graphics). It feels like Snapchat Discover, which is exactly right — as Instagram allows [limited] file upload natively, while Snapchat only offers this functionality through its distinctly differently looking Memories feature. Check out this pregame example below from the Atlanta Falcons, building up to their game.
Another example from the NFL is the Green Bay Packers, who also have a sleek, animated graphic story for game day. They also included score updates with a custom-designed, visually appealing graphic.
The idea of top plays, photos, countdowns, etc. were an early, but effective use of Instagram Stories. It has also been used as a shorthand to deliver quick headlines. Sports media accounts and leagues have used this style the most. It’s a good way to keep users going through the story and curating some top content from the clutter of the day. MLB used it for headlines, SportsCenter for top plays, MLB for headlines, and more. Check out an example below of a top plays countdown from the NBA account, including tagging players (where applicable) in the highlight.
In a related version, they’re also using it for lineup announcements. Take a look at the examples below from the LA Clippers and Houston Rockets. Sharp.
[ht to Jeff Mason for this one]
For many, especially teams, content in Instagram Stories is similar to what many have become accustomed to in Snapchat – the raw, uncut, behind-the-scenes content. It’s a good way to get that awesome access and content to a wider audience, and to fans not fluent in Snapchat. During games, it is also a repository for the best professionally taken photos. Some use video, others just go all photos. A couple examples below from NFL teams, but these abound across all leagues, too.
This is a unique, novel use of the Instagram Stories that could have some legs for a team or brand with a talented graphic artist. By creating and uploading tons of frames, and instructing fans to tap quickly, a flipbook effect can be realized. MLS did this with a pencil-drawing like image to drive tune-in for the MLS Cup in late 2016.
Where there are eyeballs, there will be sponsored content. Instagram has not yet begun inserting any ads in Stories, but there are some instances of sponsored content in sports. Like with Snapchat, intrusive or not value-adding sponsor integration can be met with resistance and resentment from users intimately engaged with the content. Take a look at an example below with content on the NHL Instagram Story, sponsored by Ticketmaster.
Driving web traffic
Instagram Stories have imitated Snapchat with their ‘Swipe up for more’ feature and this has begun seeing some limited use in sports. The typical use case is to link to a highlight or an article. An example below comes from the Denver Broncos, where a swipe up reveals a full video highlight.
Probably my favorite use of Instagram Stories in sports so far felt like an abbreviated episode of "Cribs" (Google it, youngsters), in which Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi took fans through a day, including a mini tour of his house, his fridge, and more. I could watch quick little 1-5 minute ‘episodes’ like this often! And maybe a front or end card and/or logo placement and/or product placement could monetize it. You can see the sample below.
It’s always exciting when a new platform feature comes out (since that rarely happens. Ha!) and experimentation and practices play out before our very eyes. Take a moment to look, to learn, and get inspired.
This post was originally published on dsmsports.net, which can be found here.
Neil Horowitz is a Senior Customer Success Manager at Hopscotch and founder of DMZsports.net, an industry publication highlighting many aspects of the sports business. His Digital and Sports Media podcasts can be found here. Follow him on Twitter @NJH287.