When compared to its competitors’ social content, CCM Hockey wants consumers to recognize its brand even if all logos and identifiable company characteristics are removed. In other words, according to Richard Obrand — a Digital Content Specialist — content needs to be “unique and different,” whether it’s posted on Instagram or Snapchat.
“If we had rankings for our platforms in terms of priority, Instagram would be No. 1…and Snapchat is still No. 2,” Obrand commented to Sports Business Chronicle this month.
Though that hasn’t always been the norm, as mirrored by other sports organizations’ transitions, too. When Obrand initially joined CCM in February 2015, the content focus remained largely on Facebook and Twitter, but as his small digital group conducted internal research on the social channels, it discovered that the brand’s target audience was on Snapchat, a demographic that stretched from eight-year-old kids to mid-to-late teenagers.
The strategy on Snapchat began simply enough with providing behind-the-scenes content from CCM Hockey photo shoots with NHL elite, such as the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid, Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby and Montreal Canadiens’ Carey Price. Because of the athletes’ contractual relationship with CCM, Obrand and his colleagues had access to players for a specified amount of time each year, so it afforded them a chance to leverage that insider access.
“It was the type of content that resonated with people because they were our celebrities for a day, or at least that’s how people viewed the athletes,” said Obrand, who added that it was much more engaging than, for example, a standard Q&A with a brand product manager.
Snapchat remained the exclusive channel for CCM’s endorsers and athletes as they took fans into ‘a day in the life’, taking over the entire social platform for an eight to 12-hour stretch. As Obrand described, the company years ago launched its ‘Made of Hockey’ campaign — a motto that continues today — to provide hockey fans an exclusive look at what happens on and off the ice, whether it was a player boating with family, taking a road trip with friends, fishing or throwing a frisbee with a dog. In addition, players also pealed back the curtain on their yoga classes in addition to gaming sessions with an old-school Nintendo system.
“We found the views were very consistent across the board no matter what (the players) were doing (on Snapchat), some were even getting better each time,” Obrand said.
He explained that considering NHLers are generally more private than other professional athletes, with few having public Snapchat accounts, one of the mediums to gain a further glimpse into their lives is through a brand’s channel such as CCM Hockey.
Earlier this year, the company’s completion rate around Snapchat content had reached its peak (Obrand declined to comment on specific numbers). It was then when Obrand noticed for the first time a drop in viewership. The brand had access to an elite NHLer for part of a day — according to Obrand, declining to name the individual — which included content opportunities for Snapchat in particular; the results were eye-opening for CCM.
“We advertised it pretty heavily. … The numbers were a fraction of what they normally were,” said Obrand, who didn’t specify the exact decline but did say it was “significant.”
“It was upsetting because it was almost like it was a missed opportunity,” he added.
As Snapchat viewership totals have flat-lined in 2018, content for CCM Hockey has shifted to Instagram despite users skewing older, with Obrand alluding to overall reach and saying “it’s no secret that that’s the way a lot of sports teams and brands are moving.”
This past week, Instagram announced its one billion monthly active users, which is an increase from 800 million in September, while Snapchat currently claims over 300 million.
“We still think it’s important,” Obrand said of Snapchat, adding that YouTube influencers Pavel Barber and Jeremy Rupke from ‘How To Hockey’ produce regular content for the platform along with Instagram, too.
Obrand also said he’s planning to purchase the two-month-year-old Spectacles V2, which offer faster syncing and photo capabilities compared to the company’s first installment.
Said Obrand of the first-person POV product: “Every time we were with an athlete, we asked them to put the (Spectacles) on for two minutes. That’s more than enough. We told them, ‘Just have fun. Do your thing’. … When we posted it for the first time, our audience went nuts.”
CCM Hockey’s regular athlete takeovers have now migrated to Instagram, where they’ve asked individuals to post anywhere from seven to 10 separate posts throughout the day or at least one from each place a player is at while he or she has access to the account. The current frequency is typically one athlete takeover per week, with CCM providing a brief ‘best practices’ handbook to its athletes, but ultimately, wants all of the players to post what’s genuine and natural to them.
In terms of “a benchmark” example for the other players, Obrand referenced Ottawa Senators forward Thomas Chabot, who has been “phenomenal” with the social platform, he said. Obrand’s told everyone that if they share half of what Chabot’s previously posted on Instagram, then they’ll fare well with their engagement.
“Once they see someone else doing it, they realize it’s not so bad,” said Obrand of providing Chabot as a case study for Instagram takeovers. “They’re more open and receptive to it.”
Obrand pointed to Instagram’s ability to integrate sharper content, upload creative imagery direct from desktop, post vertical images in addition to horizontal and upload multiple photos/videos all at once, as some differentiators. In addition, he said there’s “a clear objective” with Instagram, as he and his digital colleagues direct users to the brand’s hockey camp sign-up page on its website or sometimes craft a day-long Story with one of its athlete ambassadors.
Due to the speed at which the social landscape evolves — especially as platforms launch new features, like this past week with Instagram’s ‘IGTV’ offering — Obrand said he along with other digital strategists and content creators can’t necessarily wait out a platform to offer a coveted feature or over-think where to allocate resources.
The message: take inventory of the current platforms and product features, assess how they help illustrate a larger brand story and keep moving forward. Paralysis by analysis, as the cliche goes, dampens any momentum as a brand or team’s strategy could potentially shift a number of times just in a calendar year alone, he said.