Matt Wilson: Ball Street – No Hype… Why Fan Media should matter to all industry stakeholders

Matt Wilson – Ball Street

Matt Wilson Co-Founder & Chief Executive of Ball Street a specialist in sports social media engagement and content creation details to SBC the disruptive and often misunderstood nature of Fan Media.

Focusing on viewer engagement and participation, Wilson has grown Ball Street’s network to be a leading social media vertical for sports. Wilson details to betting industry stakeholders the power of Fan Media, which if used correctly can grow audiences faster and more efficiently than traditional media channels.

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SBC: Hi Matt its been roughly a year since our last interview, how has the Ball Street network grown regarding its content, audience and commercial capabilities?

Matt Wilson: We have grown in audience, combined with growth in our ability to optimize content for the environment in which it is consumed and which has benefitted the Ball Street network commercially. We have been ahead of the market since we helped established in 2012 and we have been trying to speak with brands about how they can utilise and harness the collective voices of influential fans and creators to attain engagement at scale that is superior to all the traditional options. Our recent partnership with Ladbrokes is a testament to this.  We were close with one bookmaker for a sponsorship across our fan channels at the start of the season but they opted to do something considered ‘safer’ and wound up doing a very basic press sponsorship.  Some 6 months later, and we have a partner that understands the space, they understand where there is engagement at scale, and we are delighted to be working with Ladbrokes across our fan channels including Arsenal Fan TV, The Redmen TV, West Ham Fan TV and the rest of the crew.  

SBC: From 2013, you have placed Fan media advertising at the forefront of your network? What does this form of new advertising entail, and how have you brought advertisers to engage with this new social vertical?

 MW: At talkSPORT radio I developed commercial models around rights such as FAPL and categories like betting.  Each was designed to create value for brand partners and better experiences where the shared interest of the brand, the editorial, and the audience converged.

Fan opinion and fan media have always been there but it has been limited by technology and it has been too dispersed to provide scale or value.   The Ball Street network was established to provide strength and efficiency in numbers, help passionate fans build community and also to provide brands with scale and engagement in one easy buy.  A brand or agency can have one conversation with us and the network then tells the brand’s story to fans at scale with incredible results.  For us it’s more than fan media – which might be a convenient label – it’s about the power of fans working together.

SBC: Your team works closely with video content, a marketing vertical bookmakers are deeply interested. How is this vertical evolving in terms of live content and audience engagement? 

 MW: We have been working with video and all platforms since 2012.  Platforms continue to iterate which creates new and interesting ways to engage with fans.  The key to success is context over creative.  Too many people pick a production company or creative agency who make a great video but have no understanding or appreciation for the nuances of the platforms and the context in which the video is deployed.

SBC: We see that your team places a huge emphasis on storytelling and dialogue. Why is this crucial to Fan Media channels, and where can bookmaker markets fit within an engaging narrative?

MW: Our time is short and a lot of bookmaker markets are often force fed to the audience using formats that are intrusive to the fan experience and rob us of our time.  I think brands are better to first bring value and generate trust before they ask.

We did this really successfully with Paddy Power at talkSPORT (then rolled the model out to others) and we did it very successfully with the Ball Street Network for Bet Victor for the Euro 16 final when we managed to get their #MillionPoundGoal offer to be a huge topic of conversation for fans during the match, resulting in a UK trend and generating over 2 Million engagements.  This was done by creating a narrative that people could contribute to rather than peppering them with an offer. 

SBC: Should fan media advertising be kept separate from legacy marketing verticals (TV, online, Print, radio), or can this new advertising bridge and connect audiences?

 MW: Anybody that is thinking vertically is failing.  The audience doesn’t think in that way, so why should the marketer? The media landscape is fragmented for consumers as well as it is marketers, and working horizontally is essential as is collaborating across the boundaries of the marketing verticals.

The convergence of creativity and technology is creating the most exciting activations and conversations.  Bridging this with traditional solutions can only lead to more effective campaigns and results.

The connection that fan media has with audiences is far superior to traditional media channels and formats.  It provides depth and width, engagement at scale.  The characters are authentic, relatable and trusted and therefore the pull we have is significant.

This space is still new and Ladbrokes are one of the first to view it properly, seizing the opportunity to sponsor our fan channel network where the engagement is high and fan attention is at scale.   

SBC:  You will be speaking at BOF 2017, what do you want delegates to take away from your session?

MW: Put simply…Everyone wants to get closer to fans, we are the fans

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Matt Wilson – CEO & Co-Founder – Ball Street

Matt Wilson will be speaking on content creation and audience engagement at the upcoming Betting on Football Conference (3-5 May Stamford Bridge –  London). To find out more information click on the banner below…

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