SVG College Q&A: Learfield Sports’ Chief Content Officer Joe Ferreira
Finding where collegiate media and marketing rights lie can be as challenging as sifting through the NCAA rule book.
A good place to start is with one of the premier multimedia rights holders in the nation, Learfield Sports. With more than 50 university partners, the company develops integrated marketing solutions designed to connect big sponsors with collegiate athletic departments across the country. Learfield also owns collegiate broadcast rights for its member schools and produces elite video content for the top athletic programs.
At the center of Learfield’s video strategy is Joe Ferreira, the company’s chief content officer. In his role, he has oversight of all Learfield content and distribution platforms — including interactive, mobile, social, radio, and television media assets — as well as development of other new offerings in the marketplace.
Throughout his impressive career, Ferreira has senior experience with CBS Inc., CBS Sportsline.com, CBS Interactive, the National Football League, NBC Sports, and NBC Inc. He is also credited with launching the Emmy-winning March Madness on Demand [now March Madness Live], making NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games available free online and via mobile devices.
Ferreira took time to speak with SVG about the latest developments at Learfield Sports and to reflect on some of the biggest changes that have gone on in college athletics throughout his career.
What is your department up to during the schools’ “off months” over the summer?
Well, there doesn’t seem to be any “off months” these days for us or our school partners, but we have been concentrating in two areas. One area is increasing and developing our content-creation staff at the corporate level with the addition of senior-level producers and a focus on local and national digital-content development. A second area is working with school partners on the overall gameday fan experience with a focus on in-venue video highlights, app development, and the connected fan. This will be a critical area for our schools and maximizing value for our partners and sponsors.
At Learfield, how has video become an increased part of a school’s integrated marketing workflow?
We look at content as the hub of what we do for our schools … whether that be in video, audio, or experiential form. And over the last few years, video distribution on multiple platforms has been a crucial communication tool we and our schools use to engage fans and grow the school brands. Distribution growth has been exponential during the last year in digital and social-media channels, and I only see that growing going forward.
What role does Learfield play for its schools during big events, like the NCAA Tournament or Bowl season?
We obviously ratchet up our content and sponsorship business when schools participate in postseason events. Last year, with Alabama, we created daily reports from the BCS Championship Game and integrated a sponsor into the programming. We [also] created the Big Ten Connect mobile app for the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Championship.
With our corporate content-creation team growing and our local ties into school content development, we have a great foundation for being prepared to take full advantage of market potential when our schools participate in championship events. We also see big development in other “tent pole” events throughout the year, from the Spring Game to Training Camp to Opening Kickoff to Signing Day in football, Midnight Madness to Tournament in Men’s and Women’s hoops, and many other big events across all sports.
During the course of your career, how far has the college sports industry come? What are some of the biggest changes that your company is dealing with?
College sports have grown leaps and bounds over the two-plus decades I’ve been in this business. It has become a much more mature business, with athletic departments utilizing business professionals in key roles across the board, and we’ve seen a huge increase in media exposure for college sports and the national-, regional-, and local-media appetite is only strengthening. That increased exposure has catapulted college sports into the larger sponsorship discussions that were previously the domain of pro sports.
From a change standpoint, I think we all have weathered the realignment storms fairly well, and there seems to be stability on that front. The great change news is that sports is the most “DVR-proof” programming out there and fans/media will continue to demand live and on-demand college sports content, which in turn creates a platform for brand marketers to associate with college brands. There is no greater passion and association I know of than college sports fans and their favorite schools. It’s part of their fabric and has incredible family ties, and that passion and engagement is what we help grow for our school partners year in and year out.
In your eyes, where does the college sports industry need to go from here?
I think we need to upgrade the overall gameday fan experience across the board, and schools are looking at this issue very closely. The competition from the home theater and HD experience is very strong, not to mention other entertainment alternatives, and we must look to create exciting, entertaining, and comfortable experiences that fans look at as “the only place to be on gameday.”
Critical to these plans is a connected fan that can share the experience throughout their social graph and our ability to deliver game highlights and other content of interest to fans that they would normally enjoy at home. Our school partners are keenly aware of this, and we are working together to meet the needs of our fans.
SAVE THE DATE: More than 500 attendees were on hand at the 2013 SVG College Sports Summit. Don’t miss out on the top networking and idea-sharing content and technology event in the college industry. Join us at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta on May 28 and 29, 2014, for the sixth-annual SVG College Sports Summit.