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Volume 26 No. 114
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Social Studies: WSL Addresses Global Audience, Readies For Olympics

The World Surf League (@wsl) has long viewed itself as a live events company, but thanks to the advent of social media, it has begun to transform into an original content outfit. This is being driven by offerings that go beyond competition. “WSL PURE | One Ocean," a podcast that focuses on environmental activism, and “Brilliant Corners," which features surfing to explore the cultures around the world. WSL Chief Community Officer Tim Greenberg said the league wants to re-position itself to enable community. He said, “It’s important to lean into the lifestyle and community that makes the sport so special.” Greenberg: “As a sport, our championship tour is live for roughly 65 days a year, so what are we putting on our channels for the rest of the year? This strategy has our team focused on producing content and developing a program grid that both compliments the competitive side of surfing and also explores other areas of the sport and lifestyle. We’re really happy with the results so far.”

SOCIAL SNAPSHOT
Must-follow: The NBA. I really like what Overtime is doing.
Favorite app: Bleacher Report. And ESPN, that’s a must-have.

Average time per day on social media: An hour or two a day, but that can ebb and flow based on our events.

Social media philosophy:
To achieve the scale and reach with such a streamlined group (three-person staff) has really forced us to be deliberate and intentional about the content we make and what platforms we choose to program. Since the beginning, our strategy on social has been fairly simple: great content, programmed consistently over time yields results. This mantra has carried us through years where I have seen tactics change, platforms emerge and trends evolve, because at the end of the day, it is really about content and storytelling.

Platforms best for capturing WSL:
I wouldn’t say any one platform captures the WSL better over another. It’s really about how we program content for the audience we are trying to reach on a specific platform. The content we put on Instagram is different than Facebook, and those are very different from how we do TikTok. Each platform is WSL, but we want to be intentional about the content we are creating, where we’re putting it and who it is designed to reach. It’s not one platform defining who we are, but how we are creating content across the ecosystem.

Addressing language for a global audience:
We deliver every WSL championship tour broadcast in three languages: Portuguese, Spanish and English. All are available on WorldSurfLeague.com, our app, through connected devices and on Facebook Live. Each piece of original WSL content programmed on WorldSurfLeague.com and our app is also available in those languages. Right now, we’re burning in subtitles, but in the very near future, we will be adding in SRT capabilities for videos across our owned and operated channels. We are looking into expanding into other languages, as well as a strategy for delivering our content in China. The primary markets for WSL content consumption are U.S., Brazil and Australia. What we’ve recently done is invest in a content strategy specifically for Brazil and launched our WSL Brazil social accounts.

Growth market in China via Weibo:
It’s a bit nascent at the moment, and right now we’re looking at opportunities for us to be investing more content and strategy. We just finished a Qualification Series 5,000 event in China, and it was a tremendous opportunity in the market to help grow our brand and surfing.

Content production at Surf Ranch:
There are a few locations we visit throughout the year that lend themselves to being natural amphitheaters, but at the WSL Surf Ranch, we are truly in a surf stadium for the first time in our sport’s history. The location provides an opportunity to re-imagine our events in a number of ways from a content perspective. For one, we know our events will start at a set time. For surfing, the majority of the time, we are at the mercy of Mother Nature. It has allowed us to do far more pre-promotion of event start times than we normally can. We can even support when an athlete is going to be in the water down to the minute and down to the second. We’re excited with the opportunity the Surf Ranch provides to experiment with different cameras, different setups, integration of data capture and new event formats.

Highlighting surfing’s entry into Olympics:
Right now, we are in the background working on a very strategic and comprehensive content and positioning plan that will be running in the very short term and started in a number of ways last year. We qualified 18 of the surfers going to the Tokyo Games provisionally, so we’ve already started having that narrative thread through our events. We want to keep that going and really be supportive. This is a massive moment for our athletes, a massive moment for our sport, so we want to be as supportive as we possibly can in helping grow our athletes’ presence and audience as they head into this milestone moment.

If you know anyone who should be featured for their use of social media, send their name to us at jperez@sportsbusinessdaily.com.