A Game-Changer for Sports Agencies: The Hub-and-Spokes Model [Exclusive]
We know every sports agency aspires to:
- Acquire more clients
- Differentiate with a definitive competitive advantage
- Add more value to its clients
After all, isn't this why Scott Boras built the Boras Sports Training Institute?
Not every sports agency has the capabilities to build a state-of-the-art training facility for its clients, but thanks to the Internet and its auxiliary tools, any sports agency can use digital media to acquire more clients, differentiate with a definitive competitive advantage, and add more value to its clients — all while driving scalable profits, rather than inheriting another cost of doing business.
Enter: The Hub-and-Spokes Model
The Hub-and-Spokes Model is reserved for the most forward-thinking, entrepreneurial sports agencies that want to disrupt the talent management landscape.
Think of it as your agency's version of The Players' Tribune, but with direct and measurable impact on the business goals outlined above.
At the core of the Hub-and-Spokes Model is a branded digital media property (the hub), which is operated by your agency. The hub's central role is to house original, athlete-driven content at the intersection of sports, lifestyle and culture.
This content is produced by your agency (or via third-party agencies and/or freelancers contracted by your agency) and distributed through the digital channels (e.g. social media) of your agency's clients (the spokes) — since the clients will be featured in the content. (Your media property should also have its own digital channels, but they are secondary to those of the clients, at least to start.)
In doing so, your agency creates three game-changers:
- The athlete-driven content will strategically promote the clients' individual athlete brands, which further positions your agency to monetize their athlete brands — independent of the media property — and creates a virtuous cycle between your agency and its clients (as well as a unique selling proposition when recruiting prospective clients).
- Your agency can leverage its more-notable clients (who likely have larger digital followings) to strengthen and promote the athlete brands of its up-and-coming clients, by using the former group to drive significantly more traffic to the content that features clients from the latter group.
- By jumping on the highly sought athlete-driven content bandwagon (and using your agency's clients to build a substantial, super-engaged audience), your agency can leverage eight digital revenue streams (below) to turn its media property into a profit center.
The Eight Monetization Opportunities
First, it is imperative to understand that building a branded media property — which attracts a substantial, super-engaged audience — will not happen overnight.
Due to the "importance of authenticity" and audience "buy-in," a branded media property "can't just be stood up, no matter how prominent or scaled the backer, or how deep the marketing budget," according to Matthew Ball and Tal Shachar, who are executives at the AT&T and Chernin Group-owned Otter Media.
With that said, four of the scalable revenue streams can be exploited almost immediately; they include online advertising, affiliate marketing, revenue sharing and sponsorships.
The other four revenue streams — e-commerce, subscriptions, original content and guest publishing — will take more time to develop, since your media property must provide "a culture and feel that appeals to the obsessiveness of the individual fan, but still resonates with the community as a whole," according to Ball and Shachar. "Naturally, this can't just be declared, bought or marketed. It must be earned and developed over time."
Not to mention, there are also the significant profits that come with retaining and acquiring more clients, while strategically building, scaling and monetizing their athlete brands.
Getting Clients to Buy In
Agencies should consider creating a revenue sharing model that (a) rewards clients for participating in content production, and (b) incentivizes further participation.
For example, if a client participates in a piece of sponsored content, the agency should allocate part of these revenues to the client. Or, if a client participates in a video that is monetized through the YouTube Partner Program, the agency should allocate part of the revenues generated (all of which are trackable and measurable).
Agencies should also take the time to educate their clients about the financial benefits of athlete brand building, and how your agency's media property will serve its clients in more ways than one.
Building the Infrastructure: Media Planning & Strategy
As with any initiative, planning and strategy are imperative for immediate and lasting success.
With regard to the Hub-and-Spokes Model, this means reaching the right audience, at the right time, with the right content, to accomplish predetermined business goals, while staying within a designated budget.
It also means establishing an authentic relationship with the most passionate fans in the media property's target audience, who are essential for establishing audience credibility, collecting feedback, and inspiring evangelism (both for the media property's brand and the individual athlete brands related to it).
Here are the five steps to develop a media plan and strategy.
📊 STEP # 1: MARKET RESEARCH
Start by doing a comprehensive analysis of other media properties that are publishing the types of content your agency intends to publish. Take note of two particulars:
- The styles, angles, topics, stories and subjects of the content they publish, and
- The formats, channels and platforms through which they publish this content
🎯 STEP # 2: TARGET AUDIENCE ANALYSIS
A target audience analysis seeks to better understand the day-to-day, multidimensional identities of the audience your media property wants to reach and engage — so as to produce content that strategically, yet seamlessly taps into their identities.
💡 STEP # 3: CONTENT STRATEGY
A content strategy achieves a synergistic balance between business goals, an editorial mission, user expectations, design, content production and distribution, and technological capabilities — as defined by:
- Business Goals - acquire more clients, differentiate with a definitive competitive advantage, and retain more clients by bringing added value
- Editorial Mission - spells out your media property's territory and approach, describes the audience, articulates how the content will satisfy the audience's needs and wants, and defines the "lens" through which your media property looks at its field
- User Expectations - what people expect from your media property, according to the expectations you set for them
- Design - the branding, user experience and user interface of your media property, as well as its complementary channels and platforms
- Content Production & Distribution - systematic content supply chains and workflows that facilitate the entire operation
- Technological Capabilities - the means and resources your agency has at its disposal to produce and distribute content
💥 STEP # 4: CONTENT DIFFERENTIATION
In order to avoid duplicating another media property's existing content, there are four primary ways to differentiate your media property's content:
- Focus on content that is different in style, angles, topics and/or subjects.
- Focus on content that is different in formats.
- Focus on content that covers certain topics and subjects in more detail (content depth).
- Focus on content that covers a different range of topics and subjects (content breadth).
📲 STEP # 5: CONTENT DISTRIBUTION
At the heart of distributing content is converged media — the utilization of paid, earned, owned and rented media; characterized by a consistent, omnipresent content strategy; whereby all channels work in concert in order to reach the target audience exactly where, how, and when they want; regardless of channel, medium or device.
Architecting a converged media strategy is like building a table: Two or three legs may hold it up, but stability and balance is achieved when the design incorporates all four legs.
Roles and Responsibilities
Whether your agency decides to bring it in-house or outsource it, the different "players" within a well-oiled media property include:
🎨 EDITORIAL & CREATIVE
The editorial and creative team develops the macro and micro content strategies, narratives and coverage, as well as monthly and quarterly themes, and evaluates which topics are interesting and relevant to your target audience. It may consist of writers, photographers, producers, editors, graphic designers, and "on-air talent" (e.g. hosts).
The operations team ensures the backend technology of your media property, as well as of complementary channels and platforms, is built and runs smoothly. It may consist of software engineers, web developers, user experience and user interface designers, and IT managers.
📡 MARKETING & DISTRIBUTION
The marketing and distribution team is tasked with audience development, growth and engagement, including partnerships, events and each aspect of the converged media model.
The finance team manages your media property's budget and revenues, ensuring desired profit margins and other financial benchmarks are achieved.
The legal team is responsible for ensuring the entire operation adheres to relevant laws, including:
- Release forms
- Copyrights, trademarks, intellectual property rights, etc.
- Slander and libel precautions
- Contractual arrangements with various partners, sponsors, et cetera
- Official rules for contests and sweepstakes