I think for any team its important to consider why we are creating content – in the end the content should be helping the fan, helping the organization, and/or helping whatever brand or sponsor you are working with – it should be mutually beneficial to all three.
Digital Marketing Manager
Kitchener Rangers Hockey Club
The interview with Alex Witherspoon was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
1Tell us about your role as Digital Marketing Manager for the Kitchener Rangers. What does a typical day look like for you?
I started in the Digital Marketing Manager role this year, so I would say that it will change and evolve greatly as time goes on and we are able to resume play this fall.
Prior to this role, I was the Graphic Designer for the team, which involves everything I do in my current role minus the actual execution of posting on our social media platforms.
I enjoy the fact that my role changes depending on the day and what is going on with the team.
In the off-season; some days my job is preparing and planning, working on current and future marketing initiatives, sponsorship items, creating venue graphics and creating graphic templates.
Other days my job is more communication-based, which can include setting up media requests for staff and players, putting out media releases, being more active on our platforms.
During the season; organizing media and photography requests, ensuring all graphics are created for game days and events, running around the building – sometimes taking photos of fans or finding extra content for social media.
2As Digital Marketing Manager, what style of content do you gravitate toward? Quick turnaround or long-form storytelling with high production value? Tell us about your preferences and some of the pros and cons you toggle for each.
I would say we use both wherever necessary.
We plan to do long-form and engaging content for our big annual events and game days – for example, our season releases, Teddy Bear Toss and Remembrance Day Games.
Those require a lot of planning and effort from a lot of different people in our organization.
Other times something unexpected happens – a lot of times in sports we cannot predict what will happen next.
Those times we will quickly plan and pull things together to get out to our fans.
I think for the most part though we pre-plan for the long form as much as possible – quality > quantity.
3Individuals working in marketing and digital are often given the label of being creative. Is this realistic? Beyond creativity, which you have a ton of, tell us about the other skills and abilities required and/or often overlooked when working in sport marketing?
Yes, I think it is realistic to put that label on individuals in our industry.
I think those who work in our industry are constantly trying to provide unique and interesting content for our fan bases – it’s very easy these days for people to ignore what goes on on social media – as we are all bombarded by things every day.
We really have to get creative in how these ideas are presented, and on what mediums they need to be presented.
I think other abilities include:
Being open and receptive to all ideas and criticism
Really knowing and understanding the history behind the brand/team you are representing
Picking up on what the fans want/need to hear from that team
4What are some of the big creative challenges you face with content creation at the Kitchener Rangers? What about smaller ones?
I think for any team, it's important to consider why we are creating content.
In the end, the content should be helping the fan, helping the organization, and/or helping whatever brand or sponsor you are working with – it should be mutually beneficial to all three.
I think sometimes sponsorships can get lost because it's not connecting with the fan or the organizational values.
Sometimes smaller challenges include making things work on all platforms – sometimes certain content will work for TikTok or Instagram, but not on Twitter or Facebook.
There was a mentality for social that at one point everything needed to be everywhere – but I think that is changing.
Content in the offseason can also be a challenge – we want to inform our base but we also know that not everyone is thinking of hockey in the summer.
This has been a challenge for all teams during this COVID year... How do we keep people engaged, and how do we make sure they are excited to come back in the fall?
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5Part of your role is overseeing social media management. With a variety of digital communication channels available, how do you decide which is the best option to use?
I think you really have to plan it out at the beginning of whatever campaign you are rolling out, and you realize from past experience that certain things didn’t work on this platform so we need to create something else for that specifically.
Also looking at our demographics is super helpful to determine whether something should go on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
6Which social networks under your responsibility with the team do you enjoy working with the most, and the least? Why?
I would say I enjoy Instagram the most – just because I have personally used it the most out of all the networks.
I enjoy the fact that it's mostly image based – you can create really cool story effects now and there are always new features rolling out that we find super helpful.
TikTok is a new platform for us – and it is really fun. I think we will continue to roll that one out and use it much more with player engagement once our season begins.
Least – unfortunately Facebook, I do think that they have started adding to the business manager side of the platform which has been nice and really helpful. However, I think in general people are slowly becoming less interested in the platform.
Jaelyn's Final Thoughts
It was great to chat with Alex Witherspoon, Digital Marketing Manager for the Kitchener Rangers, about the kind of content that drives her passion for the marketing area of the sport industry. It is clear that she has a strong focus on curating digital content that is engaging and beneficial for the team, fans, and all stakeholders involved. In her work, Alex strategically utilizes the various social media channels under her management while using a mix of long-form and quick turnaround content styles. It was interesting to hear Alex speak about her favourite social media networks, which include new and fast-growing programs such as TikTok and Instagram. Ultimately, Alex's work in digital marketing and social media is both interesting and inspiring for any sport professional to see!