Being innovative in marketing and advertising rewards the bold. Just ask Chicago Bulls Senior Digital Content Manager Luka Dukich, the man behind the Bulls’ wildly successful Instagram and Snapchat strategies. Dukich joined WHOSAY President Rob Gregory in a lively discussion at Brand Innovators.
“One thing we’re really proud of is our branded content,” Dukich said, adding that the Bulls’ content team is split between editorial and branded divisions. “The first half covers the basketball side of things; practice, games and travels with the team. The other half is our branded content team and that’s actually the fastest growing part of our business. They’re really good at making branded content interesting to our fans.”
After explaining that the Bulls play the role of both a brand and influencer, Dukich acknowledged that he’s “very fortunate” to work for a content-heavy organization. “As Rob [Gregory] mentioned, we’re the third most followed sports team online that’s a very large audience that’s interested in our content,” he said.
Dukich then shared various examples of how the Bulls were able to use creativity to step out of the norm with their Instagram and Snapchat strategies. “We noticed the teams were all using Snapchat the same way; it was very much a way to show the behind the scenes of a game,” he said, adding that they wanted to depart from that and use Snapchat to tell a whole story from beginning to end. “We noticed that the percentage of people who watched the whole story the whole way through grew exponentially.”
The initiative led to branded campaigns with companies not known for their innovative approaches, such as one of the Bulls’ biggest partners, a financial institution. “How did you convince your bosses at the Bulls to take this kind of risk?” Gregory asked. “People buy into passion more than they buy into ideas,” Dukich responded, adding that, despite not being able to sleep the night before of the campaign launch out of anxiety, their firm belief in the idea, as well as its execution, led to satisfactory results.
Another innovative approach was Snapchat the Musical, with Bulls’ player Robin Lopez playing Beauty and the Beast’s Gaston for a "Beauty and the Bull" parody. “It was a really weird thing for a sports team to do,” said Dukich. Nonetheless, it got picked up by many outlets and it went viral accordingly.
The fun (and results!) continued with yet another creative content idea for these platforms. Also starring Lopez, “a guy who is super into acting, Disney and improv…not your typical athlete,” as Dukich said, the Bulls’ took on a parody of The Bachelor, a more ambitious production, which became another instant hit. “It had 1.1 million unpaid views,” said Dukich. The Instagram story was also picked up and talked about by just about every sports outlet. Talk about earned media!
The Bulls’ social media wins attracted even more attention, including from fellow teams. “It’s a tight-knit community,” Dukich said. “It happened because we have an organization that’s interested in doing something different that may be scary, this was very scary.” He added that since sports content “all kind of looks the same,” he wanted to give fans something they weren’t used to. “There’s value in doing something different.”
The opportunity to take the experience beyond social media came when the Bulls curated user-generated content for a campaign with an iconic soft drinks brand. “We talk about user-generated content a lot. This is an example of doing it in a way that’s also very different,” Dukich said of the activation where fans were invited to hand-draw Bulls’ players’ dunks, which they then animated and distributed via Twitter and Instagram.
For Dukich, it all comes down to creativity and innovation. “If you believe in an idea, you kind just make it happen and, I think, you get rewarded for that,” he said, adding that the next frontier of digital marketing is to figure out “how to enhance the experience.” He talked about the Sacramento Kings’ app, which is so integrated into the game playing experience that they crowdsource the arena’s temperature by having fans submit temperature requests.
The Bulls’ success is also due to the fact that they don’t necessarily see themselves as the “owners of the brand.” “We don’t own the Bulls’ brand, the fans do,” said Dukich, explaining that they embrace creators who do Bulls-related artwork, photography and graffiti. “I think what we’ve done really well is to work with them, we invite them in. If someone is doing something interesting, we reach out to them and say, “hey can we use this?’”
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Header image courtesy of the Chicago Bulls