What JDG has been up to

As we race towards the final third of the year, it felt like a good time to review what JDG has been up to and where we’re at.

It is now coming up to seven years since JDG Media was founded by myself, and it has been an interesting journey with several ups and downs, but most importantly some great experiences.

Ultimately, the business has always revolved around myself and though I have at times tried to expand that out with the aim of becoming a full scale digital agency, the decision has been made moving forward to simply focus on my strengths and ensuring that I always sit at the centre of everything JDG does.

So what have we doing? Well, our main site Love Rugby League continues to go from strength to strength. The fast-paced and ever-changing face of journalism online represents ongoing challenges, as we now face stiff competition to gain attention on social media from fan sites that don’t need a business model to sustain.

Unfortunately, that has cost us the services of a couple of key writers, though we are hoping to adapt our model moving forward. We have a terrific working partnership with Betfred, who have been the main sponsor of the site this year, and the numbers that we have been able to provide them have been outstanding.

We have also brought on Batchelors this year, to push their Mushy Peas brand, again a sponsor of Super League generally. The Rugby Football League has also utilised our channels to push their ticket sales, and we look forward to developing a fruitful partnership with their marketing department over the coming months and years.

Back in June, we once again ran a hugely successful media campaign for State of Mind, gaining press coverage in several newspapers, on BBC and Sky Sports, as well as numerous local radio stations. We have now been working with State of Mind for five years, and it is a pleasure to be involved.

Away from rugby, our British Ice Hockey site has kicked on this year and we are now hoping to attract commercial partners ahead of the 2017/18 season that will enable us to push that forward as Love Rugby League has done over the past few years.

We are currently working with Braehead Clan to develop their new website, and that will hopefully be live before the new season.

A big part of my work currently is with Manchester Giants basketball team, effectively running their commercial, media and marketing operation. A new website and club shop, developed by JDG, was put in place earlier this summer.

The new football season – check out the Sportingbet Welcome Bonus and have a flutter – starts properly for me this weekend when Warrington Town kick-off against Rushall Olympic, and again I will be covering that in-depth for Warrington Worldwide, Warrington Guardian and the club itself.

We continue to pitch and look for new clients, and have some interesting proposals out there currently. If you would like to work with me and my small team, then please do get in touch.

Essentially, we can provide the perfect online sports solution – whether that incorporates website build, management, social media, content, PR or otherwise, just give me a shout!

In the Dugout: Simon Boynton, Digital Sports Group

In a new feature on our website, each week we will interview someone from the sport media and marketing industry to find out a bit more about them, what they do and their sporting loves.

If you want to be featured, drop us an email at hello@jdgsport.com

First up is Simon Boynton, the co-owner of Golden Decade, a specialist business contractor for the sports industry. Clients include Digital Sports Group (football.co.uk), Fleet Street Sport (sportsvibe.co.uk) and Media, Zapsportz and the PFA. 

What is your earliest sporting memory?

England v Brazil WC 1970 – Just the Jairzinho goal. No memory of the Banks save or ‘that tackle by Moore’

How has online changed the way sport is covered?

So many ways, but if I had to give one, it would be that the accessibility to the action has increased so much that we no longer have to rely on the traditional media’s interpretation of the events on the pitch. Sometimes I will watch the Match of the Day highlights of a game that I have seen live on Sky and, with the exception of the teams and the score, I could be watching two different matches.

Why do you have rugby league and rugby union on one site rather than two separate sites?!

The view is that they are two different codes of the same sport. The new T20 city cricket will be covered on cricket.co.uk, not a new site.

Does the growth of digital mean that in theory, any sport can become a global phenomenon?

Within reason yes, The emergence of eSports over the coming few years will test this to the limit. I think that in as little as ten years many actual (Olympic and sub-Olympic) sports will be seen as archaic as Morris Dancing. 

What challenges do you face with the sheer volume of sport, especially football, content?

Ignoring the fact that the BBC should concentrate on its core business of broadcaster (in a multimedia environment) and not have an all encompassing, advert-free, fully paid for website….don’t get me started!

Two things instantly spring to mind.

i) In the same way that access to the action has increased, so has the ability to create noise around it. Having a reliable point of reference such as an independent news agency like PA is vital, it is just a shame that they cannot seem to capitalise on this.

ii) You have to have a USP, without that you will never stand out from the crowd.

How are things different now to when you started out?

The internet didn’t exist – need I say more!

Does media coverage dictate whether a sport is popular, or does a popular sport earn media coverage?

We are moving from the former to the latter. The days of big broadcasters dictating the agenda are coming to and end. There are still some positive examples such as women’s football (BBC) and Paralympic sport (C4), but it is becoming increasing difficult for the mainstream media to set the agenda.

What’s your favourite sport and team?

Football – Arsenal/England

If you could have any sportsman/woman round for dinner, who would it be and why?

It would have to be Thierry Henry. My wife and daughter are both in love with him………

Judge Rinder sparks rugby league meltdown

The recent appearance by Leigh Centurions owner Derek Beaumont and his Salford Red Devils counterpart Marwan Koukash on the popular ITV programme Judge Rinder sparked plenty of debate in rugby league circles.

Beaumont and Koukash took centre-stage in the court room in a battle concerning Centurions’ signing of Gareth Hock from Salford and his subsequent appearance against his former club in the Challenge Cup in 2015.

Our Love Rugby League team watched the show followed by the subsequent fall-out across social media, and it’s safe to say they weren’t impressed by much of the reaction.

With the duo also currently engaged in a charity weight loss challenge, some people took their appearance on the show in the spirit in which it was meant – a bit of fun with a view to resolving a genuine issue in an informal way, while bringing some attention to the game of rugby league to a massive mainstream daytime audience.

However, many others took a different view, with comments such as “embarrassing for rugby league” amongst the milder outpouring of negativity hurled in the pair’s direction.

For a sport that needs all the publicity it can get as it battles for airtime alongside the likes of football, cricket and rugby union, some of the vitriol on display was mind-boggling yet unsurprising in equal measure.

Across the spectrum of sports, social media has sparked a culture of opinion and interaction never previously available to fans.

It has also opened the door for rising levels of moaning and abuse, with rugby league perhaps one of the worst afflicted if the LRL team’s observations are anything to go by.

There’s plenty of brilliant things in the game – whether it’s the spectacle itself or some of the great work done off the pitch by clubs in the community – yet much of this seems to get drowned in a sea of negativity.

Endless criticism of the RFL, berating of match officials and fans dubbing rival clubs “scum” do little to present rugby league in a positive light.

If the fans can’t bring themselves to be positive about the sport – and like others it isn’t perfect – then what hope does it have of marketing its good points to a wider audience?

While Beaumont and Koukash’s appearance on the Judge Rinder show was largely being derided by rugby league fans, another “fringe/minority” sport was getting some priceless extra exposure and the reaction to it was chalk and cheese.

Rod Stewart and Rachel Hunter’s son, Liam, recently represented Great Britain at a World Championship tournament in Belfast.

Stewart jnr scored his first international goal against Estonia during the competition, and both parents did their bit to shout about the news.

While Rod’s reaction had echoes of his “enthusiastic” involvement in the draw for the fifth round of the Scottish Cup, the fact that major news outlets picked up on this was embraced by ice hockey fans who cry out for their sport to reach a wider audience.

Clearly Rod Stewart and Judge Rinder are at different levels on the “celebrity” spectrum, but fans of rugby league would do well to note the impact these types of interactions can have when it comes to spreading the word.

If the sport’s own fans can’t extinguish what appears to be a self-created culture of moaning, what motive is there for the media or sponsors to view it in anything other than a negative light?

Searching for football’s content business model

In the ever increasing battle to successful monetise quality content, Trinity Mirror has launched a couple of paywalled football sites.

The two sites – produced by Liverpool Echo and Middlesbrough Gazette – will be targeted at fans of Liverpool and Middlesbrough football clubs using existing staff to create the additional content.

Subscribers will be able to view “exclusive content” including “in depth analysis, additional comment, guides and opinion from well known names and additional podcasts and video”.

It’s an interesting move, but not one that I can see taking off.

Ultimately, fans are too used to getting content for free. They will simply go wherever they can consume what they want.

That being said, there is an appetite for more in-depth content somewhere – and this is something that the new network Dugout is trying to take advantage of at an elite level.

The question is can external publications compete with a club’s in-house channels to deliver this premium content?

Elite clubs are publications in their own right, often running with multiple staff in roles ranging from club journalist to videographer.

It’s more than the media now. There is a marketing value to all the media content that is produced, and the best clubs know this.

That means behind the scenes content and exclusive access has even greater value to clubs, meaning they are more than likely wanting to keep control of that themselves, and push it through their channels, rather than enabling it to go out to external publications.

There is of course always a place for impartial and objective outsiders – clubs naturally only focus on positives or at least issues that aren’t damaging to their brand.

But my inkling is that Trinity Mirror are going to struggle to get the behind the scenes content that is going to warrant a significant number of people to pay – I hope to be proved wrong.

It is a wider issue relating to sports content. There are so many sports, teams and players to consume, and now so many ways of doing so – whether it’s newspapers, radio, TV, magazine, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, live streaming, Snapchat, What’s App or something else.

Finding a way of successfully commercialising this resource outside a club becomes increasingly challenging.

Clubs can measure the ROI against ticket sales, merchandise and increased sponsorship.

It is an issue that journalism has been seeking the answer to since newspapers ventured online more than 10 years ago.

It was a debate that no one had the answer to during my studies all those years ago.

Another tactic Trinity Mirror have tried is launching football.london which, you guessed it, is a site dedicated to football in the capital.

It builds on the niche of local newspapers and creates a niche market within football.

It’s something we at JDG have contemplated in the past – our venture at thefootypost.com, which was targeted at North West clubs, is on the back-burner at present.

But there is still something about locality that draws a niche.

Whether it works remains to be seen, but the positive is, at least the journalism industry is still looking for that answer.

Hirsch story a reminder of the power of talking

As with many companies working in sport, JDG’s client portfolio covers a wide variety of different areas.

Our link-up with State of Mind to raise awareness of mental health issues, tackle stigma and signpost support to rugby league players and fans who do not access help is one which has focused our minds on those issues across sport as a whole.

Reaching out for help tends to be the biggest hurdle for people suffering with mental illness, which is why one particular story caught our eye this week.

Former NHL netminder Corey Hirsch had a long career at the pinnacle of ice hockey with the likes of New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks, but it was also a time that was blighted by some deeply dark moments.

Hirsch shared his story with an in-depth post on The Players’ Tribune and it’s one which gives a fascinating insight into the troubles he had to endure.

Thankfully for Hirsch he appears to have safely navigated through his problems to emerge a stronger person, but it was the help of others that got him there.

The article was a reminder for us of the value of companies like State of Mind and the excellent work they do.

Hopefully Hirch’s story and others like it will inspire people to seek help if needed – remember, it really is good to talk.

(Image permission: B Bennett – Getty)