The Digital Media Bowl: Organic vs. Paid

This is the third of four College Football Bowl Game Blogs we will be posting over the next four weeks! Stay tuned every Friday through Bowl Season to see who will be competing for the win.

Competitors: Organic Media vs. Paid Media

By: Derek Striegle

I am getting back into the work routine today after disconnecting for nearly two, relaxing weeks. Our Chicago staff is reminiscing the last time we were together at our holiday party, which somehow ended up at a karaoke bar. During my time off, I indulged in a few of my favorite things – movies, college football and naps. The naps usually happened unexpectedly during the movies and football.

I also spent time reflecting on 2019, much like Oregon’s helmets in the Rose Bowl sunset. It was a year of tremendous growth here at 4FRONT. I am so fortunate to work for this company that I can’t help but feel overwhelmed, as if I have won my own personal Heisman Trophy, just like my new favorite player, Joe Burrow. Moving forward into 2020, I am excited to enter the NFL Draft continue growing our client strategies.

As a fan engagement and ticket sales specialist on our digital marketing team, I always keep an eye on the sports and entertainment industry. It is difficult to generalize how properties approach advertising when some have the luxury of selling themselves, while others need to fight for every sale.

Some organizations have ample ad budgets, and others are scrapping for each dollar. Despite the variability, I would assert that this vertical has traditionally been slow to adopt media best practices but has been catching up to macro marketing trends.

In this business, we are blessed to have no shortage of exciting and inspiring content available – on the field or stage, in the crowd, behind the scenes and throughout the community. In recent years, most teams, leagues and promoters have figured out how to capture it and showcase it. The challenge is now delivering this content to audiences, at scale.

Social media algorithms continue to diminish the ability to reach the fans who have liked and followed your accounts organically. In our research, an average post from a top major league sports team (with a highly engaged audience) reaches less than 6% of its followers on the most popular social media platforms.

Inspired by college football’s New Year’s Six (which I stayed awake for most of), here are a half-dozen recommendations to thrive in a pay-to-play digital world.


1. Deliver guaranteed impressions of your signature creative

Potentially viral content may need a spark to gain momentum. When your organization invests in creative production, it would be a disservice to limit that content to only the hopeful reach of your social feed at the mercy of an algorithm. A ‘boost’ is occasionally worthwhile for simplicity, however, it is targeted advertising that will ensure your asset delivers at scale, to your prospective audience.

2. Commit to growing the top of your sales funnel

To ensure that the bottom of the funnel remains full enough to convert sales, advertising should include branding and awareness efforts – in addition to direct-response. Conversion-focused tactics and calls-to-action may get the attribution credit, but it is often the storytelling that first captures new fans’ attention.

3. Repurpose organic content as paid media creative

Media planners should be aligned with social media managers to curate the top posts from organic feeds. Videos, photos and GIFs that have proven to engage your current fans organically might also be the best assets to inspire potential new consumers through targeted advertising distribution.

4. Expand media mix beyond the walled garden duopoly

Most organizations have committed to advertising through everyone’s favorite social media site and search engine, but there are massive untapped opportunities in this industry to grow through other digital channels; including native, out-stream video, connected TV, streaming audio and programmatic out of home.

5. Amplify user-generated, influencer and athlete/artist content

This variety can diversify your brand presence and appeal to potential audiences that are less likely to resonate with your traditional style guide. This ambition may require some combination of promotions and agreements but can inspire a workforce of meme-producing publishers.

6. Invest in fan engagement, website traffic and data collection

Sales are the ultimate business objective but not all measures of success need to be monetized right away. Social followers, site visitors and lead generation might not drive game-changing revenue this year but will plant seeds to farm for years to come through retargeting and email marketing. Consider allocating ad budget into sweepstakes that are optimized toward these KPIs.

The title of this post, ‘organic vs. paid’, is a false dichotomy. Your digital presence should be a mix of both (not to mention earned). Apologies if you were hoping that I would declare a winner. I promise this was not intended to be clickbait – just sticking to our blog theme! *See 1st vs 3rd party data and traditional vs non-traditional sponsors.

Our team is eager to apply this 2020 foresight by maximizing our clients’ resources to engage and convert new customers, across both organic and paid. If you would like to chat about digital media (or college football) please send me a note at Happy New Year!

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin

Go Ahead, Look Around

Success Stories

Las Vegas Raiders

International Partnership Prospecting


Popular Pages

Take your company to the next level with our main suite of services 

A Proven Track Record for Properties Across the Globe.

Products Services, & Articles all in One Place.

Easy to read, docs related to fan engagement & more.