Sports bloggers are reviled by many veteran journalists and misunderstood by just as many marketers. But their connection to and loyalty from millions of fans has created a digital medium of enormous influence.
The finest of the lot will bring their style, controversy and snark to New York in June for a gathering dubbed “Blogs with Balls sponsored by Yardbarker” to reach out to the old guard media, marketers and one another.
Don Povia, who created the popular sports blog HuggingHaroldReynolds.com and is a co-creator of the event, said in an interview that the tongue-in-cheek title is meant in part to convey the “sort of the attitude that exists between the new and the old media with regard to blogging.”
Povia said part of the impetus for creating BWB was ham-handed marketers looking to tap the huge audiences drawn to sports blogs.
“After major events like the Super Bowl and March Madness, we were being contacted by big PR companies on behalf of major clients looking to get blog mentions,” he said. “The problem was they were speaking a different language and offering things that weren’t relevant to what we do.”
Povia said a key goal of the conference is to engage marketers and bring them into the conversation with a more interactive, Q&A-type format not generally associated with professional conferences.
“It’s a two-way street,” he said. “We’re looking at what the marketers and companies are looking for and what they’re comfortable advertising on, but also what the bloggers and, more importantly their readers, are interested in.”
Taylor, GolinHarris and Fleishman-Hillard are among PR firms sending representatives or taking part in the BWB event, which has attracted several major sponsors and is expected to draw as many as 400 participants to the cellar of Stout on 33rd Street in Midtown. Sports and entertainment marketing giant Octagon is also dispatching a speaker. (Here's a list)
Povia said the gathering is also intended for bloggers to share tips and best practices, as well as spark a dialogue, and possibly an understanding, with “old media” covering the sports field. He mentioned last year’s HBO showdown between writer Buzz Bissinger and former Deadspin editor Will Leitch as evidence of hostility that he says shouldn’t exist.
“It was clear from that that there’s a divide, but there really shouldn’t be,” he said. “This is a good opportunity to bridge the gap and make introductions. If we can speed that process up and put some people in a room together to make the relationships more amicable, then I think it serves to benefit everyone.”
He also added that sports marketing events typically ignore the tremendous audiences that bloggers draw. “It seems like the bloggers were left out,” he said of such events. “You’d have these high-profile types, but not the little guy working at his computer that has hundreds of thousands of readers each day.”