It is truly an understatement for me to say that I am both energized and humbled by what comes next. I’ve long awaited the moment to publish this announcement.
Beginning tomorrow, Hashtag Sports is launching a new publication here on Medium called Innovate — a natural extension of our annual innovation festival in NYC on June 26–28, 2017, the flagship of our next-gen thought leadership platform.
More than a dozen contributors, ranging from athletes and investors to brand marketers and social influencers to founders and executives, will share their exclusive insights, visions, and passions — original thought leadership pieces found only on Innovate by Hashtag Sports — with our global community.
“As a publication, Innovate will endeavor to tell the stories of the creators, companies, and culture challenging the status quo of the sports industry.”
For many months now, my team has brainstormed, debated, whiteboarded, and ultimately dreamed big of both Innovate and our core mission at Hashtag Sports.
We see abundant opportunity emerging from the real challenges that the sports industry faces to profitably meet the dynamic and rapidly evolving needs of the Connected Fan and Athlete.
In order to help navigate the changing tide, we aim to offer an even more powerful spotlight and an amplified voice to a diverse group of innovators.
These thought leaders value the establishment yet recognize that, among many forces, media consumption habits are drastically shifting, sport is truly global in both fandom and influence, athletes are more than just competition, and emerging platforms ultimately bring increased parity.
We see Hashtag Sports serving as the connective and collaborative tissue for what has become a dynamic sports ecosystem, increasingly more inviting to non-endemic stakeholders and united in a mission to guide the industry through imminent challenges.
To understand our passion for this mission and to ultimately see Innovate through the same lens as we do, I think it’s critical that I tell you the short story of Hashtag Sports.
When Steve and I first published Hashtag Sports more than 5 years ago inside our boutique agency walls (Activ8Social is now the legal entity behind Hashtag Sports), we wanted to help educate other marketers about the exciting ways in which social media was transforming fan engagement.
What began as an internal value-add for our then agency clients — after repeated requests to provide case studies and benchmarks — quickly became an industry newsletter for a devoted audience of a few hundred people who respected our reputation for pushing the envelope with brands like Red Bull and their championship-winning athletes like Reggie Bush, Tim Lincecum, and Rajon Rondo at the pinnacle of their careers.
Despite continued agency success that included media coverage in outlets like Mashable and ESPN, a consistent comment repeatedly emerged from conversations.
“Wait, you produce Hashtag Sports? [Insert various descriptors of choice]. I absolutely love that newsletter!”
This recurring theme really made us think twice, thrice, and ultimately many times over.
Here we are getting paid to think up incredibly sexy social media campaigns, and yet, this Hashtag Sports newsletter is what gets people excited.
So we did what any other entrepreneur would do in our position — we decided to challenge ourselves. How could we take the insights our team was curating on a daily basis to tens of thousands of more people while providing an accessible forum for collaboration and networking?
We drank a few beers, drew on a couple napkins, and charged ahead, forming a unique partnership with Google to build a completely virtual conference experience on the Hangouts platform and API.
Realizing a series of decisions to add value and build goodwill had turned into a burgeoning platform, we knew the time had come to leave our boutique agency behind and focus on Hashtag Sports full-time.
“It wasn’t an easy decision. It meant going back to basics. It meant doubling down. Tripling down.”
There was definite fulfillment in successfully addressing our challenge. We had provided accessible thought leadership to tens of thousands across the world while meeting so many unique people along the way!
In the fall of 2015, we were further humbled to gather the Hashtag Sports community for our first annual innovation festival in New York City.
More than 1,000 athletes, influencers, entrepreneurs, executives, and professionals collaborated over three days and experienced first-hand the creators, platforms, and technologies that are impacting the sports media landscape and a connected generation of fans.
Shining a Spotlight
As we endeavor to do with each new initiative, Innovate will provide a uniquely valuable perspective and fresh voice as many have come to expect from our team.
Hashtag Sports is aiming to rewrite the playbook with original storytelling, opinion pieces, and exclusive insights.
There are so many untold stories in our industry’s ecosystem and so many amazing storytellers in our Hashtag Sports community.
Innovate is the natural next step in fulfilling our mission of providing authoritative and accessible thought leadership with Medium offering a publishing platform that will aid us in providing new vantage points and reaching new audiences.