November 1, 2018
Jennifer Kavanagh, SVP Marketing & Media at the Philadelphia Eagles talks navigating through an attention economy, redefining consumer funnels and the mistake of marketing in echo-chambers. Explaining her theory of “earfluence”, Jennifer Kavanagh shares her predictions for the future of content consumption.
Jeff: Your career has been in television, but you're now running marketing at the Eagles. What are your main goals for the next year?
Jennifer: My journey started with and focused on, for a long time, television and digital media designed to super-serve and entertain young audiences. As time went on I began advising for more networks with different audiences of all shapes and sizes on all platforms. I used to think about the content landscape very much in buckets and used to think of sports as a separate entity. What I have learned having crossed over to sports is that there are so many similarities in all these buckets that I had never really considered before.
Something that was also very interesting in my transition was the fact that the Eagles themselves were intentionally focusing their search for their a new head of marketing and media not just within the realm of sports. They have a deep appreciation for the fact that what moves and connects audiences across the content landscape is storytelling. We are a team that looks at fandom slightly differently. We see fandom as having no boundaries and therefore our potential to serve Eagles fans across the world is a huge opportunity. In terms of our goals, storytelling and the ability to distribute far and wide is where we are really focused.
Jeff: What is the culture like and how does that impact how you market?
Jennifer: It might sound cliche but I would describe our culture as very team-oriented. I think a lot of the spirit that moves a successful football team on the field is something that has to be and is fully and completely adopted throughout the organization. This is a culture that very much puts the fan first. We spend a lot of time putting ourselves in the shoes of the fan and asking are we doing the best things we could possibly do to ensure the best experience? Teamwork is pervasive across the organization and something we take very seriously. We win together, we lose together.
Jeff: You published an article a few years ago predicting the development of Facebook Watch. Do you have any content consumption predictions for the future?
Jennifer: I think what has emerged since then in a bigger way is audio entertainment, like podcasts. Audio as a medium will grow, and as it grows, it will give rise to earfluence. This is a concept where we see more people spending time listening instead of watching, either because it's more convenient, or the medium resonates more. There will be a tipping point that will take place and when it does, you will see the quality of audio as a storytelling medium really take off. To some degree, it challenges the premium we have put on video, and that’s not to suggest that video won't continue to be important, but in terms of the attention economy overall, I can see more and more time spent with audio storytelling.
Jeff: The attention economy is something that you study a lot. What do you think are the most effective ways to tap into audiences today considering that there is such a surplus of content out there?
Jennifer: Building strategies inside of an attention economy means first that you have to recognize that you are no longer just competing on your primary medium or in your primary category. Meaning sports and television do not just compete against sport and television, we are competing against any and every activity or interest that is appealing to our fan base. What that means is we have to spend time thinking about how we redefine consumer funnels and journeys, and we have to be brave enough to explore categories that might be a little uncomfortable because they sit outside of our core brand. We have to look at them as an opportunity to spark a connection with consumers in a way that might not be sport-centric. For us, its been looking at content and finding what else our audience is passionate about besides football, or what other opportunities to we have to develop and build a relationship with them.
We have a category of content called Helmets Off. It includes a video series of stories that focus on our players and coaching staff off the field to show their personal passions. This creates opportunities to connect with people that might not necessarily care about football today. Or if you like to cook, you can listen to our podcast called Feeding The Birds where one of our executive chefs sits with a player or a coach every week to talk about the food culture within football and beyond. It's an exploration that has to go out of your comfort zone in order to be successful.
Jeff: When you look back on your career, is there a particular mistake that you have especially learned from?
Jennifer: I think that examining failure is really important to anyone’s overall success. I have definitely been guilty of getting caught in shiny object syndrome. By that, I mean feeling the need to create and push things out that meet the needs of the organization’s perception but never really actually connected with the end consumer. It's almost like marketing in an echo chamber - you're doing it for a pat on the back and you think it's something the organization will look at favorably. I have been very self-critical over the last few years so that I do not do that. If the objective is to be innovative, there are many ways to do that in which you can really connect with your audience.
Jeff: What do you think the future of television is?
Jennifer: My prediction is very much rooted in the past and what we have seen in pretty recent cycles. There was a very definitive time when a handful of broadcasters or entertainment platforms owned 100% of the shows that we watched and loved. Where we find ourselves today is in an environment that is more fragmented than it's ever been. In fact, it's started to essentially re-consolidate and with that reconsolidation comes a couple of outcomes.
One is that a lot of the content people believed would be the new, next-gen content that people would want, but was not ultimately successful in getting those eyeballs, will fall away. We are going to get to a very tight cross cut of what it is that's been resonating, and we are going to be able to get it on fewer platforms. Beyond that, I think we will start fragmenting again. Those that are successful on the video side will start to get more aggressive with audio. They’ll probably start building out bigger ecosystems beyond just video as a means of maintaining that level of retention, interest and ability to entertain people throughout their day.
We think a lot about what it means to entertain an Eagles fan from the time they wake up until the time they go to bed. That mix of content and distribution timing really ranges from checking in with Alexa first thing in the morning to get your team update, to listening to our podcast on the way to work, to engaging with us on social, to watching the game in a very broadcast-proper way, to joining us for recaps that are live streamed. I think it's going to be a reconsolidation that then grows into more mediums within those players’ eco-systems.
Jeff: How would you describe the color blue to a blind person?
Jennifer: I would describe the color blue as the way that you feel when you inhale near the water or ocean on a really brisk, cool day; the feeling when the cold air just hits your chest and feels really cool and clean. That’s how I would describe the color blue.
Please note, the above has been paraphrased for editorial purposes