Back Of The Net: Sports Writing Techniques For Content That Scores

Back Of The Net: Sports Writing Techniques For Content That Scores

With the Premier League season drawing to a close, this week, we thought we’d turn our attention to a type of content that’s often overlooked: sports journalism.

At face value, sports reporting doesn’t have much depth. It’s a factual, report-driven account of events - a simple par 4 on a still, sunny day.

But scratch beneath the surface and sports journalists are applying a whole host of creative techniques to help their content hit a home run.

So, strap on your shin pads and pull up your socks - today, we’re offering up some sports writing techniques to help your next content marketing effort rocket straight into the back of the net.

Inject a narrative

The core structure of sports pieces is formulaic at best.

Team A faced Team B. Team A scored X, Team B scored Y. This player did well, that player didn’t.

This monotony quickly becomes tedious for both writer and reader. To avoid this otherwise inevitable own goal, sports writers often look for fresh and dynamic approaches. From coining creative turns of phrase to making use of heightened emotional expression, this is often achieved through the injection of a narrative.

To find this narrative, sports writers often place the focus on people. This enables them to write content that creates more emotional investment and, in turn, resonates more powerfully with the reader.

Narratives can be a content marketer’s best friend, as we’ve covered in detail before. In the same way sports journalists rely on narrative to bring a new dimension to their content, consider how you can inject an engaging narrative into your own content. This is especially vital if you find you’re covering the same topics and formats regularly.

Ensure readability

Above all else, sports articles aim to inform.

This means readers expect to be able to source certain information - scorelines, players, attendances and the like - quickly and easily.

To make this possible, sports writers pay close attention to the readability and structure of their content to avoid a swing and a miss.

Vocabulary choices are simple, phrasing is concise and paragraphs are kept short and sweet. This way, all readers are able to source the primary takeaways with minimal fuss. This use of streamlining in phrasing and structure is also a super-effective way of communicating the crux of a piece of content to skim readers.

Content marketers should look to champion these same ideals. From keeping users engaged on the page to equipping your content to achieve coveted featured snippets in Google search results, nailing readability and digestibility brings a range of benefits that are well worth having.

Demonstrate expertise

While sports writing is factual reporting at its heart, readers expect more than a simple play-by-play of events.

Readers want insight. Why did Team A choose that formation? How come X was on the bench? What does this result mean for the rest of the league?

Making astute insights requires expertise. Insight pulls the reader in and, if you’ve done enough to demonstrate your knowledge on the topic, it might also keep them coming back for more.

Go the extra mile to provide expert insights and added value in an aim to create content that surpasses any other piece in your space. This will not only amplify engagement, but also help your brand to earn readers’ trust.

Your audience, not every audience

When demonstrating expertise, it’s inevitable you’ll use some topical jargon along the way. In fact, it’s about as predictable as a rainy day at Wimbledon.

For some, this may be a red flag - surely specialist lingo is going to hurt that all-important readability factor? Not exactly.

A sports writer understands they are writing for their audience, not every audience. To do this, certain assumptions have to be made. For example, a reader of a golf article is likely to understand the use of ‘birdie’ without it having to be defined.

Content marketers should adopt a similar mentality when creating branded content.

The needs of your audience should always be at the forefront of your content creation process, meaning the voice and style should always be tailored to them. Never get caught up in oversimplifying your content if it comes at the expense of value to your audience.

Reactivity

Sports reporting is a sprint, not a marathon.

Audiences expect reports to be published almost instantaneously following the final whistle, with turnaround times so fast Usain Bolt himself would be proud.

Fear not - we’re not expecting you to whip up your next piece of content within the hour. Instead, simply embrace the advantages of reactivity.

While not always practical, reactive content creation is a sure-fire way to boost engagement. This is because it enables you to stay at the forefront of your field, jumping on trends and having your say on industry hot topics while they’re still relevant.

Tribalism

Sports writing isn’t always impartial.

From fan forums to club representatives, sports reporting is also commonly expressed from one particular perspective. In these instances, writers often play on a sense of tribalism.

From use of the collective ‘we’ to colloquialisms and direct addresses, sports writers embrace a conversational and relatable tone to close the gap between writer and reader. The writer becomes a spokesperson for the reader - embodying and expressing their thoughts and feelings.

Being a voice box for your audience requires an inherent understanding of that audience’s shared interests and identity. Look to immerse yourself in your own audience - considering their habits, behaviours and pain points - and then use your findings to inspire your content creation.

By adopting this reader-centric approach to content creation, paired with a use of collective and a colloquial direct voice, you can emulate the sense of tribalism sports writers are able to conjure in their writing. This is the crucial first step towards an engaged community of your own.

Worried your content is in the relegation zone? Get in touch with Paragraft to learn how we can help to send your content to the top of the league.

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