We Started a Sports Podcast During a Sports-less Pandemic
Here’s Why it Worked…and Why it was FUN!
We started the conversation at a Washington D.C., coffee shop in January, 2020. “We should start a podcast about Naval Academy sports.” At that time, my business partner, Chris, and I didn’t know what Covid was and how it would affect sports for the rest of the calendar year. What we did know was there were no other Navy sports podcasts. Chris – a 1999 Naval Academy graduate - and I had already started our own Communications and Coaching firm upon our retirements after 20 years each as Naval Officers. I had served as the Public Affairs Officer at USNA before retiring and remained a big fan of the institution and the sports played there. My reaction – “Let’s do it.”
We took the rest of the time at the coffee shop and brainstormed a name of the podcast – we settled on Sing Second Sports. The name is a play on the fact that at the conclusion of every sporting event played between Army West Point (the U.S. Military Academy) and Navy, the victorious team sings its alma mater after the losing team, thus…singing second. The singing second tradition is honored and well known at each institution, and it is covered by CBS at the end of every Army-Navy football game.
We secured the podcast account, website and social media channels. From beginning to end, the evolution took 30 minutes. We met with the Naval Academy athletics administrators a couple of weeks later to run the idea by them. They too thought it was a great way to continue to get Navy Athletics information to their audiences. We were set. Then the wheels came off. Covid intervened, and before we knew it March Madness was cancelled and soon also were the seasons for all spring sports at Navy. Sports were gone. And our pod was done. Or was it?
After about six weeks of watching the pandemic cripple the globe, we decided to drive forward. We released “Pod Zero” May 2nd. We felt there was a unique opportunity here to do what a lot of Public Relations professionals do – tell stories.
There were no games or box scores to break down. But there were 1) stories and 2) Zoom. With those variables, we entered the fray. We added Class of 1982 graduate Ward Carroll to provide his perspective as co-host. With Ward involved and Chris as the producer, we thought we could make the pod last a bit until sports came back. It lasted and flourished. Why?
The increased usage of mobile devices has led to the explosion of podcasting. And in sports, podcasting has delivered what so many sports fans have always wanted…a more personal line of access to their favorite teams, players and information. If you’re a Naval Academy sports fan, you have little chance of seeing Navy get exposure on ESPN the way Alabama does. And you have very little chance of seeing extensive Navy sports coverage in local TV news.
Podcasts are an authority platform, and you’re broadcasting your thought leadership from a more prestigious vantage point than social media. So, as PR professionals, we were struck by how the podcast resonated with people.
We average better than 8000 listeners for each episode through 40+ episodes so far. We weren’t talking about games. We were talking about emotions. We were talking about families. We wanted sea stories from the alumni and athletes, and we wanted midshipmen to tell us about the “other” factors in their athletic lives…namely, what was it like to be at USNA during Covid. And listeners liked it. These were the stories you weren’t getting on ESPN or Rivals. So, we delivered this access from the pod. And it worked. Why? There are two main reasons:
1.Compelling content - We didn’t want Roger Staubach or David Robinson. With no disrespect to these giants of Navy sports history, we wanted to talk to Nicole Anaupu Mann and Chris Cassidy, who are both NASA astronauts. We wanted to talk to everyday midshipman who toil away at intramurals. We wanted the alumni like Ashley Pelzek (Navy Women’s Basketball captain from the class of 2004) and Mike Althouse (Class of 86 intramural warrior) who used sports to launch themselves into meritorious civilian ventures that people might not know about. We loved talking to them. And they relished reinforcing the mission statement of the Sing Second Sports podcast – that the physical mission requirements at service academies provide them with lessons they need to be people of character and consequence in and out of uniform.
2. Chemistry - The connection between us is genuine. We are passionate about sports, love USNA and enjoy each other's company...even if we don't always agree. We work very hard to capture the same conversation we would have over a beer (or three) while watching a game or hanging out at tailgater.
So…we started a podcast about sports when there were no sports to talk about. And it worked. As sports returned in limited capacity in the fall with Navy’s football season, we adjusted and covered the games. But it was still the personal stories we got from athletes and alumni that kept us going. And it underscored the importance of storytelling in today’s communication landscape. Audiences want to go beyond the box scores and uniform reveals. They want to get acquainted with the athletes and hear their voices. And we are happy to deliver.
Sing Second Sports is a ProVision Advisors venture and sponsored by Mills Fine Wine and Spirits and Academy Consulting. It is a podcast about Naval Academy sports for Naval Academy sports fans, alumni, midshipmen and staff. To listen to the Sing Second Sports pod, find us on Sound Cloud, Spotify or Apple Podcasts. And follow us @wesingsecond on IG and Twitter. And follow ProVision Advisors at www.provisionadvisors.net and @provadvisors on Twitter.