Plus Naomi Osaka and Sweetgreen, the Top Golf of putt-putt, Mavrello Ballovic, Dogecoin, and of course, more NFTs!

10 Ways to View the Creator Economy | by Executive Program, News Innovation  and Leadership | Journalism Innovation | Medium

Last year, Tiffany Zhong–otherwise known as “the Gen Z whisperer”–spoke to GSVS partners1 about the behavioral and mindset changes that we should expect from her generational peers. Her key takeaway: when it comes to media, younger fans aren’t content to consume your content, they want to play a role in creating it.

The underlying idea wasn’t entirely new, considering the last decade of social media already spawned a global army of “influencers” on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. The shift Tiffany saw was the next wave of creators, who wanted to build more direct relationships with audiences and become less reliant on gatekeepers like Facebook and Google by finding new ways to monetize beyond selling paid posts, branded merch, and/or settling for a cut of the ad revenue they were generating for the tech titans.

Today we’re seeing all of this playing out in a macro-trend increasingly referred to as “The Creator Economy,”2 and its impact is being felt well beyond the world of social media. Everyone from YouTubers, Twitch streamers, and TikTok stars to Hollywood celebrities and pro (and soon amateur) athletes now have access to a growing suite of tools and partners to build a robust direct-to-consumer brand business on the back of passionate fan communities, making it easier than ever to put their name on products and services ranging from paid content (via platforms like Substack, Patreon, Cameo, OnlyFans3, or new channels like bespoke fitness apps), digital collectibles (i.e. NFTs), and video games to physical items like virtual restaurants and signature sneakers.

What does it mean for sports?

At its core, the creator economy is about forging a more direct connection between the star4 and their fans.

For the audience, the expectation is access and immersion. To get closer than ever, to get a VIP pass to the journey, not just the main event, and to be able to go as far down that fan rabbit hole as possible.

For the creators, it’s about cutting out traditional middlemen and leveraging emerging innovations that make it easier than ever to launch new businesses, all in order to maximize the value of their fan communities. To borrow from W.P. Kinsella: they’ve already come, might as well build it.

For sports, the rise of the creator economy represents two major opportunities:

  1. Collaborating with Creator Communities: The beauty of the growing creator economy lies in its diversity. A vast sea of passionate subcultures and communities, filled with current and prospective sports fans. Look at the way NBA Top Shot managed to attract casual and even non-fans to basketball by creating something that appealed to the blockchain and crypto creator class. As creators continue to diversify the ways they go to market, they’re building an enticing set of new ways for sports to connect with fans.

  2. Empowering Athletes as Creators: As noted above, athletes are very much part of the burgeoning creator economy. Unfortunately, the middleman they typically cut out to build that more direct connection to their fans (and corporate partners) has been the league, the team, and/or the media. That tension made sense when the pie was mostly limited to global sports marketing spend. But when audiences are showing their willingness to invest more than just eyeballs into their passions, and creators are demonstrating there are seemingly limitless new ways to capitalize, failing to work with athlete-creators to help them build new products, services, and experiences that deliver on the expectations of their fans will leave untold riches on the table, while only escalating the risk that the fan of tomorrow will move on to the next thing.

“If you accept that an entertainment company is about love building, that means every entertainment company must be in a process of constant change — from where it tells stories, to where you build love, and how it monetizes.”

Matthew Ball