Kasey Symons 00:06
Okay, welcome everyone. Good morning. Okay, but quite a few coming in quickly. I'll just give us a bit of time to let everyone in and we'll get started. Pretty much on time. We've got lots to cover today. The numbers going up pretty quickly. Great. Everyone's punctual. Which we love. Welcome. Good morning. Okay, I'm just gonna get that number just to creep up a little bit more. Because I know we've got lots registered for today, which is so exciting. Okay, beautiful. What I might do is because we've got so much to cover today, and we've got some amazing guests is I'm going to get started pretty close to time. So I we're right on 10, so I might just give it a few more seconds. But as I get started, everyone could just keep coming in. We are recording today. So if anyone does miss anything, you could always go back to the start of the recording. Okay, excellent. I'm going to get started and everyone can just keep filtering in. But before we start our event today of course, once you acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, as we gather for this event physically dispersed and virtually constructed, we take this moment to reflect on the meaning of place, and in doing so recognise the various traditional lands on which we come together today. I acknowledge that I'm hosting this webinar from the lands of the Latji Latji and Barkindji people and also acknowledge the traditional custodians of the various lands on which you all work today and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people participating in this webinar. I pay my respects to elder's past, present and emerging and celebrate the diversity of Aboriginal peoples and their ongoing cultures and connections to the lands and waters. Thank you all for joining us today for this event. I'm Dr. Kasey Symons, and I'm going to be co hosting this event today with My colleague, Associate Professor Adam Karg. This is our second of three events that the sport Innovation Research Group are hosting in a sport fan series that focuses on band connections, narratives and consumption. This Sport Innovation Research Group would also like to acknowledge that this series of events has been supported and facilitated by the Social Innovation Research Institute. And we thank Paul Lavey especially for his continued assistance in helping us to deliver these events. Thank you to everyone who joined us last week and our first event loving sports when they don't love you back. Well, we had authors Jessica Luther, Kavitha Davidson join us from the US, which is so exciting. And we also had Rana Hussein and Ryan Storr join us to facilitate the conversation. It was such a great way to start our series was such a wonderful discussion. If you missed it, it was recorded. So you can go to our website and watch that back. If you want to check that out, which I very much recommend. We're also excited that this event forms part of a broad range of events that are occurring this week for social sciences week. So it's really great to be part of so many events that are on this that draw attention to the diverse and into the interdisciplinary work that we do in this space. So I recommend that you head to the website there socialsciences.org.au to find out some more information about what's going on. Before we begin today, just a little bit of housekeeping. So we will have a q&a at the end of our discussion this morning. Because we have a lot of people joining us today, which is fantastic, but we might just make it a bit easier for us to facilitate this. So we're just going to use the chat function. So if you have a question that you think of during the talk today, pop it in the chat, and we'll work through some of those and select as many as possible for our panel to address at the end of our discussion. I apologise in advance if we can't get to all of them, but we'll post the social media details of everyone at the end. So you can continue the conversation online once the event concludes. And this session will of course, be recorded as well and we'll send out to all the attendees so you can reflect back on the discussion. And I think that's it for a housekeeping so let's get stuck into it. Without further ado, welcome to today's event, how narrative sports content builds fan connection. So it's really funny that this events come together as a series because this event today was actually the first idea we had, between Adam and myself. I think this came up about a year ago when we would always start talking about love for the ESPN documentary series 30 to 30. And I imagine most people who are attending today are aware of that series and might be avid fans of it as well. But all we wanted to do was to come together and find some way we could do an event that we could do out on bracket or list and just talk about all these documentaries that we love so much. But of course, this has been done many times. There are infinite lists that rank these documentaries because they are so popular. And they encourage such debates about what makes them great and what they cover and the way in which they're done. And I think this sort of conversation, looking at those conversations is what helped us to think about narrative content more broadly, and what it is about this kind of content tent that does bring out a lot of this passion in its consumers, as fans film fans form really deep connection to this kind of content and the stories which we just found really interesting. So I think particularly at this time when content is becoming more and more easily accessible and distributed across multiple platforms, which we were seeing before the pandemic set in, and now we're starting to see something a bit different within this context, because this kind of content is something we're all clinging on to a bit more. When we're isolated, we're inside and we're unable to participate in many of our usual sports and fan activities. It seemed like the perfect time to round up some experts in this space to talk about the power of narrative sports content, what they have learned themselves from creating content in the space. What are some learnings for sports organisations who might be looking to create more content to help their fans connect with them and navigate this time, while they're not able to participate in the sport in the ways that they used to, and share some great examples of what they recommend is great. Get examples of sports content that's out there already that that we can learn from. So we'll talk a little bit about the risks, the benefits, the research. And we've got some great people here this morning to talk about that with us. So I'm going to shout them all out so they can all say a quick Hello to everyone. So, firstly, good morning to Joanna Lester, our award winning filmmaker and journalist. Good morning, Joanna, thanks for joining us.
Joanna Lester 06:21
Good morning. Thanks for having me. I'm joining you today from Sydney.
Kasey Symons 06:26
Welcome. I hope you're enjoying the freedom a bit more up there. In Victoria, we won't hold that against you. Um, Joanna, just give us a bit of brief background about some of the work you've done in this space, particularly around your amazing documentary Power Meri.
Joanna Lester 06:40
Yes, so my background is in in journalism, covering both news and sport. But since first being working in Papua New Guinea in 2014, I've really been able to sort of focus my storytelling on the social impact of sport, which is something that I'd always been interested in. But as a journalist, it was actually hard to find the platform And major organisations to do that. But working on a sport development programme which uses sports for social impact in in PNG, sort of brought me into this world where I can now tell tell these stories. And my documentary is about Papua New Guineas first Women's rugby league team, their journey to their first World Cup and the broader social impact of women playing rugby league, which is PNG's national sport, but traditionally a male dominated one.
Kasey Symons 07:25
Fantastic. So looking forward to talking to you more about that today. Good morning to you, Shannon Gill, who's our podcaster and sports industry communications expert. Welcome to you and thanks for being with us today.
Shannon Gill 07:36
Thank you, Kasey, good to see you again. Even though we are a long way away. I'm really looking forward to chatting more about content.
Kasey Symons 07:45
Excellent. Yes, it's good to see you again, too. It's so hard to to see each other of course at the moment, but it's amazing that we're still able to connect to these forums. Shannon did you want to just give us a bit of a background about some of the work that you've done with your content creation and particularly looking at the podcast series that you've built over these last couple of years.
Shannon Gill 08:03
Yes. My quick background is that I worked in sport not in content creation, but in the administration of sport, Cricket Australia and the AFL. And at some point, during that time, I felt the urge to start writing and creating my own content. So I did it under a pseudonym and for a while, and then that eventually led to me creating the podcast series, which is called The Greatest Season That Was, and it explores historical stuff. We've looked at Footy and cricket stuff at the moment, but we might look at other areas in the future. Going back and speaking of those people, and I suppose in a lot of ways, looking at a little bit of the 30 for 30 blueprint as of looking at things that may have been forgotten, that have had historical threads that that still resonate today. So that's the that's our blueprint. And yeah, been doing that for three years and it's a lot of fun, a lot of work but a lot of fun.
Kasey Symons 08:58
I think that sums up a lot of passion projects is a lot of work. But it's also a lot of fun. Thank you for joining us, Shannon. I won't say good morning because it's in fact, evening for our guest in the US. Dr. Noah Cohan, our academic expert in the field of reading sports as narratives, who is joining us Thursday evening, your time. Thanks for making the time difference work for us today. Noah.
Noah Cohan 09:21
Thanks for having me Kasey. I my whole family has been to Australia except for me, so I'm gonna count this as my visit.
Kasey Symons 09:29
I think he can count this as your visit, we'll allow it. Know, for those who might not be aware of the type of research that you do that intersects content and narrative, and sport, can you give us a bit of a background about what you look at specifically?
Noah Cohan 09:42
Yeah, so in my book, we average on beautiful watchers fan narratives in the reading of American sports. I make an argument for sports, sporting events themselves as narratives, that in fact, it's not just the journalistic recap of a sporting event that is a narrative but the action on the court that you see before you plays out as a narrative, and then I further argue that fans themselves are readers of this on court narrative. And of course, readers of those journalistic recaps and all kinds of other content that's created around it. And so what I try to highlight is, are the various ways in which sports fans can be sort of creative and critical readers that they don't just have to quietly imbibe what sort of handed to them that they can push back against certain narratives, they can create their own alternate narrative. They can do all the things that that we sort of take for granted in different fan spaces like other media, fans, TV and movie fans often write fan fiction and those things and that sort of accepted. But then in sports fan circles, that's often sort of thought to be strange, but I'd argue that that's where fans are doing that all the time, whether or not they write it down. So yeah, that's sort of what my book is about is making an argument for a broader understanding of forces narratives and fans readers.
Kasey Symons 10:50
Thanks, Noah. It's so interesting, because I think we're starting to learn that there are so many different types of fans and different ways they connect and content plays such a huge role in that so hopefully, I'm in this mornings discussion, we can look at some more ways that that occurs and some more ways that we can do more of that and bring more fans in so they can get that point of connection that they really want. We've got so much to talk about just based on everything you've just mentioned that you all do. So we'll get stuck right into it and make the most of the hour. I just wanted to sort of, I guess, kick off the conversation today more broadly and feel free anyone on panel to jump in. But I just want to get an understanding of how you've also seen, I guess, the State of Play of content this year, in particular, with the pandemic in place and what you've noticed that fans might be doing to, to sort of fill the void of sport against when those initial shutdowns occurred and there was no sport, what did you notice that that people were looking for? And even now, when we do have some sport back, we're still not able to participate in those those usual ways. So what are you noticing that fans are sort of doing at the moment? What sort of content do you think they're looking for? And feel free to throw in your personal reflections to what have you been doing and looking for and how have you been trying to fill the void of sport during this time? Anyone want to jump in?
Shannon Gill 12:04
I'll jump in first thing, Kasey, that's fine. And I think when when sports shut down, and basically it all shut down. The first thing was we had all these media companies that are already committed to using using sports or in spirit. So the only thing that they could do was raid their back catalogue, raid their libraries. And I think in a lot of ways, this was something that a lot of sports fans had been wanting them to do anyway. I know, it's only a week for an hour podcast, but but I don't think we've seen enough of it because these back catalogues and libraries are so rich for you know, for a lot of them. And I think what we find with our podcast anyway, but I think what we probably found during this period is the more historical stuff you actually see the greater impact Context inputs on today, the greater excitement builds for today. If you see someone winning a grand final, or winning a championship, a story about someone winning a championship 20 years ago, that only helps increase the importance it might be for your team to win the championship this year. So I think they did it. But they did a reasonably good job of that. Some would argue that maybe they could have been more imaginative with how they, how they use their back catalogue from their libraries. But I think I think it was a good reminder of why historical stuff is important than why historical stuff can actually contribute to the today.
Noah Cohan 13:43
Yeah, something similar, of course, happened here in the US a lot of old games. were given primetime plots that you know, normally would be those kind of old, old footage would air on like ESPN classic as a network we have here that shows old games. And so that was interesting to see because there were some Twitter conversations and things happening about these old games sort of reflecting on history and how dynamic that history is, and its connection to our presence. So that was pretty cool. But I think it also highlighted how important lightness is in sports narrative that there's just something so impactful about knowing that the performance is happening live, but those human bodies are in motion right now, as you're watching. And that dynamic is just not there with an old, an old film of something. I mean, you can see this in in non forced context to like, live theatre is a very different thing than watching a film. Right. So it's not necessarily just about the fact that the outcome isn't pre scripted. There's something there's some extra something extra special about live competition. So I think, I think while it had its charm, the the, the broadcaster's knew that they needed Real Sports back, if I could, I don't want to go over time. But one other thing that I think in in the States that was interesting is the way ESPN and other mainstream broadcasters both had to get creative in their content and do some things that maybe were happenin before COVID, on blogs and other sort of alternative spaces, so So there were more ideas and sort of narratives that were being produced and mainstream media that weren't really touted before. And Americans started paying attention to for some countries where sports were actually happening like South Korea, especially with the KBO that ESPN dedicated a fair amount of time to covering the KBO in the station. And you know, a fair number of fans seem to be paying attention to that. So it shows that, you know, there's some there's room in the fans diet for these sports that they don't normally consume. If they get hungry enough for sports narrative. They'll look for it and they'll consume it.
Joanna Lester 15:40
That's a really good point. Noah, it just to add on to that another great example of fans watching sport in a country they wouldn't normally obviously when most of our sport was shut down. Vanuatu cricket was still playing cricket. Vanuatu is one of the few countries with no cases of COVID-19 and they started live streaming for the first time. their in-ountry competitions and they got huge audiences from both Australia and India, which was fantastic to watch. I think you guys both write about the classic matches, there's been quite a lot of discussion among women in sports media about how that content has generally excluded women's classic matches. Of course, there were plenty of them. And we've seen some sports recently, you start to embrace that, especially cricket, actually, with their fantastic trailer for the women's T20. But that was one of the things that was missing for a lot of us, I think.
Kasey Symons 16:34
Yeah, thanks for highlighting that Joanna because I actually wanted to ask that as a follow up too is like, what was happening? And then what was the thing that was missing? And when we were I guess, during that time trying to scramble and find those things to fill the void was the things that definitely stood out to something missing. And I think you're right that women is sport content is there and that is such a rich, rich history that could be tapped into but that potentially wasn't as actively put onto screens at the start of the pandemic. Um, was there anything else that anyone noticed or felt that there was types of content that they might have wanted to see more of or thought could have been there that just weren't or and maybe you might not want to share this because this might be an idea of something you might want to create yourself moving forward. But was there any ideas that you sort of thought, I wish that was there or I wish there was more of that.
Joanna Lester 17:24
A really good series, if we can call it that, that I enjoyed was obviously I work a lot in Papua New Guinea Rugby League, and they basically have a lot of they in the men's team, the Kumuls their key players are based overseas in both Australia and England. And they just did a really simple series of long interviews with them. It was just basically like this. It was a zoom chat. And it was a more in depth interview that than any fan would have probably ever heard with any of those players, you know, a 45 minute one hour chat with the current Captain who's playing in France at the moment or in England, and I just thought that went down really well. They just hadn't Been a lot of that kind of really in depth content. And of course, you know, as we've seen a lot, in the last few months, when players are doing interviews on their device on a video call, whether it's with a show on TV here or online, it's actually quite different, what you get out of them is quite different and more relaxed than that formal kind of broadcast environment. So I think that's actually a really good thing to have sort of uncovered.
Shannon Gill 18:26
The I think one of the things that hit home for me in this period was really exposed, who knew that has their historical context of sports and who didn't? Who in the media? I think I think one way it could have been improved with their storytelling is is making sure that we had people that actually knew what they were talking about. So I think I think there's ways may just have I'm going to nitpick as I'm a cricket fan as well. But, you know, Fox Sports were playing big bash matches from last year for three months. And I just don't think that's got any interest to people in for historical narrative. Now they're playing old old cricket matches from a long time ago. And that has more resonance with people on. I think so I think there's, there's things like that. I mean, obviously, we all probably watched the last dance and and I think we've probably hold that up as gold standard. And we all said, Oh, why can't we we can do more of that here and all that sort of stuff. It's not as simple as that. Cost is one thing, but there's also the time lag and it's it's hard to do things on the run without investment beforehand in your historical content.
Kasey Symons 19:52
Is there anything you wanted to add Noah, from a US perspective?
Noah Cohan 19:55
Yeah, I mean, this is maybe a more narrowly focused answer, but You know, I was talking earlier about a lot of media outlets having to get more creative with their, with their content. You can't stick to sports when there's no sports to stick to. But one of the best American websites that that refused to stick to sports deadspin.com had been effectively killed by a hedge hedge funds that that bought off the side and was sort of draining it of its essence and ethos. And the staff quit en mass. So I really felt the absence of that site during the COVID time because they were excellent at making connections between sport and larger culture and doing goofy and wacky things and creating creating narrative spaces where what you would expect out of a sports media outlet was nothing like what they were producing. So so I really felt their absence was sad that they were gone and happy accident. They're back today. They've been reborn as a defector.com. So I'm glad they're back. I think they're an important voice in American sports media to sort of hold the feet to the fire in some of these larger outlets That aren't willing to take a really aggressive look, a really sort of clear eyed look at some of the problems in terms of power with regard to race and gender and all these other factors.
Kasey Symons 21:14
Thanks, Noah. I'm going to bring in my co host today, Associate Professor Adam Karg, a hi Adam, you can just quickly say hello to everyone who's joining us.
Adam Karg 21:22
Hi there everyone. Great session so far. Looking forward in this next section here to talk a little bit about the benefits that can be created for sports and for fans through this narrative content. And also some of the risks that might exist for organisations as well. So we know there's no shortage of footage and content that fans can engage with. And a lot of that can come from sport organisations and media outlets. But what we're talking more about here is some of the longer form narrative content. And I'm interested in some of the benefits here particularly for organisations and sports more widely when they're the subject of this sort of material and Joanna I might start with you if I can ask a little bit about what you see some of the potential benefits for sports and organisations of being the subject of this and perhaps extending into your own experience of the Papua New Guinea documentary. How you saw conscious of that, as you sort of tell the story, I guess.
Joanna Lester 22:13
Yeah, it's one of the biggest challenges of telling the inside story of a team telling that story in a way that does justice to the story and the audience's relate to without disrupting the team. And I'm sure this is something a bit we'll touch on at various points throughout this discussion. But it's it's one of the biggest considerations, but I think the benefits for the sport and for the athletes are enormous. You know, one of the biggest pieces of feedback we've had both of audiences but also from the players themselves is that they liked the realness of it. You know, the film is told in their voices, there's no narrator, the way we edited it was completely constructed around how the players articulated the journey themselves. And people have said, they really sort of like that, that realness of it. You know, we see in, we see a lot of athletes now much less the case in Papua New Guinea and even Australia. You know, being what I call overly media trained, and sports immersion, obviously do need to support their athletes to be able to do media interviews. But in some cases, it's gone quite far down the track. It's hard to pull people back to tell their stories kind of in a genuine way. So I think this kind of content really does kind of bring the realness of athletes back into the public eye. Obviously, athletes are very vocal on social media and a lot of people connect with them that way. But there are so many opportunities to kind of curate that and bring it to wider audiences beyond just their own social channels.
Adam Karg 23:43
And what's the organization's role in that in the example you just gave is are organization's in Papua New Guinea involved in rugby or more widely around social impact involved? In initial discussions with you are about how you, you create the story.
Joanna Lester 23:59
Oh, in this case, definitely, And I mean, I don't think anyone can go too far down the track of making it behind the scenes Doco with a sports team without having a really good relationship with the sports organisation. And we haven't seen too many of them to be honest. But yes, I mean, I worked with the PNG Rugby League organisation before I even started this project. I've been working up there for a few years. And so it was kind of co-developed with them. And there was a lot of discussion with them about the sort of logistics of how many people be in the crew, how we would actually do filming on match days and halftime of matches and at points where you definitely need to minimise disruption to the team. Because I come from actually a background as having been a media manager for a team and being sort of on the other side of it. I was always very conscious of that. But But yeah, I think that the PNG rugby league, they get thrilled with film but also that the impacts of flow from it.
Adam Karg 24:57
Fantastic. Hey, Shannon, we might go to you and I was interested to tap into the the sport administration side of your background here as well as to how you see some of the benefits for organisations and perhaps how they might position or or approach being involved in these sorts of projects.
Shannon Gill 25:12
Yeah, it's the landscape has changed. I think 10 years ago, sporting organisations would have pushed away because we didn't see as much of this content that that actually did good. It wasn't around. So they were scared and sport is as conservative as anything on on doing something new. So, yes, I think I think there's in this in this era, there is there is upside, okay, what can we, we can look at it on a commercial point of view, if we show our team and we have some level of control over it. So it's not going to be scandalous. It's going to make our fans relate better to our team and they're going to come to more matches, they're going to watch us more often. They're going to buy more merchandise, they're going to buy memberships. And it's gonna it's going to, it's going to please our sponsors who are going to get more opportunities to have the brand exposed. So I think there's there's that side of it. There's another side of it, though, and I'll sort of look at how this is the more long term narrative that will start off and look at. So, there's a story about 25 years ago, some, some audio was discovered of VFL then-coaches speaking from 20 years previous. So there's a famous thing, John Kennedy, who recently passed away that was the sort of Hawthorn, godfather of Hawthorn, and he has his famous speech about "don't think, do", we would never have known of that, if that audio hadn't been retrieved, retrieved 20 years after it happened. And now it's sort of it's almost the Cultural sort of cornerstone of Hawthorn footy club. So I think there's another part of it that you can, you can build the relationship and what an individual sees of themselves by supporting the club in this sort of stuff. But again, that was something that was done 20 years ago and never took hold the 20 years later because it was found on the cutting room floor when they created the documentary. So there's things that I think happen in the moment for your club, but there's also this long term thing that that you can build by investing in this sort of stuff.
Adam Karg 27:36
And that's a source of that connection, isn't it that that nostalgia and the rituals that are built through through understanding and placing that in the context of a club? Yeah,
Shannon Gill 27:43
yeah, I mean, it's a it's a cultural thing, for Hawthorn footy club now. There is no question about that.
Adam Karg 27:50
Noah, we might go to you, I'm interested in in the research base that you've undertaken here and understanding fan connection to this sort of content. What is it do you think I was interested that you sort view live sport as the narrative here as well as the other, I guess offline or non synchronous forms of sport content, but what is it from your view that really makes fans connect? What is it that what sort of benefits do they get out of engaging with with different types of content? From your research?
Noah Cohan 28:17
Great question, um, you know, I think it's different for every fan. Some fans are content to sort of rely on static understandings of what their team means to them, based on you know, where they live, or what their family imbued in them, you know, who their parents may have rooted for. But other fans, I think, embrace a maybe a more modern approach in the sense that it is technologically enabled, to be a sort of liberated fan, right to be free from the traditional constraints of which team you root for, and sort of pick and choose and maybe not even root for teams at all, even in team sports, right to sort of pick particular athletes and follow them around throughout their career. I think, you know, a good example in this country is is LeBron James sort of being slammed for the decision right where he did that TV special and then and left the Cleveland Cavaliers for Miami. Now there are just LeBron fans who just follow him from team to team and they don't really care what team he is on sort of his his persona and his particular individual abilities are what they're a fan of. So it really, it really can vary, and I'm interested in all types, right? I mean, I think I also reflect on my own fandoms. In some sports, I'm a much more traditional fan rooted to the teams that I grew up rooting for. In other sports, I'm more of a liberated fan, I do tend to sort of follow whatever narrative excites me from season to season.
Adam Karg 29:39
I think that that that athlete focused and had the point of connection is really important. So we'll touch on in the last of the series as well in two weeks time around some fan trends, and really that that trend of following athletes and those narrative trends as well, as much as the benefits we're also interested in in some of the potential risks here as well and and these next couple of questions are really framed from a question that Kasey and I received in the lead up to this event from from one of the attendees, who was asking particularly around documentary content like Sunderland til I die, which tells the story of Sunderland Football Club, essentially being relegated consecutively over a couple of years now, it's there's some real positives to the story in the way that that's been produced. But also at the same time it does draw, I guess puts points of attention to the limitations from on field and off field of the club and how it was being run. I might start with you Shannon around some of the risks that you might see your view in different types of content and and how organisations need to be aware of those. Do you think it's a it's a it's a concern when when contents being developed?
Shannon Gill 30:39
It is a concern and I think for any sporting organisation, they want to have pretty tight control over and the tighter control the less interesting stories so there's, there's this there's a balance on that it's always gonna be there. As I said, I think it's I think it's shifted. If I look back to you know, I'm thinking of back working when I was a Cricket Australia, which is more than 10 years ago now that we would look at things before it before it was allowed out, and we'd be quite very conservative about it. The other thing that springs to mind on that question, it is a recent one and I support Melbourne football club. And it's a very sad time for our football club for all sorts of reasons. We just continually don't live up to expectations. But they created a documentary at the start of the season, which got a lot of backlash because it was called To Hell and Back. It was about their preseason and having a bad season after a good season and have our they've been to hell. And now they were coming back. Now, the risk on all that is one, it gets a backlash at the time. That two, if you don't come back, and you don't, you don't play well. You look even stupider. So it is it is a really hard thing to do in the moment, because you've got so so many risks. I think it's easier to tell a story that has a beginning and an end. But if you and that is something that the outside filmmaker can do, and do with with, I suppose, great skill and the ability to tell a narrative story with a condition then. Whereas if you're a sport that wants to do your own content, you kind of have to take that now and use it now because that's what I want. That's that's everything is measured. So I think that's the risk that you can, you can tell a story that goes nowhere. If you're in the now for a club, or a sporting organisation.
Adam Karg 32:33
Knowing, knowing the end is a really important point. There are lots of good Joanna in terms of getting some feedback here about that, as a storyteller, when you're telling a story in the moment don't know how things are going to end and sort of parlayed out with the, your recent documentary about navigating, I guess dual narratives in terms of the sporting and the non sporting and more social side and how you, I guess how you balance that but I guess also how you produce something where you don't actually know what might happen the next week or the next day.
Joanna Lester 33:00
Yes, very challenging, especially when making a feature documentary where you already have to film loads of stuff. If you don't know what's gonna happen, you basically have to film even more stuff. Because you don't know what you're going to use. And even more challenging where, like me, you're a first time filmmaker, and you've never really made anything longer than three or four minute video as a journalist. So it was pretty difficult because, you know, we made decisions at the beginning about which players to focus on a lot of that was to do with their buy in for the project in general. I mean, it's I think it's worth pointing out that not every player on the team thought that having documentary made about the team was a good idea. It was it was such a new thing, you know, not only to have a film crew, it was only really two of us follow a team in Papua New Guinea but also the Women's rugby league team who were being formed a lot of people still didn't respect the idea of them existing at all. So to have a film crew following them and not the men was a bit weird. Some of the players thought it was a waste of time. They actually sort of took the piss out of the players who were the main characters. But they've changed their mind now that the film has gone global and the players have been travelling around the Pacific to different countries to promote it, and to drive Women's Rugby League in other countries. But yeah, so there were a lot of challenges. And not knowing the end was was definitely one of them. And we did have to sort of switch a few characters around during the process. But I think back to the question about about Sunderland, and the sort of the risk of the negativity of a story, well, you know, the story is gonna have stakes, no one is going to make or watch a series about a team that wins all the time, really, unless it's really delving into things behind the scenes and sort of stuff we don't know. But, I mean, the highest stakes, the better from an audience perspective, and if the sporting organisation has sort of planned the outcomes they want to achieve from this beyond just telling the story, that it's still, you know, a route worth going down.
Adam Karg 34:58
It's almost the worse it gets the more attractive viewing it becomes in some of those settings as well. Related to that, I think Noah, I was thinking about some of the 30 for 30 documentaries, and they're obviously sports stories, but they're interwoven with things, drug cartels, financial mismanagement, racial issues, and things like that as well. So I think there's quite a bit there in terms of telling these stories of athletes and teams along sites and pretty risky or high risk topic areas, and how do you see that sort of playing out as a level of risk for sporting organisations?
Noah Cohan 35:31
I mean, I think there's certainly a level of risk there. I mean, I think part of the one of the strengths of the 30 for 30 series, at least as it was initially conceived, and I think it's still the case is that the directors have a lot of leeway to sort of determine what they're doing a documentary about and, and what kind of a take how critical a take they're going to have now ESPN obviously is going to have some kind of editorial control over things, but there's a reason that, you know, some of the CTE documentaries and things haven't had ESPN's blessing. But But within certain, obey certain what's the third rail to avoid? I think the directors have a lot of leeway and can tell a lot of really creative stories and, and do some amazing things in terms of getting to fan motivations as well. And I think one of the documentaries, I was going to talk about it, I'm sorry if I'm spoiling it by mentioning now is I Hate Christian Laettner 30 for 30 about Duke basketball and Christian Laettner in particular, and the documentary does a really good job. By focusing in on these five points of hate, they take a sort of Devil's Pitchfork and put five prongs on it. And they put sort of these points of hate on it. And one of the one of the things they deal with is white and they talk about the sort of the perceived whiteness of the Duke basketball programme and how that factors into this largely African American sport, and how that tends to reflect on the privilege that a lot of Duke students tend to have, right. So they delve into some really important racial issues and just talking about this one team And one player, right who have plenty of on court narratives to tell, but they they don't shy away from telling that one. So, yeah, I think I think overall most of the documentaries that are produced for the 30 for 30 series are pretty unflinching and take on some pretty important issues.
Adam Karg 37:14
Last one at all I'll hand back to to Kasey, it's it was quite interesting in the sort of weeks building up to this. So having a look at some of the responses to recent documentaries. And Shannon, I might start with you and sort of cricket themed here. But in terms of the test, there's a lot of feedback you look at the reviews of some of that content, a lot that talks about it is really a PR exercise. So it's a story revivial is quite heavy it's quite positive. Likewise with Beyond the Boundary, which was a about the T20 Women's World Cup held earlier in the year and there's certainly a sentiment if you look through social media that it's it's overly positive it linked to the positive side but doesn't adequately balance perhaps some of the other stories behind the scenes. Are these things that you I guess firstly agree with if you had an opinion on those, but how do organisations need to manage through that process as well, well all the filmmakers and storytellers need to manage that.
Shannon Gill 38:04
Yeah, I think it's always the drawback with any documentary that is commissioned by or made by the sport itself doesn't matter what you do you'll there will always be an allegation of that you've you've done as a PR exercise and I'll with the test I'll declare my declare my conflict that I did work with not work with them on on it, but I did do a couple things I was involved in helping them with at different stages very, very small, but got but did speak to the guys about it. And it's, I think it's a really good behind the scenes look at what, what really happens. So I think so I think in showing that is, is it isn't Is it a PR exercise by Cricket Australia? Well, it probably is. But that doesn't mean it's not a good film, or not a good series. Did Cricket Australia look at it and say, Well, if we did this a certain way, with this help, and yeah, but but the fact is that in any circumstances where you make a film like that or a series like that someone's getting something out of it because they've got to invest in it. So I think it's just one of the things that that what I won't say it's a necessary evil, but it's one of that one of those issues you just have to have to live with. But I think they did a really good job Beyond the Boundary number one, I think it's yeah, I mean, that was an ICC produced thing, I believe. And yes, it gives a very positive rosy picture, does it mean there would be a more interesting story to tell if it was done by people outside of outside of the ICC? Yeah, would be. Is it still a good thing that it's out there and sits on Netflix and it gets to people? Yep. Yep. So I think I think, yeah, I mean, personally, I would rather watch something done by an independent, but that's that's just my own personal opinion. I'd rather read a book written by someone about someone rather than rather an autobiography because I want to I want an objective inquiry. But I think that's a long way of answering your question.
Noah Cohan 40:17
If I can just jump in piggyback on that. I mean, Shannon, you mentioned earlier, the last dance. I think it was really interesting. People were riveted by that, of course, especially because of the COVID situation. But there was a lot of critique, because Michael Jordan had some editorial control over the whole production, right. So on the one hand, people were saying, you know, where's the story of Craig Hodges and sort of his social activism that and why isn't there more focused on the, you know, the sweatshops and that sort of criticism that Jordan received at the same time,
Shannon Gill 40:45
We said it where was Luke Longley?
Noah Cohan 40:47
Exactly, where was Luke Longley. At the same time, Jordan didn't make himself look that that great. I mean, they interviewed him several times about his sort of abrasive personality and like beating up speaker and practice and he didn't leave didn't look that great in some scenes, so, so that was interesting to see different fans and media members sort of thinking and talking about like this this film that everyone loves, but, you know, trying to figure out to what degree this is an accurate depiction of the pressing issues of the time.
Joanna Lester 41:19
I think just to jump on Shannon's point there about the difficulty for sports organisations, when they're commissioning this kind of content. And obviously a lot of this content is primarily funded by sports because it is so hard to fund any content production these days, especially something that's slightly outside the books. I was able to bring all the stakeholders and the funders of Power Meri of which the NRL is one, although not the biggest funder, sort of on board with the idea that this was much a much bigger picture thing than just the story of the team and that I feel like that allowed us the sort of extra editorial freedom that we needed really, it was never going to be an airbrushed picture of the team's journey or what happens behind the scenes because it was about the bigger social impact of, of women's sport. I know other filmmakers who've, who've started projects working with major sports. And the sports just sort of refused to buy in at all to the biggest impact goal of the project and the projec didn't really end up happening, because they just wanted a behind the scenes portrait of a team, which was a real shame because it had a lot of potential for big impact. So there's really kind of two different types of project. A lot of the sports commissioned ones are just the more behind the scenes ones, but it would be fantastic to see a bigger picture approach to some of those, which I don't think is, is impossible, even if it is primarily funded by the sport.
Adam Karg 42:45
Fantastic Kasey, I'll throw back to you.
Kasey Symons 42:50
Thanks, Adam. This is such an interesting conversation. And I just want to I guess, maybe touch on some of the things I've just been brought up there because I'm so interested in that idea of what you choose to include and exclude when you're crafting the story. And I think some of the issues that we've all raised in these last few questions that Adam's been asking is this idea of, like Noah touched on fans wanting different things from different narratives and come to sport and their fanship and their fan identity being different than others. And I think what we're starting to learn, particularly during this time, which is something that a lot of people who've been in the fan research space, have known for a long time is fans are not a homogenous group. They come for different different backgrounds. They come with different reasons, and they want a different fan experience. But we have a lot of content that I guess is meant to be the sort of capsule to appeal to all fans. And that's perhaps when we get a bit of these, not backlashes, but these criticisms of wanting different things for different documentaries. And I think that Beyond the Boundary, one's a really good example of that, particularly in the women in sport space, when perhaps is not as much content there to give that sort of diversity of content that packed fans might be able to go to. So fans wanted those particular pieces of work to be everything. They want it to be a celebration, they want it to be a behind the scenes, they want it to be a history of all the work that's come before. But I wanted to ask I get sort of based on all these issues that we think as particularly content creators in Joanna and Shannon, these things that you think about when you're crafting something, is that diversity of audience that's out there, what they might all want? Are, does that sort of give a disservice to what you're creating? And do you have to sort of just think about your product and where it's going to land as the story itself?
Shannon Gill 44:31
I'll go first on that one. I think with what we do is we're lucky that you know, you know, in a way because it's not our, it's not our main thing, we're, the other two guys that are doing with a broadcasters/journalists who do their own thing. So we've got the luxury of saying we want to make something that we want to make. It's not someone else telling us we don't have the financial constraints that would limit us so on that front We probably don't we think a little bit about what sort of audience, what the audience would like from us. But we probably make it to please ourselves, which is really lucky that we can do it, we do something that we would want to listen to. And the great thing I mean, for all the ills of social media, I think the great plus of social social media, is that it's grown a lot of people to get and bring audiences together, who are actually into this stuff that maybe you would never have found otherwise. So from our perspective, yes, we think about what would work we we think about diversity. I mean, our first series we won, we got some criticism of because we told some stories about indigenous players. But we tried very hard to get the key indigenous players to talk about that thing and we couldn't get them. So there are things we need to take, take I mean, when when we look at historical stuff, There's little or no female involvement in these in historical stuff. So we've had to look at ways or find people who were involved, maybe don't sit at the highest echelon of, of exposure at the time who were involved. Tell us about what it was like. So I suppose that those are limitations. But the lucky thing is we get to pretty much make it the way we want to make it.
Joanna Lester 46:29
Umm, I think you made a really interesting and very good point, Kasey about that being such a limitation of women's sport content, the moment that people want it to be everything. And you can't be all things to all people, when you make your documentary, whatever it is. And this, you know, this is something that I really grappled with. There were so many sort of different layers that I wanted to explore. For sure, I work with some very experienced producers and editors who have pulled me back from some of them. For example, but one thing that that is sort of really wanted to explore more depth for this, but we just couldn't in the end because we already had so many other themes was this sort of dual identity theme that is so prevalent in sport in Australia, especially in, in Rugby League and Rugby Union used to play as having at least two heritages, if not more, there's often been a sort of lack of understanding of that among the sort of Anglo Australian community, and that it's not weird to play for New Zealand one year in and Tonga in the next, because both of those things are equally important to an athlete. So we sort of touched on that a little bit with Amelia Cook, one of the Australia based PNG player in the doco, but it was it was really a sub-theme. But I think the main feedback we've had about Power Meri, which makes me happy because this is one of the things we try to achieve is that it's not really a sports documentary. I mean, yes, it is about a sporting team. But we've managed to get in front of a lot of audiences who are there because it's about women and not sport. And that's really been helpful and I think that's worth bearing in mind for anyone creating content in the women's sports space, it doesn't have to be pigeonholed.
Kasey Symons 48:06
Yeah, that's so interesting. I love that it's yet not a sports documentary but it is a sports documentary. I think I'm going through this conversation today. We know that sport speaks to so many different things. So I think that just kind of really hits the nail on the head there that sport is everything. And when a story is there you can bring sport in because it has the power to amplify so many messages. And that's why we get such great narrative content. And the narrative looking at narrative is a really great lens to put sport through to bring so many of those messages out there. I wanted to talk to, you know, just a little bit about your research before we sort of move into sharing all of the panel's recommendations today to have some great content to to add to your list. Just looking at your research and potentially maybe you might have something you could share, because we've got a lot of people who are joining us from sporting organisations today who do work in this space and they might be looking at ways to produce more content to facilitate some more fan connections during this time and help their fans navigate new ways to connect with their team. Because we can't sort of be the fans that we want to be at the moment for many different reasons. But there's some things that organisations can learn from perhaps your research and even your research because you look a lot of narratives that sort of come from a sporting lens in film and literature that do a lot of different things. Are there some key learnings that you might have that you can share that you could recommend organisations look to for some ideas?
Noah Cohan 49:33
I think a common thread that runs through a lot of fan reactions to the way organisations attempt to tell stories is is they they want they don't want to be pandered to and they don't want to be you know? Yeah, I guess pandered is really the word I'm looking for. And I'm thinking specifically of right now in in the US in the state because of all the protesting,. All of the major sports leagues have adopted slogan hashtags and they've you know, put and racism Black Lives Matter on on basketball courts and on football fields and on T shirts, right. And I think a lot of fans feel that that's pretty disingenuous, considering how the League has historically treated black athletes and given the lack of African Americans in positions of power within these organisations. And from that, by that I mean ownership and general managers and coaches, right, especially in basketball and football, American football, you know that the players are majority black almost overwhelmingly so in basketball, but the upper echelons of the sport are not so when the sport trots out all these slogans and says they're doing all these things for racial justice. A lot of fans think that there's something more that couldn't be done internally then then sort of selling a T shirt that has this on it. So that's been interesting to me to see The way, you know, given the state of unrest in this country, sports leagues have jumped to try to sort of be on the right side of history, if you will. But a lot of fans who also figure themselves on that right side, don't really want to welcome them. Right. They want to see real change from within before those leagues, start doing stuff like that.
Kasey Symons 51:20
Great, thanks Noah. Well we're almost running out of time. So we're going to have to quickly get through to these recommendations that you've also wonderfully put together. Adam, do you want to lead out recommendations from our panel?
Adam Karg 51:31
Sure, absolutely. And if there are any questions from our audience as well, please do feel free to add them to the question and answer function here as well. I'll ask Paul or Kasey, if we can bring up the slide. So as background, we asked each of our guests to share some documentaries, podcast books, and I think really interestingly here, a story that they'd like to see told as well and done. This is I will start with Joanna and then the same for Shannon and Noah, we won't have time to explore them all. But join us perhaps, maybe just maybe one or two of your recommendations why they made your list and and what you really liked about them?
Joanna Lester 52:07
Yes, I mean a couple that I drew on a quite a bit in the making of Power Meri or the planning of making I guess we're Next Door Wins, which is a documentary about the American Samoan soccer team is actually about to be remade into a feature film by Oscar winning director of Taika Waitiki. So, look out for that one. But follow the team behind the scenes a team that's got a lot of struggles, that kind of thing. Will to fly. Lydia Lassila Australian wintered Olympian, who I'm sure many people know, that is a great example of a fantastic documentary about an Australian Olympian. And that's actually what I've picked out as the sort of genre that I think there's a lot more scope for we only hear about an appearance often every four years. All their stories are kind of charted for a few weeks where there's so much else going on. So many of them have you know, incredible home lives and it would be nice to hear more from them.
Adam Karg 53:04
Absolutely a great thank you for that I should say all of them these lists we will circulate via Twitter and as part of the follow up to the event as well. So lots of great content here. We might move to Shannon's list, which there was a bit of a theme that we must say around the cricket and AFL thinking what is it that makes great content for you Shannon as as a fan and as a consumer of this sort of content? What's the theme that runs through some of the things here for you?
Shannon Gill 53:28
I think it's got to be told well and it's gonna it's gonna be a story that's that's a little bit different from the regular right team who wins championship and and it's a it's a fairy tale sort of story. I think everything like that is interesting to me. My List One Day in September is the the really fantastic and brutal almost doco about the terrorist attacks at the Munich Olympics in 1972, which is just it's the political and sport intersection of the most tragic but he's so well made and the way the the brutal footage is is splice with the athletic it is it basically is a signpost of our sport is part of the broader society and we can't escape it. I've got another one in there called Winning Time; Reggie Miller like 30 to 30 and the reason I like that is because it is a documentary on someone who didn't end up winning in or winning a championship but it actually celebrates the fact someone who might not have reached the ultimate but but did something very significant. And I think that's something that we sometimes don't look at in sport. I've got the final story AFL Grand Final series in there. One, because they're really good. But two, because those were made by a guy called Peter Dixon at the AFL head office who is about two doors down from my where my desk sat I I heard them being made. I've got an emotional connection to see hearing those and I came out and very much an inspiration for what what I do now. Fire in Babylon is a doco on the West Indies cricket dominance of the game in the 80s and early 90s. And fantastic as well at creating the parallels between the the sort of political and racial struggles and the triumph for that, that cricket team brought to them on the wall and many others.
Adam Karg 55:26
Right, and again, we will share all about Shannon's list as well following the event. Noah if we can go to your list as well. Now, I had a question specifically about the Christian Laettner inclusion here because I think you're just leaning into Kasey's Duke fandom, but we've already discussed that one. And there's a familiar name under a story you'd like to see what what brings us to a Lauren Jackson documentary is that for your
Noah Cohan 55:49
Well, that's a personal as much as professional interest. I'm a Seattle storm fan. Being a Seattle native originally, so was a big fan of the Seattle storm championship teams with Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird, who is of course still on the team. So I've always been fascinated by her life story and the prominence that she's played in the women's basketball team in Australia. There's also the sort of famous incident with Lisa Leslie, I think an Olympic qualifier where she pulled out part of who Lisa Leslies hair weaves and this was a created a feud that lasted for years and years and years. So you know, I think the the international presence in the WNBA is, is only growing. In fact, the Storm haven't another Australian player now Ezi Magbegor has been fantastic. So I would love to see more attention paid to women's basketball in general, but because of my connection to the Storm, I'd love to have someone do a real bang up job on on her story.
Adam Karg 56:47
And some really nice themes to those stories we'd like to see across there, as well. So again, we'll share all of those some great, great examples of things we might engage with particularly if you're in Victoria, Melbourne over the last over the next month or so. I might just jump to the question we do have a question and answer. And it's something that we sort of moved, I think towards in some, some of particularly Joanna and Shannon's comments, but was thinking about that the trend that this might take or scenario content might take and whether or not you think, in the next five or 10 years Sport organisations will develop more of this content and use it from a revenue and engagement perspective. So we know that there's a lot of short term content highlights and historical, in game highlights, but in terms of this narrative content, is it something you see sport organisations leaning more towards and perhaps more so towards commercial outcomes? Joanna, I might start with you.
Joanna Lester 57:40
Yeah, interesting question. I certainly think there is potential for that. But I guess as we talked about a bit earlier, it needs to be you know, not whitewashed, not just a PR job, because people aren't going to pay for that. But if it's genuine, behind the scenes, real stuff that that people feel that they they can't get anywhere else that has some level of I mean, some level of editorial independence even even though it's commissioned by a sport. I think I think there is there is potential for that. Yeah. And that's definitely for engagement. revenue generation sort of depends on the approach that they take.
Shannon Gill 58:17
Yeah, I mean, pre pandemic, Iwould've said that, yes, because it's the theme that people, people, people are really liking this content and streaming services, giving us new options to actually fund and do this sort of thing. But with with sport, the way it is going to be difficult. My own personal case prefers it being told by someone outside, outside. And so does that change that? Maybe. But, yeah, I think it's going to be difficult for sport to justify big investment in this sort of stuff. The good thing is, is that it's part of normal their normal operation now is that they are filming things day to day, they given you the two minutes, snippets of training today or post match stuff or candid stuff or whatever. The good thing is that what I like about that is all that will sit somewhere. And while that might not be as interesting today, in 20 years time when we have a story about this team that did this and then did this and then did this in 20 years time when you put that into context, with a bigger story, I think that footage will be so much more interesting and and and actually relate to fans better. And if that's an investment for the long term followings and fans, that's a good thing.
Adam Karg 59:50
Noah, we might just close with you. I think we've got some 30 seconds left or so but um, in terms of the US market where I think it's probably been more of an evolved state and so much more media organisations producing this sort of content. Do you want? Do you see any any change in the balance there? Is it still likely to be more of a sort of the independent content coming through?
Noah Cohan 1:00:10
I mean, I think as we've touched on already, the athletes are taking more control of content creation. You know, LeBron James has his own creative shop, basically. And those things like the player, Players Tribune, and I think also, you know, social media is a space where organisations are telling stories, not just the stories of on court stuff involving athletes or even off court stuff involving athletes but but developing these personalities like on Twitter, a lot of teams have the sort of snarky jokey posting from their team account that so they'll lose a game and they'll, you know, post funny gifs or things like that. So there's there's a lot more creativity happening in that space in terms of organisations trying to connect with fans, beyond just presenting them the sort of athletic narratives that they created. They're trying to sort of create personas for the team itself, which I think is pretty interesting.
Kasey Symons 1:01:00
I think that's we're gonna have to leave it there. And that's a good note to finish up looking forward to what could be potentially made in the future. And I could talk to this panel all day. Thank you all so much for being here. I just want to keep going. I was just so excited about some of the topics. But thank you, Joanna, Shannon, and Noah for joining us for this conversation. It was really wonderful. I put everyone's social media details up there. So if you're like me, just want to keep talking, you can jump online and fire some questions and, and continue that conversation. We've got our details there for the Sport Innovation Research Group as well. If you want to connect with us, get on our mailing list and still be aware of the events that will have upcoming in the future and the work that we're doing. We'd really love to connect with you. As I mentioned at the top we have a final event in the sports fan series coming up in two weeks time. So we're hosting that with support from from the Social Innovation Research Institute. So save the date for that one and we'll send to everyone who attended today an email with registration link and announce our next group of amazing guests. And just thank you everyone for attending. Thank you to Adam for being my co host today as well. And jump online and chat with us and stay connected because we definitely need those points of connection during this time. I certainly appreciate them. Thanks for spending your morning with us and we'll see you again in two weeks time. Thanks