(l-r): Morgan Weeks (ABJ '16) captures Atlanta Falcons content for social media, TJ Adeshola (ABJ '08) interviews NBA player Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ann Drinkard (ABJ '16) monitors coverage at SEC basketball media days

Young alumni shine in sports social media

As digital media revolutionized how audiences receive information, sports social media helped pave the way for some of the most fanatical digital media users and content creators. Sports media operations and team franchises began recruiting talented communicators with the same skillsets.

“My job didn’t exist five years ago,” said TJ Adeshola (ABJ ’08), head of U.S. Sports at Twitter. “That’s how rapidly the sports industry is evolving.”

TJ Adeshola chats with a fellow Georgia Bulldog and current Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley.

The digital medium requires an array of modern skills all cemented in the tenets of traditional journalism.

That’s where Grady College comes into play.

Grady’s Sports Media Certificate, which launched in Fall 2014, has numerous students and alumni with internships and jobs in sports social media. They work at a range of organizations, including CBS Sports, ESPN and the Los Angeles Rams.

“We see social media as the fastest-growing sector of the sports media industry, yet it requires the same careful attention to accuracy, ethics, and informative and engaging storytelling as legacy platforms do,” said Grady Sports director Vicki Michaelis, the John Huland Carmical Chair in Sports Journalism & Society. “We teach those things to all our students, but we’re introducing a class to the certificate curriculum that will add a layer of skill specialization for these social media jobs.”

“Digital and Social Media Production for Sports” will debut in Spring 2020.

Morgan Weeks guided an online audience for Atlanta United’s first MLS Championship.

“It is vital to understand your audience and know how they’ll consume your content,” said Morgan Weeks (ABJ ’16), a Grady Sports alumnae and digital partnership coordinator with Atlanta United and Atlanta Falcons. “Not only that, but become familiar with what action they’ll take after they consume it.”

The emerging industry rewards professionals nimble enough to explore new techniques while also mastering current trends.

“Be versatile, be willing and be you,” said Ann Drinkard (ABJ, ’16), another Grady Sports alumnae who is assistant director of communications for social media with the Southeastern Conference. “The sports social media industry is one that is filled with ups and downs. The highs are high, and the lows are low, but in my opinion, it is more than worth it.”

Grady College aims to prepare students to strategize and direct changing industry practices.

“My education at Grady taught me how to be a professional in the space,” Drinkard said. “It taught me how to be inquisitive, while at the same time being observant to my surroundings.”

Drinkard and Weeks, former classmates at Grady, now see each other professionally such as this moment at the 2017 CFP National Championship.

Sports social media has also been a catalyst for change in the distribution model for sports production. Adeshola says there are two primary reasons for why sports digital media has evolved so rapidly.

“Digital platforms have become real players in the content acquisition/rights holder game,” said Adeshola. “Also, fans clamor for storytelling beyond the boxscore – they want the culture, the lifestyle, the stories in and around the game. This makes the role of social media practitioners more valuable than ever.”

With more job opportunities comes more competition.

“When it comes to jobs in sports social media, it’s lightyears beyond simply being “good” at your personal social media accounts,” said Weeks. “It’s journalism, marketing, advertising, data, tech and creative all in one amazing job.”

Like many new job sectors, there is no one proven path to landing a job in sports social media. These Grady alumni have advice for aspiring digital professionals.

“When you identify your dream internship, job, or opportunity, it’s important to have the confidence to “shoot your shot,” Adeshola said. “Give it your best! More importantly, be PREPARED to shoot your shot. Practice makes perfect. The more prepared you are, the higher the likelihood of hitting your shot.”

“My least favorite thing to hear is the phrase “this is how it’s always been done,” Weeks said. “Background knowledge is important, but you can’t get stuck on processes of the past if you’re trying to grow and make positive change. It always helps to approach situations with a fresh perspective.”

“If you really want to be a part of this industry, you can be,” said Drinkard. “You just have to work hard, be kind and keep pushing!”

Date: September 19, 2019
Author:  Dayne Young,  dayne@uga.edu