Once known as the sport that well-to-do families on the East Coast played, lacrosse has quietly emerged as one of the fastest growing team sports at the high school and collegiate levels.
According to US Lacrosse, over the last five years, the number of schools sponsoring lacrosse at the high school level has risen 27 percent, and the number of NCAA schools sponsoring lacrosse has grown 33 percent.
Hoping to take advantage of the increased attention and participation, The Lacrosse Network is doubling down on creating content for both Instagram and YouTube that brings to life the sport’s biggest moments and the personalities who are helping elevate the game with their social media presence.
To do this effectively, the channel, led by Tyler Steinhardt, has turned to its community for feedback and has adjusted the content accordingly.
“Our audience is very vocal in what they like, and because it’s such a niche sport it allows us to respond directly to their feedback and ideas,” Steinhardt said.
What they found was an insatiable appetite for content that pulled back the curtain on today’s stars and made them more relatable to consumers.
“We have also gone long on content profiling the sport’s best stars, sharing their playing tips, origin stories, and off-field pursuits,” Steinhardt said when taking a look back at what the community had shared with them. “The younger fan is more interested in the players than the scores of the games, so we’re focused on bringing them to life through our content.”
When it comes to growth, especially on Instagram, Steinhardt and his team rely on a two-pronged approach of creating content that either focuses on utility or social currency.
“Since tagging friends and direct messaging posts is the easiest way to reach a new audience, our strategy is to develop content that people will want to share. We think that people share for two reasons — utility (learning from a play) or social currency (making a friend laugh) — so we produce content that taps into those triggers.”
On YouTube, the network has turned its attention to premium shows that are supported by weekly content.
“On YouTube, we release premium shows that run for usually a month, such as “DRIVE” and “Through X” as well as weekly programming such as the “TLN Top 5” and “Weekly Watch,”” Steinhardt said. “The weekly content builds the habit of watching TLN, which we then use to build upon to reach a new audience when we launch premium programming.”
Steinhardt credits the growth of the network to the one-on-one connections he and the team have with many of its ardent fans, something that other larger sports might not be able to take advantage of. But, as properties like FloSports have shown, owning an audience of what many mainstream consumers would consider a niche sport can be rather lucrative.
“The advantage of being a niche sport is having a stronger understanding of your audience,” Steinhardt said. “We get to meet our fans every year at events like the Final Four, and we can get direct feedback on their favorite content. This not only fuels our engagement across social platforms, but also extends that relationship off the screen as our audience wears our merch and shares TLN with their friends.”
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The network’s most recent successful content play focused on the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Final Four and its partnership with ESPN to deliver a segment around the theme of #ThankYouLacrosse. The goal? To reach non-lacrosse fans and help them realize the impact the sport can have outside of teams lifting trophies above their heads.
“After the segment ran, we saw hundreds of posts and over two million cross-platform impressions,” Steinhardt said when speaking on the success of the campaign.
In today’s digital world, there is not only power in the quality of content created, but the quality of people the content reaches. Luckily, for The Lacrosse Network, it has the best of both worlds.