How to not rely on match day content for engagement, Wolves' brilliant academy moment, and influencer marketing

Some ideas for how you can generate content outside of the matchday cycle, an example of how Wolves have done it this week, and a look at the power of using influencers in your marketing.

How to not rely on match day content for engagement, Wolves' brilliant academy moment, and influencer marketing
Image from Wolves FC website

First of all, Happy New Year! I've had a bit of a break from weekly publishing over Christmas and New Year: your lives are busy enough without one of these dropping into your inbox.

The State of Football Social Media survey is still open for submissions. I've had just under 70 submissions, and I'd really like to get to 100 to match previous years if I can. It makes the data set a bit more reliable. If you've completed it, thank you. Please take the opportunity to share it with colleagues at other clubs if you can. Hopefully I'll hit the threshold and can publish the results in February.

Welcome to Between The Lines, a regular round-up of what you might have missed in the world of sports marketing, as well as a deeper look into some of the topics from social media. Got a story or tip to submit? Send it to or via DM on social media.

Making engaging content away from match days

I've spoken to a lot of people at clubs who always say that if every day was a match day then they'd have no problem creating content. They look after themselves for the most part: build up, team news, live updates, post-match thoughts, highlights, job done.

And a look through most clubs' social channels would reinforce that match day content is what most fans want to see (especially if you're winning). Footage of goals and exciting action attracts the most engagement.

So how do you maintain these levels without relying on your team's schedule?

Stories are your best bet here. I've banged this drum for a while now, and I've more advice for unearthing and publicising these that I want to share.

In this case, stories are the tales and insights that your stakeholders have. These can be club staff, fans, or players themselves. They allow us to see the personalities of people, and find out more about them.

They can be published as text or video - ideally a mix of both - and are great across social media as well as on your website.

I touched on long reads on websites in a previous piece.

How teams are using WhatsApp Channels, an ode to the long read, and the power of local communities
It’s been a while since we got WhatsApp Channels - who’s still on there? Featuring a look at long reads, and a great local community event from Southampton.

Finding stories

I've had a few marketing roles in my career, from entry level up to managerial and director level, and I've always made it my business to find out about as many people at the organisation as possible.

Staff and fans all have reasons for working at and following the teams they do. They have insights, knowledge, and experience you don't. Talk to them. Get to know them. Ask them questions. Here are a few to start with:

  • What are you most proud of about the work we do?
  • What do you think people always get wrong about us?
  • What have you enjoyed most about your time with us?
  • What do you wish people would understand about us?
  • What do we do that flies under the radar?
  • What does the club mean to you?

Tweak and adapt them as necessary depending on who you're speaking to. But they're good conversation starters. You'll either uncover something you didn't know - especially if you speak to people who've worked at or followed the club for a while - or you'll make a new connection who might think of you the next time something noteworthy comes up.

Unleash the cubs!

Well done to Wolves and the club's academy that have published a video showing their new under 8s team playing against some of the first team players. The first team players weren't allowed to run, were vastly outnumbers, and it looks like the kids had an incredible time.

Click the image to view the video on Instagram

This is an experience which will live with the youngsters for ages. Especially the one caught on camera scoring.

Moments like these make for great social content. Last year I spoke about how teams need to use emotion, as well as social currency by capturing the unusual, to generate shareable moments like these. And, tying in to the first piece in this post, it's a great piece that isn't tied to the matchday cycle.

As a result, it's one of the best performing pieces of non-matchday content they've published on Instagram so far this year. It being a collab post between the team and the academy is a good touch too.

The club website carries a longer piece in which they emphasise the "one pack" mentality they're trying to instil - a lovely on-brand way of reinforcing togetherness.

First-team surprise under-8s with unforgettable friendly match
Wolves under-8s were given the surprise of their lives when they experienced an unforgettable interaction with the first-team squad earlier this week.

What's your influencer strategy?

I'm not sure if I'm just noticing it more, or if it's actually happening more often, but it feels like there's a rise in teams partnering with other content creators to draw new audiences to their accounts.

I looked at the work done by Oxford with Expired Film Club last year, and the same account also popped up with Fulham around the same time.

Now Newcastle have done something similar by showcasing the matchday photography taken by a fan during the club's recent derby victory over Sunderland in the FA Cup (but would it have killed them to tag George's account properly?).

Click the screenshot to view the original post on Instagram

The result is great photography from a viewpoint the fans can recognise and identify with. It's a more realistic view of a matchday that official club photographers - as good as they are - can't replicate as easily.

In American Football, the Baltimore Ravens have been working with a few influencers over the past 12 months. Morning Brew recently spoke to the team about their approach to influencer marketing, and it's worth a read for inspiration. Who can your club partner with to generate content and broaden your reach?

Manchester City used comedian Troy Hawke back in 2022 to welcome players to the club's American tour (before repeating it in 2023 as part of their trophy parade.

This video got more than 1 million views on YouTube. That figure is only regularly matched by matchday highlights, along with this recent video of manager Pep Guardiola meeting Chess Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen. The theme here is how introducing outside personalities can open you up to more viewers.

In 2023's survey, 57.4% of respondents said they intended to work with influencers. I've asked the same question this year so we'll see how that has changed soon.

The Online Rule in 2024

December marked 10 years of this website and the associated social media accounts. Thank you to everyone who subscribes, follows, interacts, or messages. You're the reason I keep going with this, as it's a great community to be a part of.

Last year I ran the first ever The Online Rule Live online, which you can find out more about below.

Catch-up: The Online Rule Live 2023
Find out how the first ever The Online Rule live event unfolded.

The plan for 2024 is to hold the first ever in-person live event, and at least one more online event too. Plans are at an early stage right now.

I'm busy planning interviews for this newsletter to bring in viewpoints and advice from the people who are producing the content that I highlight each week.

And soon, once we get some more submissions, I'll be releasing this year's State of Football Social Media results.

If you want to follow or message on other platforms, I've got accounts on Threads, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, and X. Some are more regularly updated than others. You can also reach me at (or reply to these emails). I'm personally on LinkedIn here, and I'd love to connect with as many of you as possible - so please don't be shy.

Here's to another good year!