With the kickoff to the 2017 season right around the corner, the United Soccer League is getting ready for play, not only on the field but also on social media.
“With everything becoming more visual, we have to make sure we’re at the forefront of that movement,” says Steven Short, Vice President of Business Development for the United Soccer League (USL).
Last season, the USL decided to change their photo workflow, in hopes of saving time and using visual assets more effectively.
“We have, over the years, collected thousands of images from our teams,” says Short. “It was all housed in a basic file structure on a server, so to find that specific image that fit a specific need – a certain player or a type of shot – was just very consuming and labor intensive.”
The USL moved all of their photos to a Libris cloud-based visual media library.
“We were really looking to centralize our imagery and make things easier to use, and at the same time create some more engaging content,” Short explains. “Now, we’re able to create a robust archive of photos, and we can provide more access to our teams to that content or imagery.”
Fast Access to Photos
The teams are all set up as Contributors as well as Invited Users to the league’s library, so they can upload assets they want to share and download assets they want to use.
“Now, our teams are uploading photos, and the league’s going through and setting tagging conventions,” says Short. “We’re making it searchable with metadata, which takes us a long way from where we were.”
With the right metadata, anyone who needs an image can run a quick search and find exactly what they need in seconds.
“It’s all about saving time, and our goal is to save time for our teams as well, that’s very important,” he says.
Real-Time Image Sharing
The new system not only helps the league save time day-to-day, it also helps USL push out content when it counts.
When the league hosted its annual operations and sales summit for its teams in San Antonio, the event photographer uploaded photos to the library in real time. He captured highlights of everything from the best practices sessions to the stadium tour, and uploaded photos several times throughout the day.
Meanwhile, social media team members back at the USL’s office in Tampa were able to pull those photos and post them right away.
“We were able to logistically handle it all on the front end. We didn’t have to do it all via email, we didn’t have to deal with photo size restrictions or inbox restrictions,” says Short. “It made their job easier.”
Plus, the whole process was hands-off for Short’s team on the ground in San Antonio.
“We could focus on running our event,” he says.
“By the time we got back to Tampa, we already had an awesome photo archive for our event,” says Short.
The Ripple Effect on the Teams
Steven explains that this fast workflow is just as important for the teams as it is for the league.
“Whether it’s the league or the teams, we’re always moving at a fast pace, especially with social media,” he says. “It’s real time, and it has to be real time.”
Now, many individual USL teams are moving their visual media libraries to the cloud to keep up with the cutting-edge standard of the league.
“The league’s integration of PhotoShelter has warmed them to the thought and the need of the digital asset management system,” explains Short.
A fast storytelling workflow is crucial, whether you’re covering a game or announcing a new player. Teams whose photographers shoot straight into Libris won’t be bogged down by slow workflows like sending photos via email. And sharing your team’s story in real time on social media or with reporters can have a powerful ripple effect.
“It just furthers the relationship between the team and the fans, and hopefully the league and the fans, as well,” says Short.
He adds that having an easy way to share images across teams has opened the door to more creative, collaborative content.
“Before, I’m not sure how the teams shared photos with each other, or if they ever did,” says Short. “Now, we’re seeing teams creating social media graphics, motion graphics – I think it just elevates the overall quality of our content across the league.”
Short hopes more teams will move their libraries to Libris so they can easily share content back and forth and keep up with the demand for visual content.
His tip for those wary of the work involved in getting organized? Don’t worry.
“On the front end it might seem daunting but it’s not – it’s easier than you expect it to be,” explains Short, noting that users can upload large batches of images at once and tag assets in bulk.
Plus, the league has already tested the system and set best practices for metadata.
“We like being the guinea pig,” he says. “I was using it before we launched it to the teams because I wanted to see how easy it was to archive our images.”
And perhaps most importantly, the league has already proven a return on investment: the ability to save time and create better content.
“To me, it’s a necessary element of operations now,” says Short.
Cover photo by Ben Solomon for the New York Red Bulls, courtesy of USL.