Telling Shareable Stories to Sports Fans with Barry Blyn of ESPN

Subscribe to the podcast!

Barry Blyn is Vice President, Audience and Content Insights at ESPN, a post he has held since late 2018. In this position, Blyn’s team provides best-in-class, fan-centric content evaluation for key clients across ESPN and even The Walt Disney Company.

A graduate of the NYU Stern School of Business, Barry has worked with insights, data, and people throughout a variety of industries including politics, comedy, and sports. Currently in sports, Barry offers insight into the mind of the fan from ancient history until now and the nuances that lie therein. Do sports have meaning? And, if they don’t, why do fans engage in such deep loyalty practices, wearing their team’s colors and painting their faces? Can you convert a sports fan to a new favorite team?

He tells us of ESPN’s consumer image, sponsorship opportunities and how fans react to them, the virality of sports stories, and the ever-accelerating sports news cycles. Because of his time in other industries, Barry is able to home in on what really sets the sports industry apart, and what changes content creators and storytellers should make to target this audience.

Most importantly, Barry talks to us about stories themselves, often while using stories himself that demonstrate the concepts he discusses. How do you know when a story works? What if you hear your story repeated back—and what if you hear it repeated wrong? Find out in today’s episode!

Show Highlights

  • 1:00 Sports stories fit almost all types of business situations. But what about if you’re in sports? What type story do you use then to explain the business situations?
  • 2:00 What does Barry Blyn’s team do at ESPN? What tools do they use?
  • 4:00 How has the business of giving insights changed? What impact has Big Data had, and what’s important now when so much information is available?
  • 6:00 What insights does Barry try to collect in regards to sports? How does history and brain wiring play a role in sports insights? Are all sports fans the same?
  • 8:00 How have things changed over the years as it pertains to sports and events? Is that a particularly interesting or complex area of sports insights? How has the sports news cycle changed?
  • 12:00 Stories are how information gets remembered and repeated. Are sports fans one of the audiences who repeat content the most? Are sports stories the original viral content?
  • 14:00 How is sponsorship in sports different from advertising in other niches?
  • 20:00 What were the early risks of Game Day?
  • 25:00 Are the sports fans Barry profiles constantly changing or easy to profile? What changes can occur?
  • 34:00 Are there times Barry’s stories get repeated back to him? Barry describes some important moments in his career that assure him his storytelling works.

Guest Information

Barry Blyn is a strategic researcher who obtains data in innovative ways and transforms key points into actionable consumer insights across all media platforms. Uniquely able to understand and compellingly communicate consumer behavior to shape a company’s agenda. Regarded in industry as expert in storytelling and in pushing ideas beyond expected and conventional.

You can find more information about Barry on Linkedin:

Like what you hear? Hear more episodes like this on the What’s Your Story podcast page!