This week, I spoke with Sam Neter, owner of the British basketball website, Hoopsfix.com and basketball marketing agency, Cut The Net.
Hoopsfix cover all kinds of content relating to British basketball, including game highlights, podcasts with sporting stars, exclusive merchandise, live streams, newsletters and more.
Sam discusses Hoopsfix’s journey, what he believes makes great content, how challenges have helped him push further and his key advice for sports industry enthusiasts.
Q1) Sam, it’s a pleasure to have you on Ash’s Sports Talk. How did your career in sport begin?
I originally played basketball myself, which became a big passion of mine, and then I decided to become self-employed.
In 2009, I started working on basketball-related projects. My original project was a late-night basketball club to keep kids off the streets. I wanted to create a website to drive awareness about the project, and it eventually evolved into Hoopsfix. I then realised a greater need for media coverage in basketball as there was hardly any when I grew up. This became my goal, to keep people informed and aware of what’s going on with basketball in England.
Q2) What have been some of your career highlights?
Hoopsfix runs an annual showcase called the Hoopsfix All-Star Classic, which gathers the top junior players across England. I last ran this in 2019 over two days and had a girl and boys contest, and we are in the midst of a three-year sponsorship contract with Nike. This was a highlight as despite how much I love digital, it does not compare to bringing people together in a physical space for a gathering of the community.
Another thing I’m proud of is just being. I’ve been running Hoopsfix for 10-years, and we’re still going strong. I’ve seen many leave the sport; what I do isn’t massively profitable.
Q3) I appreciate there’s no such thing as a ‘regular day working in sport’. But what are you responsible for at Hoopsfix and Cut The Net?
It varies massively. For example, today, I went through the top 10 plays of the week by running through all the clips and sending them to Tahir, who does the voice over. I’ve also got some calls this afternoon for an event I plan called the Hoopsfix All-Star Classic; it usually goes ahead in the summertime; fingers crossed it can this year! My team and I are looking to optimise monetisation opportunities, particularly around product development. I also have a podcast that I edit weekly.
Cut the Net is the engine behind the scenes that revolve around client work that funds Hoopsfix. My work includes copywriting, shaping content strategies, video editing, social content and other marketing activities. I do my best to balance everything out!
Q4) It sounds like you’re a busy man Sam! How do you manage your time?
I’m traditional; right now, I’ve got sticky notes in front of me of goals I want to achieve during Q2 of 2021. I have calls with people supporting me bi-weekly through Skype, breaking down our ambitions. I use Workflowy, which helps me manage my time alongside Trello to organise my projects. Over the last three months, I’ve had interns from The University of North Carolina helping with some content bits where their tasks are managed through Trello.
I always keep a pen and paper with me. If new tasks pop up during the day, I’ll scribble them down and prioritise accordingly.
Q5) From your perspective, what makes great content for social media? Plus, how important is it to ensure each channel offers something unique to its users?
It ultimately comes down to knowing your audience. What works for Hoopsfix could be different for another brand. There’s not always a formula to it; for example, there are many times I’ve put something out which doesn’t do as well as expected.
Regarding unique content, as I’ve got a small team, resource is a challenge when producing specific content per platform. Therefore, we tend to produce the same content across multiple platforms, which wouldn’t be the case if we had bigger budgets and resource. I use tools like Zapier to do this.
Despite unique content per platform being important, you’ve got to consider the cost to benefit ratio to ensure you’re making efficient use of your resources.
Q6) Considering sport and digital are constantly changing, how do you ensure you stay ahead of the latest trends? Plus, what does the process look like when launching on a new platform?
When you’re submerged in it every day, you’re naturally absorbing new channel updates, memes and trends. I also follow various sports marketing, social and business people on Twitter to see what they’re sharing.
Jumping onto a new platform isn’t new to me as I’m an early tech adopter and have a pure interest in emerging technology. However, as the British basketball market is quite small, emerging platforms don’t always have the benefits we’re after. For example, on TikTok, we have 9.7k followers. However, they’re not a hardcore British audience that will help us with our goals. The same is with Clubhouse; I could set up a room and get about 10-20 people listening; however, you’ve got to consider whether that’s a good use of time.
Hoopsfix tends to be more prominent on traditional platforms for that reason, and we’ll wait until our hardcore audience pivot onto other channels to consider following them.
Q7) You’ve touched on the great topic of meme marketing there! Have you used this in any way for Hoopsfix?
There’s not been loads of it within British basketball as it’s a niche market, and therefore not all are the most applicable. Consequently, you’ve got to build a knowledgeable connection with your audience. For example, if you ask any 14-16 year old about English football, they won’t likely be short on things to say. This doesn’t apply to basketball which makes meme marketing more difficult for Hoopsfix.
Before nailing meme marketing, we’re trying to figure out how to educate our audience. Our audience will know about NBA stars like Steph Curry and LeBron James. However, the task lies with adopting that philosophy with British basketball stars.
Q8) With any successful sports career comes various challenges. What adversities have helped you develop in sport?
The biggest challenge has been on the financial side. Although, in some ways, it’s helped me realise that this is definitely what I want to do because I’m still here despite the lack of financial upside. Not many people want to do stuff around British basketball as the market isn’t that big. ‘
As the market size is small, it’s caused issues with creating content with limited resources to get as many eyeballs as possible. However, this has allowed me to push my limits and become innovative. If I were to take what I’ve learnt while building Hoopsfix into a bigger market, like football, it would be very interesting to see the results.
Essentially, all of these challenges helped me realise that you will find a way to make it happen if I want something bad enough.
Q9) Sam, reflecting on this discussion, what’s your killer piece of advice for someone wanting to work in sport?
Start doing something as too many people rely on others for an opportunity. Often experience becomes the biggest issue when landing jobs in sport, so get that experience yourself. If you want to be a sports writer, start a WordPress blog. If you’re ambitious to work in social media, it’s not hard to create a social media page about a sport you love and build a following.
The client work I get through Cut The Net has come off my own back rather than anyone else’s. I have no formal qualifications to support brands like Footlocker, sell out an event with hundreds of people; it’s all come from me doing my own thing.
Once you start doing stuff, doors will open—the people I’ve reached out to have been similar to me. Bradley who I work with was doing a weekly column voluntarily for a year and that made me want to reach out to him to see if he would jump on board the Hoopsfix train.
The creator economy is growing massively, don’t waste time waiting for someone to open a door for you!
Incredible, what an awesome interview with Sam. It really goes to show that your life is what you make of it. He spotted a gap with media coverage around British basketball, did something about it, and produced something astonishing that nobody else has.