Steve Sabol: A pioneer in illustrating the narratives behind a brand

The fact that social media is just a medium is one of the most-forgotten notions behind what's become a revolutionary technology. It has, undoubtedly, changed forever the ways in which we communicate and who we're able to communicate those things with—but has it fundamentally changed the things we communicate, and how those things make others feel? I don't think so.

It's impossible for us to deeply care about something we don't know anything about. We can't fully understand decisions if we don't know the rationale behind them and we can't truly appreciate acts of greatness if we don't know the work that went into putting individuals into positions to achieve them.

And that's what we have today in social media marketing: attempst to fully illustrate the narratives behind the brands, players and teams we support. But again, that's always been the idea, and no one did it better than Steve Sabol. No, he wasn't the creator of NFL films—his dad Ed was—but he turned it into the artful marvel we've come to know today through masterful film-making and, of course, amazing narratives. From USA Today:

"My dad has a great expression," Steve Sabol told USA TODAY Sports last year. "He always says, 'Tell me a fact, and I'll learn. Tell me the truth, and I believe. But tell me a story, and it will live in my heart forever.' "

Sabol's work has forever changed the sports industry and the content available for its most passionate fans to consume.

I've mentioned it on this publication before but the Green Bay Packers winning Super Bowl XLV is my favorite sports moment, for numerous reasons. I can't tell you how many times I've pulled up NFL Films' America's Team for that year's Green Bay squad on my iPad and fallen asleep to it. It was the complete story behind how one of the very best moments in my life as a lunatic sports fan came to be, down to every backstory and intricate detail.

My favorite part of it was a particular Sound FX clip from what I believe was the Super Bowl's deciding moment. After the Packers went up early, the Steelers stormed back and were driving for the go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter. Here we are (watch the first minute):

Without that fumble, the Packers may not win the Super Bowl. Without Clay Matthews telling Pickett to "spill it," there is no fumble. Without him recognizing the play early, he doesn't yell "spill it." Without countless hours of film study, he doesn't recognize it early. It's one play, and on TV all those details go completely unnoticed. But with the fine work of NFL films, it's so much more.

How does this apply to the world of social media marketing? A lot of what's done nowadays (or what should be done), emulates what Sabol did in exposing and underscoring the important narratives. Need an example? Look at the amazing work adidas is doing with Derrick Rose and #TheReturn.

With the motion-picture-esque shots and dramatic score, these look quite a bit like NFL Films, don't they? 

The thing is, it doesn't take a superstar and a major marketing campaign for these things to work either. Take, for example, what the team at Goodwin Sports Management is doing with Portland Trailblazers rookie guard Damian Lillard:

Wherever there's passionate fans, there's a thirst for a well-told narrative. Social media has certainly changed the ability to distribute these but the premise has been there since Sabol perfected it.

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