Whilst watching this very funny clip this morning, I got to pondering: what’s the best way to do comedy in sports, particularly when you’re dealing with real athletes and teams, with legions of fans with very clearly formed opinions?
Jason Sudeikis stars in this short film imagining what might happen when an American Football coach attempts to coach an English Premier League team.
When it comes to comedy, there can be no doubt that it’s a tricky thing for any content producer to attempt, let alone a brand with no track record of being funny. However, making people laugh is widely recognised as the key to viral success, so it’s the holy grail for many brands who want their content to fly on wings of its own.
Here’s my Top 3 for making something funny when it comes to sport (or any content). Although I’m no expert (I consider No. 1 to be essential to my own success), these are my personal observations:
1. Use Real Comedy talent
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking anyone can ‘do’ funny. Let’s face it, most athletes aren’t known for getting the fans laughing (at least not for the right reasons). The above clip, or this hugely successful series featuring Kenny Powers for K-Swiss shoes, proves that bringing in heavyweight comedy talent can get you 80% of the way there. With a face your viewer already associates with funny, all the brand has to do is not get in the way.
Behind the scenes talent is arguably more important – real comedy writers and directors are key, and they’re not cheap. There’s a reason why comedy is one of the most expensive genres of ‘real’ TV. It’s hard to do right, and the right people are worth a lot. It’s best to be aware of this before you set out to make your audience laugh.
2. Know Your Audience
A key rule of all branded content creation – especially when you’re going for an emotional response – it’s never truer than with comedy content. If you, or your team, don’t know what makes your audience laugh – they won’t.
Be careful what or who you make fun of. In the case of the football clip at top, NBC Sports is promoting English football on an American channel. The key here is that they know their audience are football fans. So ridiculing the sport won’t get them anywhere. Instead, they point fun at the US lack of understanding of the beautiful game, appealing to an audience probably heavily populated with ex-pats who have made these same jokes themselves to their American friends.
Remember, when it comes to sport, your audience are FANS. They love their sport, they live for their team, they do not want you to make their passions into an object of ridicule.
3. Real athletes can be funny
Even athletes who aren’t known for their jest can be funny with the right idea and the right approach. I love this clip we produced a couple of years ago with Socceroo Tim Cahill who at the time was getting ready to launch world famous soccer game FIFA 12.
Tim is an athlete well known for his passion and skill – cracking the jokes, not so much. Director Adam Gendle, himself a huge football fan, found a great approach to make the audience chuckle, without making Tim an object of ridicule. Tim himself brought it all together with his subtle and impressive performance. Just lovely.
It’s a tough gig being a sports fan. The highs are almost always followed by the lows. So if you’ve got a chance to make them laugh, whilst giving them a little more of their favourite athletes and teams, go for it.
Heaven help you if you get it wrong.