Communications in the age of AI.

Generative artificial intelligence is about to transform sports and entertainment media but that is only making communications fundamentals – like trust, great storytelling and personal connection – more important.

By Tom Scott

 

There are moments when the future suddenly feels a lot closer than it used to. 

A couple of weeks ago, OpenAI gave the world its first glimpse of Sora: a text-to-video generator which seems like another quantum leap forward in that space. 

In the year or so since the explosive arrival of ChatGPT, we’ve all had to accelerate our thinking on the adoption of generative AI: businesses, regulators and content creators are reviewing timelines on a near constant basis. 

That much is certainly true for those of us in PR and media. Big tech is always serving us reminders to be wary of hype cycles but one way or another, this really is going to change how we communicate. It will revolutionise industries and workflows, bringing pain and possibility, automating some functions and jobs while maybe inspiring brand-new ones. 

That dawning reality has been central to our outlook at Trippant over the past 18 months, through a period where we’ve rebranded and retooled to offer truly valuable communications services to the sport, entertainment and experience industries. 

All of this has led to an important realisation: the better AI gets at producing content, the more content is going to exist. Some of it will be great; a lot will be derivative, insubstantial or disposable. And there is already a lot of content out there – great torrents unleashed in the hope that social media algorithms carry it where it needs to go. 

In that context, quality counts. So does your intent. Amid all the noise, it has never been more important to understand the message you are trying to get across, who you are trying to reach, and why. 

It really comes back to some of the fundamentals of communication: building trust, connecting to people, and telling great stories. 

 

The new AI toolkit

Many businesses, of course, are already using AI-powered media tools all the time, in ways that have transformed their output. At Trippant, we’ve discovered accessible solutions for everything from transcription to sound engineering to video editing and subtitling. 

New things are quickly becoming possible at scale. Earlier this month, the Financial Times reported on a couple of projects from advertising giants Publicis and WPP. 

Publicis CEO Arthur Sadoun sent personalised New Year’s video messages to each of the agency’s 100,000 staff. In an Indian campaign for Cadbury’s, WPP created videos for thousands of stores across the country – all using regional languages and details – where Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan encouraged consumers to shop locally. 

Neither of those initiatives would be feasible without generative AI and – allowing for ethical due diligence – it is not hard to envisage similar concepts being applied in the sports industry. 

You could imagine, for example, AI-generated ‘appearances’ by brand ambassadors across multiple networks and territories. Or personalised birthday greetings for young fans from a football club’s captain or star player. Through more sophisticated distribution, content can be further refined and targeted at the right audience.  

WSC Sports – a Trippant client – has spent years evolving its AI-powered platform to help partners build and distribute automated highlights and video packages, enabling more potent fan engagement, relieving pressure on content teams and freeing up resources for deeper storytelling. It is now experimenting with generative AI to produce localised commentary, bespoke music and even ‘what if’ videos – replays where that crucial shot hits the net instead of the post or the rim. 

The potential of this is incredibly exciting. Yet that can only be realised through thoughtful and judicious execution.

 

People, networks and fandom

A lot of communications strategy comes down to a few simple questions. 

What are you trying to say? When and where will you say it? And who is going to say it for you?

Communication is about discipline. In 21st century media – particularly in the age of AI-generated content – you can insert yourself into any more or less any conversation. But that hardly means you should. Doing so, in fact, puts you on a very short path to irrelevance. 

And communication is also about authenticity. The right spokesperson is not just compelling, carrying a message with clarity and conviction – they also get that the person receiving that message is on the more important side of the conversation. 

Whatever means you use to piece it together, having a meaningful picture of your target audience remains vital. So does properly defining your role in their world.

In other words, a B2B service provider must be able to explain how their product will address pain points that limit the horizons of prospective clients. Anyone representing a sports team – whether from the boardroom or the dressing room – needs to recognise the values and the history they are protecting, not to mention the impact their actions and performance can have.

Meanwhile, you cannot underestimate the value of human connection. From TikTok to Taylor Swift, we are all gravitating towards people and personalities in a crowded media ecosystem. Honest, open discussions about challenges and motivations can bring others on to the same wavelength. 

 

The storytelling baseline

Stories are fundamental to how we understand each other. They generate empathy, organise information, and access mental patterns that aid memory and trigger emotional responses. And they predate most media technologies by thousands of years.

As Donald Miller writes in Building A Story Brand: “Story formulas reveal a well-worn path in the human brain and if we want to stay in business, we need to follow that path.”

Every successful organisation tells good stories: about what they do, about why they do it, and about what they can do for you. Most of them really nail two stories in particular: one about themselves, and one about their customers, audiences or supporters. 

The story of a company or a club is about motivation and values. The story of their customer or fan is about solving problems and enriching lives. Taken together, these form a superb basis for all other communication and creative expression. 

In the sports industry, we’re lucky enough to deal in moments that matter to people – the experiences that become part of millions of personal stories.  

That is an extraordinary and powerful thing, whatever technology has in store.

 

Tom Scott is the founder and CEO of Trippant, a communications consultancy championing people and storytelling across sport, entertainment and experience. If you want to see what we can do for you, connect with us here.

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