By Rex Hammock

This past weekend, 600,000 people visited Nashville to experience the NFL Draft live. In addition to all those cowboy boots on the ground, some 49 million NFL fans viewed the event via seven cable networks and an array of Disney digital properties.

If you’re not an NFL fan, pause now and let this next sentence sink in: There was no actual football game being played at this event—other than the game in which 32 billionaire owners select 254 players who hope to be millionaires soon.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Why did so many people turn out for, or tune in to, the draft?

Much of the credit for the transformation of broadcast sports goes to the late Roone Arledge, a legendary ABC executive who saw sports content in a radically different way from his contemporaries.

While the rest of us thought sports broadcasting was a space reserved for major league games that took place at fields, tracks or courts, Arledge defined sports more broadly. Simply put, a sport or game could occur at any venue in the world where athletes competed. Trampolines, demolition derby tracks, you name it.

Wherever you find athletes competing, you’ll find stories of challenges that were overcome. And wherever you find these real-life stories, it’s vital to create content that gets up close and personal with these athletes’ lives.

Lessons for Marketers Who Use Content

Arledge’s legacy was to leave behind a formula for finding and telling the personal stories of others. And no doubt, it’s compelling content: In preparation for the NFL Draft, ABC produced 150 up-close-and-personal videos so viewers could learn about each player beyond his statistics.

Arledge’s formula also expresses a larger truth and an important lesson for content marketers. Skill and attention to the use of content—no matter your venue or the type of media you use—is what turns mere content into something that provides your customers the thrill of victory … not the agony of defeat.

Featured Photo: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

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