5 ideas for sports stories

How digital storytelling is upping the game of sports content

Series of images from various sports

All sports — from football, rugby and cricket to the NBA, MLB, NHL, and NFL — bring communities together, spark great rivalries, and evoke intense emotion. 

But sports stories are changing. With the rise of digital technologies and more advanced content platforms, we're seeing the standards for sports content on the web increasing exponentially. 

For the first time, it's become possible for everyone producing sports content — from sportswriters and sports columnists to marketing and media teams — to create stunning visual reading experiences.

In this post, we run through 5 ideas for sports stories. Many of these ideas will be familiar, but we hope they help you get started with your own content. 

And if you're looking for more amazing examples, check out our guide, 10 examples of sports marketing.

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The rise of immersive sports stories

A swimmer mid-way through a butterfly stroke

But sports stories are changing. With the rise of digital technologies and more advanced content platforms, we're seeing the standards for sports content on the web increasing exponentially. 

For the first time, it's become possible for everyone producing sports content — from sportswriters and sports columnists to marketing and media teams — to create stunning visual reading experiences.

In this post, we run through 5 ideas for sports stories. Many of these ideas will be familiar, but we hope they help you get started with your own content. 

More importantly, though, we also share some of the best examples of sports stories from around the web. These stories are all beautifully written. But they're also immersive, interactive, and highly visual, taking advantage of modern platforms to produce rich multimedia content. 

Whatever your favorite sport happens to be, read on, and be inspired. 

If you still want more examples of great digital stories after reading this post, sign up for Shorthand's regular newsletter, which delivers the best digital stories on the web to your inbox every two weeks.

1

Profiles & interviews

Close-up for a hand holding a tennis ball

Athlete profiles are the bread and butter of professional sports stories. Fans love reading interviews with their favourite sports stars. They can't get enough of profile pieces that show what makes their heroes tick, drives them to be the best of the best, or enables them to overcome adversity. 

One example comes from Sky News in their profile of tennis star Naomi Osaka. Utilising an impressive array of media — from photos and video to social media posts — the profile is a hugely compelling visual story. 

A range of screenshots on various devices from sports story on Naomi Osaka

Another example is this Sporting News profile with Jordan Greenway, the first African-American to skate with USA Hockey at the Olympics.

The story opens with a video that transports you to the action of the games and showcases Jordan's skill, with a transparent portrait of Jordan featured as an overlay.

The story uses quotes from Jordan, his mother, and his coaches to build a picture of the athlete and his career. Built using digital storytelling platform Shorthand, the story uses Text Over Media sections with images and muted autoplay video break up the chapters, while inline media highlight key stats.

Title section of Jordan Greenway story

2

Match day programmes

Close-up of a football, sitting on a football pitch, waiting to be kicked.

Following the pandemic, many clubs started building out more sophisticated digital content to introduce sports events. 

One innovative example comes from football club Manchester City, who produce immersive, visually stunning programmes for each game. 

In this example, the team at Manchester City bundle mini-features and player profiles with letters from the captain and the club. 

Various screenshots from match day programme for Manchester City, presented on several devices.

Another team to create stunning match day programmes is Sparta Prague. With historical matchups, player profiles, and even a custom embedded Spotify playlist, this example story is an extremely effective way to get fans excited about an upcoming game. Dust off your Czech and delight in this great example of visual storytelling. 

Screenshots from Sparta Prague match day programme, presented on two laptops sitting next to each other.

3

Tributes & thank yous

A helmet sitting on a sports field at dusk

Sports teams often have the pleasure of working with absolute legends that they want to pay serious homage to — from the star player who joined them as a youngster, to the leader that guided them through an unforgettable era, to the generous owner or donor.

This is something the Seattle Seahawks wanted to do for their owner, Paul Allen, 20 years after he saved the franchise from leaving the city.

Since he bought the team, the Seahawks have experienced their most successful stretch in franchise history, winning the playoffs for three NFC championship trophies and bringing home the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl champions in 2013.

In this tribute, teammates and coaches share their gratitude and make it clear that, without Paul, this triumph wouldn't have been possible.

The piece begins with a series of videos, and then launches you into the history of the franchise, sharing amazing videos and imagery from the 20 years gone by.

Paul Allen story title section

After the death of Diego Maradona, there were a range of detailed stories about his impact on the game, from his development as a young player to the famous World Cups. 

One interesting approach comes from Sky Sports, who created a story compiled entirely from photos from over the years. It's a spirited tribute to one of the greatest players in the global game.

Various images of Diego Maradona from a Sky Sports story

4

Partner stories

A golf ball, sitting, waiting to be struck.

With the rise of digital storytelling platforms, brands are increasingly interested in partnerships to create high quality immersive visual stories. 

One example comes from the UK's Football Association, who partnered with shampoo brand Heads and Shoulders to create an excellent short profile of England player Carly Telford. 

Screenshots from partner story from the Football Association

Another partner story comes from Goal.com and EA Sports. Focusing on Christiano Ronaldo, the story intersperses his story and achievements with images and video from the EA Sports game. 

It's an appropriately immersive and highly visual story for a video game. 

Two images from the Goal.com partner story with Christiano Ronaldo

5

Society and politics

Football helmet on a field at night.

Social and political issues are becoming increasingly central to sports writing. While dissecting these issues make for great sports columns, there are also opportunities to go deep with longer features. 

One impressive example comes from the BBC. In this long feature story, the BBC's Miriam Walker-Khan gives a detailed history of the Black Lives Matter movement in sports. 

Starting with the shooting of high school student Trayvon Martin in 2012, the story tracks how athletes used their power and platform over the years to protest racial injustice. 

With great use of illustrations and photographs, the story documents how the Black Lives Matter movement spread from the football and basketball teams to sporting codes and clubs around the world. 

Images from BBC story about the impact of Black Lives Matter on sports.

We hope you enjoyed these examples of stunning visual stories. If you're inspired to try visual storytelling for yourself, then get started with Shorthand's free trial.