MassMutual’s Josh Lake, Kate Senie, and Alex Silberman discuss their partnership with The Players’ Tribune and how they’re leveraging athletes’ stories on social

It's refreshing when a brand can activate its purpose by telling interesting stories about interesting people. Alex Silberman
Late last year, MassMutual began a six month-long partnership with The Players’ Tribune to create videos around professional athletes and their mentors for a series called “Mentors and Mutuality.”

The first video launched in December and, in the months since, Social Media Paid Strategy Manager Josh Lake, Social Media Manager Kate Senie, and the new Head of Social, Alex Silberman, have leveraged these assets in new and creative ways on MassMutual’s social channels.

The “Mentors and Mutuality” social campaign was an integral part of a larger brand activation led by their colleagues in the brand marketing department.

“The social team worked closely with our broader brand engagement and marketing team in addition to our agency partners,” Josh said. “We all had a role in it, and there were a lot of cogs turning to make it happen.”

Together, the brand marketing team and their agency partner collaborated with The Players’ Tribune to create the compelling videos.

With a focus on alignment, integration, and co-creation, The Players’ Tribune was able to find a way to work closely with the team to determine which athletes were the right fit for the content, while also ensuring that the athletes could share their authentic stories from their unique points of view.

By partnering with The Players' Tribune, we're able to work with some of the best athletes in major sports, and they can speak from an authentic place. Josh Lake
There are eight videos that make up the series, each featuring a different major sports athlete: Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad, former Boston Celtics small forward and shooting guard Paul Pierce, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens, American soccer gold medalist and Women’s World Cup champion Becky Sauerbrunn, tennis professional Monica Puig, former Boston Red Sox first baseman David Ortiz, and St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

Each video focuses on the player’s relationship with a mentor who helped him or her grow and develop as an athlete, which helped reinforce MassMutual’s brand message of “Live Mutual,” celebrating when people rely on one another and appreciate those they rely on.

“The Players’ Tribune helped us activate this partnership, and we were able to have some boots on the ground for the shoots,” Alex said. “We also made sure we wrote strong briefs to pull theses stories out.”

The partnership with The Players’ Tribune was originally presented to the team by one of their agencies.

According to Alex, the team has a close working relationship with their creative and media agencies, so they’re always looking for opportunities to help bring MassMutual’s brand promise to life.

We tried to reimagine how that content could be leveraged across multiple channels in a more engaging way. Kate Senie
“They initially were pitched this idea by The Players’ Tribune, and they worked collaboratively to bring up an idea we felt was in line with what we were trying to achieve,” Alex said.

And according to Kate, they chose The Players’ Tribune because it aligned with a lot of their media tentpole moments in terms of television advertising and could help them drive engagement and awareness across social media.

“By partnering with The Players’ Tribune, we’re able to work with some of the best athletes in major sports, and they can speak from an authentic place,” Josh said. “Their words and their content create a lot of weight behind them.”

Once the videos were completed, The Players’ Tribune and MassMutual published them on their social channels.

“The players who were featured were apt to share out their story on social,” Josh said. “And then their friends and teammates shared them as well.”

Most notably, David Ortiz reshared Paul Pierce’s video, and Landon Donovan reshared Becky Sauerbrunn’s video.

“It just showcases this idea of mutuality and the support athletes have for each other and their fans — it’s an almost symbiotic relationship,” Alex said. “We were able to tap into that.”

Kate said they then had their digital content team write more in-depth stories based on the videos’ transcripts that accompanied their release to drive traffic back to MassMutual’s blog.

“We had a push around each of these stories as it related to tentpole TV moments to drive traffic to MassMutual’s blog,” she said. “But we also tried to leverage it outside of that for additional sports-related moments. We tried to reimagine how that content could be leveraged across multiple channels in a more engaging way.”

Josh and Kate’s team focused on identifying real-life, social-first opportunities to react to and give the video content more opportunities to shine.

We wanted to focus on engaging audiences around key moments, and a lot of people talk about sports moments on Twitter. Kate Senie
To do that, they brainstormed new ways to leverage the assets across MassMutual’s channels by reimagining and repackaging the content.

“First, we mapped out what that content might look like from the concept to a basic creative asset,” Kate said. “Then, we’d hand it off to either our in-house or external creative agency to help us develop any additional creative and messaging that we’d use when executing on the campaign.”

Josh said because they have the license to use the content as they see fit, they can be proactive, spontaneous, and agile in how they deploy the creative as big sports moments happen.

One of the most effective concepts Josh and Kate deployed was a conversation card on Twitter.

During the NHL season, there was a matchup between the Bruins and the Blackhawks — both of which had athletes who had been included in the video series. Kate and Josh sat down and brainstormed a way to leverage those assets.

“We wanted to not only lean into the competition between the two NHL teams, but also ladder back up to our brand message around living mutually and showcase each of the players’ stories individually,” Kate said.

They put the two players head-to-head on a conversation card and linked to the video assets on YouTube.

“It drove a huge spike in mentions of not only our brand and #LiveMutual, but also of The Players’ Tribune. We were able to lift ourselves up and our partners at the same time,” Josh said.

The team’s biggest takeaways from this process have been around understanding the importance of Twitter and longer-form videos.

Before this campaign, they had traditionally focused on Facebook to drive awareness and traffic to their website.

“We wanted to focus on engaging audiences around key moments, and a lot of people talk about sports moments on Twitter,” Kate said. “So we wanted to tap into that conversation in a creative and engaging way.”

And while many people believe social media is best suited for a short video format, Alex said if the content resonates with audiences, longer videos can be more effective.

“Some of these videos are upwards of six minutes long and we’re seeing significantly higher completion rates than you’d expect,” he said. “When you create quality content and align yourself with partners who can bring stories to life in an authentic way, you can also tell longer stories and people will listen.”

While collaboration is nothing new to the team, they emphasized the role it played in this campaign’s success.

Josh and Kate said because they already have the creative, it allows them to create timely, relevant, and in-the-moment content.

“We have four different leagues — soccer, football, basketball, and hockey — and those alone allow us to be super scrappy and come up with great ideas quickly,” Josh said.

“It’s refreshing when a brand can activate its purpose by telling interesting stories about interesting people,” Alex said. “We’re celebrating things like mutuality, working together, and the humanity of a given moment, and it’s exciting how we’re all aligned in sharing stories.”

Josh Lake and Kate Senie have been members of SocialMedia.org since 2018, and Alex Silberman has been a member since 2019. You can connect with Josh, Kate, and Alex on LinkedIn.