USA Today Sports Media Group’s For the Win hits the green

After launching For the Win, dubbed “the first mainstream sports media property focused exclusively on social news, USA Today Sports Media Group is poised to climb the next rung, launching a spinoff entitled Fore! The Win, devoted to golf content. The newly-launched platform marks the first sport-specific vertical to develop from FTW, taking that same social news approach to golf-centric stories. The editorial team, managed by Mark Pesavento and Jamie Mottram, includes Chris Chase, Chris Strauss, Nick Schwartz, Nina Mandell, Laken Litman, Ted Berg, and Nate Scott, with Mike Foss serving as editor.

Cynopsis Sports spoke with Mottram, who serves as Director of Content Development for the company, about the For the Win franchise and launching the new brand.

Mottram on FTW growth: Since launching last April, FTW increased from 5 million monthly unique users, with most users coming from USA TODAY, to as many as 15 million monthly uniques, with most users coming from organic sources. In July, for example, year-over-year viral traffic was up over 300%.

On categories: The NFL is always out in front, but World Cup was huge for us and opened our eyes to the appetite for excellent digital soccer coverage. The same goes for Olympics and those sports that are a bit off the beaten path. Some of our biggest successes come from less obvious source material. Generally speaking, subjects that cross over into the mainstream (i.e., sports stories that you see on the TODAY show), do very well for us. FTW is always looking for stories with universal appeal, and we’ve gotten really good at telling them in a social- and mobile-friendly way.

On golf: We’ve found a lot of this material from the world of golf, probably because golf has a healthy star system (e.g., Tiger, Rory, Phil) that lots of people are interested in without needing much context or backstory. It’s also a sport that, unlike, say, football, many adults actually play as a lifelong pursuit.

On Fore! The Win: Without paying golf any extra attention, FTW golf content finds a steady and sizable audience. Now we’re going to cater to those fans, creating a sub-brand within FTW that’s all golf all the time. This new vertical, Fore! The Win (ftwgolf.com), is where you’ll find what golf fans are talking about, like a cool visualization of the evolution of Tiger’s swing or that buzzy moment when Rory had a heckler ejected. It only traffics in golf material that’s either going viral or, as is often the case, golf material that hasn’t gone viral yet.We’ll ramp up from here, integrating Fore! across FTW and further reconfiguring the experience to cater towards golf fans and sponsors. As part of that, we’re likely to increase Fore!’s content production, too.

What’s most interesting is that this approach serves as a test for developing other verticals/sub-brands within FTW, which is to date a one-stop shop for social sports news. The brand can, however, develop as a hub for many different social content experiences.

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