Overtime’s Instagram Strategy Strongly Resonates During Coronavirus Pandemic
Overtime was cofounded by former William Morris Endeavor executive Dan Porter in 2016, focused around the Gen Z demographic and talented high school athletes as a way to reach the next generation of sports fans.
Overtime started building an extensive network of paid contributors who attended high school basketball games and used a proprietary app to capture viral highlights of future NBA stars like Zion Williamson, Trae Young and Ja Morant. It’s received funding, according to its website, from venture capital funds Spark Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Greycroft Ventures and Sapphire Ventures along with NBA legends Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and late commissioner David Stern.
Now with an enormous social presence— 3.6 million Instagram followers, nine million on TikTok, 834,000 Facebook likes, 544,000 Twitter followers and numerous affiliated accounts related to football, soccer, gaming and lifestyle with six-figure follow counts— the players Overtime first captured are now household names, the young audience it first cultivated is now growing up and now they’re bringing in a new generation of middle and high school-aged people who gravitate towards and live with the brand.
Like many new-age companies, Overtime has succeeded in forming and growing a community around its user base through the years, but that’s been taken to new levels over the last several months. After Kobe Bryant’s tragic death on Jan. 26, many of Overtime’s followers didn’t know how to react. With half of the company’s users between the ages of 13 and 21, according to internal Overtime data, a lot of these kids didn’t know how to cope with or process that kind of loss, Porter said. So Overtime went into overdrive to interact with its fans on Instagram, responding to over 10,000 comments and direct messages in the days and weeks after the world lost Kobe, his daughter Gianna and seven others.
“When we went into social distancing,” Porter, Overtime’s CEO, said over the phone, regarding a new universe we all entered during COVID, “we knew our mission of putting our audience first — who we call our community — would only become more important.”
Overtime devised a campaign to help out its burgeoning young community on Instagram first by simply just asking followers how they were doing and whether they were okay during quarantine through DMs, comments and tagging user on its Insta stories. And while they were stuck at home, Overtime used its popular and personable staff personalities like Overtime Larry and Overtime Megan to conduct live workouts with fans or have virtual pizza parties, where they delivered pizzas and Overtime apparel to select followers.
“We want to be there for them,” Porter said of the fans.
As coronavirus spread across the country, it meant countless canceled sporting events, prematurely ending the athletic careers of so many high school and college seniors. And just like Scott Van Pelt’s innovative and heartfelt Senior Night segments on SportsCenter, Overtime conducted its #whosNXT campaign to highlight athletes whose final moments on the court or field were instantly cut short. Within two weeks, Overtime said it received over 500 submissions and racked up more than nine million video views on its main channel and OvertimeNXT, an account that also features an exclusive episodic series starring Jalen Green, the top basketball player in the 2020 graduating class.
In the last 30 days, Overtime has responded to comments 4.2 times more than the average sports media company, it said. And it’s been special to see how Overtime’s community has responded to all that personal interaction said Devi Mahadevia, Facebook’s director of emerging and digital sports partnerships.
“This is what makes Overtime in a league of their own when it comes to community management,” she said. “And this is also why I think they use Instagram as their primary method of distribution and connection. When we work with them and see their approach, it really looks like from my perspective that they’re completely reinventing what it means to be a media company in 2020.”
According to Mahadevia, it’s almost like Overtime sees itself as an influencer, not just as a media company. It’s an approach not many companies take these days, she said.
“They develop very strong one to one relationships with their fans as they distribute content and connect with people on our platform,” Mahadevia said. “And they treat their followers like family, and that’s just so special to see.”
When an Overtime follower named Ryan B. was recently diagnosed with cancer a few days after his 14th birthday, his mom contacted the company to see if it can help. So Overtime sent 40 staff members to Ryan’s school to surprise him and show some support with a day of sports and joy.
“Overtime in general is a company that has heart,” Mahadevia said. “And especially right now, it’s super how important that is, given that people are home right now and are craving connections.”
Without the benefit of live sports, it kind of creates an level playing field between non-rights holders like Overtime and rights holders like an ESPN, Fox, TNT, NBC or CBS. While the rights holders are looking for new ways to engage their audiences, Overtime doesn’t rely on live games or highlights and has been working on organically reaching fans in different ways since its inception.
“It’s about authentic, two-way dialogue, relatable moments, and human interest stories,” Porter said, “following the athletes they care most about.”
Things haven’t been all sunshine and rainbows for Overtime during COVID, though. The company did have to lay off 30 staff members at the end of March, roughly 23% of its workforce. Front Office Sports reported that the company was in “survival mode, and that it had reversed course on planned hires due to concerns around future funding.” Business Insider reported that the laid off staff wouldn’t receive severance or healthcare without signing a confidentiality agreement.
But even when there are live sporting events during COVID, Overtime manages to resonate there, too. During the NFL Draft on ESPN, the cameras focused in on Lions general manager Bob Quinn before Detroit was set to make its pick, and it showed Quinn’s son Kyle wearing an Overtime shirt. Overtime immediately got to work tagging Kyle in its Instagram story like it would one of its featured athletes. Kyle, an Overtime spokesperson said, immediately fired off a DM in excitement and then engaged in a conversation on Instagram.
Instances like that are why Facebook shares Overtime’s Instagram approach with other sports media partners that use the platform, telling them that it would be wise to take pages out of their playbook.
“Overtime has created the blueprint for stuff on Instagram,” Mahadevia said. “And I think during this time, people are truly looking at what Overtime does best. It’s inspiring to see companies doing what they’re doing.”
And even after we reach a post-COVID landscape, Overtime feels it’s well-positioned to thrive in the industry and grow its brand to new heights. It’s always been more focused on audience engagement rather than just putting content on a screen, Porter said.
“We’ve also always been about athletes’ stories and the culture around sports more than the literal whistle to whistle action,” he said. “Now that we have gone through that process of understanding what it actually looks like when there are no live sports, it’s become clear that our initial strategy is a great one.”
Overtime’s best path forward, Porter believes, has been its original plan all along; focusing on Gen Z and Millennials and growing its brand along with them through direct and authentic content and personal, familial interactions.
“By building the leading brand for them no matter which way sports go,” Porter said, “they represent the future of audiences, and together we are prepared.”
Photo Caption: Overtime personalities Larry and Chloe bring joy at a recent branded live event. Photo courtesy of