The new essential worker in sports business: digital content creators

The rise of digital content creation in sports allows fans to connect to their favorite teams and athletes like never before.

A collage of a collaborative uniform design series by Kyle Cyr and Jonah Ward.

Courtesy of Kyle Cyr and Jonah Ward

A collage of a collaborative uniform design series by Kyle Cyr and Jonah Ward.

BEAU BRADEN, Evergreen reporter

For decades, sports fans viewed collegiate and professional athletes from afar, only knowing their favorite players through TV screens or being the lucky fans who received high-fives as the team walked off the buses.

Those days, since the beginning and continuous rise of social media, are over. 

A social media presence is essential to all types of businesses, even more so in sports. Social media teams must be ready to post at a moment’s notice whenever something newsworthy happens in the sports world.

With a competitive and rapidly growing marketplace, sporting organizations continue to hire multitudes of digital content creators. 

One creator is Josie Sandquist, a fifth-year broadcast journalism major at WSU and a WSU football creative video intern. Sandquist said WSU’s media team has grown in the past few years.

“WSU didn’t really have a media team until about a year ago,” Sandquist said. “It was just three people before. Now there’s 12 of us.” 

Sandquist said she sees sports media growing in the future by allowing fans to see different sides of athletes.

“Seeing how they act in practice is something fans like to see. I have so many clips of the guys dancing and joking around during practice,” Sandquist said. “People forget they’re college students too.”

Sandquist said her upbringing coinciding with the rise of social media, gave her generation unorthodox backgrounds and expertise in content creation.  This upbringing lifted many barriers to entry into the content creation field. 

Whether or not the rise of social media and its bridging of the player-fan gap has had a positive or negative impact on the world of sports is debatable.

Still, social media continues to shift how the general public interacts with athletes. 

“People see [athletes] on a god-like level, almost,” said Jonah Ward, 21-year-old graphic designer and senior business management major at George Mason University.

In addition to his studies, Ward runs the GMU Barstool social media accounts and his graphics page, Dubya Design.

Ward said social media interactions between athletes, graphic designers and fans create an environment that humanizes athletes. 

In March 2022, Denver Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy re-shared one of Ward’s designs to his Instagram story. 

“We thought that was insane, but you remember that’s a real person behind that screen,” Ward said. 

Like many others in the digital content creation space, Ward had an untraditional introduction to social media management and graphic design. 

Ward began his digital content creation career at 15 when he started a New England Patriots fan page that grew to 10,000 followers on Instagram. Ward said the page and its community brought him to start creating graphics.

Like Ward, Sandquist found an interest in content creation at an early age, starting her YouTube channel as a fourth grader.

Another creator with an untraditional background in the graphic design field is Cyr. 

Cyr is a 20-year-old graphic designer and high school football coach at Henry Abbott Technical High School. He works with Madden Football at EA Sports and is best known for his sports design page

Cyr started designing graphics as a seventh grader when his brother began attending Abbott Tech, which offers digital art classes. 

Through independently creating content on Instagram, Cyr connected with players on his favorite team, the New York Giants. 

Since then, Cyr has produced merchandise collaborations with Giants cornerback Darnay Holmes and has grown his account from 2,000 to 22,000 followers in only three years.

Cyr wishes the general public knew how much goes into creating content. 

“You can tell when a trade happens and an organization rushed a jersey swap edit,” Cyr said. 

It takes him two to four hours for every edit or jersey swap he makes, depending on the uniforms he is working with and the angles of the photographs. 

Cyr said designers can create a portfolio without a college degree in today’s era.

Digital content creators like Cyr, Sandquist and Ward continue to prove how people can make it into fields they desire to work in, regardless of their background.