With its redesigned website, SB Nation wants fans to geek out with them
"Aaaaaaayyyyooooo!!!" yells Will Buikema, moments before he reaches to shake hands with a man who crushes 300-pound NFL players for a living.
Buikema, a video producer with SB Nation, is visiting Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks in Philadelphia as part of an ill-fated attempt to make friends with the NFL star.
It goes south quickly, to hilarious effect: Buikema is comically overexcited to meet Hicks, he botches an attempt to cadge an invite to his upcoming wedding and culminates the encounter by offering Hicks a "friend contract" (he checks "no" calmly while Buikema weeps on the floor).
If there's a definition of Serious Sports Interview, this is probably the furthest thing from it. But it's in line with a renewed effort at SB Nation aimed at channeling fan excitement — even if it means occasionally leaving Buikema in a puddle.
"We're working much harder, much more diligently about coordinating and maximizing our reach to the fans," said Elena Bergeron, SB Nation's editor in chief. "All the different ways that we reach them with our voice. It happens directly. It happens on platforms. It happens off-platform, and it happens through all of the different types of content."
Since she was named the top editor in March, Bergeron has been trying to hone SB Nation's mission to become the place where sports fans of all kinds go online to fan out. A big piece of that effort, the site's redesign, went live today.
The redesign, which comes with a new logo, bright color scheme and zebra-striped-polka-dotted patterns, is the first overhaul of SB Nation in five years and the initial step in an iterative process that will eventually be rolled out to SB Nation's network of team sites.
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Although many sports sites lay claim to fandom, SB Nation's many team sites give it an entrée to sports obsessives at professional and college teams across the country. Founded more than a decade ago as a fan blog for the Oakland Athletics, SB Nation has evolved into a scrappy fleet of team sites under the auspices of a flagship vertical run by Vox Media. Competition for digital sports fans is fierce, and SB Nation does battle with the likes of Deadspin, Bleacher Report and The Big Lead as well as traditional broadcast networks like ESPN and Fox Sports.
Like many of their competitors, SB Nation puts a premium on distributed content, reaching viewers on social media with native video. That will continue to be a priority going forward, Bergeron said. Buikema's video is part of a series, "Will You Be My Friend," that will feature other playfully cringeworthy brushes with sport celebrity. SB Nation also recently held a live video event, "Draft Party Live," where staffers narrated (and poked fun at) picks from various NFL teams.
There's more to come, said Kevin Lockland, the General Manager of SB Nation. Although the redesign process is intentionally never finished, the latest round of changes should tie the entire network together from a design and content perspective.
"We'll have a coordinated editorial push around the team site refresh where every single one of our team sites will be creating content around a shared topic," he added.
That way, every fan will be able to geek out with SB Nation — hopefully with a little more dignity than Buikema.