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@njh287; www.dsmsports.net
On episode 271 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil
chatted with Akshay Ram, Product Manager at Adobe.
What follows is a collection of snippets from the podcast. To hear the
full interview and more, check out the podcast on all podcast
platforms and at www.dsmsports.net.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
Akshay’s Career Path
“I always love telling this story because it goes all the way back to when I was 12 years old,
and it started with this fever dream, just like every 12-year-old today, which was just to
become a YouTuber, and that's what really invigorated all this. I used to watch Chris
Smoove on YouTube and I'm like, ‘Hey, why can't I be the next Chris Smoove?’ And it all
started with me trying to convince my parents to get the equipment to start recording
myself and film YouTube videos. And for me, I was like, as a 12-year-old, what if I can
make so much money as a YouTuber? It took some convincing with my parents to get them
on board with all of this. I could go on and on about that whole part. Essentially, I never
ended up recording a single YouTube video because the part of the process I fell in love
with creating my own brand and trying to shape the YouTube channel over just creating
the content for it. So that's when I started to discover some of the creative tools, and it also
aligned with a lot of the things that my friends were doing on social media, because we
were all just getting on the Instagrams and Twitters of the world, and so we all wanted to
find ways to share content with each other.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“Being sports fans, we wanted to find a way to translate our creative
aspirations to what we were posting on social media, so we would just
post wallpapers for fun and just go back and forth; and slowly, going
through social media, I started to build a community of designers that
we could communicate with on apps like Kik. We would build all these
different channels of conversations and slowly through time, I was just
posting stuff that I loved for fun and building relationships with different
people on social media. Eventually, as I started to really understand
what the sports space looked like and what creative content looked
like…I take it back to the story of high school where my guidance
counselor was like, Hey, I see you're doing all these things. Why don't
you go reach out to a local college and see if you can get some experience
there?
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“Holy Cross was a neighboring college to me back in Massachusetts, and I
wanted to reach out to them to see if I could work in athletics. And funny
enough, the story gets crazier, where the same day I was about to reach
out to them, the head designer there had posted on Twitter about looking
for interns for the next summer, and so it lined up perfectly. Then I was
able to reach out, but I don't think they were expecting a high schooler to
reach out to them. So that was kind of my start, where I wanted to go
work in athletics. And through that process, I did have an idea that I
wanted to go to Syracuse University, and I knew that they were known for
their communications program and graphic design, so I initially intended
on going for that. And then long story short, they started opening up
more programs for sports, and the opportunity to work in sports was
something that really attracted me outside of just graphic design.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“They had a sports analytics program, and I loved math, I loved analytics,
I'm sure we both shared that common relationship of understanding the
metrics that go into what we see and do all the time, and so I wanted to be
a part of that program. I didn't get in for graphic design or the sports
analytics program, so I ended up just taking a degree in engineering and
computer science. So that was the school I was a part of, and I did
information science. The really cool part about Syracuse in that program
was that I was able to shape my curriculum the way I wanted to, so I was
able to still minor in sport analytics and translate a lot of those classes to
my program. It was really cool that I was able to just basically do that
major without having to be in that [concentration], and it also gave me
the freedom to then explore what working in, the Syracuse athletics
program looked like for their football team.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“You know, I love packing my schedule, so I was also able to work at Bleacher
Report while working at Syracuse at the same time. So I was basically going to
class in the morning working at Syracuse after class. And then at night, I'd work
night shifts for Bleacher Report for their social pages. So I would say my college
career was super fun in that sense, where I was able to really formulate it the way
that I want to, but also get an opportunity to learn the skills that go outside of
just creating content, understanding strategy, and a lot of those things translated
to what my job is now as a product manager at Adobe. For me, verything feels full
circle being at Adobe, [as] someone, who learned the tools and tried
understanding how it translates into a creative career back when I was 12 to then
be able to, ten years later, have an influence on what the future roadmap looks
like, what product strategy and development looks like — that's essentially my
role now. So I'm truly grateful that that whole journey led me to starting from the
gate and helping the company build the the future of the tools.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
On the career vision Akshay had as he was up his skills and experience in high school and
college
“You might call me crazy for saying this, but I actually wanted to be a general manager of
an NBA team. As crazy as it sounds before, like, the reason why I fell in love with the Sport
Analytics program was because I thought that was going to get me one step closer. I always
thought being in graphic design was going to get me into the doors of a sports team, but
after I got into the doors of a sports team, my goal was to bring my interest of analytics and
understanding the game in a different dimension to then translate that into a front office
role. So the goal was always to work for a front office, to work in sports and do that because
I never saw anyone that looked like myself, that came from my background work in that
capacity, especially for the NBA. I feel so grateful to know that the Indian community, the
Asian community is now a bigger part of those types of roles and there are people there
that can influence that. But, you know, at that time, I felt like I wanted to be at the
forefront of that. So that was the goal, to always be a GM of a sports team.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“But everything up till then, I knew that it was smaller skills that
would slowly build up to being able to actually be that GM role. I
think for some time I definitely thought that I could be a creative
director or be able to manage a creative team, but at the end of the
day, for me, it was always trying to be a leader for something, whether
that was a team, a product or, you know, a culmination of what that
all looks like. So that was always a vision, I think the role specifically
was GM.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
About his role with Adobe today
“When I tell people I say that my role is essentially the GM of a
product, right? Like, that's a lot of what my role is now is like thinking
about it through the same lens of like, how do we bring people
together? How do we bring our ideas together to shape a future of a
system? So I feel like I'm still living that in some capacity, but just not
in sports.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
About the creative and content infrastructure looked like at Syracuse during
Akshay’s time working there
“I think it all always differs between different college teams, like you said, and a
big part of my attraction to Syracuse at that time was they had people that
really cared about the details that go into creating content, the people that
understood that, like the small, flashy typography that goes in video actually
matters. You know, we need to essentially create content and transition that to
delivering an experience, whether that's in-stadium or on social or digital.
That's kind of what the overarching message was. And so when I was looking at
Syracuse, that team was fairly small. I think they had a grad student at that
time, mainly running it from the athletic side and doing all kinds of work, and
the SIDs would help support by creating some of the smaller templates that
would go onto social or digital.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“The intention was to always sell tickets. I'm sure that's going to come
up multiple times as we talk through what the role of all the creative
functions come together, but I think that was always the main
message — how do we use content as leverage to build an audience
[and] to sell tickets? And at that time, the fact that creative wasn't
prioritized as much was something I was super attracted to. At the
same time, my background was also in recruiting, whether that was
football recruiting or basketball recruiting. I had so many different
ties in that capacity, and so I think a lot of my work was translated to
the football side, where I could influence what it means to get the
right players to shape a team.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“Then the other side of that when I worked in athletics was, okay, now that we have
the players on the team, how do we make sure we shine a good light on them so
that we can actually translate that to fan engagement and selling tickets? That's
how I always viewed it, that those were the different channels and how we were
creating content. And in order to support that, you know, the one thing I take pride
in going to Syracuse is a lot of it was intern-driven. There were a lot of students
who really cared about sports, who cared about creating content that helped shape
a lot of what we did. And we had people that really understood the creative side
that empowered us to do that.
“There wasn't a specific strategy that we followed all the time. I think we knew what
the restrictions were, that coaches set, that different members of athletics set. But
we also knew that our goal was to shine a light on the athletes and find ways to
connect their stories with our fans so that the fans would essentially show up to the
stadium.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
On how Syracuse looked at content and resources and expectations and with which
schools they aligned in that sense
“I think I'm gonna probably use this a lot throughout our conversation — it
depends. And in this, in this case, it really depends on who you're going to. And
part of the challenge of working in college athletics is while we do have one vision
of going in selling tickets, people do have different agendas on how to get there.
Maybe that is focusing on yourself, and I feel like a lot of people did prioritize Let's
focus on the Syracuse brand and the Syracuse community and culture. While other
people that probably are overseeing this at a higher level, they're comparing it to
the rest of the ACC, how are those schools supporting their teams? They might not
have the answer right away. The coaches might not be asking that directly, but
that's where it all comes into play on, How are we delivering for what we need to
get done? So I think the priority was definitely ourselves, on making sure we're the
best version of ourselves because that shows up all the time.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“The landscape of sports changes all the time, so you do kind of need
to have an eye on what the direction the rest of the conference or the
whole NCAA is going in. I think maybe there wasn't as much of a
focus when I was there about the rest of the conference and the rest of
the NCAA, but I think especially in today's world, that is something
you need to prioritize. You need to know that you're moving in the
same direction. And while you do focus on yourself, know that you're
supporting it at the same capacity other schools are.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
On balancing marketing and promotional content in college sports
alongside player-focused and specifically for athletes and recruits
“I can start off by talking about how we prioritized it, especially working
from the football side. And I'm really grateful to the people under Coach
Babers’s staff at Syracuse really trusted me in kind of shaping that and
brought the right people in to understand what that looks like. I think at
that time, while recruiting has an overarching view of what it takes to
actually bring a guy in, the content essentially should reach those folks
first, right? Because they need to have a good understanding of what the
program looks like in order for them to commit and actually show their
commitment to the school, but also what they're going to do on the field
once they get there.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
"So I think we definitely looked at everything from the recruiting lens
first, which was, you know, do we have all the information on our
social channels that is going to give him or her the right insights
before they maybe make a trip for a visit. How do we get that there?
Are there certain angles that we want to play that are aligned with pop
culture? A lot of things that we did, especially Signing Day and some
of the batch graphics that we created were all aligned around bigger
moments; you know, album releases, all those kind of stuff. So we had
the freedom to work around that.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“I think Syracuse and the folks that we had there, we really pushed
that as much as we could, and we were able to present our brand with
some of these pop culture brands in the best light. So that was
something that we took pride in for sure. But like I said, it depends on
how it translates to other departments too, right, and so when you're
looking at ticket sales and, and fan engagement, it's really hard when
you only have 1 or 2 graphic designers to support all those. So then it
comes down to who's making the call for priorities. And in the college
space, I don't think that specific person is established as much, so it
makes it a little more challenging, and I think that's part of what that
transition looks like. So that's what I experienced.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“And of course, after I left college athletics NIL was more prominent, so the
recruiting stuff has just taken another level in regards to what is expected,
not required — expected of creative teams to put on social media. That's the
first thing that our recruits going to go to. They get the offer from the
coach, they're going to look up a team's social channels to see what they're
posting about. If they don't have enough information, if coaches are
gatekeeping information and preventing creatives from actually producing
content that's relevant for a recruit to make a decision or not — like that,
school's going to fall behind. Let's just be honest here. So that's where
creatives’ role in producing content with the access and the transparency is
valuable in today's age where it might have been…when I look back on
what I went through, maybe that wasn't prioritized as much, but that has to
be at the forefront of what schools are looking at now.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
On the tangible and intangible value produced from creative assets
“We're living in a transformative time. I talk to teams all the time as part of my
job. [It’s] not required, but I love listening to the perspective of college to the
pros to agencies — that helps me formulate what our point of view is when
we're building a lot of the tools that we do at Adobe. But, you know, I also try
to listen in to understand what are those shifts that people are making. And a
lot of the things that I've been listening to recently is content being created
outside of just creative departments in athletics. There are a lot of people that
are actually setting up these creative ecosystems, maybe on campus or outside
of a campus environment, where they still want to help athletes create content
for themselves. In the NIL era, you can't only depend on the creative team at a
university to create content for them, it's just not there.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“In turn, what I'm hearing from people is athletes actually gravitated to the fact
that when they go to a school they have opportunities to create content that
might not be only dependent on the athletics department, there are other ways
of creating content. And I've heard of instances where high-profile recruits are
committing to schools because the community gives them an opportunity to
create content in a different capacity. Those were things that I dreamed of
when I was in college. I used to tell people, like, this is a reason why a recruit’s
going to commit to a school, because not only do they see the opportunity to
play on the field or on the court, but they're going to see their other creative
endeavors unlocked because of the people that are on a campus or are in a
community. I was told I was crazy years ago, but just like everything else that
happens in our world, like that is something that's prominent today and there
are recruits who are making decisions because they see creative opportunities
and content opportunities, and so they have to look at it multidimensionally.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“I've been using this word ‘multidimensionally’ in multiple facets. But
this is one of those instances where a recruit might prioritize being
able to play on the field, but they also realize that they have a life
outside of just playing that they also need to think about and consider
when it comes to being a student-athlete.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
On creative teams producing everything vs. empowering non-creatives with
more self-serve templates
“Templates are this really bigger thing that people are looking at, regardless if
that's creative or outside of creative. And from my lens and how I see [things[,
you know, many industries transforming…creative and content is playing a
bigger role in how people communicate with each other. And in order to do
that, when we build our tools, and I say we, like when I'm as a PM (Product
Manager) thinking about building tools at Adobe, we have to make sure that
we can support a large amount of people, and that means that we need to
build to their expectations and their expectation is being able to use a tool
that they can get their jobs done with. That might mean having a tool that
allows you to create a template that you can reuse then get your outputs.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
"Outside of sports, you're starting to see this trend where a lot of
companies want their creative teams to be the people that enhance
the creative vision and can then output templates for other people to
use. Because at the end of the day, you're only gatekeeping for
yourself as a creative team by expecting that you create all the
content, right? It's not scalable. The challenge is you're making your
jobs harder for yourself.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“That's something I preach all the time. Like, are you are you working
efficiently by doing what you're doing? Can you provide some of that
trust to someone else by setting yourself up for success and them up
for success? There are many tools that are going in that direction right
now where, as a creative, you can't just think about being the most
creative person and putting in all these flashy effects. What do you
need in order to communicate the message that you're trying to send
out? And maybe that just requires a simple template and you as a
creative setting that up for someone else to go in and just change the
parameters that you establish.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“What I'm seeing is a lot more restrictions. When I say restrictions,
it's from a creative standpoint, limiting what someone might mess up.
I think that was the biggest concern and what led to a lot of people not
going in that direction of creating templates. They're like, Oh,
someone's going to mess this up, so I don't want to set it up that way.
And our jobs, as PMs, we want to make sure that we build creative
confidence by providing you with a set of tools that allows you to still
be confident when you pass a template to someone else. So I think
that's going to be even more prominent.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“I think the sports industry is still getting to that stage. I think
because it's a few steps behind from a creative standpoint, from the
general content, creative space, I think that's something that people
need to learn, which is how do I establish my role to be helping others
rather than just creating cool stuff? And I think that's what's going to
shape the amount [of content] we talked about. You know, quantity is
a big part of what content looks like today. Like, how many times are
you showing up for someone to absorb the things that you're making,
and that just might require not prioritizing 1 to 2 hours of manual
work for a single graphic,;that means 1 to 2 hours making tons of
graphics that are going to show up on all these different channels that
someone can then get value out of.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
About real-time creative execution during events like National Signing Day or
the NFL/NBA/WNBA Drafts
“Real-time execution is really interesting. I experienced it in two different
capacities, at Syracuse and at Bleacher Report. It's funny, the team that I
worked for at Bleacher Report was the real time design team, that's what we
called ourselves, and mainly because we were reacting to news that would
happen and were making social posts. And we were doing it in a very manual
capacity when I was there at Bleacher Report. And I think through the time, like,
they're a really good example of a team that's prioritized whether they want to
move in a direction where they're doing that same manual task, or if they want
to be a little more efficient. Is there a level of automation that plays a role in
getting stuff done? Can you establish those parameters early so that when it
comes time to react that you have everything ready to to make something
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“So you bring up good examples when it comes to the NBA Draft. One example I
think about is March Madness. You have your whole bracket, 64 logos, and
essentially at some point you have to make a graphic that shows all the logos and
how it all transpires into one winner, but a Final Four and a final championship
matchup. Imagine how many squares you have to fill in with those logos is that the
most efficient way to find the logo and drop it in — how do you set yourself up for
success? And I think that's that's a good example of trying to think about where
automation plays a role. Are there tools out there that facilitate, you know, when we
think about logos, that's one part of a larger brand, and so are you building the
right brand management solution? Are you using the right brand management
solution, as well? Like, there's a building aspect and then there are the tools that
help facilitate it. So I think there's a lot of different things that you need to
consider, and if you want to execute well from a real time basis, that means being
prepared for it and establishing the time that's necessary to get you there.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“There's a lot of preparation that goes into some of these things, and
especially with the NFL Draft coming into play soon, what I'm telling
teams, because a lot of teams are reaching out to me and they're like, Hey,
how do I set myself up for success? I'm like, It really depends on what
capacity you're working at. If you're a college team, why don't you set
your templates up to be all 32 teams? That might sound crazy to start off
with, but think about what you're actually changing. You might be
changing a logo, you might be changing a color, you might be changing
some text. These are three smaller parameters. If you found the right
balance of how those three parameters show up, you can easily automate
32 different versions of it. And when it comes time to actually post one,
you post that one rather than waiting for your player to get picked, then
creating the graphic and then posting.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
There's a difference in how preparation can lead you to posting in real
time, spending more time packaging your content, right? I think we
talk about creating content, but the other part of it is packaging, and I
feel like teams don't prioritize packaging enough. Because that's
what's actually going to help you get the metrics that you're reaching
for. So how do you actually execute and efficiently use the time to get
you there? And I think a lot of teams prioritize building in real time
rather than preparing and then focusing on the other smaller details
that will actually help you be successful.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
On creating all the platform-specific variations of a given foundational piece of content
“We're kind of talking about scale here, right? Where, you know, in the past people
were thinking about single deliverables. But single deliverables might be hundreds of
deliverables in today's age because that same thing needs to show up in different
capacities. I'll put myself in this perspective — I don't really tell people what the best
way of doing that is. I think you have to start with the foundation. What are the
platforms you're prioritizing first? So 4x5, for example, is very common across many
different social platforms. So I might prioritize that as my first deliverable because I
need to have that show up in the best capacity. And then I might prioritize a web
banner or a horizontal image, so then I look at that and see how that translates in the
same capacity to a horizontal image, and then Stories. So I think you have to think
through priorities, like what are people going to see first and does that convey the
message that you need? And if it does, then why don't you understand the tools that are
going to help you create the other iterations of it.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“You brought up Adobe Express before. That's a good example of starting
with a single template, and then being able to resize it to show multiple
different pages of content, and it's going to reshape your template that you
originally created from that single page into the other dimensions that you
need to deliver for. And that's where content's going these days, where you
shouldn't have to put manual labor into creating the other iterations. That's
just a waste of your time, right? Because you've already prioritized your main
deliverable. The other ones might not get as much reach or engagement, so
why prioritize extra manual labor into making those look perfect, right? It
has to stay on brand. Brand is crucial in all of this, but why do you have to
execute more manual labor to get that there? That should be on the tools.
And those are definitely top of mind things when you think about what
building products look like, those are things that we're looking at as well.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“I think every brand has their own brand guidelines and rules that they
follow and, in the context of what they do, those are just kind of strings of
text that they're including in their brand PDF they might give; you know,
eventually we'll probably see this in a more technical format where it's
already embedded into the things that they're doing. But once you have
those rules, the product should be able to do it for you, right? Maybe that
doesn't exist today, but I think that's where there's an opportunity, when
we think about AI, for example, how is that helping us facilitate the things
that we need? Automation is a good example of one thing you can do
today in different capacities to get your job done. But, you know,
everyone in sports hates the word AI because they don't understand what
it actually helps you with. But think about what AI is actually supposed to
facilitate, right?
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
A lot of what you do is the same pattern that you repeat every single
day, and when it comes to creating content, your brand might just be
a set of patterns that you follow in order for something to happen. So,
like you said, maybe let's not crowd the top right corner of a graphic.
That's a pattern that you've established as a rule. So imagine if that
was one rule that you've already established so that when you create
all this content, it's following that and it's doing it for you. That's
that's the power of AI and how we can understand and do some
pattern matching to help you facilitate your jobs much more easily.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
On generative AI and where it’s headed for the creative industry and
the Adobe suite
“I think a lot of people look at the generative AI stuff that you see on
social media and they're like, Oh, you just type into this prompt and
something happens, and then that's where the fear builds up, where
it's, Oh, if anyone can type this, they're going to replace my job. If
anything, I actually think that's a good call for you to understand if
you're putting your resources and your individual time to your
content the right way. If you're fearful about something, there might
be a shift that you can take to make your creations even more creative.
I think that's one call to it.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“I always say this, even as someone before I worked at Adobe, like, there
were a lot of AI-specific tools that were already embedded in the program,
right? For example, being able to remove someone from an image that
always existed, there is a tool called Content Aware, and all this stuff always
existed, and what it's doing is just recognizing what else is in an image. And
then there are neural filters that Photoshop had, they never specifically
called it out as AI, I think it's just more of the buzzword that's going on in
today's age, and that's what's building a lot of the fear. That said, I think the
same thing I just mentioned a few minutes ago where how do you best
utilize AI think about the things that are repetitive in your day. If you didn't
have to do it yourself, is there a pattern that you're following? Because
essentially artificial intelligence is recognizing patterns and executing on it,
so you don't have to repeat the same steps in that same way.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“So when you're typing in a prompt, every keyword that you're
adding, it's going through a filter— I'm obviously oversimplifying
here, but it's understanding what the value of each of those words are
in the context of the whole message that you're sending. So how do
you take advantage of that and understand that you can still get
creative outputs by thinking about it from a pattern standpoint rather
than the technology? I think people get too lost in the the
technological advancements that AI has done, but they've forgotten
what the true value and meaning of AI is, which is simplifying a long
string of text, breaking it down, right?
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“Think of a Grammarly, for example, like, Hey, is that is that too long
to present to someone? Can you simplify that down to one line and
they're using AI to simplify it down. If you think about it at the same
way, they're looking at patterns — how does that pattern matching
translate to creative endeavors? I think we look at it from a content
standpoint, but I challenge people that work in like the social space,
can you prep a full season's worth of of captions? We were talking
about packaging before and how valuable your your tweet is to the
content you're posting it with, what if you had a full roster of football
players, could you use ChatGPT, for example, to brainstorm all these
cool caption ideas for every player? Build a database of it so that when
the time comes, you're prepared to then go and put it out there.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“For my social media, I've used ChatGPT to analyze the content that
does really well for me and then say, Hey, what's the general topic
that this is around? Like, what are the words people like? You might
in the past might have required a certain tool to help facilitate that,
but ChatGPT text prompting can do the same thing for you, and it's
kind of open for you to explore that through your own means. So I
think there's so much that's involved in this that's outside of just
trying to learn AI or learn specific tools. It starts with the question
what are the things that I'm doing that are repetitive that I can
simplify? And it's just getting to this point where it's looking through
it from the lens of being efficient.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
More discussion of generative AI
“There's a couple things you brought up right there that I've always
thought about, which is one, for the longest time, people felt like they were
expected to go do all this research on how to use a tool in order to get
started. Times have changed. That shouldn't be the expectation for
anyone, right? I was scrolling through Twitter yesterday and there was
this tweet where someone was like, When did you start your creative
journey? And I started in 2012, and it took me a few years to get to the
point where I really understood it. And now I'm seeing people that started
in 2019, 2020, 2021 — those are just a few years ago, and they're
executing at the same level. The education is there now, right? So
understanding what you need to do to get there is out there. So that's the
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“I think the fact that people say they need to learn tools is a very
overrated statement. In today's world, that shouldn't be the function
of any product in any world, right? Like as product companies, you
should be able to deliver an experience that's super easy to onboard to
and start using. That's the expectation. It shouldn't be ‘learn every
single thing that's out there in order to be successful.’ I think you're
really hurting your users by doing that. So that's the first part of it.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“But I think the other thing that you also brought up is how do you learn
about the other aspects of your job and simplify that? So you brought up,
like, Hey, I already know I'm going to set the parameters to this designer
layer in my design to this certain number. And so how does that learn
what I'm doing? I think at the same time we're looking at — I mentioned
creative consistency before, and a lot of that aligns with building a brand,
utilizing a brand in the content that you're making because creative tools
are meant for many people's jobs today, so how do we facilitate that from
the brand standpoint? How do we make that easier so that when someone
sees a brand, they can utilize it the right way, absorb the tool, absorb the
contents of it, and just start creating? So I think that's where I see a lot of
opportunity in facilitating that to make it easier. And, you know, through
time, we're obviously going to see a lot of what you just mentioned.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“I think one good example of that is looking at what Premier and
some of the video tools that were announced earlier this week about
being able to bring in generative AI to simplify some of that. I think
those are things people never expected, but it's a good example of
using it when you need it the most and it understanding what you
needed. You probably had to green screen certain aspects, bring it
into the composition in order to make it happen — how do you make
that easier and let the technology do its thing so that your job is much
easier?”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
Discussing how one can go about learning and growing within the Adobe
creative suite
“I think I can speak on that from a broader perspective. I think a lot of what
you mentioned was, where is the creative industry kind of leaning into, right?
In the past, it seemed like you needed to know everything in order to get hired
for a job, and what I'm seeing now is there's a balance now. Just like what we
were talking about before, where the specialized people are going to be able to
do their specialized things. Like, I might be a photo manipulator and I can do
what I need to to get done. And then we're also seeing tools like we were
talking about [with] templating before. If I'm just a general marketer, I
should also be able to create content, that shouldn't stop me, and just being
able to utilize the basic tools that I have, I can also create content.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“So I think what we're seeing is more people getting access to content, having the
tools at their disposal as part of their teams, or if they work at larger companies
they have those subscriptions and they're able to facilitate what they need from the
tools that they have. And that also gives you room as someone that might specialize
as a motion designer, as a designer or a video producer to do just your job; because
for so long our time was taken away by doing the monotonous stuff, right? We
don't need to spend two hours of our day doing something that someone else could
execute. So how do I spend the six hours I already had to do my job and then the
two hours of extra time I now get to be a little more specialized in what I do to
elevate the content that I'm already working on to make it more premium in a
sense. When you're creating content people always want to put the best quality out,
so how does it feel more premium? I think that's what we're seeing now where it's a
little more of a distinguished line of what people can do, how they can do it, and
also have the opportunity, if you're already in a specialized role, to elevate that.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
On balancing perfection and endless edits with efficiency and data-based success
“I think there's a lot that goes into this. I know we both love the numbers and metrics and
stuff like that that plays a role in the decisions that go into creating content. Like, in the
past, people didn't prioritize creating content and now that's become more of a priority
for people. And because of that, the need to create content and how you create content
has also changed. So being able to have the things that help you dictate that; like you said,
there probably isn't a barrier of like, Hey, this is all you can create for us, or we need more
than this. I think through time we're going to see an increasing need of quantity, right?
And at the same time, when you can deliver at the quantity, how do you make sure you're
not reducing from a quality standpoint? So I think that's where we're going to see that
shift where as the expectation to deliver more content increases, the tools should be able
to help you also produce at a a baseline quality. Like, your bar shouldn't drop because of
time. How are tools going to help you keep that bar and only produce higher than that
bar? Because we know that the expectation for content's not going to decrease, right?
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“When we look at it from the analytics and metrics standpoint, you know,
a lot of people talk about engagement. I think one thing I look at is reach,
and reach can't just be measured by a single tweet or a single campaign,
because we've seen instances where people reshare content. How do you
actually attribute some of the metrics that go into that when it's not your
own [channels]? You know, like for example, on Twitter, I can post a
video that someone else created and add my own commentary to it.
That's something I do a lot on Twitter, where I'll take content and say,
Here's my perspective on it. But the original brand can't really track that
unless it's attributed at the content level…At that point, you're looking at
reach versus single content engagement, and I think a lot of times teams
don't think about that perspective.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
"They're like, Oh, I need quote tweets, I need retweets and reposts
and all that kind of stuff. They don't think about How do you make
good content that people just want to absorb and send to other
people? And I think that's where reach comes into play and also plays
a role in how you're thinking about creating at scale. Because all it
takes is one platform to really enhance the success of your campaign
that you're working on, the content that you're creating. So that's
what I would say plays a role in a lot of this is the demand for content
is only going to increase, so how do we make sure that the quality
doesn't decrease and when we’re met with the expectations of meeting
these certain metrics and trying to actually translate that into success,
how do we make sure the tools are also helping you facilitate that?”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
On quantitative metrics driving the increasing demand for content
“You bring up KPIs and it's one of those things where when you think
about it from the college sports space, like how many people are
actually thinking about KPIs, even, from the creative side? Like
sometimes that just doesn't translate. And I think [for] a lot of people
that might seem like a higher-up thing, it doesn't seem to roll down at
the creative level. And that sets these wrong expectations, of like,
what delivering creative content means.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“I was just about to say, to rephrase what you said is, How does a creator define
success? Because at the social level and the marketing level, you have these metrics
that kind of translate that. And I think what's missing and what's a challenge of the
college athletics space is they give everyone this title of director — I've ranted about
this on Twitter before. They just give anyone this title of creative director and then
they expect them to also create content. So what they're not doing is actually
analyzing what's going into producing the content and how that translates. We
talked at the beginning of this about how most schools just want to sell tickets to
games or turn viewership up and don't understand what market size looks like and
if the market size is translating to the expected viewership, all these kind of things.
So creatives don't actually have a KPI that's embedded with what they do, and they
also don't get the information from the higher-ups. How we solve it is a great
question. And frankly, I just feel like creative directors, if you have that title or if
you have creative strategy [in your title], you need to have a level of understanding
of what the quantitative and qualitative feedback looks like.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“So if that is, you know, setting KPIs — in the recruiting space, like we're
getting this number of recruits by delivering this package of content to
the recruit. Obviously, you can't dictate whether the recruit commits or
not, that's always been the thing. You can't dictate if tickets are going to
be sold or not. That's not your job as well. But how close are you meeting
the demands of what other departments are asking of me? And that's
where [when] we talk about creatives, and I've been someone that's been
lost in the space where creative should be siloed out to do their things, to
be creative, but many times you need to have that chain of influence
where someone can tell you, Hey, it's not just about reaching 6 million
impressions or engagement, but it's: in order for us to get there, we need
to deliver in this capacity.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
And that middle ground between the two, I think, should be
facilitated at the creative director role, where they know how to filter
the numbers from the creative, allow the creative to do the work, and
then they kind of dictate what's our direction to get there. That's
where a lot of these titles aren't actually aligning to fruition with what
they say. I think they should be that filter between the people that are
actually doing the core functions and the people that are asking for it.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“So that's how you get closer to meeting those demands. I've been in
environments where that hasn't been there, and that's where I'd love to see the
community move in that direction, where they are understanding the KPIs,
they're establishing KPIs and there is someone that is heading that creative
department who’s translating that to something that makes sense from a
creative standpoint; which is, you know, let's spend this much time to execute
on this. If we were given one week to get this done, what's the best piece of
content we can create? How do we take that and package it in a way where it's
not just one deliverable, it's maybe one video, ten stories that can go across
these platforms, right? That's where the social media team plays a role; I think
the creative director has to be that filter that can communicate with the social
media manager and marketing to make that happen. In college, we see that role
just being put on the creative director, and they don't know how to move
forward from there.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
About his role as a Product Manager at Adobe
“I think this is the first time someone's explained my role better than I
probably could, to be honest with you. If you go on social media, I think
nine out of ten people think that my job is to create content, and they fail
to realize, like, that's just my hobby, the thing I love doing outside of
work. But you nailed it. There are many different expectations of what a
product should do, how it should get there, and a lot of the times it comes
with different expectations for what it needs. Does it need to be more
performant? Does it need more features? We talk about more, but maybe
it's less sometimes, right? Like, maybe it doesn't need that many features,
how do we reduce that? How do we simplify it down so that every feature
is used because it has value in the bigger picture of what's going on?
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“So I think that goes into how we think about user feedback. Someone might
complain and say, Hey, you know, things are not working. My computer's not
working and things are not syncing, you know, a lot of different things. So from
our side, we have to think about are we reaching a baseline of performance that
we expect the user to be able to engage with? Are there things that users can do to
mitigate some of that, which is restarting their computer? All these kind of
things; like, these are the common complaints. At the same time, when you look
at some of the feature sets that companies are delivering, it's also with intention,
right? They don't want to just put something out for the sake of putting
something out. There are consequences of putting out new features, which is
understanding what the role of the old feature is when you're moving forward. Do
I need this? Can I take this away? How many people are going to be impacted by
us removing a feature? And I think that the user doesn't understand that., so it's
our role to to make sure that we're addressing all of these.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“That's why I love my job, because it's not just a single dimension, it's multi-
dimensional where we have to talk to people internally, we have to talk to
people outside…I talk about the product I work on in the sports space a lot,
but I need to understand the generic ask of that and translate it to maybe
health care, right? What do people in health care need in order to manage
their brand? So I think it's extracting the information that is going to help
contribute to the bigger picture, which is more generic. So that's the way I
kind of treat it. But that's my long winded way of saying product management
is very unique. It's not creating content, but it is looking at it from multiple
different lenses and knowing that you can still support a customer, support a
business, support an enterprise at their capacities, and understand what that
chain of scale looks like and making sure we're not breaking anything that
they care about and they value while also receiving their feedback.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
The most viral post or content from Akshay’s time at Bleacher Report
“I actually think it's before I worked there full time, it was during my internship. I
was there the summer of free agency 2019. So that was when Kawhi [Leonard] went
to the Clippers and LeBron went to the Lakers, or maybe it was the season before
that. But essentially there was this three-day window where I made all these jersey
swaps, and each of them got at least close to 2 million likes each. And they all
actually happened while I was asleep. So Kawhi signed with the Clippers when I was
asleep, and that was actually one of those moments where I had freelanced with
them and prepared that jersey swap six months in advance. They ended up posting
it, and I woke up to my phone. I actually had to wake up early because I got a call
that I had to make other jersey swaps to prep the whole storyline behind it. All those
happened during my internship when I was sitting in a dorm room in New York
City. And needless to say, that was like the first time I was excited to get up early and
make some content because the NBA news world was just blowing up.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
The most memorable football game and the most memorable men's
basketball game from Akshay’s time at Syracuse
“Football, there are so many games. I think my freshman year was
when we won ten games. I was new to the fact that, like, I didn't
realize that Syracuse had gone through a drought where they didn't
really win that many games. So the ten-win season, I think back on it
now, I didn't really understand what that meant until the following
years where we weren't winning as much either. So the ten-win
season holistically was great. The Camping World Bowl was probably
my favorite game.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
“Basketball was when — I think this was my sophomore or junior year
when we played Georgetown and Tyus Battle had a game-winning
shot. There was this echo that happened across the dome and our
video producer at the time, Mike Lang, put together this extended cut
where you could feel throughout that video what that felt like in the
dome and the whole story behind it. So I think the content really
elevated what actually happened in person, and that was a great
example of a memorable experience that I can go back and look on,
because we made this extended cut now.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
The pro or college sports team whose creative most impresses Akshay overall or
particularly recently and why
“I'm not going to do one team, I'm actually going to do a whole state. And, you know, we
were talking about it in our intro about where I'm from, but I'm from Massachusetts. I'm
from Boston. And, for some reason, when I grew up, I never liked the creative teams for
the Boston pro sports [teams]. I think they were a little behind in some aspects. But what
every team is delivering today is just incredible. The Boston Celtics are doing incredible
work. The Boston Bruins have a great team that really understands what it means to
deliver at the NHL capacity. Boston College is doing great work. And the Boston Red
Sox, of course, have had a really great brand. So all of those teams, you know, I take
pride being from Boston now, and I hate talking about those teams all the time, but
they've given me a reason to talk about them all the time on social. So all those teams, I
love the people that work on those teams. I engage with them all the time, and they're
producing the content that makes me want to talk about them more.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
The more subtle or lesser known Adobe product feature across any of the products
that all users should know about and why
“You know what? I'm going to use this opportunity to shout out my own product
that I work on, Adobe Creative Cloud Libraries. You know, we talk about brand
management, asset management — that’s the tool that got me my job and I feel
really privileged to be able to work on the tool that helped me become better as a
creative. So I'm giving my own product a shout-out. But at the same time, I do want
to say Adobe Bridge is a tool that not enough people use. And when we talk about
automation and all the things that it can actually facilitate, it's one of my favorite
tools. I frankly like it better than Photoshop, and I might sound crazy for it, but
when you have a file browser that can actually do the things that you need to and
do it in bulk, you know, it's really hard to not appreciate it. So I don't think enough
people use it, and I've been getting a lot of our own interns from Syracuse on to
using it more recently and they haven't said enough great things about it.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
The last TV show that Akshay binged and loved, and also the last concert that he went to
“TV show - some people might call me crazy, I watch All-American on CW, and I continue
to watch it live, so I didn't necessarily binge it. I would say it's a show I enjoy watching. The
concert standpoint is interesting. The last two concerts I had gone to, because I don't go to
concerts too much, were actually hosted by Adobe. We had Twenty One Pilots at Adobe
Max last year, that was a great one. And then, I don't know if we shared this, I think it's out
there, for our 40th anniversary at Adobe, we had Katy Perry do a private concert for us at
the Chase Center here. I originally thought that day when we had that celebration, I was
like, Oh, it's probably going to be a local band from Oakland and we ended up bringing
Katy Perry, and she did like literally a whole catalog that was probably longer than a
regular concert, and me and my coworkers ended up being front stage for that before. W
didn't even know it was going to be Katy Perry., w just ended up being front stage. And as
someone that loves the 2000s era of music and that's the kind of music I grew up on. I was
like, Oh, okay, that's kind of cool, but, it was just an interesting experience. I'm not a big
concert guy, though.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
The most important lesson or takeaway from Akshay’s time working for
Bleacher Report
“Creative can translate to making revenue. And I think the youth in me didn't
see that. I think they're one of the first platforms that really recognized and
were able to shape that up. A lot of the things I did in the beginning, like jersey
swaps, started as static graphics and they found opportunities to partner with
different companies to elevate that, to actually use that as a way to generate
revenue. Initially, when you don't see the same millions of likes and the
numbers translate, you're like, Oh, what's going on? But then you realize the
content you're making is shaping the way the company can move forward by
bringing in that value. And at first I was like, Oh, this doesn't make sense, and
now I look at it, I'm like, that's so crazy that they were able to elevate that at
that moment and do it.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
If Akshay were to ask a creative today, how do you evaluate success, how would they
answer?
“I think it's tough. It's one of those things that we don't think about all the time. We
understand success as delivering something, so if we finish the deliverable, we obtain
that as a reason to mean success. I challenge every creative to think beyond that. How
does that translate? There are things that you can't permanently control, but how does
it play a role in the bigger picture? We talked about it, like you mentioned, in the
interview, but how do you travel through those channels to see what that actually
means in the larger picture? And I think at Syracuse, there's a lot of instances where
some of the creative endeavors I was in — we did a docu-series that highlighted the off-
season after our ten-win season at Syracuse, and we realized that that helped regain
and also increase our season tickets by a significant amount. When you travel those
channels, you start to understand the bigger picture of things. So how can you work
with the people that you are around to understand what that looks like, rather than just
caring about what the individual deliverables are?”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
The best meal to get in the Bay Area and where to get it
“Gosh, I'm still in the process of learning [San Francisco]. You
know, I'm challenging myself to go find new food spots every
weekend in San Francisco because it's just known as a place for
having so much variety. I'd say the best restaurant to go to, in my
opinion, that I've experienced so far is a place called Foreign
Cinema. They play all these old movies and their menu, if I'm not
wrong, they change it every single day and it's a very, like,
uplifted, high-lifestyle kind of place. You probably go once a year,
if anything. So I've really enjoyed it. I went recently with some
college friends and it was so much fun. If you're just trying to
grab a bite, you go to the Mission District and you go to La
Taqueria. That's the known burrito place that everyone goes to.
I'll probably go there once every other week, and I'd say that's
true authentic Mexican burritos. I won't try to raise the hype on
it, but it's really good food.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
And also is Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (a well-
known NY barbecue joint) overrated,
underrated, or properly rated?
“I'm gonna struggle on [Dinosaur Bar-B-
Que]. So I went to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que a
couple of times when I was at Syracuse, and
every time I went, the food was good. I don't
think it's overrated. I think it gets a good
level of hype that I think it's properly rated
for what people say. Like you're not gonna
go there and feel disappointed. So I'll say it's
properly rated. People might disagree with
me and think it's still underrated, so I think
it's a place you go to.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
If Akshay has 5-10 minutes to kill, which app is he opening to pass
time?
“Twitter, I think that's an easy one for me. I'll scroll a little bit, make
sure I don't get too lost in it, find the content I need, save a couple
bookmarks if I need to, and then get back to it when I get back. But I
think it's Twitter for now.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
The sports team whose championship-winning graphic he most wants
to see
“I'm totally going to say the Celtics. I’m a die-hard [Boston] Celtics
fan. We have an upcoming playoff run and I'm expecting a
championship graphic from them. I'm more excited about the
championship video that they're going to put together, I'll put the
graphic aside. I'm excited to see the recap. What's the thing that they
do during March Madness at the end? I want [One Shining Moment]
for the Celtics when they end up winning the championship this
season. So we'll see how it goes. I don't want to jinx myself, but that's
the one I'm excited about.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
Akshay’s Social Media All-Star to Follow
“I gotta give a shout-out to my friend Connor Henkle (@cjh.fx on
Instagram) here. He’s been rising over the last year posting content in
a space that I think was really undervalued before. So he posted a lot
of motion graphic stuff, the things that he does to [for] in-game
experience stuff. He's a great follow. And him and I are very similar in
the sense that we like to understand design and creative at the micro
level. So if you like my stuff, you're going to love his stuff. He's a great
person and I love every time he posts.”
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
Where to find Akshay and Adobe on digital/social media
Akshay is @ByAkshayRam on all platforms and Adobe is @Adobe
across all platforms
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram
@njh287; www.dsmsports.net
Thanks again to Akshay for being so generous with his time to share
his knowledge, experience, and expertise with me!
For more content and episodes, subscribe to the podcast, follow me
on LinkedIn and on Twitter @njh287, and visit www.dsmsports.net.
Best Of The Digital and
Social Media Sports Podcast
Episode 271: Akshay Ram

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Akshay Ram on Adobe's Creative Strategy and Execution, the Present and Future of Creative in Sports, and Generative AI

  • 1. @njh287; www.dsmsports.net On episode 271 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Akshay Ram, Product Manager at Adobe. What follows is a collection of snippets from the podcast. To hear the full interview and more, check out the podcast on all podcast platforms and at www.dsmsports.net. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 2. Akshay’s Career Path “I always love telling this story because it goes all the way back to when I was 12 years old, and it started with this fever dream, just like every 12-year-old today, which was just to become a YouTuber, and that's what really invigorated all this. I used to watch Chris Smoove on YouTube and I'm like, ‘Hey, why can't I be the next Chris Smoove?’ And it all started with me trying to convince my parents to get the equipment to start recording myself and film YouTube videos. And for me, I was like, as a 12-year-old, what if I can make so much money as a YouTuber? It took some convincing with my parents to get them on board with all of this. I could go on and on about that whole part. Essentially, I never ended up recording a single YouTube video because the part of the process I fell in love with creating my own brand and trying to shape the YouTube channel over just creating the content for it. So that's when I started to discover some of the creative tools, and it also aligned with a lot of the things that my friends were doing on social media, because we were all just getting on the Instagrams and Twitters of the world, and so we all wanted to find ways to share content with each other. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 3. “Being sports fans, we wanted to find a way to translate our creative aspirations to what we were posting on social media, so we would just post wallpapers for fun and just go back and forth; and slowly, going through social media, I started to build a community of designers that we could communicate with on apps like Kik. We would build all these different channels of conversations and slowly through time, I was just posting stuff that I loved for fun and building relationships with different people on social media. Eventually, as I started to really understand what the sports space looked like and what creative content looked like…I take it back to the story of high school where my guidance counselor was like, Hey, I see you're doing all these things. Why don't you go reach out to a local college and see if you can get some experience there? Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 4. “Holy Cross was a neighboring college to me back in Massachusetts, and I wanted to reach out to them to see if I could work in athletics. And funny enough, the story gets crazier, where the same day I was about to reach out to them, the head designer there had posted on Twitter about looking for interns for the next summer, and so it lined up perfectly. Then I was able to reach out, but I don't think they were expecting a high schooler to reach out to them. So that was kind of my start, where I wanted to go work in athletics. And through that process, I did have an idea that I wanted to go to Syracuse University, and I knew that they were known for their communications program and graphic design, so I initially intended on going for that. And then long story short, they started opening up more programs for sports, and the opportunity to work in sports was something that really attracted me outside of just graphic design. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 5. “They had a sports analytics program, and I loved math, I loved analytics, I'm sure we both shared that common relationship of understanding the metrics that go into what we see and do all the time, and so I wanted to be a part of that program. I didn't get in for graphic design or the sports analytics program, so I ended up just taking a degree in engineering and computer science. So that was the school I was a part of, and I did information science. The really cool part about Syracuse in that program was that I was able to shape my curriculum the way I wanted to, so I was able to still minor in sport analytics and translate a lot of those classes to my program. It was really cool that I was able to just basically do that major without having to be in that [concentration], and it also gave me the freedom to then explore what working in, the Syracuse athletics program looked like for their football team. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 6. “You know, I love packing my schedule, so I was also able to work at Bleacher Report while working at Syracuse at the same time. So I was basically going to class in the morning working at Syracuse after class. And then at night, I'd work night shifts for Bleacher Report for their social pages. So I would say my college career was super fun in that sense, where I was able to really formulate it the way that I want to, but also get an opportunity to learn the skills that go outside of just creating content, understanding strategy, and a lot of those things translated to what my job is now as a product manager at Adobe. For me, verything feels full circle being at Adobe, [as] someone, who learned the tools and tried understanding how it translates into a creative career back when I was 12 to then be able to, ten years later, have an influence on what the future roadmap looks like, what product strategy and development looks like — that's essentially my role now. So I'm truly grateful that that whole journey led me to starting from the gate and helping the company build the the future of the tools.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 7. On the career vision Akshay had as he was up his skills and experience in high school and college “You might call me crazy for saying this, but I actually wanted to be a general manager of an NBA team. As crazy as it sounds before, like, the reason why I fell in love with the Sport Analytics program was because I thought that was going to get me one step closer. I always thought being in graphic design was going to get me into the doors of a sports team, but after I got into the doors of a sports team, my goal was to bring my interest of analytics and understanding the game in a different dimension to then translate that into a front office role. So the goal was always to work for a front office, to work in sports and do that because I never saw anyone that looked like myself, that came from my background work in that capacity, especially for the NBA. I feel so grateful to know that the Indian community, the Asian community is now a bigger part of those types of roles and there are people there that can influence that. But, you know, at that time, I felt like I wanted to be at the forefront of that. So that was the goal, to always be a GM of a sports team. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 8. “But everything up till then, I knew that it was smaller skills that would slowly build up to being able to actually be that GM role. I think for some time I definitely thought that I could be a creative director or be able to manage a creative team, but at the end of the day, for me, it was always trying to be a leader for something, whether that was a team, a product or, you know, a culmination of what that all looks like. So that was always a vision, I think the role specifically was GM.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 9. About his role with Adobe today “When I tell people I say that my role is essentially the GM of a product, right? Like, that's a lot of what my role is now is like thinking about it through the same lens of like, how do we bring people together? How do we bring our ideas together to shape a future of a system? So I feel like I'm still living that in some capacity, but just not in sports.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 10. About the creative and content infrastructure looked like at Syracuse during Akshay’s time working there “I think it all always differs between different college teams, like you said, and a big part of my attraction to Syracuse at that time was they had people that really cared about the details that go into creating content, the people that understood that, like the small, flashy typography that goes in video actually matters. You know, we need to essentially create content and transition that to delivering an experience, whether that's in-stadium or on social or digital. That's kind of what the overarching message was. And so when I was looking at Syracuse, that team was fairly small. I think they had a grad student at that time, mainly running it from the athletic side and doing all kinds of work, and the SIDs would help support by creating some of the smaller templates that would go onto social or digital. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 11. “The intention was to always sell tickets. I'm sure that's going to come up multiple times as we talk through what the role of all the creative functions come together, but I think that was always the main message — how do we use content as leverage to build an audience [and] to sell tickets? And at that time, the fact that creative wasn't prioritized as much was something I was super attracted to. At the same time, my background was also in recruiting, whether that was football recruiting or basketball recruiting. I had so many different ties in that capacity, and so I think a lot of my work was translated to the football side, where I could influence what it means to get the right players to shape a team. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 12. “Then the other side of that when I worked in athletics was, okay, now that we have the players on the team, how do we make sure we shine a good light on them so that we can actually translate that to fan engagement and selling tickets? That's how I always viewed it, that those were the different channels and how we were creating content. And in order to support that, you know, the one thing I take pride in going to Syracuse is a lot of it was intern-driven. There were a lot of students who really cared about sports, who cared about creating content that helped shape a lot of what we did. And we had people that really understood the creative side that empowered us to do that. “There wasn't a specific strategy that we followed all the time. I think we knew what the restrictions were, that coaches set, that different members of athletics set. But we also knew that our goal was to shine a light on the athletes and find ways to connect their stories with our fans so that the fans would essentially show up to the stadium.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 13. On how Syracuse looked at content and resources and expectations and with which schools they aligned in that sense “I think I'm gonna probably use this a lot throughout our conversation — it depends. And in this, in this case, it really depends on who you're going to. And part of the challenge of working in college athletics is while we do have one vision of going in selling tickets, people do have different agendas on how to get there. Maybe that is focusing on yourself, and I feel like a lot of people did prioritize Let's focus on the Syracuse brand and the Syracuse community and culture. While other people that probably are overseeing this at a higher level, they're comparing it to the rest of the ACC, how are those schools supporting their teams? They might not have the answer right away. The coaches might not be asking that directly, but that's where it all comes into play on, How are we delivering for what we need to get done? So I think the priority was definitely ourselves, on making sure we're the best version of ourselves because that shows up all the time. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 14. “The landscape of sports changes all the time, so you do kind of need to have an eye on what the direction the rest of the conference or the whole NCAA is going in. I think maybe there wasn't as much of a focus when I was there about the rest of the conference and the rest of the NCAA, but I think especially in today's world, that is something you need to prioritize. You need to know that you're moving in the same direction. And while you do focus on yourself, know that you're supporting it at the same capacity other schools are.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 15. On balancing marketing and promotional content in college sports alongside player-focused and specifically for athletes and recruits “I can start off by talking about how we prioritized it, especially working from the football side. And I'm really grateful to the people under Coach Babers’s staff at Syracuse really trusted me in kind of shaping that and brought the right people in to understand what that looks like. I think at that time, while recruiting has an overarching view of what it takes to actually bring a guy in, the content essentially should reach those folks first, right? Because they need to have a good understanding of what the program looks like in order for them to commit and actually show their commitment to the school, but also what they're going to do on the field once they get there. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 16. "So I think we definitely looked at everything from the recruiting lens first, which was, you know, do we have all the information on our social channels that is going to give him or her the right insights before they maybe make a trip for a visit. How do we get that there? Are there certain angles that we want to play that are aligned with pop culture? A lot of things that we did, especially Signing Day and some of the batch graphics that we created were all aligned around bigger moments; you know, album releases, all those kind of stuff. So we had the freedom to work around that. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 17. “I think Syracuse and the folks that we had there, we really pushed that as much as we could, and we were able to present our brand with some of these pop culture brands in the best light. So that was something that we took pride in for sure. But like I said, it depends on how it translates to other departments too, right, and so when you're looking at ticket sales and, and fan engagement, it's really hard when you only have 1 or 2 graphic designers to support all those. So then it comes down to who's making the call for priorities. And in the college space, I don't think that specific person is established as much, so it makes it a little more challenging, and I think that's part of what that transition looks like. So that's what I experienced. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 18. “And of course, after I left college athletics NIL was more prominent, so the recruiting stuff has just taken another level in regards to what is expected, not required — expected of creative teams to put on social media. That's the first thing that our recruits going to go to. They get the offer from the coach, they're going to look up a team's social channels to see what they're posting about. If they don't have enough information, if coaches are gatekeeping information and preventing creatives from actually producing content that's relevant for a recruit to make a decision or not — like that, school's going to fall behind. Let's just be honest here. So that's where creatives’ role in producing content with the access and the transparency is valuable in today's age where it might have been…when I look back on what I went through, maybe that wasn't prioritized as much, but that has to be at the forefront of what schools are looking at now.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 19. On the tangible and intangible value produced from creative assets “We're living in a transformative time. I talk to teams all the time as part of my job. [It’s] not required, but I love listening to the perspective of college to the pros to agencies — that helps me formulate what our point of view is when we're building a lot of the tools that we do at Adobe. But, you know, I also try to listen in to understand what are those shifts that people are making. And a lot of the things that I've been listening to recently is content being created outside of just creative departments in athletics. There are a lot of people that are actually setting up these creative ecosystems, maybe on campus or outside of a campus environment, where they still want to help athletes create content for themselves. In the NIL era, you can't only depend on the creative team at a university to create content for them, it's just not there. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 20. “In turn, what I'm hearing from people is athletes actually gravitated to the fact that when they go to a school they have opportunities to create content that might not be only dependent on the athletics department, there are other ways of creating content. And I've heard of instances where high-profile recruits are committing to schools because the community gives them an opportunity to create content in a different capacity. Those were things that I dreamed of when I was in college. I used to tell people, like, this is a reason why a recruit’s going to commit to a school, because not only do they see the opportunity to play on the field or on the court, but they're going to see their other creative endeavors unlocked because of the people that are on a campus or are in a community. I was told I was crazy years ago, but just like everything else that happens in our world, like that is something that's prominent today and there are recruits who are making decisions because they see creative opportunities and content opportunities, and so they have to look at it multidimensionally. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 21. “I've been using this word ‘multidimensionally’ in multiple facets. But this is one of those instances where a recruit might prioritize being able to play on the field, but they also realize that they have a life outside of just playing that they also need to think about and consider when it comes to being a student-athlete.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 22. On creative teams producing everything vs. empowering non-creatives with more self-serve templates “Templates are this really bigger thing that people are looking at, regardless if that's creative or outside of creative. And from my lens and how I see [things[, you know, many industries transforming…creative and content is playing a bigger role in how people communicate with each other. And in order to do that, when we build our tools, and I say we, like when I'm as a PM (Product Manager) thinking about building tools at Adobe, we have to make sure that we can support a large amount of people, and that means that we need to build to their expectations and their expectation is being able to use a tool that they can get their jobs done with. That might mean having a tool that allows you to create a template that you can reuse then get your outputs. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 23. "Outside of sports, you're starting to see this trend where a lot of companies want their creative teams to be the people that enhance the creative vision and can then output templates for other people to use. Because at the end of the day, you're only gatekeeping for yourself as a creative team by expecting that you create all the content, right? It's not scalable. The challenge is you're making your jobs harder for yourself. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 24. “That's something I preach all the time. Like, are you are you working efficiently by doing what you're doing? Can you provide some of that trust to someone else by setting yourself up for success and them up for success? There are many tools that are going in that direction right now where, as a creative, you can't just think about being the most creative person and putting in all these flashy effects. What do you need in order to communicate the message that you're trying to send out? And maybe that just requires a simple template and you as a creative setting that up for someone else to go in and just change the parameters that you establish. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 25. “What I'm seeing is a lot more restrictions. When I say restrictions, it's from a creative standpoint, limiting what someone might mess up. I think that was the biggest concern and what led to a lot of people not going in that direction of creating templates. They're like, Oh, someone's going to mess this up, so I don't want to set it up that way. And our jobs, as PMs, we want to make sure that we build creative confidence by providing you with a set of tools that allows you to still be confident when you pass a template to someone else. So I think that's going to be even more prominent. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 26. “I think the sports industry is still getting to that stage. I think because it's a few steps behind from a creative standpoint, from the general content, creative space, I think that's something that people need to learn, which is how do I establish my role to be helping others rather than just creating cool stuff? And I think that's what's going to shape the amount [of content] we talked about. You know, quantity is a big part of what content looks like today. Like, how many times are you showing up for someone to absorb the things that you're making, and that just might require not prioritizing 1 to 2 hours of manual work for a single graphic,;that means 1 to 2 hours making tons of graphics that are going to show up on all these different channels that someone can then get value out of.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 27. About real-time creative execution during events like National Signing Day or the NFL/NBA/WNBA Drafts “Real-time execution is really interesting. I experienced it in two different capacities, at Syracuse and at Bleacher Report. It's funny, the team that I worked for at Bleacher Report was the real time design team, that's what we called ourselves, and mainly because we were reacting to news that would happen and were making social posts. And we were doing it in a very manual capacity when I was there at Bleacher Report. And I think through the time, like, they're a really good example of a team that's prioritized whether they want to move in a direction where they're doing that same manual task, or if they want to be a little more efficient. Is there a level of automation that plays a role in getting stuff done? Can you establish those parameters early so that when it comes time to react that you have everything ready to to make something Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 28. “So you bring up good examples when it comes to the NBA Draft. One example I think about is March Madness. You have your whole bracket, 64 logos, and essentially at some point you have to make a graphic that shows all the logos and how it all transpires into one winner, but a Final Four and a final championship matchup. Imagine how many squares you have to fill in with those logos is that the most efficient way to find the logo and drop it in — how do you set yourself up for success? And I think that's that's a good example of trying to think about where automation plays a role. Are there tools out there that facilitate, you know, when we think about logos, that's one part of a larger brand, and so are you building the right brand management solution? Are you using the right brand management solution, as well? Like, there's a building aspect and then there are the tools that help facilitate it. So I think there's a lot of different things that you need to consider, and if you want to execute well from a real time basis, that means being prepared for it and establishing the time that's necessary to get you there. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 29. “There's a lot of preparation that goes into some of these things, and especially with the NFL Draft coming into play soon, what I'm telling teams, because a lot of teams are reaching out to me and they're like, Hey, how do I set myself up for success? I'm like, It really depends on what capacity you're working at. If you're a college team, why don't you set your templates up to be all 32 teams? That might sound crazy to start off with, but think about what you're actually changing. You might be changing a logo, you might be changing a color, you might be changing some text. These are three smaller parameters. If you found the right balance of how those three parameters show up, you can easily automate 32 different versions of it. And when it comes time to actually post one, you post that one rather than waiting for your player to get picked, then creating the graphic and then posting. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 30. There's a difference in how preparation can lead you to posting in real time, spending more time packaging your content, right? I think we talk about creating content, but the other part of it is packaging, and I feel like teams don't prioritize packaging enough. Because that's what's actually going to help you get the metrics that you're reaching for. So how do you actually execute and efficiently use the time to get you there? And I think a lot of teams prioritize building in real time rather than preparing and then focusing on the other smaller details that will actually help you be successful.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 31. On creating all the platform-specific variations of a given foundational piece of content “We're kind of talking about scale here, right? Where, you know, in the past people were thinking about single deliverables. But single deliverables might be hundreds of deliverables in today's age because that same thing needs to show up in different capacities. I'll put myself in this perspective — I don't really tell people what the best way of doing that is. I think you have to start with the foundation. What are the platforms you're prioritizing first? So 4x5, for example, is very common across many different social platforms. So I might prioritize that as my first deliverable because I need to have that show up in the best capacity. And then I might prioritize a web banner or a horizontal image, so then I look at that and see how that translates in the same capacity to a horizontal image, and then Stories. So I think you have to think through priorities, like what are people going to see first and does that convey the message that you need? And if it does, then why don't you understand the tools that are going to help you create the other iterations of it. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 32. “You brought up Adobe Express before. That's a good example of starting with a single template, and then being able to resize it to show multiple different pages of content, and it's going to reshape your template that you originally created from that single page into the other dimensions that you need to deliver for. And that's where content's going these days, where you shouldn't have to put manual labor into creating the other iterations. That's just a waste of your time, right? Because you've already prioritized your main deliverable. The other ones might not get as much reach or engagement, so why prioritize extra manual labor into making those look perfect, right? It has to stay on brand. Brand is crucial in all of this, but why do you have to execute more manual labor to get that there? That should be on the tools. And those are definitely top of mind things when you think about what building products look like, those are things that we're looking at as well.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 33. “I think every brand has their own brand guidelines and rules that they follow and, in the context of what they do, those are just kind of strings of text that they're including in their brand PDF they might give; you know, eventually we'll probably see this in a more technical format where it's already embedded into the things that they're doing. But once you have those rules, the product should be able to do it for you, right? Maybe that doesn't exist today, but I think that's where there's an opportunity, when we think about AI, for example, how is that helping us facilitate the things that we need? Automation is a good example of one thing you can do today in different capacities to get your job done. But, you know, everyone in sports hates the word AI because they don't understand what it actually helps you with. But think about what AI is actually supposed to facilitate, right? Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 34. A lot of what you do is the same pattern that you repeat every single day, and when it comes to creating content, your brand might just be a set of patterns that you follow in order for something to happen. So, like you said, maybe let's not crowd the top right corner of a graphic. That's a pattern that you've established as a rule. So imagine if that was one rule that you've already established so that when you create all this content, it's following that and it's doing it for you. That's that's the power of AI and how we can understand and do some pattern matching to help you facilitate your jobs much more easily.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 35. On generative AI and where it’s headed for the creative industry and the Adobe suite “I think a lot of people look at the generative AI stuff that you see on social media and they're like, Oh, you just type into this prompt and something happens, and then that's where the fear builds up, where it's, Oh, if anyone can type this, they're going to replace my job. If anything, I actually think that's a good call for you to understand if you're putting your resources and your individual time to your content the right way. If you're fearful about something, there might be a shift that you can take to make your creations even more creative. I think that's one call to it. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 36. “I always say this, even as someone before I worked at Adobe, like, there were a lot of AI-specific tools that were already embedded in the program, right? For example, being able to remove someone from an image that always existed, there is a tool called Content Aware, and all this stuff always existed, and what it's doing is just recognizing what else is in an image. And then there are neural filters that Photoshop had, they never specifically called it out as AI, I think it's just more of the buzzword that's going on in today's age, and that's what's building a lot of the fear. That said, I think the same thing I just mentioned a few minutes ago where how do you best utilize AI think about the things that are repetitive in your day. If you didn't have to do it yourself, is there a pattern that you're following? Because essentially artificial intelligence is recognizing patterns and executing on it, so you don't have to repeat the same steps in that same way. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 37. “So when you're typing in a prompt, every keyword that you're adding, it's going through a filter— I'm obviously oversimplifying here, but it's understanding what the value of each of those words are in the context of the whole message that you're sending. So how do you take advantage of that and understand that you can still get creative outputs by thinking about it from a pattern standpoint rather than the technology? I think people get too lost in the the technological advancements that AI has done, but they've forgotten what the true value and meaning of AI is, which is simplifying a long string of text, breaking it down, right? Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 38. “Think of a Grammarly, for example, like, Hey, is that is that too long to present to someone? Can you simplify that down to one line and they're using AI to simplify it down. If you think about it at the same way, they're looking at patterns — how does that pattern matching translate to creative endeavors? I think we look at it from a content standpoint, but I challenge people that work in like the social space, can you prep a full season's worth of of captions? We were talking about packaging before and how valuable your your tweet is to the content you're posting it with, what if you had a full roster of football players, could you use ChatGPT, for example, to brainstorm all these cool caption ideas for every player? Build a database of it so that when the time comes, you're prepared to then go and put it out there. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 39. “For my social media, I've used ChatGPT to analyze the content that does really well for me and then say, Hey, what's the general topic that this is around? Like, what are the words people like? You might in the past might have required a certain tool to help facilitate that, but ChatGPT text prompting can do the same thing for you, and it's kind of open for you to explore that through your own means. So I think there's so much that's involved in this that's outside of just trying to learn AI or learn specific tools. It starts with the question what are the things that I'm doing that are repetitive that I can simplify? And it's just getting to this point where it's looking through it from the lens of being efficient.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 40. More discussion of generative AI “There's a couple things you brought up right there that I've always thought about, which is one, for the longest time, people felt like they were expected to go do all this research on how to use a tool in order to get started. Times have changed. That shouldn't be the expectation for anyone, right? I was scrolling through Twitter yesterday and there was this tweet where someone was like, When did you start your creative journey? And I started in 2012, and it took me a few years to get to the point where I really understood it. And now I'm seeing people that started in 2019, 2020, 2021 — those are just a few years ago, and they're executing at the same level. The education is there now, right? So understanding what you need to do to get there is out there. So that's the Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 41. “I think the fact that people say they need to learn tools is a very overrated statement. In today's world, that shouldn't be the function of any product in any world, right? Like as product companies, you should be able to deliver an experience that's super easy to onboard to and start using. That's the expectation. It shouldn't be ‘learn every single thing that's out there in order to be successful.’ I think you're really hurting your users by doing that. So that's the first part of it. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 42. “But I think the other thing that you also brought up is how do you learn about the other aspects of your job and simplify that? So you brought up, like, Hey, I already know I'm going to set the parameters to this designer layer in my design to this certain number. And so how does that learn what I'm doing? I think at the same time we're looking at — I mentioned creative consistency before, and a lot of that aligns with building a brand, utilizing a brand in the content that you're making because creative tools are meant for many people's jobs today, so how do we facilitate that from the brand standpoint? How do we make that easier so that when someone sees a brand, they can utilize it the right way, absorb the tool, absorb the contents of it, and just start creating? So I think that's where I see a lot of opportunity in facilitating that to make it easier. And, you know, through time, we're obviously going to see a lot of what you just mentioned. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 43. “I think one good example of that is looking at what Premier and some of the video tools that were announced earlier this week about being able to bring in generative AI to simplify some of that. I think those are things people never expected, but it's a good example of using it when you need it the most and it understanding what you needed. You probably had to green screen certain aspects, bring it into the composition in order to make it happen — how do you make that easier and let the technology do its thing so that your job is much easier?” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 44. Discussing how one can go about learning and growing within the Adobe creative suite “I think I can speak on that from a broader perspective. I think a lot of what you mentioned was, where is the creative industry kind of leaning into, right? In the past, it seemed like you needed to know everything in order to get hired for a job, and what I'm seeing now is there's a balance now. Just like what we were talking about before, where the specialized people are going to be able to do their specialized things. Like, I might be a photo manipulator and I can do what I need to to get done. And then we're also seeing tools like we were talking about [with] templating before. If I'm just a general marketer, I should also be able to create content, that shouldn't stop me, and just being able to utilize the basic tools that I have, I can also create content. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 45. “So I think what we're seeing is more people getting access to content, having the tools at their disposal as part of their teams, or if they work at larger companies they have those subscriptions and they're able to facilitate what they need from the tools that they have. And that also gives you room as someone that might specialize as a motion designer, as a designer or a video producer to do just your job; because for so long our time was taken away by doing the monotonous stuff, right? We don't need to spend two hours of our day doing something that someone else could execute. So how do I spend the six hours I already had to do my job and then the two hours of extra time I now get to be a little more specialized in what I do to elevate the content that I'm already working on to make it more premium in a sense. When you're creating content people always want to put the best quality out, so how does it feel more premium? I think that's what we're seeing now where it's a little more of a distinguished line of what people can do, how they can do it, and also have the opportunity, if you're already in a specialized role, to elevate that.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 46. On balancing perfection and endless edits with efficiency and data-based success “I think there's a lot that goes into this. I know we both love the numbers and metrics and stuff like that that plays a role in the decisions that go into creating content. Like, in the past, people didn't prioritize creating content and now that's become more of a priority for people. And because of that, the need to create content and how you create content has also changed. So being able to have the things that help you dictate that; like you said, there probably isn't a barrier of like, Hey, this is all you can create for us, or we need more than this. I think through time we're going to see an increasing need of quantity, right? And at the same time, when you can deliver at the quantity, how do you make sure you're not reducing from a quality standpoint? So I think that's where we're going to see that shift where as the expectation to deliver more content increases, the tools should be able to help you also produce at a a baseline quality. Like, your bar shouldn't drop because of time. How are tools going to help you keep that bar and only produce higher than that bar? Because we know that the expectation for content's not going to decrease, right? Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 47. “When we look at it from the analytics and metrics standpoint, you know, a lot of people talk about engagement. I think one thing I look at is reach, and reach can't just be measured by a single tweet or a single campaign, because we've seen instances where people reshare content. How do you actually attribute some of the metrics that go into that when it's not your own [channels]? You know, like for example, on Twitter, I can post a video that someone else created and add my own commentary to it. That's something I do a lot on Twitter, where I'll take content and say, Here's my perspective on it. But the original brand can't really track that unless it's attributed at the content level…At that point, you're looking at reach versus single content engagement, and I think a lot of times teams don't think about that perspective. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 48. "They're like, Oh, I need quote tweets, I need retweets and reposts and all that kind of stuff. They don't think about How do you make good content that people just want to absorb and send to other people? And I think that's where reach comes into play and also plays a role in how you're thinking about creating at scale. Because all it takes is one platform to really enhance the success of your campaign that you're working on, the content that you're creating. So that's what I would say plays a role in a lot of this is the demand for content is only going to increase, so how do we make sure that the quality doesn't decrease and when we’re met with the expectations of meeting these certain metrics and trying to actually translate that into success, how do we make sure the tools are also helping you facilitate that?” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 49. On quantitative metrics driving the increasing demand for content “You bring up KPIs and it's one of those things where when you think about it from the college sports space, like how many people are actually thinking about KPIs, even, from the creative side? Like sometimes that just doesn't translate. And I think [for] a lot of people that might seem like a higher-up thing, it doesn't seem to roll down at the creative level. And that sets these wrong expectations, of like, what delivering creative content means.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 50. “I was just about to say, to rephrase what you said is, How does a creator define success? Because at the social level and the marketing level, you have these metrics that kind of translate that. And I think what's missing and what's a challenge of the college athletics space is they give everyone this title of director — I've ranted about this on Twitter before. They just give anyone this title of creative director and then they expect them to also create content. So what they're not doing is actually analyzing what's going into producing the content and how that translates. We talked at the beginning of this about how most schools just want to sell tickets to games or turn viewership up and don't understand what market size looks like and if the market size is translating to the expected viewership, all these kind of things. So creatives don't actually have a KPI that's embedded with what they do, and they also don't get the information from the higher-ups. How we solve it is a great question. And frankly, I just feel like creative directors, if you have that title or if you have creative strategy [in your title], you need to have a level of understanding of what the quantitative and qualitative feedback looks like. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 51. “So if that is, you know, setting KPIs — in the recruiting space, like we're getting this number of recruits by delivering this package of content to the recruit. Obviously, you can't dictate whether the recruit commits or not, that's always been the thing. You can't dictate if tickets are going to be sold or not. That's not your job as well. But how close are you meeting the demands of what other departments are asking of me? And that's where [when] we talk about creatives, and I've been someone that's been lost in the space where creative should be siloed out to do their things, to be creative, but many times you need to have that chain of influence where someone can tell you, Hey, it's not just about reaching 6 million impressions or engagement, but it's: in order for us to get there, we need to deliver in this capacity. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 52. And that middle ground between the two, I think, should be facilitated at the creative director role, where they know how to filter the numbers from the creative, allow the creative to do the work, and then they kind of dictate what's our direction to get there. That's where a lot of these titles aren't actually aligning to fruition with what they say. I think they should be that filter between the people that are actually doing the core functions and the people that are asking for it. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 53. “So that's how you get closer to meeting those demands. I've been in environments where that hasn't been there, and that's where I'd love to see the community move in that direction, where they are understanding the KPIs, they're establishing KPIs and there is someone that is heading that creative department who’s translating that to something that makes sense from a creative standpoint; which is, you know, let's spend this much time to execute on this. If we were given one week to get this done, what's the best piece of content we can create? How do we take that and package it in a way where it's not just one deliverable, it's maybe one video, ten stories that can go across these platforms, right? That's where the social media team plays a role; I think the creative director has to be that filter that can communicate with the social media manager and marketing to make that happen. In college, we see that role just being put on the creative director, and they don't know how to move forward from there.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 54. About his role as a Product Manager at Adobe “I think this is the first time someone's explained my role better than I probably could, to be honest with you. If you go on social media, I think nine out of ten people think that my job is to create content, and they fail to realize, like, that's just my hobby, the thing I love doing outside of work. But you nailed it. There are many different expectations of what a product should do, how it should get there, and a lot of the times it comes with different expectations for what it needs. Does it need to be more performant? Does it need more features? We talk about more, but maybe it's less sometimes, right? Like, maybe it doesn't need that many features, how do we reduce that? How do we simplify it down so that every feature is used because it has value in the bigger picture of what's going on? Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 55. “So I think that goes into how we think about user feedback. Someone might complain and say, Hey, you know, things are not working. My computer's not working and things are not syncing, you know, a lot of different things. So from our side, we have to think about are we reaching a baseline of performance that we expect the user to be able to engage with? Are there things that users can do to mitigate some of that, which is restarting their computer? All these kind of things; like, these are the common complaints. At the same time, when you look at some of the feature sets that companies are delivering, it's also with intention, right? They don't want to just put something out for the sake of putting something out. There are consequences of putting out new features, which is understanding what the role of the old feature is when you're moving forward. Do I need this? Can I take this away? How many people are going to be impacted by us removing a feature? And I think that the user doesn't understand that., so it's our role to to make sure that we're addressing all of these. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 56. “That's why I love my job, because it's not just a single dimension, it's multi- dimensional where we have to talk to people internally, we have to talk to people outside…I talk about the product I work on in the sports space a lot, but I need to understand the generic ask of that and translate it to maybe health care, right? What do people in health care need in order to manage their brand? So I think it's extracting the information that is going to help contribute to the bigger picture, which is more generic. So that's the way I kind of treat it. But that's my long winded way of saying product management is very unique. It's not creating content, but it is looking at it from multiple different lenses and knowing that you can still support a customer, support a business, support an enterprise at their capacities, and understand what that chain of scale looks like and making sure we're not breaking anything that they care about and they value while also receiving their feedback.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 57. The most viral post or content from Akshay’s time at Bleacher Report “I actually think it's before I worked there full time, it was during my internship. I was there the summer of free agency 2019. So that was when Kawhi [Leonard] went to the Clippers and LeBron went to the Lakers, or maybe it was the season before that. But essentially there was this three-day window where I made all these jersey swaps, and each of them got at least close to 2 million likes each. And they all actually happened while I was asleep. So Kawhi signed with the Clippers when I was asleep, and that was actually one of those moments where I had freelanced with them and prepared that jersey swap six months in advance. They ended up posting it, and I woke up to my phone. I actually had to wake up early because I got a call that I had to make other jersey swaps to prep the whole storyline behind it. All those happened during my internship when I was sitting in a dorm room in New York City. And needless to say, that was like the first time I was excited to get up early and make some content because the NBA news world was just blowing up.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 58. The most memorable football game and the most memorable men's basketball game from Akshay’s time at Syracuse “Football, there are so many games. I think my freshman year was when we won ten games. I was new to the fact that, like, I didn't realize that Syracuse had gone through a drought where they didn't really win that many games. So the ten-win season, I think back on it now, I didn't really understand what that meant until the following years where we weren't winning as much either. So the ten-win season holistically was great. The Camping World Bowl was probably my favorite game. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 59. “Basketball was when — I think this was my sophomore or junior year when we played Georgetown and Tyus Battle had a game-winning shot. There was this echo that happened across the dome and our video producer at the time, Mike Lang, put together this extended cut where you could feel throughout that video what that felt like in the dome and the whole story behind it. So I think the content really elevated what actually happened in person, and that was a great example of a memorable experience that I can go back and look on, because we made this extended cut now.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 60. The pro or college sports team whose creative most impresses Akshay overall or particularly recently and why “I'm not going to do one team, I'm actually going to do a whole state. And, you know, we were talking about it in our intro about where I'm from, but I'm from Massachusetts. I'm from Boston. And, for some reason, when I grew up, I never liked the creative teams for the Boston pro sports [teams]. I think they were a little behind in some aspects. But what every team is delivering today is just incredible. The Boston Celtics are doing incredible work. The Boston Bruins have a great team that really understands what it means to deliver at the NHL capacity. Boston College is doing great work. And the Boston Red Sox, of course, have had a really great brand. So all of those teams, you know, I take pride being from Boston now, and I hate talking about those teams all the time, but they've given me a reason to talk about them all the time on social. So all those teams, I love the people that work on those teams. I engage with them all the time, and they're producing the content that makes me want to talk about them more.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 61. The more subtle or lesser known Adobe product feature across any of the products that all users should know about and why “You know what? I'm going to use this opportunity to shout out my own product that I work on, Adobe Creative Cloud Libraries. You know, we talk about brand management, asset management — that’s the tool that got me my job and I feel really privileged to be able to work on the tool that helped me become better as a creative. So I'm giving my own product a shout-out. But at the same time, I do want to say Adobe Bridge is a tool that not enough people use. And when we talk about automation and all the things that it can actually facilitate, it's one of my favorite tools. I frankly like it better than Photoshop, and I might sound crazy for it, but when you have a file browser that can actually do the things that you need to and do it in bulk, you know, it's really hard to not appreciate it. So I don't think enough people use it, and I've been getting a lot of our own interns from Syracuse on to using it more recently and they haven't said enough great things about it.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 62. The last TV show that Akshay binged and loved, and also the last concert that he went to “TV show - some people might call me crazy, I watch All-American on CW, and I continue to watch it live, so I didn't necessarily binge it. I would say it's a show I enjoy watching. The concert standpoint is interesting. The last two concerts I had gone to, because I don't go to concerts too much, were actually hosted by Adobe. We had Twenty One Pilots at Adobe Max last year, that was a great one. And then, I don't know if we shared this, I think it's out there, for our 40th anniversary at Adobe, we had Katy Perry do a private concert for us at the Chase Center here. I originally thought that day when we had that celebration, I was like, Oh, it's probably going to be a local band from Oakland and we ended up bringing Katy Perry, and she did like literally a whole catalog that was probably longer than a regular concert, and me and my coworkers ended up being front stage for that before. W didn't even know it was going to be Katy Perry., w just ended up being front stage. And as someone that loves the 2000s era of music and that's the kind of music I grew up on. I was like, Oh, okay, that's kind of cool, but, it was just an interesting experience. I'm not a big concert guy, though.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 63. The most important lesson or takeaway from Akshay’s time working for Bleacher Report “Creative can translate to making revenue. And I think the youth in me didn't see that. I think they're one of the first platforms that really recognized and were able to shape that up. A lot of the things I did in the beginning, like jersey swaps, started as static graphics and they found opportunities to partner with different companies to elevate that, to actually use that as a way to generate revenue. Initially, when you don't see the same millions of likes and the numbers translate, you're like, Oh, what's going on? But then you realize the content you're making is shaping the way the company can move forward by bringing in that value. And at first I was like, Oh, this doesn't make sense, and now I look at it, I'm like, that's so crazy that they were able to elevate that at that moment and do it. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 64. If Akshay were to ask a creative today, how do you evaluate success, how would they answer? “I think it's tough. It's one of those things that we don't think about all the time. We understand success as delivering something, so if we finish the deliverable, we obtain that as a reason to mean success. I challenge every creative to think beyond that. How does that translate? There are things that you can't permanently control, but how does it play a role in the bigger picture? We talked about it, like you mentioned, in the interview, but how do you travel through those channels to see what that actually means in the larger picture? And I think at Syracuse, there's a lot of instances where some of the creative endeavors I was in — we did a docu-series that highlighted the off- season after our ten-win season at Syracuse, and we realized that that helped regain and also increase our season tickets by a significant amount. When you travel those channels, you start to understand the bigger picture of things. So how can you work with the people that you are around to understand what that looks like, rather than just caring about what the individual deliverables are?” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 65. The best meal to get in the Bay Area and where to get it “Gosh, I'm still in the process of learning [San Francisco]. You know, I'm challenging myself to go find new food spots every weekend in San Francisco because it's just known as a place for having so much variety. I'd say the best restaurant to go to, in my opinion, that I've experienced so far is a place called Foreign Cinema. They play all these old movies and their menu, if I'm not wrong, they change it every single day and it's a very, like, uplifted, high-lifestyle kind of place. You probably go once a year, if anything. So I've really enjoyed it. I went recently with some college friends and it was so much fun. If you're just trying to grab a bite, you go to the Mission District and you go to La Taqueria. That's the known burrito place that everyone goes to. I'll probably go there once every other week, and I'd say that's true authentic Mexican burritos. I won't try to raise the hype on it, but it's really good food. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 66. And also is Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (a well- known NY barbecue joint) overrated, underrated, or properly rated? “I'm gonna struggle on [Dinosaur Bar-B- Que]. So I went to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que a couple of times when I was at Syracuse, and every time I went, the food was good. I don't think it's overrated. I think it gets a good level of hype that I think it's properly rated for what people say. Like you're not gonna go there and feel disappointed. So I'll say it's properly rated. People might disagree with me and think it's still underrated, so I think it's a place you go to.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 67. If Akshay has 5-10 minutes to kill, which app is he opening to pass time? “Twitter, I think that's an easy one for me. I'll scroll a little bit, make sure I don't get too lost in it, find the content I need, save a couple bookmarks if I need to, and then get back to it when I get back. But I think it's Twitter for now.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 68. The sports team whose championship-winning graphic he most wants to see “I'm totally going to say the Celtics. I’m a die-hard [Boston] Celtics fan. We have an upcoming playoff run and I'm expecting a championship graphic from them. I'm more excited about the championship video that they're going to put together, I'll put the graphic aside. I'm excited to see the recap. What's the thing that they do during March Madness at the end? I want [One Shining Moment] for the Celtics when they end up winning the championship this season. So we'll see how it goes. I don't want to jinx myself, but that's the one I'm excited about.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 69. Akshay’s Social Media All-Star to Follow “I gotta give a shout-out to my friend Connor Henkle (@cjh.fx on Instagram) here. He’s been rising over the last year posting content in a space that I think was really undervalued before. So he posted a lot of motion graphic stuff, the things that he does to [for] in-game experience stuff. He's a great follow. And him and I are very similar in the sense that we like to understand design and creative at the micro level. So if you like my stuff, you're going to love his stuff. He's a great person and I love every time he posts.” Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 70. Where to find Akshay and Adobe on digital/social media Akshay is @ByAkshayRam on all platforms and Adobe is @Adobe across all platforms Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram
  • 71. @njh287; www.dsmsports.net Thanks again to Akshay for being so generous with his time to share his knowledge, experience, and expertise with me! For more content and episodes, subscribe to the podcast, follow me on LinkedIn and on Twitter @njh287, and visit www.dsmsports.net. Best Of The Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast Episode 271: Akshay Ram