Media: SunSport online focuses on football

The Sun's online sports section is warming up for intense coverage of the world's biggest football competition, the FIFA World Cup, which kicks off next week.

SunSport Online already counts football as its most popular sport, but with a whopping 21 million unique users a month and the inevitable rise in public interest in the beautiful game, the section should be one of the most popular targets for World Cup-related stories.

While sports such as motorsport, cricket and boxing are covered, it is football that dominates the site's news, video and message boards. 'For The Sun, football is king,' says SunSport online executive sports editor Jim Munro. The journalists, he says, are only interested in football or a major news story from other sports, such as England's cricket team winning The Ashes.

'There isn't a day that goes by without me being offered something to do with sports we simply don't cover,' says Munro. 'It's pointless offering us Britain's lacrosse captain or a rowing exclusive. As much as we sympathise with lesser sports trying to promote their cause, it's not for our audience.'

He and his team have been working on its World Cup coverage for several months and it is games and players that will be central to its agenda.

'You won't be reading vast critiques of the beautiful South African settings in SunSport Online,' says Munro. 'You will get a snappy guide to each venue with a video to match. But that's it. The rest has to be about the games, the players, the managers, the big talking points and controversies and, of course, let's not forget the WAGs.'

The changing media landscape has made the website just as important as its paper counterpart for PROs trying to place a sports-related story.

Mercieca PR, which handles the PR for Puma and its athletes, regularly works with the SunSports online team. PR director Gemma Oakes says: 'As the site has grown over the past year, so too has the opinion of our clients. They now view coverage on SunSport online as valuable as that of coverage within the paper.'

PR professionals should not make the mistake, however, of thinking the same team works online and for the paper, or that coverage in one guarantees coverage in both.

'Anyone who approaches SunSport online purely as a means to get into the paper doesn't really understand its value, influence or reach,' says Frank PR associate director David Fraser. 'The key is to provide them with a range of content, as well as words. They are always on the lookout for great pictures and video.'

To win coverage on the site, the message is clear: think multimedia, think online and think (generally) football. Approaches about anything else could be a massive own goal.

Quick facts

Monthly unique users 21.18 million

Frequency updated Stories, videos and other content is uploaded throughout the day

Deadlines to contact newsdesk Mid to late mornings during the week

Contact or sunsport

A MINUTE WITH ... Jim Munro, executive sports editor, SunSport online

- Is the online readership the same as in the newspaper?

No. There are loyal readers who will use the website to receive their breaking news. But, in general, SunSport Online attracts an audience that is younger than the paper's regular followers and comes from a more upmarket social group. On sport, the readership is highly male-dominated.

- How does SunSport Online's content differ from the paper?

Put simply, we can do everything that print can't do. If a story moves on, we can update it during the day. We can add additional features, comment, pictures and video.

- What is the best advice for PR professionals who want to get their stories online?

Know the beast you are dealing with. It amazes me how many PROs will phone me directly with a proposal, but they have quite clearly never looked at the The Sun Online.

- Any PR pet peeves?

Some PROs phone two minutes after they've sent their email. Why? If you push an editor for an answer on something before he or she has had a chance to consider it properly, that answer is likely to be no. It's also extremely annoying to receive invitations to an event being staged later the same day, when that event has obviously been weeks in the planning. No publication likes to feel it's being dealt with as an afterthought.

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