There have been plenty of changes to Twitter since Elon Musk’s takeover (announced last April, completed last October), with many of them bemoaned by much of the sports world. Recent changes to verification in particular have caused a lot of problems for those trying to use the platform for news, while decisions to part ways with many key staffers have led to everything from no communications department (media requests are now auto-answered with poop emojis) to repeated platform errors and instabilities to increases in harassment to restrictions on links to external platforms like Substack.
But there’s a notable latest departure. And it may spell a change for Twitter’s relationships with sports teams and leagues, long a strength of the platform. As John Ourand reported at Sports Business Journal Thursday, head of global content partnerships TJ Adeshola (who previously oversaw U.S. sports partnerships before his promotion to his current role) is leaving after 10 years:
Twitter's top sports exec, @TJay, steps down.
SBJ's story: https://t.co/Eh99yom3Rn
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) April 13, 2023
Here’s more on that from Ourand’s piece:
Adeshola spent ten years at Twitter and is the main reason why the social media company has maintained such good relationships with sports leagues. A year ago, Twitter promoted Adeshola from heading up U.S. sports partnerships to running global content partnerships. While leading its sports outreach, Twitter cut a deal to stream NFL Thursday Night Football games in 2016. One of Adeshola’s main accomplishments was promoting diversity at Twitter, from pushing women’s sports to promoting minority-run companies.
Adeshola, a member of SBJ’s 2020 Forty Under 40 class, plans to stay in the media business. Over the next several months, he will focus on several of what he calls “passion projects,” including working as a strategic advisor for the Black Sports Business Symposium and the Stagwell Sports Initiative at Cannes Lions.
Over Adeshola’s run at Twitter, the platform had many notable partnerships with sports leagues, teams, broadcasters, and other media outlets. Some of those included in-game highlights with the NFL dating back to the early 2010s, then Thursday Night Football live-streaming in 2016, and further live game streaming including college football, MLB, NHL, and NBA games, boxing matches, MLS matches, NASCAR in-car streaming, esports, high school games, and more.
And there were many Twitter deals involving sports beyond live-streaming full games. Those included specific score and highlight bots for the NBA, FIFA World Cup highlights partnerships, various live shows with media partners, MMA walkouts, highlights, and shoulder programming, MLB Postseason live look-ins, Twitter Tribune fan tweet newspapers at championships, and Tempus Ex deals for athlete monetization of highlights and commentary. A couple of elements Adeshola specifically spoke about publicly include working with athletes and their representation on how to avoid “old tweet” disasters and getting traditional media personalities to embrace the (particularly high for college sports) potential of the Twitter Spaces audio chatroom feature (where he personally recruited Paul Finebaum for one via a bet). Here’s Adeshola discussing that with Finebaum afterwards:
Of course, not all of those partnerships were necessarily huge successes, or things that would have carried on even in a world where Musk didn’t buy Twitter. The social media world is ever-changing, and that can be seen in how Twitter’s own approach changed even pre-Musk. The live game streaming was interesting, and helped raise Twitter’s profile for those yet not on the service, but they had gone away from that in recent years. They had also moved away from specific show sponsorship/partnerships, which, again, may have raised Twitter’s profile for those not yet there, but weren’t necessarily the best approach going forward.
But there were a lot of current Twitter partnerships, including the Tempus Ex one and the featuring of Spaces, that might have had some significant sports potential going forward. And maybe there will still be something there. But it’s certainly notable to see Adeshola exit, especially given the prominent role he played in getting many key leagues and sports media outlets interested in working with Twitter.
We’ll see what Adeshola does next. And we’ll see where Twitter goes from here with regards to sports content. There are certainly many not thrilled with how the company’s sports content approach is trending.