House of Highlights is known for capturing eye-popping highlights from NBA games (like this no-look pass) or touching viral sports moments (like a high school kid hugging his buddy after striking him out) - as well as having famous fans like Steph Curry and LeBron James.
But when it comes to Instagram Stories - brands are the breakout stars so far.
Indeed, since the Turner-owned Instagram channel, along with its sports sibling Bleacher Report, started producing content for Instagram Stories, many of its biggest hits have been produced for paying advertisers.
For instance, an Instagram Story for 5-Hour Energy drink is the House of Highlights record holder with 2 million 'first slide' views and 6.3M total impressions, according to Turner.
Overall, branded Instagram Stories are generating on average 5- to 10% more engagement than a standard House of Highlights Instagram Story- which is saying something in a medium known for the passion of fans, and their little love for conventional advertising.
The key for marketers and publishers posting videos and animated photos to Instagram Stories seems to recognizing the fact that Stories is a completely different medium. Or a medium within a medium.
According to House of Highlights general manager Doug Bernstein, the channel finds that while Instagram's main feed is more polished, Instagram Stories are raw, ephemeral, and ideally interactive.
And you need to get to the point fast. Which makes brands' success here all that more surprising.
Bernstein said that when Instagram launched Stories in the summer of 2016, the publisher took a wait and see approach.
"We wanted to figure out what that right approach was," he said. "We found out that Stories is a fundamentlaly different experience with fundamentlaly different habits."
That jives with Instagram's own findings. Earlier this year Jim Squires, Head of Instagram Business, told Business Insider that 300 million people watch Stories each day, versus Instagram's larger 500 million person audiences. And people blow through Stories 50% faster than they do their feeds.
So when making an Instagram Story, "you don't want to slow people down," he said. "You want to play into that."
That's what House of Highlights has tried to do via Stories, with and its own content and for advertisers.
"You've seen lot of publishers porting over from Snapchat, or doing very premium, polished content," said Bernstein. But what we found in our own lives is that the stories we were gravitating towards were personal."
Starting late in 2017, House of Highlights' Instagram Stories, were generating between 500,000 to 700,000 views. But over the past six months, after the company figured out the right aesthetic, those numbers jumped to the 1.5 million to 2 million view range.
The shift came as House of Highlights stopped trying so hard with Stories.
"If you think about Snapchat Discovery, even it has guidelines, it still has a structure," said Bernstein. "With Instagram stories, there are no guardrails. They should look like your friends' posts."
That philosophy should ideally extend to content funded by advertisers. Brands can run standard ads within Instagram Stories, but according to Mike Dossett, VP, Associate Director, Digital Strategy at the ad agency RPA, it's hard to stand out. His team has seen some advertisers try more linear, narrative-type Stories and strike out.
"Most people tap through their Stories reels at breakneck speed, even Stories from their friends," he said. "Audiences have an impressive ability to almost instantly snuff out something injected into their feed that doesn't belong."
So borrowing a publisher's audience connection and credibility is smart play, Dossett said.
Take the snack brand Takis as an example. The company worked with House of Highlights to create an Instagram Story that asked people to vote on whether a fan at a Golden State Warriors playoff game should sing or dance, or try various other challenges.
After the votes were cast, the resulting stunts were added to the brand's Story. Nearly 30% of the audience participated in the poll, and roughly 70% of people who started the Story finished it, said Bernstein.
Sounds great. But how many of these seemingly elaborate stories can a company like House of Highlights crank out a year? And how many such custome campaigns can marketers realistically make?
Daniel Bennett, Worldwide Chief Innovation Officer at the ad agency Grey, says Stories "can be super powerful for brands when done right." But that requires a certain amount of letting go, and trusting the House of Highlights of the world with their messages.
That won't be for everybody.
"The key for brands is to get super firm guidelines in place before 'stories' are created," he said. "This gives whomever is creating the stories some freedom in what they capture."