Brian Gainor was a keynote speaker at the Sport is Fantastic conference in Sydney this week. The conference looked from many different perspectives at ways to achieve bigger crowds at sporting events. The US marketer has a passion for social media and its use in fan engagement and building avid communitiesfor sports organisations. In this column he shares ideas and examples to help teams get more from their social media campaigns.
1 Use crowdsourcing campaigns
One of the best ways teams can use social media is from a crowdsourcing standpoint. There are so many fans who are following teams, who feel indebted to those teams, and are really happy to help add value to their teams. Teams, therefore, have a huge opportunity to take advantage of that. They should look to their fan base and social media avenues to help come up with promotional ideas; ways to leverage their different assets.
A great example of this is Nike, who used crowdsourcing to come up with a recent men’s US soccer team motto. They launched an alternate red jersey with a #redallover Twitter campaign and asked avid fans across the country what slogan they wanted stitched onto the shirt (they chose “Indivisible” ). Nike used the campaign to drive merchandise sales and it was a great example of crowdsourcing that also created unity and loyalty throughout the company and helped Nike be part of the passion around the team.
Nike is one of the best at it but there are other brands out there such as Heineken and Red Bull who do a tremendous job and a number of sports organisations that are gaining a lot of tread in that space. In Australia, I would say Western Bulldogs have impressed me in this area.
2 Embrace your audience, wherever they live
Social media presents a seamless opportunity for sports organisations to grow their global brands and speak to fans across the world in a cost-effective means. The US teams do a fairly poor job of this compared to, say, teams in the English Premier league. US teams are primarily focused on their fans at home and might be missing a huge opportunity to tap into fans across the world, perhaps though a separate channel.
The New York Yankees have global appeal and while they’ve done a decent job they are not in the same category as the EPL clubs like the Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Liverpool FC. I think the Yankees restricted in some areas but there are plenty more opportunities for them to engage fans in wider markets.
3 Turn casual fans into avid fans
Sports organisations want to not only increase their number of followers but also their average time on site to open up huge revenue opportunities from merchandise and ticket sales. It’s very important that organisations concentrate on the fan engagement elements of their social channels.
As an example the Los Angeles Lakers have 684 times more fans following them on Facebook or Twitter combined than the actual number of fans at their games. That shows an active fan base eager for content on a real time basis; and at the moment they may not be giving them the amount of content they need.
This represents a huge opportunity to turn casual fans into avid fans; into fans who might always just watch the Lakers on TV into fans who are buying merchandise and engaging with other fans. The more you engage, the more friends you have in communities, the closer you will become to the organisation.
4 Establish your tonality and be consistent
Social media is a delicate balancing act. Tonality and balance must be right. For a start, organisations have to be posting more than two to three times a day and it has to be content that doesn’t just give fans an impression they’re being spoken at. It’s not enough to put out a tweet every week saying: ‘Our next game is Saturday night’. It has to be conversational; it has to be insightful and has to add value.
Every team has a different approach to tonality; some are very strict and keep their messages similar to their PR channel. Then you have examples like the LA Kings (National Hockey League) who have taken a completely non-traditional approach.
They have empowered two young employees to let their personality shine through that Twitter handle; it’s a little aggressive and a risky strategy but they have raised waves of publicity, especially in their recent Stanley Cup championship run.
They speak to their fan base outside of the norm. A traditional team will speak in a certain way, and the Kings are speaking as if they were just another fan. It’s one way of approaching the channel and so far it’s working.
5 Encourage fans to spread your gospel
Social media provides a great opportunity for teams to amplify their existing community relations efforts. All pro teams are usually very active in their communities, with clinics, helping out sponsors etc. Social gives them an opportunity to share it out and have their fan base to share it out and also gives fans a new appreciation just how much work the organisation does in the community. If fans can see first-hand video of this community engagement they are likely to share it and push your cause.
It always has to be quality, insightful content. You don’t put it all up there. You have to be strategic with what you do. Just loading 100 pictures up on Facebook has little benefit. It has to be unique. It’s all about the value proposition.
Previously, on The Rule Book: Shane Harmon on hosting a big event.