Safely Playing the Social Media Game

Social media is a difficult game to play. There are very little rules, the boundaries are barely visible, and you rarely know your opponents. It doesn’t matter how fast they run, athletes can’t get away from social media.

It’s a dialogue, not a monologue, and some people don’t understand that. Social media is more like a telephone than a television.” -Amy Jo Martin

7910370882_e2d8bfd3b4_oIt’s an unspoken requirement for athletes to manage a presence on multiple social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. According to Kevin DeShazo with Fieldhouse Media, the goal is to be yourself, engaging, and interactive.

Social media can allow fans to build personal connections with their idols, which leads to better ticket sales, sponsorships, and fundraising. According to a 2011 study, sport spectators are 55% more likely to purchase a product if it has been tweeted or written about on social media by one of their favorite athletes.

Athletes have to stay at the top of their game. Social media can be very rewarding, but it can also ruin a career with just one post going viral in a matter of seconds. DeShazo told student reporters at Oklahoma State University that says most professionals don’t understand social media’s power and reach. He suggests they keep in mind that each post resembles holding a news conference. The golden rule: think before hitting send.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel accidentally tweeted his cell phone number to Johnny_Manziel_in_Kyle_Fieldmore than a million followers last October. He claims he thought he was sending his digits in a direct message.

Former San Diego Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie was fined $2,500 in August 2009 for blaming “nasty food” from keeping the Bolts from the making it to the Super Bowl.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall sent out a series of tweets after American troops killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. After scolding users for celebrating the terrorist leader’s death, Champion dropped its sponsorship deal with Mendenhall.

Location, location, location. Athletes will unknowingly give out their location because the location services on their phone is enabled. A word from the wise: don’t tweet until the event is over and you’ve left.

It’s crucial for a sport organization to closely monitor all social media accounts affiliated with its brand. Educating athletes is the first step in preventing a mistake that could come with harsh repercussions. Darren Rovell’s “100 Twitter Rules to Live By” is a great launching pad.

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Drive Fan Engagement with Marketing Automation

The formula is simple: engagement equals sales. Think you’re just a face in a crowd of 82,500 at MetLife Stadium while watching a New York Giants game? Think again! You may be surprised at the lengthy amount of information an organization is gathering about you. Are you proactive or a procrastinator when it comes to buying tickets for a game? Do you wait until the end of the second quarter to grab a beer? Do you consistently leave before a game is over?

There are several ways to not only manage data already collected, but innovative ways to gather even more. In this case, there’s nothing wrong with being greedy. In four phases and 12 steps, SimplyCast recommends the following methods to drive engagement and put more fans in seats:

Homeofthe12thManHow do you expect to communicate with fans if you don’t have the right contact information?! Make it a priority to regularly update the user databases. Focus on always maintaining the basics: names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses. Ask them their preferences. Do they prefer to get a message through text message over email? Ask them how many games they want to attend. A prize may have to be offered as an incentive to encourage fans to take the time to confirm their information.

When spectators visit a stadium/arena, take advantage of real-time data collection. Representatives can mingle with fans and gather basic and more detailed information, like “How often do you come to games?” and “Where do you usually buy tickets?”

Make fans feel welcomed and valued right from the start. It is as easy as sending a personalized welcome email. Nurture users by asking them to subscribe to a weekly digital newsletter for information about upcoming events, exclusives, fan clubs, how to purchase tickets, and links to news stories. Track the links they click and interact with them through social media.

When an order is placed, send a notification right away. Let consumers know you received their request and appreciate their business. In your emails, include information about parking, stadium rules, when gates will open, and frequently asked questions. This would also be a good time to integrate Facebook or Twitter and encourage fans to share that they are attending a particular game/event.

A few days before the game, send a reminder email. On game day, post informational and exciting messages on social media. Engage with fans by asking them to send pictures of themselves. The Nashville Predators use #PredsPride. Ask spectators to text in their votes for the player of the game.

Not all fans need to receive the same communications; there are different sales cycles. The Interested Phase is welcome messages and counting down the start of the new season or upcoming games. The Engaged Phase is a reminder for upcoming events and targeted content based on a user’s history. The Lapsed Phase includes surveys to gain insight, incentives to re-visit a website, and promotions to re-engage.

12245750054_5a3d3025e1_oMerchandise with a team logo or name is a free, walking billboard. Use mobile coupons and special email promotions to drive sales. Let the fans have some say in what information they wish to receive. Some people want details about parking, last-minute tickets, or a reminder to wear white for a White Out.

The possibilities of how to engage fans are endless. If you think you have a brilliant idea, give it a shot. Understand your fans and start engaging them today.

Crafting Sport Sponsorships That Work

Sponsorships can generate big money, but the expectations are growing and the ideas have to be innovative.

IEG predicted brands would spend $14.35 billion on sports sponsorship deals in 2014, according to Advertising Age. That’s a 4.9% increase from 2013 when spending grew by 5.1%.

PepsiCo spent the most on sponsorships in 2013: $350-355 million. Coca-Cola, Nike, Anheuser Busch, AT&T, General Motors, Toyota, Ford, Adidas, and MillerCoors rounded out the top ten.

It’s not just about the money, though. The art of preparing, selling, and evaluating a sponsorship deal is constantly evolving. A successful sponsorship should aim to create a win-win for the sport organization/event, fans, and sponsors.

As Laura Huddle, Senior Marketer at Eventbrite, says, “Ask not what your sponsor can do for you, ask what you can do for sponsors.” The experience should be unique, while meeting target demographics and objectives.

Huddle and her colleagues came up with the 7 Tips for Getting and Keeping Event Sponsors:

1. Know your audience

It is crucial to understand who attends your event(s) by gender, income, age, ethnicity, job titles, location, etc. Are they decision-makers or key influencers? What are their brand preferences? How often do they participate? You can collect additional information using registration details, surveys (don’t ask too many questions), experience from sponsors, and social media engagements.

2. Brainstorm what’s brandable

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Courtesy: IEG

What makes your event unique? On-site signage, logo on a website, merchandise, tickets and hospitality during the event, and co-branding are all options. No idea should be held back.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are using Instagram to extend sponsor reach. Dodger Stadium is the most geotagged sports venue on social media. The team is leveraging that status by adding sponsor messages into photos. Case in point:

The team placed Bank of America branding behind the number 42 in the Bank of America Retired Members Plaza. The jersey number —which honors Jackie Robinson—is the most popular location for Instagram photos in the stadium.”

3. Make a list

Start with people you know and event participants. For example, friends, board members, volunteers, and customers. Also consider competitors of sponsors of other events, supporters of your cause, and grand openings.

Tailgaters need food, right? Why not have a Tailgater of the Game contest? Food City has that deal with the University of Tennessee. Judges search Neyland Stadium for style, spirit, and creativity. The winner receives a $500 Food City gift card and a shoutout on the video board. What’s in it for Food City? Brand awareness.

4. Know your sponsors

tips-for-finding-an-event-sponsor-30-638Once you’ve made a list, research what sponsorships they’ve done before, find out who makes the deals, understand why they make those decisions, and learn about their decision deadlines. Business-to-business and business-to-consumer are going to have different needs.

Understand most sponsors want exclusivity. AT&T is the Official Communications Services Sponsor of U.S. Soccer. NASCAR will lose Sprint as a title sponsor after the 2016 season due to “a need to focus more directly on its core business priorities.”

5. Be specific

Forget selling points! Discuss specific ways an organization/event can help a sponsor meet their goals. Focus on the individuals attending, the story behind the event, event numbers, and the experience.

6. Measure what’s important

Find out what the sponsor wants to evaluate: total audience, demographics, engagements, impressions, leads, media value, awareness, testing a new product, etc.

7. Get endorsements

When someone else can validate that a particular project was a hit, that statement will have more of an impact on potential sponsors’ decisions.

A complete understanding of your organization/event and sponsor is key. The relationship will prosper with relentless communication, evaluation, modification, and new ideas.

Content: The Team’s Biggest Challenge

A nail-biting finish for the University of Tennessee against South Carolina on Saturday. The Vols beat the Gamecocks 45-42 in overtime, clinching their first SEC victory of the season. Although the game was difficult, the team’s biggest challenge happens every day off the field.

Organizations must find ways to keep fans engaged. When a team provides content, it generates attention and fan-interest.

A recent Forbes magazine article highlighted Heineken‘s effort to put an umpire chair in the middle of Union Square. The company had volunteers, wanting to win tickets to the U.S. Open, sit and try to quiet passersby.

Brands such as Heineken can no longer rely on just commissioning stale 30-second promotional ads. They have to stand out by producing memorable experiences—both online and offline—that generate emotional connections and help turn viewers into fans.”

Vettel_Bahrain_2010_(cropped)Red Bull is more than just an energy drink. The Austrian company invests a lot of money in extreme sports, like motocross, snowboarding, and cliff-diving. As one blogger wrote, establishing the brand in sport has been the key to success:

There was a clear niche that they could see in action sports that would tie in with their motto: “Red Bull gives you wings”. The real secret to their domination is that Red Bull haven’t just advertised in this market, they have become involved.”

The company sponsors several athletes and hosts multiple sporting events around the world each year. The brand is plastered everywhere: uniforms, equipment, naming rights, publications, pictures, videos, transportation, etc. Another blogger stated Red Bull is great at producing content because it owns and controls distribution channels:

Red Bull’s content success is largely due to staying ahead of the industry—where and how consumers are viewing content—keeping it relevant, and creatively blurring the lines between advertising and content.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 9.54.40 AMTennessee Athletics is great at sending out content via social media. When the team is preparing for its next game, pictures are posted on the @Vol_Football Instagram account counting down the number of hours until kickoff. At the end of each quarter, pictures with the score are posted. When it’s a player’s birthday, a picture of them is posted to recognize their special day.

The initiative is highly effective because even the casual fan feels connected and stays informed by simply following the team on social media. When they “Like,” “Retweet,” or “Share” a post, it shows up in their friends’ timeline and grows the audience.


DIRECTV
released a new advertisement over the summer, but it never aired on television. The video of Peyton and Eli Manning rapping about Fantasy Football is a viral hit with more than 3.8 million YouTube views. The brothers also did a video in 2013, which has 8.5 million views.

Brands need to continue to find innovative ways to create content that is eye-catching and entertaining. Earned media is more powerful and cheaper than paid media.

Vol Nation Tries to #CheckerNeyland

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The University of Tennessee has lost nine years in a row to the University of Florida, but athletic administrators hope that changes Saturday, October 4 with a big boost from Vol Nation trying to #CheckerNeyland.

The idea is to get fans to wear orange and white and create a life-size checkerboard, similar to the team’s iconic end zones. As one fan tweeted:

If the #CheckerNeyland idea actually works, there is absolutely no way we lose that game, in fact, Florida might forfeit.”

DPKTMGFPBHMCSPU.20130822173450The grassroots effort started Saturday, September 13 when the Vols played at the University of Oklahoma. At that game, Sooners fans striped Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium for the third year. Spencer Barnett tweeted a few days later:

If Oklahoma can stripe their stands in shirts, I don’t see why this can’t be done in Neyland….

The idea quickly went viral! According to WVLT, fans and website developers Jonathan Briehl and Tim McLeod created CheckerNeyland.com where fans could type in their section, row, and seat to find out whether to wear orange or white.

UT Athletics got word of the idea and jumped on this collaboration and encouraged engagement with #CheckerNeyland. They tweeted a few days later:

It’s Florida Week! Time To !: , you asked for it! Make it a reality!”

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 2.34.38 PMThe school made the campaign a front-page story on their website, posted it on all social media platforms, and sent an email out to students, faculty, staff, fans, and alumni.

The school was smart in knowing it needed to find a way to interact with fans besides just sharing the idea. So, they created Twitter and Instagram images that say “I’m Wearing Orange! #CheckerNeyland” and “I’m Wearing White! #CheckerNeyland.” for fans to post on their own accounts.Byt7ns8IYAI0xgm

The idea not only has the school and fans excited, the team and Coach Butch Jones are also looking forward to it:

Saturday afternoon should be a great college football environment. It should be the best in the country.” 

UT Athletics announced on Tuesday, September 30 that all 102,455 tickets were sold-out. The power of this lifestyle marketing campaign on social media played a huge role in selling all those tickets. Who wouldn’t want to be part of this incredible idea?!

Will all this work prove to be effective? Will this become an annual trend? Looks like we will have to find out on Saturday at noon. If it does work, the school can expect a lot of exposure from the national media sharing the images throughout the next week. If fans are debating whether to go to the next game, they may want to get tickets because it’ll probably be a sell out.