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How can social media tools drive your sports marketing success?

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What brands have succeeded in using social tools to increase their engagement with their fans? Enhance their brand affinity? Drive their bottom line?

These are all questions WE’RE going to explore today, together.  That’s right, I’ll get us started, but then let’s use the comments section to build out both lists until we have a pretty extensive resource sports professionals can refer back to in the future.

So, how can social tools drive your sports marketing success?

1.  Find where your fans are. Are they on Facebook? Twitter? Commenting on Blogs? Forums.

2.  Listen to what your fans are saying.

3.   Social media is the perfect place to get the pulse of your fans because anyone can hit publish.

4.  Engage your fans. Humanize your brand by reaching out and connecting with your passionate fans and influencers.

5.  Provide platforms and resources for your fans to connect with each other.

6.  Have giveaways, promotions, access to your athletes/team.

7.  Build trust.

8.  Monetize.

8-25+) What are some other great ways to leverage social tools to drive your sports marketing efforts?

What brands are already doing some of these well?

1.  Shaq

2.  Kerry Rhodes

3.  Lance Armstrong

4.  Chris Bosh

5.  Calgary Stampeders w/ Stamps Connect

6.  Yardbarker

7.  Ballhype

8-25+) We don’t have to name every professional athlete on Twitter (though be my guest if you insist), but what other sports teams/entities/players are using social media to drive increased success (and not just in increased engagement and return on emotion, but the actual bottom line?)

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11 Responses to How can social media tools drive your sports marketing success?

  1. Anita Lobo August 12, 2009 at 5:40 am #

    Hi Ryan,

    My suggestions:

    Talk about what the most rabid fans of your team/ sport do to support – turn the spotlight on fans

    If you’re in a sport thats not widely understood or followed, start a blog and mirror your activity on a general sports site where many sports fans are likely to visit

    Athletes engaging in ‘real time, real conversations’ with fans is THE most exciting thing by far and the emotional connect is constantly under-estimated by marketers inspite of the great examples of success [like those you’ve shared]!



  2. Ryan Stephens August 12, 2009 at 6:19 am #


    Three great examples. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

    I love the turning the spotlight on your fans approach. One of the guys I worked with would go to Winthrop basketball games with a huge dry erase board and write crazy stuff on it. Made me wish I would’ve thought of that instead of having to resort to ridiculous antics and things that can’t be repeated at my alma mater’s basketball teams. 🙂 The point is a picture of him, or a podcast interview or something on a team blog would be awesome.

    I started a niche Squidoo lens for Frisbee golf because it’s something not as mainstream and I couldn’t believe the amount of traffic and people that sent me e-mails saying they loved the lens. That’s definitely, at least in my mind, validation that your second point is also a good one.

    Thanks for adding to the conversation.


  3. Ryan August 12, 2009 at 8:12 am #


    Another one for social media is to involve your fans in the front office. What I’ve done in the past is include fans/supporters clubs (this is more for soccer but can work for any) in discussions on how to improve the club. Also, involve them in decisions that may impact them directly (season ticket prices, away fans, etc). If you involve a few passionate fans that want to make things better, you can see things from their POV, and also they feel welcome and a part of the organization, which translates into a better experience for everyone.

  4. Jason Peck August 12, 2009 at 8:36 am #

    Ryan, nice job on this list. Here are a few other ideas:

    Building on listening to fans- use these insights to modify your approach to seating, concessions, merchandise, promotions and ticket packages. Why not even let fans create their own ticket packages by selecting from games they actually want (some teams have various mini-plans, but fans usually have to choose a mix of good and crappy games). Why not let fans vote on or come up with their own ideas for ticket packages and promotions?

    Monetizing – There are really an amazing amount of ways to do this. Some of these include extending the reach of sponsorships to generate more exposure and revenue, creating additional opportunities for local advertisers, mining data/insights for CRM purposes to increase effectiveness of sales, utilizing shopping widgets to sell tickets/merchandise, etc. One crazy idea that just came to mind would be allowing fans to combine pictures and tweets they produced during games to create a scrapbook–which they could then purchase. There are just so many untapped opportunities.

    Looking forward to seeing what others contribute.

  5. David Spinks August 12, 2009 at 9:38 am #

    Great list so far…here are a couple ideas.

    (Controversial) but engaging with fans during the sporting event. I’ve already expressed my thoughts on the seatgeek blog on this issue. How awesome would it be if your favorite athlete took a minute during halftime to send out a couple quick tweets with their thoughts and how they feel. In general, you can create a much more engaging experience for fans beyond the tv screen.

    I like the white board idea. Someone should write tweets on a white board and see how many people in the audience retweets it online ^_^

    One idea that I’ll steal from “Raaaaaaaandy” from “Funny People” and to build on Jason’s idea is to take close up pictures randomly of everyone in the crowd, kind of like the picture they take of you on a rollercoaster that you can purchase afterward. Post them online, make them available to order. Remind people of how much fun they had at the game, and show people outside the game what they were missing out on.

    I love frisbee gold btw… You should check out Kan Jam. Most popular game at my school, and it’s so simple. ^_^


  6. Ryan Stephens August 12, 2009 at 9:56 am #

    @Jason – I agree with you 10 fold with respect to listening to the fans. Listening is not enough. You have to learn from the insights you acquire via listening and adjust accordingly. Great point. I -love- the idea of fans having select their own ticket packages though I suspect it would be something very tough to execute w/ everyone wanting to see the Lakers, Yankees, etc. come to town.

    @David – Two awesome ideas. I even think if there were resources available to have someone monitor tweets live, putting a ribbon up on the scoreboard with insightful, funny, etc. fan tweets would be AWESOME. Can you imagine? Boris Diaw is 2-12, PLEASE put in Vlad the Impaler.

    And I dig the picture idea too!


  7. Ryan Stephens August 12, 2009 at 11:26 am #

    @Ryan – I think those are all very valid points, and in addition to your ideas about involving passionate fans, usually these are the same influential people that IF you involve them will not only create more affinity, but word-of-mouth because they WILL talk.

    Sorry I got to yours a little late — must’ve been in moderation for a bit!

  8. Lewis Howes August 13, 2009 at 12:57 pm #

    Great stuff so far, I don’t even need to give my 2 cents since the experts have already posted their thoughts in this discussion. Great point Ryan!

  9. Ty Ahmad-Taylor August 14, 2009 at 9:51 am #

    I would also suggest that sports brands working in this space have to let loose the reins a bit when it comes to controlling the channels through which their athletes communicate to fans.
    These channels are unmediated, which is worrisome for what are, in their core, entertainment brands (witness Stephon Marbury’s recent career-killing efforts.)
    That having been said, it also shows the human aspect of the athletes, and that is valuable for brand attachment.
    My two cents in what has been a valuable dialog.

  10. Ryan Stephens August 18, 2009 at 8:05 am #

    @Ty – I think you bring up an EXCELLENT point, one that I love how Jason Peck always approaches. And that is that the words influence, facilitate and protect your brand should replace “control.”

    In the examples above, the Calgary Stampeders have a done a tremendous job aggregating their fans social content all to their website. Others should take notice. They’re facilitating and protecting their brand w/o controlling what their fans are saying.

    Thanks for your insights Ty!


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