Sports marketing thought leader, Jason Peck, said something two weeks ago that really resonated with me. After hearing a company say they controlled their brand in social media he said this, “The words influence, facilitate and protect your brand should replace control.”
Frankly, I couldn’t agree more…
… Provided it’s your fans who pay money to come see your games/events and who are already having the conversations you’re trying to control, and will have them regardless. Seriously, get over it. Better yet embrace it!
You can’t CONTROL what your fans are doing, especially when there’s 80K+ packed into a stadium. Most of them love you. They’re going to take pictures, text/tweet their friends about the game, and stream video from their iPhones. Some are frustrated with you – they’ll write negative blog posts about you, hammer you on forums, and turn an awkward photo into a caption contest for how bad you suck.
You can’t police that many people on the interwebs.
So what can you do?
Influence. Facilitate. And Protect.
And maybe it’s just a language barrier. There are some brands that are actually doing all three, but cite control. Marketing is about perception. Many of you reading this had a crazy marketing professor that showed you a bunch of advertisements and explained the subliminal messages involved. Some of them were a reach to say the least. But it’s not a reach to say that fans perceive ‘control’ as stifling.
If you try to control your fans chatter, you’re a stodgy old brand that isn’t with the times, that just “doesn’t get it.” Professional sports entities, and collegiate teams are already viewed as behind the times by many so why amplify that perception by trying to censor your most passionate fans?
Back to – So what can you do?
You can put the spotlight on the positive!
What if you built a passionate community of your best fans?
What if you encouraged them to submit photos and videos and the like, or filtered and aggregated it into one place for them? I bet they wouldn’t go searching through YouTube all day, but instead visit your website/community where they knew they could find what they were looking for.
You wouldn’t have to accept the media that portrayed your team and/or players in a bad light, but would it be the end of the world if you did? What if you took a negative blog post from a fan and posted it front and center for everyone to see and asked fans for their input? I bet most of these fans would have your back with all kinds of explanations… explanations you could use to perpetuate positivity throughout the community.
I understand. I know it’s scary not have control. You couldn’t stop that bad message from being posted, but you can do something with it once it’s up that helps build brand affinity for your team.
What if you highlighted the fan who had the most posts on the forum during the week leading up to the huge rivalry game? What if you posted the top 5 fan submitted photos from last week’s game? What if you let two respected forum members square off in a debate over who should be your team’s starting QB with additional comments from others?
If you have an active and engaged community with tons of rabid fans, don’t you think companies would pay to sponsor some of the contests you run? Buy ad space on your site? The university could even increase merchandise sales through your community. There would be tons of opportunity for monetization.
There are a multitude of ways to increase affinity for your brand by cultivating a community of passionate people while influencing, facilitating and protecting what’s important to your efforts, but controlling what your fans are doing is NOT one of those ways.
Relinquish control and witness what happens.