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Where Are The Sports Social Networks?

Being that I’m a huge sports fan and an avid social media user, I always wonder why there are no good sports-themed social networks. Many have tried, but none have succeeded.

In my opinion, sports and social media are a perfect marriage. Sports fans love to talk about sports. We spend hours of every day watching, reading, and talking about the teams and players that matter to us. Sports fans also love to show and demonstrate our pride. We want to show the world our allegiances. And most importantly, there are plenty of instances where sports and social media have succeeded!

I spoke to my boss and great friend AJ Vaynerchuk about it. He brought up a valid question: “is there really a problem there that needs to be fixed?”

I’m not sure of the answer, but I’m going to talk it through right now:

Sports and Social Media Work.

Sports and social media can mix. I’ve seen it first-hand. In a year and change, the New York Jets’ (disclaimer: VaynerMedia client) have developed a community of over 241,000 passionate fans. Fans post thoughts, photos, and videos to the wall hundreds of times per day and comment/like thousands of times in the same time period. There is a real community there. There are real relationships, between the Jets and their fans, and between the fans themselves. The page is a social network at the micro level.

There are many other teams and leagues with impressive Facebook communities as well. The NBA & NHL (VaynerMedia Client) both have vibrant fanbases on Facebook, and so do teams like the New England Patriots and the San Diego Chargers. The point is that sports and social media have proven to mix.

Don’t Forget About Forums, Message Boards, and Chats…

For example, take a look at the conversation around last week’s Eagles-Falcons game on ESPN.com. Over the course of a week, primarily, there were over 1,000 comments left in a thread about one specific football game.

What about the Something Awful Forums or the message boards on CBSSports.com? There are many online sports communities based around forums and message boards. Members create profiles and talk in the same threads, establishing names and identities for themselves. They come back on a daily basis and create relationships with other visitors.

Is There a Need?

Maybe these existing places are enough. Maybe I’m trying to solve a problem that does not exist. Through Facebook, we have the ability to connect with fans of teams we like, as well as with the teams themselves. Through forums and message boards, we can argue freely and trash talk about issues we care about. What else could a sports social network provide that doesn’t exist already? What could intrigue me enough to create one more account to log in to, one more online identity to maintain?

When you look at niche communities that are successful, they exist because they provide locations for enthusiasts of specific genres to interact, when these places do not otherwise exist. Take Flixster, for example. Flixster is an online community for movie fans. Flixster can exist because there are few other prominent places online for fans to go and create identities for themselves. But sports fans have a variety of existing places and communities we can go. Why create one more?

We’re all sports fans here. I would love to hear what you have to say about why there are no great sports social networks. Which features would you look for in a sports social network? Would you even be interested in joining one? Do you think it’s possible that fantasy sports have taken the place of a sports social network?

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37 Responses to Where Are The Sports Social Networks?

  1. Alan Cassinelli October 22, 2010 at 4:36 pm #

    The Suns have Planet Orange and the Portland Trail Blazers have Iamatrailblazersfan.com, both social networks developed specifically for their fanbase that have ben largely successful in developing their online community and selling tix.

    I don’t think there is a need for a general sports social network because everyone already has facebook and twitter. Sports are social by nature and friends already talk trash on facebook with their friends when their favorite teams are playing and people can hear national opinions on Twitter as sports writers and pundits share their thoughts on a play by play basis.

  2. Anonymous October 22, 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    Alan, yep aware of both of those social networks and should have highlighted them in the post. I think you’re dead on with your thoughts on why there doesn’t need to be a general sports social network. Appreciate the comment!

  3. JasonPeck October 22, 2010 at 10:43 pm #

    I’m glad you brought this topic up. I have a ton of thoughts about this topic and am constantly asking the same question. Also, looking forward to hearing what others think.

    As Alan pointed out, there are a few (I’d also add mycolts.net) to the list that have been relatively successful. The problem with most of the sports social networks that have launched/failed is that they didn’t offer enough unique benefits, had poor community management practices and poor use of game mechanics to motivate people to participate. And they had ad-supported business models that usually didn’t work because they could never get enough traffic. Lastly, they had no connection to offline fan gatherings and meetups.

    I still think pro teams could be successful with their owned communities. Part of me thinks that social media and the core concepts of listening to and engaging with fans are too important to be left to a third party website/social network, where you don’t have full control over features, branding, data and ad/sponsorship opportunities. I see these communities as offering something different to fans than a team’s Facebook page. Here are a few ideas.

    Team communities could provide more of an outlet for hardcore fans and create opportunities for fans to truly get involved in the team’s business/direction. The community would have to be integrated with the team’s overall CRM system, so that if I have a problem/issue/question, I can get help–and teams could see how much money is saved by reducing the number of phone calls to customer service. Teams would also have to be able to tell how much more valuable a community member is (ticket sales, merchandise sales, etc) than a non-member, so they could justify the expense of all this. This community could also provide opportunities for fans to get involved in improving the overall experience (sort of like a Dell Ideastorm or My Starbucks Idea). The community should also tie into a team’s loyalty program, so that I’m rewarded for my participation online and offline (checking into games, attending games, etc). There would also have to be a real effort made at community management–getting to know members, and helping them get to know each other, and initiating conversation–instead of the build-it-and-they-will-come approach taken by many in the past.

    Then again, I’m still not convinced this would work every time. People are used to going to Twitter and Facebook for team/athlete related content, and things are becoming more and more decentralized. Also from a resources perspective, it’s a lot less intimidating for a team or sports brand to start slowly on Twitter or Facebook, test some promotions/programs and add resources as needed, rather than put in the money upfront on a owned sports community.

    It’s definitely not enough to bring people together to a sports social network or community to “connect” anymore or just to provide sports-specific content. Fans can get good content hundreds of ways. If sports social networks have any chance of being successful. they have to offer something that a fan can’t get anywhere else: ideally a combination of virtual and real-world benefits and experiences.

  4. Joe M. October 22, 2010 at 11:13 pm #

    I think because there isn’t a clear cut sports social network that the opportunity is still there. Jason makes a ton of great points why no one else has been able to pull it off. People definitely use facebook and twitter to sound off and if someone successfully pulls it off, facebook and twitter will definitely have to be integrated and integrated extremely well. I do think people like to identify with a sports community whether it be a forum or network they currently use. They want to be where people like them are.

    Like Jason says the teams obviously have a huge advantage and aren’t really taking advantage of it. Someone will figure out the right game mechanics, give enough incentives, and build the best mobile technology to pull it off. It may also be something like a foursquare for sports.

  5. Ryan Knapp October 24, 2010 at 4:01 am #

    “The problem with most of the sports social networks that have launched/failed is that they didn’t offer enough unique benefits, had poor community management practices and poor use of game mechanics to motivate people to participate. And they had ad-supported business models that usually didn’t work because they could never get enough traffic. Lastly, they had no connection to offline fan gatherings and meetups.”

    The offline event is key, but also why are we trying to add in another step into everyone’s lives.

    That is the fundamental problem with building a sports online community. Fans have to have a reason to incorporate it into their daily lives. Facebook/Twitter/Youtube are a part of most people’s daily internet flow, so if you use those channels in an average way, you’ll still see results.

    Why do I have to use this new app or this new site if I don’t get anything from it? Some try to use those to build loyalty to the team, but if there is no loyalty for the team, why should I add something which takes time out of my day.

    Catch-22

  6. Shane Harmon October 24, 2010 at 6:20 pm #

    Great topic and great responses.

    Jason raised the point that if sports social networks have any chance of being successful, they have to offer something that a fan can’t get anywhere else. I think this is the crux of the matter. Many sports have built vibrant communities on facebook and twitter through great interactions and fantastic content.

    Do teams/sports have the resources to great even more compelling content to entice fans away/”upgrade” from the facebooks and twitters of this world to customised social media platforms? I’m not sure they do.

    At a conference in Sydney in July, Pedro Duarte of Real Madrid outlined their philosophy in the social media and mobile space as “To be where the user is, using the channels that the users uses”. Real Madrid has te 3rd largets facebook presence globally.

    On the other hand Dan Harbison of the Portland Trailblazers gave a very compelling case for the customised approach. One of the advantages that NBA and MLB (and possibly European football) is the length of season and sheer volume of games related content opportunities. But do you squirrel that content away from where the masses are?

    Where a real opportunity lies is in how you manage members/season pass holders, those customers who attend week in week out, and are the lifeblood of most sports. As Jason points out the data exists on the in house CRM system. You most likely have their email address. Enticing these customers to share their match day experience in an environment that is integrated with the CRM system is certainly worth exploring. After all, these most valuable of customers can be lost in the great ocean of facebook. How many of Real Madrids 4.7m facebook fans are season pass holders. I’d say less than 0.1%. What % of fan-derived revenue comes from this small group of fans. I’d say a lot.

  7. Anonymous October 25, 2010 at 7:21 pm #

    Jason, I agree 100%. It is certainly not enough to just connect anymore. It’s all about adding value. And for sports fans, value is experiences – free tickets, opportunities to interact with players, etc.

    The question becomes, can’t all of this just happen on Facebook pages? Why does there have to be a social network solely devoted to sports? I feel nearly like everything you mentioned could take place on FB. Facebook pages provide a flexible platform for teams to add value for their fans, so maybe that’s the answer.

  8. Anonymous October 25, 2010 at 7:21 pm #

    Jason, I agree 100%. It is certainly not enough to just connect anymore. It’s all about adding value. And for sports fans, value is experiences – free tickets, opportunities to interact with players, etc.

    The question becomes, can’t all of this just happen on Facebook pages? Why does there have to be a social network solely devoted to sports? I feel nearly like everything you mentioned could take place on FB. Facebook pages provide a flexible platform for teams to add value for their fans, so maybe that’s the answer.

  9. Anonymous October 25, 2010 at 7:22 pm #

    Ryan, you’re right. When we can already obtain all of the value we would get from a sports social network through Facebook & Twitter, why add another step? I don’t see a reason at this point.

  10. Anonymous October 25, 2010 at 7:22 pm #

    Ryan, you’re right. When we can already obtain all of the value we would get from a sports social network through Facebook & Twitter, why add another step? I don’t see a reason at this point.

  11. Anonymous October 25, 2010 at 7:30 pm #

    Interesting, Joe. I agree that a geolocation-based social network could work well in sports. In fact, some of those types of platforms already exist. A big problem is that cell phone reception is often horrible in stadiums and arenas, so platforms run quite slow or sometimes don’t work at all.

    Either way, I agree that it’s about finding the right mechanics, incentives, and also incorporating existing social platforms. But like Jason and Ryan both mentioned below, why should we, as sports fans, take the extra step/time to go a sports-focused social network when Facebook & Twitter provide us with great social sports experiences already?

  12. Anonymous October 25, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    Shane, I love your point about managing members/season ticket holders. I think that creating social opportunities for your VIP fans is a really interesting concept, and something that teams should think about. Thanks for the comment! It’s a really fun topic and love all of the responses.

  13. Jamie Favreau October 29, 2010 at 9:48 pm #

    I totally agree. I was a member of Red Wings World which was a subscription based Red Wings network. It was around from 01-02 to 09 when they finally shut it down. They used to have an arena cam, have special discounts and basically it was a closed network so you didn’t get flaming fans on there from other teams. The website was a Red Wings site but they never kept up with it, or charged more so it could be ran properly. Often times the content was so far out of date that it was just basically an expensive message board.

    I have often wondered what happened to all that data and if they still considering using it. They had a lot of information about the demographics, what the fans enjoyed and what not.

    I met a lot of good friends I have today through that site. It was a benefit to me and I sometimes wish they would have fixed what was wrong with it or hired someone who knew why it failed and figured out how to maximize it in another form. Now we have Twitter and Facebook so there isn’t as much of a need to have one and it is cheaper because they don’t have to hire graphic designers and stuff like that.

  14. tlaturi November 1, 2010 at 9:39 am #

    Sam, I agree what you are saying. The solution should add value to existing social networks, namely Twitter and Facebook. Also, the network should integrate tightly with Facebook and Twitter.

    Our team is building social network for sports fans, which is tightly focused on the event time interaction between friends and other fans. As you know, intensive commenting on match events can be considered heavy spamming :) Separating the discussion is not the only benefit, but we can also provide many special features, like posting images, video chat,…

    When we launched the service earlier this year, we decided that we won’t build yet another network. That’s why the service is built on the top of Facebook: You can access it with your Facebook account, the friends on the service are your Facebook friends, etc. Also, the service can be easily embedded on Facebook fan pages.

    (Please, check out our service: http://sofanatics.com . The service is also available on the fan page of Chelsea FC: http://www.facebook.com/ChelseaFC?v=app_112263568811221 )

  15. eFans November 23, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    here is one, eFans.com, the revolutionary social network for sports fans.

  16. Gabriel November 24, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    Guys & gals, sorry to be a bit “late to the game” – am catching up with some older posts…

    Great thought-provoking topic (as usual on the Sports Networker), and great responses from some of the best minds out there in the sports & social media sphere!

    I have also been thinking about this, maybe more from a European standpoint, and have also found myself, like Sam, regretting the lack of a dedicated, sports-specific “social network”.
    For me, the “need” for such a network (I totally agree it has to be defined) would arise not from the online interactions between members, nor even just from the real-life, “fan-specific” interactions between those members.
    In my view, to justify its existence, the network would have to cater for my needs as a sportsperson, not just a sports fan. I need to be able to enthuse about my favourite sport, team or athlete (and current social-media channels allow me to do this already in a pretty targeted manner), but I also need to share my own sports-related experiences with like-minded sportspeople. I need to share my victories, my frustrations, my training or competition tips; I need to be able to ask for advice from fellow sportspeople whom I have come to appreciate & trust, because they are active fans themselves, some of them with exactly the same sports interests as myself, some of them geographically close to me, others not.
    The community I need to create is not just around the sport, team or athlete I admire – it needs to be created around me as an active sportsperson. Then, I think, would it make sense for such a community to exist on a separate platform than, as a separate entity from, those which are already available.

    Looking forward to reading your further thoughts about this!
    Cheers,
    Gabriel ( gabman + mangano management )

    (PLUG ALERT: I also write -way too sporadically…- about this & other sports management topics, with more of a European focus, on the Sports Management Blog, at http://www.sportsmanagementblog.com . If you haven’t subscribed yet to the blog’s feed, I’d be thrilled if you did.)

  17. klineda April 11, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    There is a new one called myhofs.com. Pretty cool.

  18. klineda April 11, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    There is a new one called myhofs.com. Pretty cool.

  19. klineda April 11, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    There is a new one called myhofs.com. Pretty cool.

  20. RussellS June 20, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    Interesting topic. I have just started using http:// http://www.tribesports.com. I think it is still in a beta version but already has some good features. The social network caters for all sports and is set up around the concept of ‘tribes’ and ‘challenges’. The tribes collections of like minded people, either based round sports, events, disciplines, etc and provide an area for discussing, training tips, equipment reviews, etc. There are already lots of tribes from ‘Ironman’ to ‘sporting trivia’ and if there isn’t one to suit you can set up your own ‘tribe’.

    The fun part and thing which got me hooked was the challenges. There are lots of challenges on the website which you take or set for your friends, anything from ‘complete 100 push-up’, ‘run 5km under 23mins’ to ‘reduce your golf handicap by 5 shots in a year’. There are lots of challenges for all sorts of sports already created and you can create your own challenges and tribes.

    Hope some of you find it as interesting, fun and informative as me.

  21. RussellS June 20, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    here is the correct link

    http://www.tribesports.com

    sorry about that :o)

  22. Neil Jacobs September 6, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    mvpvault.com is a facebook for sports. Has hockey, soccer and cricket for now, but I think it is exactly what you’ve been describing in your article.

  23. justasportsfan October 31, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    There is another one I recently came across that is pretty cool. http://www.hecklesports.com. It’s pretty interesting and has a lot of cool tools, but what I think is the cool thing about it is it actually allows the user to put their own sports and teams onto the system. Seems more based around the user than others. I like it, and it’s different than facebook/twitter because I can talk and hear about just sports on the site, I don’t have to filter through all of the “I’m at starbucks” and “watching so and so aweful show”…

  24. sportsfan1 November 28, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    Check out http://www.fanz.com! I think they did a great job of organizing sports into a social environment. Sports fans can literally peer into and communicate with anything on the net including their favorite teams facebook and twitter. It also has a cool social posting game called Gameday Rival that allows fan on fan posting and banter during gameday. All in all I think sports fans are looking for a way to communicate with other fans on facebook and twitter without having to actually go to facebook and twitter to do it. It’s also really hard to find the actual official pages on the large networks. Fanz.com looks like twitter but the feed is like facebook so it’s very familiar to the user base, and all the sports teams official pages are located in a nav bar at the top so it’s easy to get to your favorite team and their fanbase.

  25. Sportsguy January 10, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    Try http://www.sportsnak.com

  26. AndrewKeezer January 29, 2012 at 2:38 am #

    Hey, I’m rolling out testing for a sports social network I built this week http://sportzdek.com. Let me know if you are interested and feel free to invite anyone you want. The more people on it the more fun it’ll be and leave me your feedback.

  27. aepstein32 March 29, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    http://www.huddlers.com

  28. aepstein32 March 29, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    check out http://www.huddlers.com – we’re going to be changing the life of the everyday athlete

  29. SportSpotter March 30, 2012 at 6:16 am #

    SportSpotter is a service for sports fans all around the world to connect with each other through the sports they follow and Have their Say on the sports they are passionate about. We have made an attempt to cover every sport, everywhere. You will hopefully find all your favourite teams, players, competitions and sports. Just search for your favourites and Become a fan.  SportSpotter also now has an iPhone app, which sends notifications in real-time as they are posted.  http://www.sportspotter.com/

  30. sportsfanme April 26, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    http://sportsfan.me/For the serious sports fan. Just the news you want, shared with just the friends you like!

  31. sportsfanme April 26, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    http://sportsfan.me/
     
    For the serious sports fan. Just the news you want, shared with just the friends you like!

  32. Squadify October 22, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    Nice article Sam – some great points. We’ve noticed plenty of social networks for sport beginning to appear, particularly from the ‘fan’ perspective, which join in on the kind of conversation we only used to have whilst sat in the bar! Those days seem aeons ago now!
    However, we are trying to do something a little bit different here at Squadify http://www.squadify.com/ by highlighting the importance of grassroots level sport. We make it easier to organise your sporting life, create teams and leagues, and try to give the amateur players/teams/clubs the kind of attention the professionals get, as well as encouraging people who don’t normally ‘do’ sport to start participating. 
    We could talk about sport all day – as could many people around the world – but it would be nice to interrupt the chat for some physical exercise every now and again!

  33. Alan Chokov November 11, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Please view our new launch, http://www.Kids2ProSports.com, a global social / sports global community that provides the resources to Create, Share & Preserve Your Sports Memories….for your entire lifetime….in the sports / gender / age / profession / languages & countries of choice.

    K2PS features 30,000 sport selections; 5 million identifying categories; hundreds of thousands in interactive features and the ability to create profiles for all of your sport & life-skill activities to utilize socially, for sports, educational and career aspirations…..Membership is Free

  34. vintage clothing washington Dc August 25, 2014 at 6:36 am #

    There’s certainly a great deal to learn about this subject.
    I love all of the points you made.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. pinetar's me2DAY - October 31, 2010

    송진의 생각…

    sports and social media are a perfect marriage….

  2. Fastlane Plan-- Sports - August 12, 2011

    [...] Where Are The Sports Social Networks? Maybe you can garner some ideas/thought on moving forward from this article. Reply With Quote [...]

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