Lady Gaga created a phenomenally successful web spectacle for her recent album Born This Way, which was launched on May 23. Utilizing a host of inventive methods, Lady Gaga has leveraged digital marketing and social media to create a deep engagement with her fans and promote and sell her album. It looks like these methods are paying off as Gaga’s album is estimated to sell a million copies in its first week on the streets.
Sport, as another form of entertainment, should certainly analyze some of the factors that contributed to Gaga’s success. I consider that there are at least 5 lessons for sports marketing:
1. Have a comprehensive web presence and leverage social media
Lady Gaga utilizes all channels and is a serious heavyweight in social media terms. She leverages social media to connect with her target demographic and that is certainly an area that all sport organizations are working hard on. Her numbers on social media are truly staggering. On You Tube she has registered 1 billion views, she has close to 35 million Facebook fans, 24.7 million Facebook likes and she was the first Twitter account holder to acquire 10 million followers. Having a vast number of followers is one thing – what you do with that asset is another (see points 3 to 5). Gaga is a great example of how social media is democratizing marketing for brands. Gaga also knows how to integrate all her marketing – while using several channels, she always controls the message and how it is delivered.
By way of an example on this point, a Google search for the sports team with the most Facebook fans brought up Manchester United, which has just over 9 million fans (in February 2011).
2. Strategic and creative partnerships
For her recent album launch, Gaga entered into a large number of strategic and creative partnerships – some have called it a marketing blitz. For me, the most powerful were a 2 week digital scavenger hunt in association with Starbucks where she targeted a younger demographic, an album give-away (plus a digital booklet) on Amazon for 99 cents and a social game launched by Zynga, along the lines of Farmville, called Gagaville. Gamers were able to download unreleased tracks from the upcoming album, as well as bonus remixes.
While the latter initiative generated the most ridicule, it does illustrate that Gaga has realized the huge potential of social gaming, which has a reach in excess of 60 million players. One sports team has already gone down the gaming route. Liverpool FC (soccer) launched an iPad and iPhone game in March – the LFC Official Penalty Shootout. It is believed to be the first game of its type ever made for a soccer club.
Even though not all sport organizations can replicate such measures, there is always scope for creativity when identifying potential partnerships.
3. Understand your fans are the best marketing asset
Gaga truly understands how her fans are her best marketing asset. There is nothing new here and this principle equally applies to sports teams, from large to small, across the globe. The challenge is to listen attentively to your fans and to deliver what they want so that they remain loyal and become advocates for your team. Gaga creates incentives for her fans through giveaways, discounts and special events. Additionally, and more importantly, Gaga shows humility. If you saw her concert at Madison Square Garden you would have heard her thank her fans – such a small gesture but a powerful one all the same.
Sports teams can do the same by thanking fans for their support and looking for constant feedback. When results are poor and lead to fickle fans turning away, such gestures become increasingly important.
4. Real time engagement with your fans
While Gaga has an army of followers, she realizes the importance of real time engagement, in a regular, meaningful and authentic way, with her fans. One example of this is her participation in an exclusive event for Google called “Google Goes Gaga” where she helped the promotion of the Google Moderator application. The tool enabled fans to submit questions via text or video and Gaga was asked 643 questions about her new single. She is also well known for responding to fan tweets.
Sports organizations can facilitate real time engagement between players and fans in a number of ways and, leveraging mobile marketing, many are already doing it successfully. I wrote about the power of mobile marketing and the success of the Pittsburgh Penguins in this space here on sportsnetworker.com back in April.
5. Stand out from the crowd
Finally, Gaga is not afraid to be different – she certainly stands apart from the crowd.
Competition for the sporting dollar can be extremely intense, especially in crowded sporting markets. My home town of Sydney, where there are four footballing codes and numerous teams, comes to mind here.
Sports teams should look to differentiate themselves and stand apart from the competition. This doesn’t mean taking risks. There should always be room for sport teams to do something unexpected and which doesn’t conform, without undermining brand values. The first challenge is to understand what makes your team great and then focus on those strengths when marketing the brand. FC Barcelona soccer club, which differentiates itself by the motto ‘mes que un club’ (more than a club), is a great example of how a sporting club can leverage and increase brand value.
Another factor in Gaga’s success, which runs across all 5 points above, is the fact that marketing is in her DNA. She lives and breathes it, day in and day out. Equally, sports teams should do likewise and see marketing in the same light.
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