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Engaging Fans and Raising Awareness through Social Media in Sports

Here in Australia, sporting clubs are only just realizing the massive potential of social media and beginning to understand the new opportunities they have to connect with their fans.
This week I decided to have a chat to Sean Callanan, the Founder of Australian based digital sports company Sports Geek.  Sean is one of the premier guys in social media in sports scene in Oz. He works extensively with athletes, sports executives, business owners and leagues to help them develop, or improve, their connection with their fan base to deliver results.

Er, so I’ll start a Facebook page then?

Finding the right tools and platform

The first step to getting involved in social media in sports is to figure out what exactly is the best network to use. It might be necessary to use a combination of networks, but if you are only going to focus on one, it’s crucial to use the one that fans use most.

Once the platform has been chosen, Sean says sports companies or events teams need to know how best to use it and understand what they want to get out of it.

“What’s the goal? Why exactly do you want your club to get involved in social media. Is it to build a fan base? Is it to grow membership numbers or is it to better promote sponsors?” he said.

He believes integrating social media tools in the right platform is essential to maximize opportunities. There’s no point having a presence in social media if it’s not kept up to date or actively in use.
“You have to get fans to like the FB page or follow the Twitter feed, get them to comment and then drive them back to your website,” he said. “Think of fans as long term customers. Essentially you are in a relationship with them – but you’re more of a friend than a sales representative.  Key numbers are active fans, it’s important to be engaging them, not just collecting them”.

Get Creative and Encourage Fans to Share on Social Media

Case study: West Coast Eagles (AFL)

Sean recently launched SportsDP, a sports fan engagement web product built for sports teams. Australian Football League team The West Coast Eagles incorporated Sean’s SportsDP platform into their website to help them increase their fans and membership base, as well as improving their coverage and awareness in the online space. This is a perfect example of social media in sports working to actively engage the fan.

The SportsDP model instructs fans to like, share or tweet West Coast Eagles content. In return for liking content and sharing in the social media space fans collect points and are effectively ‘rated’ on how big a fan they are.

Not only does this type of approach allow fans to get involved in the club and stay up to date on news, it also fosters a real sense of community and loyalty amongst fans and sponsors.

Incorporating sponsorship

As the use of social media in sports increases so does the opportunities for sponsors. However, the sponsor offering depends on the type of platform or model chosen and it’s success.
For example, as fans and website traffic increase on the West Coast Eagles website through social media, more prominent advertising on the main site can be sold or utilised for sponsors. There are also opportunities to brand online magazines that go out to fan databases as well as the chance to direct market to subscribers, or encourage them to connect with sponsor pages or sites. However Sean says sponsors need to understand social media campaigns are essentially a long term strategy.
“Just because a sports event or club has large numbers of followers doesn’t mean the sponsors will also become popular,” he said. “Of course there can be a flow on effect but you still have to give fans a reason to stay connected.”
For example, if a car company is sponsoring a rugby team, fans might like the page if the team asks them too. But unless the sponsor comes up with a way to keep their new fans interested they won’t stay a fan for long. Sean says sponsors need to be committed.
“We worked with a property investing company who obtained an excellent flow on to their social media accounts from a sports event they were sponsoring,” he said. “Even though they aren’t in the business of sport they now provide tips to fans and followers – so when they do decide to look at investing fans will go to them first. Social media in sports is simply a touchpoint – an opportunity to reach fans on a whole new level,” he said. “Clubs have to think differently as they can connect with fans on a daily basis.  Social media is a unique opportunity to engage with fans long term. It’s all about connecting and building relationships.”

He believes there are amazing opportunities for growth, and for sponsors, if clubs know how to develop and implement effective social media strategies.

Sean’s Top Tips for Developing an Effective Strategy for Social Media in Sports

  • Determine what the goal is and why exactly you want to get involved in social media. Is it to build a fan base? Is it to grow membership numbers or is it to better promote sponsors?
  • Identify the best platforms to support your campaign. Keep in mind that most people on Facebook just want to play. It’s important to understand that most people are not necessarily there to buy but they will be open to reading marketing messages.
  • Engage, engage, engage. It’s important to keep social media and social networking ‘social’.  It’s not just a broadcast platform. It’s crucial to have a balance with quality content and marketing messages.

#Youtube140 – Google+ Brand Pages In Sports

Also, make sure to check out Sean’s Youtube channel where he produces a series called #Youtube140.  These are a series of videos where he discusses a topic in the world of sports and technology in 140 seconds while showing you live on his desktop.  Here’s an example of one of the most recent episodes.

Do you know of any other new programs designed to engage the fan and incorporate social media in sports sponsorship? Feel free to comment below, Tweet or Facebook us if you have any other ideas!

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17 Responses to Engaging Fans and Raising Awareness through Social Media in Sports

  1. seancallanan January 6, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    Thanks for the article Claire, great work.

  2. seancallanan January 6, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    @remBrandSports Thanks for RT @sportsnetworker article on @SportsGeekHQ glad you enjoyed it

  3. seancallanan January 6, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    @FRMktgCanada Thanks for RT @sportsnetworker article on @SportsGeekHQ glad you enjoyed it

  4. seancallanan January 6, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    @tkuntzy Thanks for RT @sportsnetworker article on @SportsGeekHQ glad you enjoyed it

  5. seancallanan January 6, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    @trevorturnbull Thanks for RT @sportsnetworker article on @SportsGeekHQ glad you enjoyed it

  6. seancallanan January 6, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    @samtrifecta Thanks for RT @sportsnetworker article on @SportsGeekHQ glad you enjoyed it

  7. SportsGeekHQ January 6, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    @ResSports Thanks for RT @sportsnetworker article on @SportsGeekHQ glad you enjoyed it

  8. seancallanan January 6, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    @shane_harmon thanks for tweet, agree @ClaireLKelly did a good job

  9. SportsRevANZ January 6, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    @SportsGeekHQ Nice piece Sean.. spotted our logo in the background on your G+ page during the video. 🙂

  10. DreamCntrlMedia January 7, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    No worries Sean. Thanks for the chat and the great info.

  11. Claire Kelly January 8, 2012 at 3:43 am #

    Thanks guys!

  12. seancallanan January 8, 2012 at 5:16 am #

    @trevoryoung thx but I was asking about the Ultimate Footy fan tweet

  13. sportsnetworker January 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    @frmktgcanada we’re glad you enjoyed it! courtesy of @clairelkelly and @SportsGeekHQ

  14. sportsnetworker January 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    @samtrifecta we agree! thanks for spreading our article sam!

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  16. sportsnetworker April 24, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    @olanscott appreciate you passing our article onto your followers Olan!

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