Monday, February 27, 2012

Social Networks for Sports Marketing

Did you  know that people today are 10 times more likely to check the internet for breaking sports news than turn to sports radio?  Or how about the fact that only 13% of people say they get sports news from TV.  Thanks to smartphones, social media has dominated the world of sports news and sports marketing.  Nearly 70% of fans say that they check social media for sports news during a meal and 58% of fans have done so while in the bathroom.

Are you one of those people?  There is a good chance that you are.  I am, too.

Right now there are a lot of social networks that are popular for the world of sports marketing, I'll cover seven of them. 


Let's start from the beginning...

Facebook has been in existence for many years and is one of the oldest forms of social media that is still booming.  With fan pages, athlete profiles, and numerous contests always going on it is easy to follow your favorite sports teams.  Facebook does a great job of interacting with fans whether it be contests, photos, videos, or quotes from players and coaches.  As I posted earlier, there are numerous athletes that have huge influences and followings on Facebook (especially in the NFL).

So what can teams do to increase their Facebook presence even more?  They can live stream press conferences, have interactive games and activities for the younger audience, and links to their team store to increase merchandise sales.  Why not have a weekly deal where, for example, every Wednesday a certain item would be 50% off?  What if the mascot of the team had their own Facebook profile?  

These are all things to think about and are all ways to easily expand Facebook influence and spread.

Twitter is something that almost all athletes, coaches, teams, and sponsors have.  It is very easy to update and makes interacting with fans easy and fun.  It has been researched that at least two-thirds of all tweets by a sports team should be replies to their fans.  When Twitter is used for sports marketing it is all about fan engagement and this is important to remember.  

Teams can tweet stats, updates, injury reports, quotes, links to photos and videos, and more.  What if a team created an official team hashtag (#)?  Do you ever see teams introducing fans to each other (@Fan1 meet @Fan2, you're from the same city)?  

It is ideal if a team makes a Twitter list that has all of the athletes so fans have easy access to follow their favorites or tweet about a great play.  We are starting to see more scoreboard tweets but I can see this getting bigger when baseball season rolls around.  Why not have somebody monitoring the #team hashtag and posting certain tweets to the scoreboard for everyone to see?

YouTube is where the younger audience is stationed day in and day out.  It is widely used and is a great way to show fans what a team is doing.  Videos can be of game highlights, an insider view of a practice, players doing special tricks or displaying talents, or even mini television series.  The youth of today are tomorrow's star players, supporters, and sponsors so it is crucial that they are included in sports marketing even though they are not the ones currently buying tickets.

Google is in love with YouTube and almost everyone uses Google so this is a great way to increase SEO (Search Engine Optimization).  When you search for a video in Google you are much more likely to see a video by YouTube rather than Vimeo or any other video source. 

Have you ever taken part in a YouTube contest?  This is easy for teams to do and gets fans excited about the possibility of winning a few tickets to a post-season tournament or even a mid-season game.  All a team has to do is an introduction video of the contest and then watch the replies come in with fans going crazy for their team.  If this contest is posted on Twitter, Facebook, and many other places it will simply take off.

Google Plus does a few things but is widely known for increasing a team's presence in organic search results via Google.  When a team has a Google Plus account it is much more likely that they will be found by their peripheral market.  Take for example, the Green Bay Packers.  They are constantly posting news for the public on their Google Plus profile which is the same information posted on their Facebook page for those who don't have a Facebook profile.

There has been a lot of skepticism about Google Plus truly being useful for a sports team.  Teams are on Facebook because their fans are on Facebook and they're on Twitter because their fans are tweeting.  But are fans using Google Plus?  As of now Google Plus is primarily being used by companies and brands but the hope is that it will someday expand to be as big as Facebook (every social network's dream!).

As of now many marketers are telling teams to hold off on joining Google Plus but there are positives.  Like I said before, being a Google Plus member means better ranking in search results.  It also gives a longer shelf-life for messages posted.

Foursquare, a social network to let people know where you are and who you're with, has taken off.  It is, in my opinion, crucial for teams to take advantage.  A stadium, arena, or field is a destination for thousands to gather with one common purpose: to watch a game.  Often times these are one of the prominent buildings in a certain city, so why not make sure that this is available on Foursquare?  Take advantage of what's already there.

It is important that teams reward fans for checking in, especially after they do so a certain amount of times.  Perhaps after checking in five times they receive a percentage off at the team store if they use it that day.  The possibilities are endless when it comes to rewarding fans; just think about what fans truly want.  In this generation, people like immediate gratification.  This means that the reward should be available the day that they are at the game, not later.  It is almost useless to send an email three days after the game saying "Congratulations, you checked in five times- redeem your prize now".

What if there was a mascot that had a Foursquare profile and checked in to certain places?  This could create buzz in the stadium and a challenge to see who can find the mascot first (another opportunity for rewards).  Have teams ever tried to break a world record with the most check-in's at one time?

The possibilities are endless with the 40% of fans that have smartphones and the rising number of people getting them every day.

Instagram is the one of the newest ways to share photos while using cool effects and retro filters.  The bad thing?  It's only available on iPhones as of right now.  Instagram conveniently connects with Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and other social network sites for easy photo sharing.  Similar to Facebook where you "like" a photo, on Instagram you can "heart" a photo and then share it.

The Dallas Mavericks have been using Instagram and are a great example of what other teams should begin doing.  Teams can easily have photo contests that can be judged through other outlets such as Twitter.  The winning picture can be displayed on the Mav's website or even just posted through the Mav's Facebook or Twitter page.  Contests are an easy way to let fans be creative in showing their loyalty to a team.

As I posted a while back, Pinterest is being used by sports teams more and more.  With the wide use of Pinterest among females, it is used in part to engage that demographic.  This is done by posting new merchandise, household items, special deals, and much more.  Teams are using Pinterest to showcase fan content and reflect culture and lifestyle trends of their team.

Peter Stringer, Boston Celtics' director of interactive media, states, "We're looking at it as if it's predominately for women, but we're not treating it as if it's only for women."

. . . . .
There are a few main goals of sports marketing, some of which are to increase attendance, improve television ratings, increase merchandise sales, and promote special events.  Through social media, goals can be achieved quickly and easily all while engaging fans in a fun atmosphere.  The average social media user spends countless hours online each week so why not tap into that market and get your team involved, too!

Friday, February 24, 2012

NCAA Recruiting Meets Social Media

According to the official rules of Social Media and Recruiting on the NCAA website, the NCAA does “not allow comments about possible recruits on an institution’s social media page or a page belonging to someone affiliated with the institution”.  

Twitter has become one of the more popular recruiting tools in college athletics as of recently and tweeting is permissible as long as coaches are not using it to contact individual prospective student-athletes.  Coaches also have to make sure that they are abiding by the recruiting rules; this means that they cannot post about specific results.
Social media is a free service that has turned every person into a reporter and has allowed every tweet or comment to be over-analyzed and shared publicly.  The NCAA limits the number of phone calls made to recruits and bans text messaging, but when it comes to social media it is far less regulated.  Of course coaches are not allowed to write on Facebook walls or Tweet directly at recruits but they are able to send private messages on Facebook or direct messages via Twitter.

So what good does it do a coach who is thinking about recruiting a player but no decision has been made?  Coaches can keep track of who the recruits are friending and following which gives them useful information on who else they are showing interest in.


The use of social media for college football recruiting can be negative however.  In January it led to an expulsion of a high school player – Yuri Wright from Don Bosco.

Wright was expelled in January for comments he made on Twitter that were apparently sexually graphic or racist in nature.

Not only did he get expelled from high school, schools like Michigan stopped recruiting him as a result of his tweets.
Wright has committed to playing football with the Colorado Buffaloes and stated that, “Hopefully, other people will learn from what happened to me and make smarter choices.  My days with social media are over, I promise.  No more Twitter.  No more Facebook.”


Many recruits, including Matt Cochran from Buhach High School in California, are using social media in a way that portrays a positive image and gets their name out there.  Cochran was able to jump-start recruitment by Facebook messaging numerous coaches across the country with a link to a YouTube video of his highlight reel.  Before sending messages his recruitment process was rather slow; after the messages it was anything but that.

Norm Roberts, a coach at St. John’s, reluctantly had to get Facebook last August because he found it nearly impossible to call kids on the phone and have them answer.  “They don’t want to communicate like that,” he said. 

Coaches and recruits say that 50 percent of their recruiting action comes from Facebook.  Twitter is in second and quickly gaining ground, which we have seen as of late.  Twitter will soon be number one because of the ability to direct message a player with a note that is short and simple.  Evan Daniels, a national basketball recruiting analyst, says, “If you’re not on Facebook or Twitter, you may be a step behind.”

Social media can also stay positive through social media monitoring.  One leader in this market is Varsity Monitor.  Varsity Monitor monitors the activity of student-athletes on social networking websites by looking for key words or inappropriate material on their personal accounts and then reporting that content.  They do social media account monitoring and web monitoring along with sharing social media guidelines and educating their clients.

When and if an athlete posts something inappropriate both the administrators and coaches will be notified by the compliance office.  There are also notifications sent when 3rd party users mention athletes.  In the past, schools would make fake accounts and send friend requests to secretly find out information.  Not only does this use of monitoring benefit the athlete in college but it prepares them for post-college when they will need to be monitoring their own social media use to land a job.

The work done by Varsity Monitor is going to be something that other colleges will want to start utilizing in the very near future, if they don’t already take part.  Just a few of their current clients are the University of North Carolina, Nebraska Huskers, Texas Longhorns, and Villanova.


It has partly come from the fact that the NCAA barred coaches from text-messaging athletes back in 2007.  The increasing use of social media is symbolic of communication trends for this generation.  Voice mails are considered annoying, e-mails are out-of-date, and phone conversations are just awkward.

Phone calls to recruits are limited to once a month for juniors and twice a week for seniors while Facebook and Twitter communication is unlimited during contact periods.  Many players receive Facebook and Twitter notifications on their cell phones which is similar to receiving a text message, except this is legal.  


 “Almost every recruit is on Twitter and Facebook.  It’s a good way to get in touch with recruits.”
-Keon Hatcher | Arkansas wide receiver commit

 “Social media is a huge part of our culture.  It’s the way most people communicate.”
-Bill O’Brien | Penn State football coach

 “It’s not a hassle, where they call you and you have to be on the phone for a long time.  It’s just like a message.  It’s a great way to contact me.”
-Narlens Noel |one of the top five basketball prospects nationally for a junior

“It’s probably the only way to communicate with recruits.”
            -Dana Holgorsen | West Virginia football coach

*This article may also be found on The Field Blog.