02
Dec
08

Sports Marketing Innovation & Fan Engagement

I walked out of the Bobcats game last night into a wall quote: If what you did yesterday is still big today, then you’re not doing much.” Coach K was talking about his ball players but it reminds me of the whole genre of sports marketing. Too many people seem too satisfied with the successes of the past and are deaf to, or simply fearful of innovation. I’ve been evangelizing social media in sports for about 4 years and my voice has just dissipated in the wind. Finally I think some people are hearing and maybe even listening to the message.

After explaining that Kobe’s record breaking 81 point game garnered 1440 fan posts (comments) on just 4 sites within 48 hours an assoc athletic director at a major program said, so what? I asked: “if you had received 1440 letters or phone calls on one topic in that short timeframe would you have dismissed them?” You can conservatively estimate that each online post generates at least another 5 offline conversations. Essentially the virtual watercooler transitions to the actual watercooler. If they care enough to go online and write or even simply read a blog post or discussion topic they’re going to share that experience with other fans.

kobe

I don’t think I would get the same response today because whether it’s college, pro, or Olympic brands the powers that be are at least curious. In the same vein, someone else asked me, “What do we care about what the fans are saying, they don’t know what they’re talking about anyway?”  The answer: They’re talking about your brand whether you participate or not.

In five years word-of-mouth marketing has reached an audience the size of which it took 50 years for television to build and fans care more and give more credence to what other fans say and feel than what they hear from traditional marketers these days. Fans have taken control of the way they interact with brands and some forward thinking (and still very conservative brands/properties) are acknoledging the fact and even toughening their skin enough to truly engage the fans. We at Sports Media Challenge call it fan-generated-media or CGM for sports & entertainment. Every day our Buzz Manager(TM) online monitoring service tracks and our sports and entertainment specialists analyze tens of thousands of blog posts, video & audio clips, photos, discussion board conversations etc to glean the most relevant, actionable information for our clients.  Find. Listen. Engage. Lead. That’s the process. And to the credit of clients like Penn State Athletics, they have spent time listening and with our help are now engaging their fans. Checkout this creative student created video to promote the basketball program.

Shaq’s not conservative but Shaq on Twitter is a game changer! It took only 5 minutes for the blogosphere to pick up on RSM McGladry’s creative sponsorship of Natalie Gulbis and I expect the same of their Special Olympics golf initiatives.

natalie-gulbis2

These brands are careful to say the least. They’ve built, enriched and need to protect their brands which is exactly why they’ve embraced social media and insist on measuring it’s effectiveness through Buzz Manager(TM). All of this reminds me of another CEO client of mine over the years, Roger Milliken. Mr Milliken reminded his employees, “We’re not here to massage history. We’re here to make history.”

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