Paul Dewhurst and the MLS’s San Jose Earthquakes are building a brand and driving social and digital ROI

On episode 117 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Paul Dewhurst, Digital Marketing Strategist for the San Jose Earthquakes MLS club.

What follows are some snippets from the episode. Click Here to listen to the full episode or check it out and subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher.

Posted by Neil Horowitz

Follow me on Twitter @njh287 Connect on LinkedIn

What UMBC Athletics Reminded Us About The Genesis, Growth, and Importance of Voice On Social Media

Think back to the early days of social media. When trade announcements sounded like mini press releases. Compare that to the free agent signing of Michael Crabtree by the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens announced in a tweet with an emoji of a crab and an emoji of a tree.

So, yeah, things have changed.

And this was manifested marvelously by the performance of the @UMBCAthletics Twitter account, led by Zach Seidel, as the Retrivers captured the country’s attention, becoming the first 16-seed to ever defeat a #1 seed in the Men’s Basketball NCAA Tournament, stunning fans of March Madness. Seidel didn’t ignore the haters tweeting skeptically about the UMBC team, didn’t ignore what was playing out in front of him and millions watching, and, most importantly, didn’t speak like a formal press release.

The evolution on Twitter (where voice is most defined on social media for sports teams) from PR to personality has surely been gradual, but most veterans of this space will point to one seminal tweet and one magical title run that started it all. It was the spring of 2012 when the Los Angeles Kings ousted the favored Vancouver Canucks in an opening playoff series. The Kings took the opportunity to sarcastically (snarkily) tweet “To everyone in Canada outside BC, you’re welcome,” addressing fans all over Canada that didn’t feel to fondly about the club in Vancouver. It struck a nerve. It was different. Many didn’t know how to react – was it okay to showcase a bit of tongue-in-cheek personality? Was this befitting of a professional team and its official Twitter presence speaking on the organization’s behalf?

Articles were written, discussions were had, but, as is quite evident today, it only progressed from there. Soon, several team Twitter accounts were trying to elicit laughs and smirks, and trying to create copy that would strike a similar nerve and get fans to feel like their team was cool, and they were cool by association. Over time, more emotion was infused — teams were smartasses when things were going good, they weren’t sugarcoating an awful loss, they exhibited the same ups and downs and jokes of the fans — they were talking and experiencing with them, not at them.

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So what happened when UMBC realized they were doing what no one thought they could or should be doing? When all the attention was on their team and their school? They chose not to ignore the obvious, not to appear oblivious to what madness was clearly happening on the court and all around them, including their website. When CBS College Basketball Analyst Seth Davis tweeted his trademark “Sharpie” (game over) right after tip, they fired back because it’s what their fans would’ve wanted to do – and UMBC doesn’t need to adhere any no-cheering-in-the-press-box like rule when it comes to Twitter.

When TweetDeck started showing a ton of fans mostly saying ‘Who the heck is UMBC?,’ they didn’t shy away from it, trying to act proud enough that people would and should know them. They seized the opportunity to connect, to engage, and to even introduce themselves to the world. And when their website went down, likely as much a source of pride as frustration (too many visitors is a good thing!), they didn’t offer some PR-laden statement like “We are aware of technical difficulties and working to resolve…,” they acknowledged the issue like a human, demonstrating authenticity, playfulness, and even smart messaging reinforcing the long ‘line’ of fans trying to get onto umbc.edu.

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UMBC Athletics suddenly became the life of this March Madness party, on and off the court. More fans followed, more Googled UMBC, more became enamored with a personality that talked to them like a human, that reacted to the madness ensuing in front of them.

It conjures, for me, some of the work I do with teams at Hopscotch who welcome automated score alerts — Final Score: [Team Name] x, [Team Name] x. But others choose to do them manually – they want to convey the epic comeback or sold-out crowd or identify the hero.

As artificial intelligence and increased automation becomes possible, it’s important to appreciate the value of the human voice, and the capacity to express emotion. Some Messenger bots are getting smart, sure, but no bot could’ve reacted to the moments like Seidel and @UMBCAthletics did.

A social media presence can’t be devoid of emotion,

Nathan Rauschenberg is Driving Fan-Team-Player Connections and Social Media ROI for the Seattle Mariners

On episode 115 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Nathan Rauschenberg, Senior Digital Marketing Manager for the Seattle Mariners.

What follows are some snippets from the episode. Click Here to listen to the full episode or check it out and subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher.

Posted by Neil Horowitz

Follow me on Twitter @njh287 Connect on LinkedIn

Episode 115: Nathan Rauschenberg Takes Us Inside Baseball on the Seattle Mariners Social and Digital Strategy

Listen to episode 115 of the Digital and Social Media Sports podcast, with Nathan Rauschenberg, Senior Digital Marketing Manager for the Seattle Mariners.

Ep115

71 minute duration. Show format contains separate parts. Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or listen on Stitcher

Posted by Neil Horowitz Follow me on Twitter @njh287   Connect on LinkedIn

SDSU and USD basketball games: two different fan bases, strategies, and atmospheres

I was lucky enough to attend two games in three days in mid-February 2018: First, a University of San Diego Toreros game at Jenny Craig Pavilion and, 36 hours later, a game at San Diego State University in their home venue – Viejas Arena.

Two Division I teams of different scale, with different resources, and different fan bases. Take a quick trip to each game with me, checking out the sports business and fan engagement elements.

A few quick takeaways

 

  • The atmospheres are night and day. USD felt like a great outing for a young family, where kids could have a good time, get a picture with the mascot and cheerleaders, watch their friends play at halftime, and maybe get a caricature done with mom and dad. Whereas the SDSU game was more like a party atmosphere, with loud music and flashing lights and screaming fans.
    • This difference is not a bad thing, just a reflection in different institutions in different places. SDSU, despite a tough season this year, has now established a culture of winning, which brings in the students and allows/necessitates a more raucous atmosphere. A bigger budget doesn’t hurt, too. USD has struggled on the court, which inevitably affects student attendance, and their marketing and presentation is more amenable to driving those looking for an affordable outing – families – and capturing them en masse, hence the engagement with youth teams, too. USD’s budget is also more tied to wealthy donors, and this atmosphere is more amenable to those attendees, too. (At risk of generalizing)
  • SDSU had much more sponsor-driven content and replays on their video board, while USD’s in-game engagement was more of the ‘cams’ we see so often. Stuff like surf cams and dab cams can appeal to students and families alike (everyone wants to be on the video board) and any school with an arena cam can create these fun opportunities. Get on the video board, and it doesn’t matter who wins or loses.
    • This is not to say USD doesn’t want more sponsor involvement in their games (see the Domino’s Delivery of the Game), they’re looking for ways to drive fan engagement during the game that doesn’t require manpower to create graphics, videos, and animations. Their plan is to grow in this space, but I personally love the idea of the surf cam, and getting a sponsor for it will only allow it to have a little more juice and aesthetic.
  • The disparity in sponsor impressions between the two schools was certainly stark, and this represents an opportunity for USD. Their halftime stats and highlights, their cams, their dearth of digital signage — all this means there is great potential for the Toreros to drive more sponsor revenue, and they’re getting assets in place to do so. It’s easier said than done, however, when they don’t boast the crowds that SDSU gets for their games. It’s why some deals will start as bonuses or throw-ins, before becoming assets that command some more serious coin.
    • Whether the attendance is in the thousands (as for SDSU) or the hundreds (as it is for USD most games), sponsorships can be more than just presented by or than static signage. It was notable how many activations the Aztecs partners had included a text CTA or enter to win or an active element in their app. It doesn’t matter as much if 5,000 fans see something, but there are no results to show for it, if 1,000 fans see something and 100 take some measurable action.
  • It was pretty darn cool when the lights were out, the video board was flashing, and a bunch of fans and students were shouting in unison “I believe that we will win!” while some stomped their feet to rumble the arena (Yeah, I know it’s the USMNT chant, too). It was hard not to get chills. Traditions are a powerful thing and make the game day experience something special that can’t be missed by students, alums, or loyal fans.
    • USD Athletics recently got new leadership and is working on reestablishing their traditions. It’ll be fun to see it happen and come together.

 

There is so much at play for college athletics — driving student attendance, driving non-student attendance, getting donations, fulfilling sponsor deals, producing content for in-game and web and social and traditional platforms, and doing it all when you have a dozen or two dozen or more other sports to worry about, too, some of which are also revenue sports. It’s a fun challenge that so many of us have. And we’re all doing our best to figure it out and to create fan experiences that are special, that will strengthen ties to the school, and do it all while minding the bottom line.