Check out notable tweets, quotes, and insights from the AXS Sports Facilities and Franchises Conference.
When you’re a corporate brand in an enormous metropolis, social media and content is a valuable asset. Something as simple as a presenting sponsor of a highlight or logo in the background of a video or picture can deliver brand impressions that sponsors value. While the New York Giants lost a close game on the field, their social media no doubt made them a little money, with varying degrees of content and engagement across the big four platforms. Here is a quick review:
Snapchat was strictly a pregame tool. Maybe a win would have resulted in post game content, but there was nothing during the game, even at home at MetLife Field. The content before the game was typical of the many NFL teams. Great access to warm-ups on the field, seeing several players in action, with some not-so-sneaky sponsor integrations, including an Odell catch in the “Pepsi Corner,” followed by a slow pan of Pepsi on the background LEDs. (This was also done for Facebook and Twitter). There did not appear to be any NY Giants Snapchat, as only the NFL game geofilter was utilized on the team Snapchat on game day. Also notable was the fairly consistent promotion to visit Giants.com.
A check on the box, with fair pregame access, and good for diehard fans, but not something that excites beyond the weekly norm. (Again, don’t take for granted the access, but many fans are becoming more conditioned to it now, requiring more to the move the needle)
While many NFL teams are not too active on Facebook, the Giants consistently posted throughout game day, including sporadic updates during the game. There was consistent sponsor integration, but typically paired with good content, including the aforementioned shot of Beckham in warm-ups and a pregame injury report video sponsored by Quest Diagnostics. The in-game posts were just graphics for some Giants scores, a halftime graphic, and links to photo galleries and stories. (Noticeably absent, and surprising for the Giants, was a final score graphic, another element easily affixed with a sponsor logo) Website traffic is likely the explanation for not sharing photo galleries natively. Post game content was few and far between (mostly just on Twitter), with the latest post of the day a sponsor-integrated shared link to the website for a photo gallery and chance to win a camera. Not a lot of native, share-worthy content and engagement happening, but a mix of timely and mostly visually appealing content.
Perhaps the least busy platform for the Giants on game day is Instagram. This was a place for repurposed content (including a solid, prepared graphic ready for Beckham to reach 200 career receptions) and other content seen also on Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. A good, curated mix from content the Giants are producing for social, in general, though posting was sparse after game time and nothing that was visually stunning [volume was pretty good preceding the game in the hours/day before]. The Giants also did not try out an Instagram Story, a bit surprising, particularly for a home game and for a team looking to activate every channel to distribute their content to fans. The Giants are present on Instagram for their fans, but it is not their top priority for social content and community.
The Giants were most active throughout the day on Twitter, where there was a combination of game updates, sponsored content, and some native videos and photos. The Giants had no engagement with fans [maybe they liked some tweets?], but did retweet players before the game and at least invited fans to participate in a sponsored UGC contest. The Giants also tweeted out their own news, as opposed to some that choose to retweet team reporters or radio broadcasters. During the game, the team was consistent with score updates and several, nicely prepared graphics to celebrate big plays, including customizable templates to detail scoring plays. Again, there was a plethora of sponsored content — branding for plays, for photos, for highlights, and more. The fans are there and they want the content, but the overflow of broadcasting content at fans without much personality and conversation (no absence of !!! points to celebrate big plays, though, so not robotic] leaves a bit to be desired.
Even with the loss, there was a good volume of content after the game, including some native video (with links to full pressers) and a good amount of live-tweeted quotes to express the sentiment of players and coaches post game. Some team go virtually silent after a loss, but it was good to see the Giants give fans on Twitter the info they crave and a taste of the feeling and thoughts in the room. Win or lose, fans would prefer to have access to the content than not. Kudos to the Giants for this.
The size of the NFL audiences and the way it all coalesces each Sunday (for most) in one massive day of peak consumption is unparalleled in American pro sports. The Giants take the time to produce a steady stream of content and have found ways to monetize it by tagging and tying in sponsors. Win or lose, an engaged audience is there if you put a little time into producing content.
What is your take on the G-Men?
Vin Scully is a unique legend. Known and loved by fans from every generation — from the radio generation to smart phones and social media.
So how has Scully been able to develop that same sort of connection and relationship for viewers of all ages through his 67 years of Dodgers broadcasting? There are a few things that stand out, timeless traits and techniques to absorb for today:
Convey the emotion of the game and the atmosphere
Whether it was sharing the sound of a collective sigh of the crowd or delving into the confidence of a pitcher who knows he has it, Scully has always naturally understood the power of affecting emotion and conveying emotion to fans listening to his commentary. Watching or listening to sports is, at its best, an emotional experience, where a fan welcomes the highs and lows of investing their heart in a team. Appeal to emotion, let fans feel it, and you’ll build fans that are more deeply engaged and whom will hang on every post and piece of content.
Social media pros will spend a lot of thought and effort into how things are expressed. A post with good copy can take a great result to an epic one. [Not to mention the need to make sure nothing in the language can be misconstrued or reflect poorly on the brand or potentially allude to confidential or controversial information.]
Scully is a poet. He has been behind the mic for some of baseball’s most memorable moments and, every time, delivered the goods. Just listen to his call of Kirk Gibson’s famous gimpy home run in the 1988 World Series. He is using language to put into words the feelings of fans.
When you can say what the fan is thinking or enhance that emotion they’re feeling, the connection formed is that much stronger.
Telling the stories
Those that work in social media and sports are living the dream. Their normal is most fans’ dream. The small interactions and observations, the little layers of player personalities and relationships that are revealed are things fans love. Scully was a treasure trove of tales from generations of ballplayers and games and everything in-between. He never needed a color commentator because of the way he weaved in slices of life with the players. The way a star player posed for pictures with fans upon arrival at the team hotel, the time a guy had his luggage lost in New York, a birthday prank on a rookie, a game of catch with a player and his kid…Look around and tell the stories of all the things fans don’t get to see. I’ll miss Scully’s stories more than anything.
Telling player stories
I, like Vin Scully, love biographies. Everyone has a story and their paths are always interesting. Scully goes into each game with new player stories to tell – how they got to the big leagues, the hometown they’re from, their playing days back in high school or little league, and more. Every pro team has built-in, compelling stories to tell of its players. From first playing the sport to improving and ascending, other interests growing up, families, high school, college, minors, setbacks, successes. Every player is living out a dream with a pathway to reach that pinnacle. Scully was a biographer during at-bats.
Find something interesting
Listen to Scully closely each game and you’ll pick up so many quirks, fun facts, and things, well, you never would’ve known or needed to know about players and the game. It may be something that adds to color to a player’s character, gives historical context to a memory or town, something about a sibling or spouse, and so much more. Find just one thing about each player that is, well, unique. And tell about it. Scully always found a little gem in a player bio or media scrum from over the years, and it has been fun hearing him uncover them over the years.
He never made it bigger than him
Even as fans, players, and media have celebrated his career and legacy, Scully has always shied away from the attention. This was true in his broadcasting, too. Oftentimes, he stepped back and let moments and sensory elements speak for themselves. It was about the team, the fans, the cheers, the jeers, sounds, and the sights. In age of overbearing brands and personalities, sometimes it’s as simple as stepping aside and letting the magic of the moments take over. There’s definitely a lesson in there today’s social media and sports pro.
When Scully hangs up his mic, utters his familiar refrain “It’s time for Dodgers baseball” one last time, we’ll miss him in so many ways. But let his legacy also be a lesson to those of us that work in fan engagement every day. He knew how to capture and captivate fans. We can all seek to create relationships that are passed down from generations, one story at a time.
On episode 76 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Ben Smith, CEO of Laduma.
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
Every NFL team trains in the offseason with eyes on the Super Bowl. Finding an edge that’ll get them to the title game. It happens in the other non-playing departments of the organization, too.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been first in a lot of things over the years on digital and social; for example,. when they hosted private Direct Message conversations with players and season ticket holders. This spirit of finding creative new ways to engage their fans was what stood out most in this latest NFL team review, which unfortunately happened to fall on a Sunday when the Bucs were routed by the Cardinals 40-7 in a week two matchup.
Social media, particularly on game day, comes down to fan engagement. And the Bucs leave no stone unturned in identifying things their fans enjoy and want to do, and taking it up a notch. Check out the great page of downloadable GIFs they made available to fans, to GIF their way through a game. They also had a mobile app-based game, and made use of the Facebook frame, which has risen in popularity. It’s a lot easier to be a super fan, when such tools are readily available.
As with many, most of their activity on game day and during the game came via Twitter. They had their own supply of prepared GIFs, all in line with similar look and feel. There is simultaneously value to the brand consistency and staleness in the relative uniformity. They also made use of pregame (some premade, some real-time) hype videos and GIFs. Some of these were shared on other platforms, too. No Snappy TV highlights, but that may have been because of the lopsided affair.
Continuing the theme of taking advantage of all the tools was the Bucs’ use of the click to tweet Twitter card made available to NFL teams from Twitter. The Bucs exhorted fans to tweet #SiegeTheDay, their official, emoji-laden hash tag. Also notable (and commendable) was their engagement on college football Saturday.
A few other quick, but notable observations: retweets of the beat guys was a primary way to pass on information, in-game polls were good, sporadic use of native vs. linked video, link to live video (as opposed to Periscope). And, looking back at the previous week’s winning timeline, there was a bit more playfulness and engagement. No interaction with fans during the game, for what it’s worth. They also had some score update graphics and, on the winning week, a free shipping sale for merchandise.
While Twitter was where most of the action was, there was a little pregame content on Snapchat. It must be noted that the Bucs were on the road this week, but I do see many teams getting great content, even when on the road. There was a little look around upon arrival at the stadium and a couple peeks at warm-ups. It felt a bit like a PR guy doing his best (commendable), but not the type of incredible content possible on the platform when someone socially dedicated [and with the time do so] snaps a story.
Instagram was also a bit of a check-the-box execution for the Bucs. There was no Instagram Live Story, a bit surprising with just 16 Sundays and being able to upload prepared content. Gotta like the post of the player dressed in their threads en route to the game, and repurposing their hype video. Their close-up of the uniform was creative, though a bit hard to focus on. (IG zoom!) But once the game started, there were just a few Getty photos and nothing that truly wow-ed.
Finally, Facebook was not particularly exciting (granted, a loss). Good to have the hype video to post. After the game, a little native video then linked to a full presser. Similarly, a single photo post linked to a full gallery. Between Twitter and Facebook, the goal seemed to be site traffic over native content consumption, let alone native live platforms like Periscope and Facebook Live. (Including the week prior with the win). Again, their Facebook profile frame is great!
Win-loss, home-away — it’s important to serve fans the content they crave. It’s fueling and feeding passions, whether burning with stress, anxiety, joy, anger, elation. The Bucs are most focused on innovating and augmenting the behaviors their fans are already doing. While still serving up content directly, they empower their fans to amuse themselves and evangelize the team and the brand. They cultivate a community in the macro social world.
There’s no perfect social strategy. The goals remain an engaged, invested audience. You can build super fans. Give them the reason and the tools to do so.
There’s no question nostalgia is in right now. With every team and brand after the so-called Millennial demographic (let’s not get started on that broad characterization), we’re seeing a collection of content that recalls the ’90s, drumming up goosebumps and feelings with fans of which they can’t get enough.
For the University of Central Florida athletics program, jumping into this theme was not only a no-brainer, but particularly suited to their alumni base. Though the school has been around for decades, its coming-of-age, and enormous growth in undergraduate population, began just 20 years ago or so, resulting in an average alumnus age of 36 years old. So a lot of their alumni grew up rocking out to Third Eye Blind between games of Mari Kart and episodes of Saved By The Bell.
It therefore came as no surprise that the 8-bit, Nintendo-themed social media content we’re starting to see elsewhere was a great opportunity for the Knights. And they delivered.
Being first doesn’t matter as much these days. While us that work, or pay close attention to, the social media and sports space, the next manifestation of a Nintendo-ish image or GIF is not entirely new, but for fans all over the country, they have likely not seen much of it, and certainly not seen it with their team and their school.
But UCF took it up another notch, too. Delivering reams of the typical informative content fans need in the theme they bought into for this past weekend’s winnable* game against the Maryland Terrapins (who, they clearly noticed, recalled the turtles Super Mario came across in his travails back in the day). The result? A feeling of novelty and surprise and delight that kept fans anticipating what the next GIF or image would look like.
They clearly came prepared. Because, after the game started, it was just as good, if not better. With a bank of GIFs and Vines that carried the theme throughout with content that was oh-so-fun and oh-so-shareable. With just a dozen Saturdays to really capture the attention of fans, it behooves teams to dedicate resources, time, and content to go all-in each Saturday. To make a plan and execute beyond anyone’s expectation.
And while the bank of 8-bit content kept coming, UCF also continued to deliver other great content, too. With a staff that always seems to small (anyone in social and sports can relate to that), they had people in the right places to go along with additional prepped content that supplemented the nostalgia of Nintendo with the emotion of the game. With a constant stream of content often coming onto fans’ timelines at the same time they’re watching the game themselves in person or on TV. UCF found ways to throw gasoline on the fire of fans watching games — whether it is a quick video bringing them in the pregame huddle or on the field at a crucial time, or a photo perfectly conveying what a player feels and sees, this execution doesn’t happen without planning, empowerment, and strategic vision.
When the UCF-Maryland game ended in a tough, double overtime defeat for the Knights, man were they ready with content that stayed true to the themes, brought the emotion, and was well-aligned with the messaging the program wants to convey. What a perfect way to stick with the Nintendo-ish motif of the day, while reminding fans that the team will not ‘quit’ despite the fact they ended with ‘Game Over’ before beating the final level. The photo of a player in defeat further brought humanity to this emotion.
It is indeed possible to carry the strength of a message with the fun of a novelty theme. And UCF pushed all the right buttons.