Something of a “manifesto” about sports business that I penned in February…
Sports and social media have been great partners from the beginning, as the two have evolved the way we communicate, discover, interact and even do business. Sports has led the way because sports fans are the original brand evangelists. It’s not enough to be a Yankees fan, everyone you know has to believe the Yankees are the best for ‘x’ or ‘y’ reasons. With that framework in mind, here are some thoughts as to where the evolutionary path of social media, social business and brand/team communities can develop through the prism of sports.
This isn’t a revolutionary idea, but is one often overlooked or lacking focus, at times. One thing that is only going to get more concentrated is the ubiquity of mobile devices everywhere one goes. Some teams are jumping into the paperless ticket space, which can help cut down on costly ticket printing, shipping, hassle of fans printing, and, of course, the secondary markets and scalping. Others have developed Apps, which serve fans all types of team content, from videos to live stats and radio streams and ticket purchasing options. But, as a whole, there is still relatively little revenue coming from all of fans’ mobile activities and that is something that should undergo rapid change in the next few seasons in all pro sports (and is already happening as marketers adjust budgets).
The ultimate destination for mobile, contingent on privacy concerns, are to serve as a way to track fan activity as much as possible, to better learn about them and give them what they want. This could mean scanning an RFID on your mobile device at select sponsor locations (or show a mobile coupon) to add value to sponsors, using it to work toward rewards in purchases [and allowing to track volume and type of ticket/merch purchases] and everything in between.
The other thing mobile does is allow teams to have a direct channel to fans not just within traveling distance of games, but everywhere around the world. The Ducks alone had mobile app users [and social media fans/web visitors, of course] from nearly 30 countries. Of course, social media opened such vast lines of communication as well, which is a segue to my next point…
Finding and Empowering Brand Ambassadors Outside The Confines
While building up a localized fan base of season ticket holders and others that regularly attend games is of utmost importance, one area in which teams have much room to grow in this new age of two-way fan to community to club communication (aka social media), is developing relationships with and, ultimately monetizing, the huge number of fans that live beyond the borders of game attendees.
Several pro sports clubs have Facebook fan bases that number from 200,000-2,000,000, with about 20-30% actively interacting with the page at any given time and a bit less than that seeing each post (short of promoted posts), yet, though it varies a great deal, not many of those are supporting the team directly. Sure, they may buy a cap through the league’s online shop or sport a t-shirt around town, but most will jump at the chance to buy fun and exclusive items they can’t find elsewhere and to support the team in other ways. What could this mean? Any number of things: bi-weekly merchandise offerings to fans of out-of-state or out-of-country fans, facilitating localized fan clubs to whom sponsored offerings, merch/club kits can be sold, road trips to a game, partnering with local sponsors to support watch parties (or national partners gaining more value) or provide coupons, and, in turn, increasing the size and depth of those non-local fan bases and increasing social community populations and traffic to the team website. (a mouthful, there) Simply taking the time to exhibit photos of all items from a club’s arena store [to serve as an online catalog to show non-local fans items to purchase, since, for some leagues at least, revenue from the online shop mostly goes to the league] is a simple way to drive revenue. There are tons of fans with enthusiasm that are dying to support the team. It may not make millions, but it can go a long way and build up over time. Don’t neglect these non-local fans that you can now easily reach on social media.
Clich here to see more of the No Biz Like Sports Biz series of posts
Posted by Neil Horowitz