No Biz Like Sports Biz, Part 4 of 8

The Power of the Individual

Anyone who’s been paying attention the last few years, it is increasingly evident that the individual consumer, fan, voice is as powerful as ever. An organization never knows if that fan writing to you via Facebook or Twitter or any number of forums is the one who will spread a poor opinion of you virally and ruin your brand’s image, alienate followers, or any number of doomsday scenarios that have, at various times, actually played out. And, of course, it could just be a Twitter handle with an egg that leads to nothing. But business are treating the value and potential power of the individual as a negative, when it is instead something to be embraced and exploited, helped by social media (and email and phone as relationships develop). The two points I dwell on with individuals is: affect one fan at a time in a meaningful way and find the influencers.
The notion of identifying and mobilizing influencers/superfans/brand evangelists is a growing trend across all industries, including sports. In the unique field (no pun intended) of professional sports, there are a number of super fans (and more casual fans) that want to actively promote your team and your brand. There are also individuals whom hold influence over groups, event planning, and the like. The key is identifying and mobilizing these individuals. This is both a long-term process and a shot in the dark-type, low-cost effort. The former involves active listening and attention over time to all of one’s social networks and to identify the more active, responsible fans, engage them at an individual level (DM, FB message, and, eventually, email). From there, work toward an opportunity to be a group leader who can get a price break or VIP experience when they recruit ‘x’ number of friends to attend a game, help organize a tweet up of fans for a special event at a poor-selling (or sold-out) game and to help promote content and promotional offers. The individual attention, alone, given to the fan, will show them the value the organization holds for them and there is vast potential in identifying even one of these individuals who will buy a suite, organize a group outing, etc. Of course, there doesn’t need to just be super fans, there are those who look for events as part of their job.
While I have not yet seen it done successfully during my tenure, there are better and better ways to properly segment people and fans for prospecting through social media.  Spend 20 minutes a week searching for (on Linkedin, on Twitter, on Facebook, via Social Mention, Google search, etc.) and crafting a personalized message for, a local HR specialist in your area to suggest a group outing and offer, a youth league director to present a fundraising group buy, a scout leader, a teacher, etc. Think personalized pitch, both from the perspective of to whom you’re writing and showing you have an understanding of them on a personal level, you’ve taken the time to learn. The batting average may not be high on this stuff, but a couple of good relationships established from so-called shots in the (relative) dark can be lucrative in the long run. A big thing about fan engagement, overall, is creating the lasting relationship that makes one’s affinity for, a team in this case, a part of the fan’s personal identity.

Without rambling too much, it all comes down to creating stories to tell, one fan at a time. Give a fan a lifelong memory which they’ll tell and retell to all their friends and family, at parties, whenever they see that photo on the wall or fridge, etc., and you have years and years of free promotion and mention of your brand.  It’s better than an old bumper sticker, it’s a testimonial, experiential advertisement for what you’re selling – ultimately, memorable, meaningful experiences. These don’t need to be of the grandiose nature like an autographed jersey or player meet & greet; even winning a random contest at the game (and having a photo taken, and even framed, to commemorate it), giving fans the opportunity to create post cards during the game (preserve your five seconds of Jumbotron fame to put in your office cubicle), tell that story about when you tweeted you were at your first game and all of a sudden you were taking home a signed hat. Work on creating one story at a time for fans to tell and empower them to share and preserve these stories for perpetuity.  You’ll always be front of mind and hold a special place in their heart. And that is ROI that is hard to come by without winning a championship! Titles come and go, but the littlest gestures and littlest things in this new age of social media and the individual go a long way. A segue to next my post…

Clich here to see more of the No Biz Like Sports Biz series of posts


Posted by Neil Horowitz

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