Social Media Takeovers Build Fans That Care

Think back to high school or college. Now think about those events, those games that only ended up attending because  you had a friend on the team. What made you plan your afternoon around attending the softball game? Or pregamed before a squash match?

Because relationships.

Major sports these days have excitement, allegiance, and brand propelling fans to watch, engage, and attend, but the biggest fans are those that feel more than just a fan-team relationship, it’s more tantamount to cheering on a son or daughter or a good friend.

And developing that emotional is easier now more than ever. How? The social media takeover. This is one of my favorite uses of Snapchat, in particular, and many sports teams and organization are using Snapchat takeovers to give fans a look at personalities, a day-in-the-life feel for the work that goes into living the life of an athlete, and building connections with player brands that’ll have fans cheering them and consuming content about them, and driving that feeling of a lovable obligation to support anything and everything they do.

The Carolina Panthers are among my favorite teams that embrace Snapchat as a medium. They capture the day-in-the-life perspective and personalities on the team so effectively. And, through their Snapchat takeovers, fans come to know and love a lesser name like Graham Gano as much as reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton.

It doesn’t just make fans feel like they’re hanging out with the player for the day, in addition to giving them a cool, inside look at the facilities and stuff inside, it also brings out the interactions and personalities with his teammates. All of a sudden, it starts to feel like you’re getting an exclusive look at how players interact with each other that not even the Adam Schefters of the world are privy to.

It’s as if a player is making a home movie, for the fans. And even Coach Ron Rivera gets to showcase his playful relationship with his players. A social media manager can help, as needed, but this is what Snapchat is about – sharing content with, and consuming content from, friends, not brands.

While the Panthers help bring out each of their 53+ players effectively with Snapchat takeovers, another standout sports brand that markets its individuals effectively in this manner is NASCAR. While there are some avid auto racing fans, it’s no coincidence NASCAR is at its strongest when universally known stars with names like Petty, Gordon, and Earnhardt are dominating the field. And Snapchat has allowed NASCAR to get fans to fall in love with their new names more than any race win can do.

The growth of social and digital media in sports has ushered in the explosion of all the content that is BEYOND the actual game or race or match. The trip to the movies with teammates on an off-day, the time spent in the gym or getting physical therapy, the time spent in the locker room (or “ready room,” as Michael Phelps made famous in Rio), or the moments they’re getting prepped and strapped in before a race. When you can appreciate all the details and buy into the personality and passion, you’re watching not just for entertainment, but because of emotional investment and inspiration.

I personally think just about day-in-the-life perspective would be interesting (I am George Costanza), but for athletes, that’s more true than any old ‘regular’ lifestyle or job. It’s why social media is exploding among sports and especially individual athletes. Because so many dream of being a big sports star, a peek into their lives leads to content of which fans cannot get enough. The social media team at Pac 12 Network consistently do some great Snapchat takeovers that gives fans that first-person, narrative perspective of the behind the scenes of behind-the-scenes.

Not only is this look at facilities and friendships (and food and film work) a value for Oregon State’s recruiting, it is an incredible look into the life of a D-1 football player for fans. Want to know film study looks like, what a Pac 12 football player eats, and what it’s like to chill in the tub after practice? This Snapchat takeover gives fans the understanding of the work and dedication and lifestyle, and makes them feel like they’ve spent a meal, a meeting, a day chilling with an athlete. And then can’t help but want to see how he does on the field, checking in on his game or stat line like a friend.

This is all easier said than done. To get an athlete willing to buy in and the team to allow such access is not always a simple sell. But it’s a heckuva lot easier than it ever has been. Athletes these days are brand conscious more than ever; they appreciate the opportunity to use the team’s platform (and expertise) to reach thousands or millions and to build that personal connection with not just the team, but themselves. And the younger athletes are more social media-savvy (or at least experienced), meaning they aren’t Ludditically afraid of the new tools, but understand their power.

Fans will cheer more, follow more, and engage more when they care. Takeovers [on whatever medium] drive the connections that make them care. Don’t let this terrific tactic go unused. Build fans that feel like friends.

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