By this point in time, most organizations have either embraced social media as a marketing tool or will write it off forever. Moreover, most organizations have realized the importance of not only developing a community to increase brand equity but also to have more control and self-preservation in the digital arena. For professional sports teams, these factors have become crucial to evoke different motives in sports enthusiasts and distribute its service and product to as wide a market as possible. Currently, it’s easier than ever to feel like you’re part of a team by being placed behind closed doors, in the locker room, and with exclusive content that wasn’t available 10 years ago. This has opened so many doors for sports teams to create loyalty and build a solid base of fanatics, which is incredibly important as teams are required to market an experience rather than the outcomes of games as they’re so unpredictable. Here are a few social media strategies professional sports teams have used in the past that have broken the mold and created overwhelming value for their loyal followers.
Orlando City SC is a soccer club based in Orlando, Florida that competes in Major League Soccer (MLS). A newer expansion team that began play in 2015, Orlando came out with a bang by signing former Brazil World Cup-winner Kaka. They set some mind blowing ticket sales by selling out all 14,000 available season tickets during the team’s opening month and selling out of all 60,000 seats in their first home opener. In its first season, Orlando City averaged over 32,000 fans per game ranking second in MLS. But like specified earlier, teams must market an experience rather than results as they’re unpredictable. Here’s where Orlando City SC has done a great job and created a memorable experience. The Lions have created an exclusive membership program that not only earns you points for Lions gear but gets you closer to the team with exclusive content. As a season ticket holder, you become a part of this program for free which is an excellent way to further increase the loyalty of those members and create incentives. As a non-season ticket holder joining the program is $9 a month, less than a Netflix subscription. The program is genius. Not just because people often want free stuff, but it creates an instant community. Several motives for sports spectators are utilized in one program; group affiliation, family, entertainment, and escape. There are still some moving parts that could be improved such as the personalization of program members and gamification throughout, but it’s a great start to move “Light” spectators to “Medium” or even “Heavy.”
Boy, what is there not to say here? Real Madrid has been at the forefront of World sports domination as far as branding has gone and just recently their social media presence has been kicked into high gear. Here’s just a short laundry list of some of the social media strategies Real Madrid has initiated: Facebook Live, 360 degree video, over 480,000 followers on Snapchat in 3 months, hundreds of millions of views on Facebook videos, exclusive Instagram content, fully functional phone app, mobile games, and so many individual strategies I could go on for days. The crazy part for Real Madrid’s social media is they estimate only 3% of their followers are from Spain. The fan base is so segmented geographically that they have multiple social media managers for different languages. Not only that, but as far as Soccer goes and the complexity of players from different countries is concerned, various spectators in different countries will be more interested in individual players. For instance, Colombia will be more interested in content based on James Rodriguez. Real Madrid may be an anomaly in the stratosphere of professional sports social media, but they got there by doing it right.
The Windy City Bulls are an affiliate of the Chicago Bulls and an NBA Developmental League team. This year will be their first year, and they’ll become the 13th D-League team owned by an NBA team. Chicago knew exactly how to transfer loyalty from their existing Bulls franchise into the D-League team and in a hurry. The name of the team was completely up to the fans to decide. There were over 3,600 submissions, and the Bulls narrowed down the decision to 3 choices. Fansourced and crowdsourced information is a great way give fans the opportunity to give their input and feel like a part of the community. The ability to decide on the name of a brand new team generated instant interest and the decision to choose 3 finalists was smart as well. There are several horror stories of crowd-sourced decisions going wrong, such as naming a boat “Boaty McBoatface” or the several zoos that ask spectators to name chimps/apes/monkeys. Either way, The Windy City Bulls are in their first full season currently so we will have to give it time to see if the crowdsource stunt paid off any dividends.