Eric Fisher | Sports Marketing & PR Roundup

Best Practices: Pole sitting, Chiefs score for fans, Rutgers scores for Sandy

Time for a little best practices roundup from the past few days…from Arizona to New Jersey…

Stunts Gone Wrong Still Pay Off: There is the adage that any publicity is good publicity, so the Arizona Sundogs of the Central Hockey League should take note. The minor league team sent its captain and three members of the front office staff aloft on a scissor lift with a vow not to come down until they sold 300 season tickets. Trouble is season subs for hockey are hard to find in the desert, and five days layer they hadn’t hit their goal.

With a small ad budget the hope was that the stunt would go viral and drive sales, and after a slow start they came close without ever coming down. While the team didn’t hit their number they did get the exposure they were looking for, with Fox Sports and Deadspin, grabbing the story, which made for a PR coups for the Phoenix Coyotes affiliate. Viral as many have learned doesn’t equate into dollars right away usually, but it put their brand forward and may lead to more creativity and a bigger payoff down the line. Maybe they won’t get full season subs, bit the creativity led to casual exposure and maybe an additional sponsor or two, as well as individual game sales as well. Bottom line, while some may deem the promo a failure, it was un reality a great success on many levels…with over 200 season subs during a week when the team would have been an afterthought, as well as some great viral and local press, play on Sundogs, great example of spinning a negative into a plus.

 Chiefs Go To The Fans: One of the positives if having the first pick in the NFL Draft is the ability to plan outreach a little better than those picking behind you. You also are usually the worst team in the league from the year before, so there is a lot of work to be done with casual fans and brand restoration. The Kansas City Chiefs found another way to go one step farther in grabbing some props with fans and also getting some additional national exposure.

Moments after the team selected offensive lineman Eric Fisher as the top puck in the draft they made him available first…to their fans instead of the local media. Ten season-ticket holders entered a makeshift studio at the team’s training complex to ask Fisher questions via a Google Plus Hangout, one of several platforms the property had created with the NFL and the NFLPA this past week…

The fans from as far away as Wisconsin and Iowa, lined up, slipped on headsets, stared into a laptop and found Fisher staring one on one with them.  The questions ranged from his interest in the city to his knowledge of Chiefs history. Not hard hitting journalism but a nice perk for those who may need a little more ROI and TLC from the downtrodden team.

 Maybe a few years ago this type of access to fans first would have been pooh pooed by the local media on deadline. Now it was accepted. It took less than 10 minutes, didn’t slow down the access to media by a great amount of time, was not done behind closed doors and was a feel good for all. Media got all the access needed after the brief interlude, which other years could have been done in a back room at Radio City Music Hall before Fisher entered a spot to do his first presser, so it was all transparent, and it sent the message that the team is liking to perk their fans, and that they understand the need for more access.

 Little damage, good upside and another innovation dropped into play through technology. A winning move by a team that needs more wins on the field and off.

 Rutgers Wins For Sandy:  The past winter has not been overly kind to Rutgers athletes on a national scale. However on Saturday the football team scored some much needed points with its community, wearing jerseys with the names of all the towns affected by Super Storm Sandy on player’s uniforms for their annual spring game. The team also dropped a “B” on their helmets for the tragedy in Boston, and carried out a series of recognition programs to raise money and awareness for the victims in their state still struggling to recover from the devastating storm. New Jersey seems to be all about recovery from tragedy of all kinds this spring, and the Scarlet Knights, in a time where it seems college athletic uniforms are all about bold and silly fashion statements, took the time to make a statement of their own for the people of their state. Good messaging and effective promotion, a nice legacy statement crated by former Athletic Director Tim Pernetti.

The Social Media Game On A Global Scale…

The social landscape in sports across North America is growing exponentially every day. Teams, athletes, events, brands, media companies, are all scrambling to add followers, build alliances, grow traffic and scream louder than anyone else to draw critical mass for whatever reason, from selling tickets and growing brand loyalty to giving consumers the unfettered access they crave. Yet for all the scrambling and the theories of what is brand success…is it millions of followers or the right few thousand for your audience for example…a great piece by Eric Fisher in this week’s Sports Business Journal shows that American teams are still lagging in the social media footprint to the soccer clubs of Europe, and that the recently completed cricket World Cup had more of an impact in the digital space than almost any other North American sporting event, save the Super Bowl…and that impact was not on non-American servers, it was on a well known platform in the States…ESPN digital.

This type of news may create some consternation amongst the sports social media elite in the United States, and may send some “experts” heading for cover as they advise brands. However in reality the news is a great example again of how the sports landscape is far more global than we sometimes care to admit, and taking a look at best practices of some of the world’s largest soccer clubs can continue to give North American brands insight into social media. Often what is also overlooked is the advanced use of the handheld outside of the States and in emerging companies, where landlines are not useful. Telecom companies have been using the digital space for years…the French Open and Formula One were among the first events ever, as early as the 1990’s…to use digital technology to bring fans multiple images and export data to as wide an audience as possible who were following events in their handheld devices.

The list also serves as a reminder to the tribal nature of soccer as a global brand. The largest clubs in the world have truly global followings…loyal groups who consume all things about their home club win or lose…and while American sports are king here, the amount of team-specific fans outside of this country (vs. fans of the league like the NBA or NHL) is far less than the amount of club-specific fans around the world.

This is also certainly not an indictment of the great innovation and brand activation programs American sport has pioneered in the digital space, and those programs are growing exponentially each day. What it is, is a great look and reminder into the potential of the global brand and the appeal of effective social media programs that are based on both content and support. Passion drives interest no matter what the platform.