Danbury Creates A Whale Of A Social Media Platform…

The Federal Hockey League may not be far off from the fictional league of the same name from “Slapshot” at least in terms of being the first, and sometimes last shot, for players looking to make a go of it on the ice. But at least one team in the league, the Danbury Whalers (with similar logo to the old Hartford Whalers I may add), always tries to be innovative. Their latest experiment to engage fans in the social space has taken hold, and could provide a really cool template for engagement in a sport like baseball, with bigger gaps of downtime and more players, at least on the Independent level.
For several weeks the Whalers have been doing Twitter Take Overs. While a twitter Takeover is certainly not unique for a brand, it is different when the Takeover is being done by a player…during a game. With Whalers Director of Media Relations, Tommy Pecoraro serving as host, players who are playing in the game, as well as coaches, are answering questions and posting their thoughts, from the penalty box, between periods, after a goal, in the lockerroom all in real time. It is a daring and certainly innovative way to get unfiltered access, and while leagues like the NFL have allowed live tweeting during the Pro Bowl from players, getting instant reaction during a regular season game where dollars and points are on the line takes social media to a new level. It also sets up some unique sponsor activations for in-arena and in real time through social media, where a platform with limited characters like Twitter can sometimes be challenging to monetize in short stints.
It is also interesting to see that the takeover hasn’t really caught a great deal of backlash from selected players; they get it, they trust Pecoraro to approach at the right times, and the engagement is gaining steam and attention for a team that has done a nice job of building a core following in a spot near the Connecticut and New York border. It is also a great way to increase the fan base and get more engagement far away from Danbury, which can lead to some additional merch sales and other bottom line benefits.

 

While it is doubtful that live takeovers will make it to the Major leagues or even affiliated minor league baseball teams, the Whalers experiment should be noted for Independent league teams, all-star events, even spring training. What would be better than getting a twitter takeover from Matt Harvey in the dugout from Port St. Lucie next spring to generate some Mets buzz right after he comes off the field? It may be a stretch, but the Whalers attempt is worth some points, and will probably be augmented, refined, sold and copied down the line. Innovation lives on in Connecticut, with a solid experiment that is not minor league in any way.

Twitter Me This, NFL

While only one aspect of the full digital picture, Twitter continues to be one of the best tools to look at engagement. So as the NFL season starts, Old Forge Media, took a look at their formula on how NFL teams stack up in the twitter verse. Their Old Forge Quality & Competence Rating (OFQCR) System  Management looked at issues like second-degree follower circles, follower-quality, follower-churn, tweet performance and many other other variables which are integral to observing Twitter performance.

Their belief is that because they  are not looking at the right metrics, most companies, athletes, celebrities and teams are only beginning to scratch the surface of their potential on Twitter. Here’s a look at NFL top to bottom on their Twitter-only engagement. You can find out more @OldForgeMedia 

#1 – @49ers QCScore = 23.1

#2 – @steelers QCScore = 21.7

#3 – @Patriots QCScore = 20.9

#4 – @Broncos QCScore = 19.9

#5 – @Seahawks QCScore = 17.9

#6 – @HoustonTexans QCScore = 15.6

#7 – @Browns QCScore = 15.3

#8 – @Giants QCScore = 12.9

#9 – @Colts QCScore = 12.8

#10 – @packers QCScore = 11.8

#11 – @Saints QCScore = 11.1

#12 – @RAIDERS QCScore = 10.8

#13 – @Vikings QCScore = 10.5

#14 – @AZCardinals QCScore = 10.5

#15 – @ChicagoBears QCScore = 10.2

#16 – @Ravens QCScore = 9.8

#17 – @Redskins QCScore = 9.6

#18 – @Jaguars QCScore = 9.4

#19 – @PanthersQCScore = 9.2

#20 – @MiamiDolphins QCScore = 8.9

#21 – @Eagles QCScore = 8.6

#22 – @Atlanta_Falcons QCScore = 8.6

#23 – @Chargers QCScore = 8.2

#24 – @KCChiefs QCScore = 7.4

#25 – @dallascowboys QCScore = 7.2

#26 – @Bengals QCScore = 6.8

#27 – @Lions QCScore = 6.7

#28 – @buffalobills QCScore = 6.7

#29 – @TennesseeTitans QCScore = 6.5

#30 – @TBBuccaneers QCScore = 6.0

#31 – @STLouisRams QCScore = 5.1

#32 – @nyjets QCScore = 3.4

@NFL has a QCScore of 33.7

To date the highest QCScore calculated is 80.1

The Second Screen Evolves…

It is the buzzword of the year like “plastics” was in the movie “The Graduate,” or “Social Media” was last year or “3D TV” was three years ago. Now it’s all about the second screen…or the third…or the fourth.  And while a study this week in the Sports Business Journal showed that usage and adaptation of a second screen during broadcasts is still small, it is growing, and brands and properties are scrambling for when to take advantage in a cost efficient and meaningful consumer engagement experience.

Now the second screen of today can be as simple as using a platform like twitter to engage fans and monitor the buzz in and around an event. The latest example took place during the NBA Finals,  with NBA Partner Sprint leveraging twitter’s new TV ad targeting tool, in conjunction with the Minnesota Timberwolves Kevin Love, to create an added experience for fans.  Live tweets, video links, even Vine feeds, all tied to a  Show The Love With Kevin Love Show. Fans asked questions and got reaction from Love, as well as the ability to interact with each other. Sprint sweetened the pot with some text and win and favorite following tweets to build more interest as well. Simple, clean, not huge investment and a way to see if fans would engage with Sprint, an official NBA partner and with Love in an environment away from the game.

The contest gave fans an opportunity to respond and engage in the medium of their choice, from laptop to tablet to mobile device, and was agnostic of carrier, although the goal for Sprint would be to align and then convert users down the line with special offers.

Now while that type of second screen experience is a clean and easy one, the opportunities that exist with opportunities like streaming video or advanced and enhanced analytics are also intriguing. Rights holders or teams or leagues can created enhanced experiences that complement the broadcast for fans willing to delve deeper, especially in sports where there are longer breaks like golf, football and baseball.  Deeper explanations of the goings on, as well as fan reactions, all tied to video replays can make the controversial less controversial and five an insider’s view of what is going on while those in the broadcast booth tend to the action. Brands can also get bigger ROI be driving fans to the second screen for added value promotions that can get lost in a traditional action packed broadcast.

Now for those non-rights holders, the opportunity to engage in a second screen experience is also intriguing. Since one does not necessarily need rights or likenesses or even video to create an experience away from the broadcast, a team or a local host can be agnostic to broadcasters and maybe even be more edgy or true or even controversial in content.  There is also the ambush possibility with a second screen partner, where a brand locked out of the rights can create an experience to drive interest and ROI, although that type of ambush would take large dollars and lots of potential ill will, to create and pull off effectively.

The other beauty of the second screen experience is its mobility…it can be done on site or a thousand miles away, depending on the level of engagement.  The rights holder or the team or league could launch the experience just inches from play or in a studio getting immediate feedback, or it could be an interaction in a person’s house or living room or studio miles away.  Location can be a great enhancement, nut the most important thing is the uniqueness of content and the immediacy of reaction.

As mobile reception improves in stadia the second screen will also continue to grow. Promotions in lackluster games, or better explanations with team legends or officials, will hopefully help enhance and not detract from the fan experience, and not be an impediment on watching the game live.

For sure the space is ever evolving. A good tweetup or twitter chat which was thought to be easy and engaging recently or even today may be archaic tomorrow, as better reception and economies of scale, along with wider engagement come into play. There is also the risk of too much too soon and decreased value for a rush to the second screen. Dueling personalities and lots of clamor for followers can lead to turned off consumers and lots of white noise. In the end, great content will drive the day…content that is fun, clean, smooth and long on engagement for the consumer like he or she has never had before. It will not replace the live event in stadia or on broadcast, but it should continue to enhance, and is for sure a must follow trend going forward.  

Kobe Sets The New Screen…

The opportunity for athletes, teams and coaches to engage with fans seems to ratchet up with each passing week. What was once doable only by going to a game or an autograph sessions or “sports night,” has elevated from “influencer parties” to chat rooms to text messaging to customized and targeted voice and email to tweet ups to text chats to Facebook engagements to message boards, where fans from around the world can communicate in real time with their willing sports and entertainment figure of choice.

The most recent flavor of the month is of course, twitter, where fans can follow and interact with their engaged athlete in short bursts. Into the twitter mix in a big way the last few weeks was the LA Lakers Kobe Bryant, who went from silent to carefully engaged in the platform I a matter of days. This week Bryant took his engagement one innovative step further, offering to watch and then tweet in real time his thoughts and responses to the replay of his 81 point game on NBA TV.  The response to Bryant’s outreach was very strong, and it got the NBA some tremendous buzz while opening up a whole world of engagement possibilities on twitter for any athlete or performer looking back on a memorable event. President Obama reliving his thoughts at the inauguration? Why not. Lady Gaga reviewing an HBO special with her fans to tell her thoughts about the process? Why not. The events are taped, the thoughts can be poignant and the fan would enjoy the give and take.

While the twitter engagement is nice, it really only scratches the surface of what may be coming to take this type of interaction to another level. For example. Google has had some success with Google hangouts for over a year…a way for anyone to engage via streaming video in real time with friends or bold face names. It has the power of one of the greatest promotional platforms behind it, and can pull in big numbers of people from around the world to talk to whoever the subject is.

So why not take Bryant’s interaction on twitter and overlay the live video component to it with an engagement tool like Google hangouts for a taped event. It could even be housed through the NBA’s home site on NBA.com, or even on multiple sites to help drive traffic. Better yet, how about taking a live game and dropping former stars or coaches into the hangout to give fans an insider’s view as to what is going on in a game. Both instances bring a sponsorable, unique real-time overlay to an event and create additional value that a fan cannot get with a primary screen.

Would it work for every game? No. Sometimes without the right “star” the chats can become silly and mundane and a distraction to what the consumer is watching. You don’t want someone to miss something going on in a game because they were focused on a mobile device or a laptop. Yu want to add to the experience, whether it is a live event or a memorable night being replayed. It also lends well to some events where there are natural breaks n the game like soccer, baseball, cricket and even football more than the fast paced environment of hockey for example.

Sure the idea of the second screen has been tried for years to some extent. However the speed of technology and live video today has made the opportunity for broader engagement more possible and less obtrusive than ever before without detracting from the overall experience.

Bryant’s massive tweet experiment this week showed the value of stars with that platform, now it’s time to make video the next part of such an engagement…cleanly, effectively and globally. It certainly isn’t live tweeting or micro cameras with reactions as the game is going on, but with the right experts involved…retired players, injured players, former coaches…the ability to keep growing the fan experience will continue to rise.

Nice score this week by Kobe and his team, let’s see what comes with the next shot.

Will The #NASCAR Tweet Experiment Work?

On Sunday at the now ultra-fast Pocono Raceway, NASCAR, one of the best sports at fan engagement, will launch their latest attempt to capture casual fans by partnering with Twitter for a co-branded racing page.

It will be promoted at the racetrack and on television, and the Pocono 400 will be renamed the “Pocono 400 Presented By #NASCAR,” which for a sport that is all about selling every possible piece of real estate to brand partners, is a very big move. The page offers a brand-new Twitter interface that prominently features photographs and is optimized for quick navigation. The #NASCAR page will be curated by Twitter employees, with a custom mix of tweets from racing personalities, organizations, family members, and sponsor promotional accounts. It will also be set as a draw for people new to twitter as well as casual fans drawn in to see what NASCAR is all about in a medium they are familiar with.

Turner Sports has also bought into the experiment with cross-promotional elements to see how a social media following can also increase tune-in on a very busy spring weekend.

Now the quest to bring in ancillary eyeballs is not new for NASCAR. Attempts have been made to mainstream the personalities of the sport and their loyal followers with everything from Harlequin Romance books to fine wines, all to various degrees of success. Some die-hard followers have seen this type of outreach as a betrayal of a brand, while new advertisers see it as a way to find new followers themselves.

Will it work for Twitter as a promotion? Probably? Has it gotten NASCAR some buzz and additional interest? For sure, as it is always great to be “first” in a partnership. Will brands look at the data and then find ways to use this large scale page and outreach to customize offerings away from the race and the broadcast, which could lead to new sales from an audience not exposed to NASCAR? That remains to be seen.

One key positive is that, smartly, NASCAR has worked to engage all areas of media in this partnership. The track promotion, cross-promos with drivers and most importantly the link to broadcast, gives everyone a fighting chance. Many brands, leagues, teams and athletes have sought to just create “social media” without integration, and while sometimes there has been a great pop, the follow-through has been less than expected, and very quickly those trying to engage and draw dollars just from “social media” go on to other things to spend money and time.

If it works, for sure other entities will follow. If not or if the results are negligible, it will be back to the drawing board for NASCAR, and for twitter as an effective and lucrative way to pull in followers and eventually dollars for a property.

Yin and Yang of Twitter…Osi Umenyiora and NASCAR

The endless debate rages on as to how and what twitter as a social platform can do for sport. We started the weekend with New York Giants defensive lineman Osi Umenyiora trying to use the medium to help Lawrence Taylor buy back his Super Bowl ring…provided Umenyiora found a million followers. Then we had NASCAR cutting a “deal” with Twitter to help manage and effectively market the medium to the sport’s uberloyal fan base, starting with the Pocono 400 in June.

One great idea, one poor one. Why?

Below are some thoughts we put in the updated Sports Publicity text which will come out in November on twitter usage. In the case of an individual athlete, the idea that “I will do this if I get to a million followers” has jumped the shark. It hasn’t worked with charities for the most part, and is becoming white noise with athletes and other sin the entertainment field trying to get a mass following “just because.’ The social media audience is becoming more savvy, and the days of quality followers that can be used to merchandise brands or other partners is becoming more important than just volumes of passive followers, many of whom may be spam or may never actually read or engage in anything that the “prominent figure” endorses . There is also a growing backlash from athletes and others who try to openly use twitter growth or Facebook likes as a ploy to help a charity or a brand.

If the effort was sincere, then why not just support the effort with the fan base you have cultivated, and use traditional media to help grow the word as well? Sincerity in cause and brand marketing is much more important than “follow me.” The other need is for consistency of message. The ability for athletes or any celebrity to endorse one brand this week and another random one the next is getting more and more difficult. People want to be cultivated and want to see a steady message, not some willy nilly shoutouts. Sure there are a few exceptions…an Oprah shoutout or something that Shaquille O’Neal may like carries weight because their work in cultivating followers has taken time and has been proven effective. It is very, very difficult to replicate, especially when someone is pleading for followers with no real backup.

Umenyiora’s appeal is a great example of what happens when the request for followers rings hollow. It is great that he got to 50,000 plus followers. That is the core he should work with and that is still a powerful group that will grow, so long as he seems sincere in his efforts. Otherwise the white noise gets louder.

Now NASCAR is a different story. Their athletes are marketing machines, they appear sincere in their outreach and the fans are looking for more interaction. They rarely have to seek, fans seek them and will follow.

NASCAR has also allowed, as we have seen in previous races, to use social media platforms for drivers and crews in race, the biggest result of which was Brad Keselowski tweeted from his car a photograph he had just shot of a jet-dryer truck engulfed in flames right after having been rammed by driver Juan Pablo Montoya. He added 100,000 Twitter followers in a few minutes because of his content and the viral nature of the shot.

The partnership with Twitter will support live race broadcasts. During a race, when fans click on #NASCAR, search for #NASCAR on Twitter.com or visit twitter.com/#NASCAR, they will reach a Twitter platform scrolling the most relevant tweets from NASCAR drivers, families, teams, commentators, celebrities and other racing fans and personalities. Twitter.com/#NASCAR will be available starting with the Pocono Raceway race weekend and then on June 10 in conjunction with TNT’s first of six television broadcasts of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
Smart way for the medium to embrace, and for sure a good litmus test of proactive brands who will not have to beg for exposure. The exposure will come to them. Quality beats quantity.

Now those points…

One, it’s not for everyone.

Just like parties or driving fast cars, social media is not a practice for everyone. Coaches, athletes, even some brands may be risk averse or simply not have that much to say. Therefore participating in a social media campaign of any kind is not something that everyone must do. Understanding and following what is going on from a distance makes sense, so being on twitter or Facebook from a monitoring standpoint is a great thing to do. If you have nothing to say, or add, then don’t say or add anything.

However understanding what is going on is important. Silence can be the best form of intelligence.

Two, Size doesn’t always matter.

When social media exploded there was a burst to get to large number of followers. However social media is about peer to peer engagement of thoughts and ideas. Making sure you, your client, your business partner have the right followers, whether they are 20 or 20,000, is just as important as having a million in many cases.

Three, know who is in your posse.

Many people sign on to twitter or Facebook, Google Plus or engage in LinkedIn or any other social platforms and never bother to see who is following them or why they are following them. Ask from time to time; check your lists for spammers or unusual content, block those who are offensive to you. Just like people at a party in your house, responsibly managing your lists is an important piece of business maintenance. Then, knowing who and what is being said amongst your user groups will make your social media engagement just as valuable and effective as anything else you do in communications.

Four, ask questions.

Make sure you ask people why they are following you if you don’t know. Drop a question from time to time to some followers. It is important to be involved in the social space if you choose to be, so engage when you can.

Five, speak when you have something to say.

Many people fall into the trap of speaking just for the sake of saying something. Don’t. If you have an idea, a link, a story to communicate then do so, and make sure it is reflective of your overall social strategy. Don’t just post something because you haven’t said anything in a while and feel a need to do so.

Six, remember who you represent

Sometimes people think that they can separate their personal thoughts from their professional by using a “this is my thought not my company” disclaimer. That can be a big mistake. We are all intertwined for better or worse, and the alter ego idea in the digital space does not work. You speak for all those you represent at all times, so always have those around you in mind.

Seven, watch the chains that bind you

It is very easy to comment on a photo or a public chain in social media. Once you are on it you can lose control of those ties and they can spin very easily into a questionable area of comment, whether you are still commenting or intended to be part of a conversation that grew or not. Cut the ties after you comment, it will save you a lot of headaches.

Eight, watch the inference.

We lose all nuance with the printed word, despite the addition of emotions and small catch phrases. If something gets lost in the printed word pick up the phone and call the person. A little voice contact can take much of the sting out of a misguided email, post or tweet.

Nine, Think before your post.

The biggest mistakes made in social media come from those who react emotionally. Be professional, pause and then say what you have to say. Once a thought is out the amount of time taken to retract or clarify will cut away from all the productive time you have.

Ten, Be Genuine and Creative

Don’t use social platforms to create white noise or endless useless chapter about a subject you are working with or promoting. Make your platform as much editorial as advertorial and as diverse as you can. It is social, so be social while balancing the work effort. Social media provides lots of opportunities for us to connect with people from around the world that we would not normally be able to.

The Ying and Yang of Breaking News…The NFL vs. The Jets

The 24 hour period on Wednesday and Thursday of this week saw something that most people would have never predicted six, eight…well weeks ago. That March Madness and Linsanity could take a back seat in the beginning of spring to…Tim Tebow and the New York Jets. In less than 12 hours the NFL again rose up and showed the power it has in popular culture, first with the announcements of the suspensions brought down on the New Orleans Saints, and then through the Tim Tebow trade, untrade, negotiation and finally move to New York. The debate will rage on for months, but the medium of how the story carried out showed again how social media, without brands, without large dollars, took over the conversation, broke news, broke news again, led controversy and sent everyone scurrying for their smart phones.

Now the entire day was not ruled by the latest way to get news out. The NFL stuck with the traditional. Large scale statements and press releases, a formal media availability, q and a and much much followup for their decisions against the Saints staff and the organization. Well planned, thought out and effectively messaged.

Then the medium and the conversation changed. The Record newspaper on Thursday provided a very interesting
“Anatomy Of The Deal” that eventually brought the mercurial Broncos quarterback east to Gotham
. It showed very clearly that the first line of information changed from the NFL’s stance in the morning to a media and public conscious team just a few hours later. At 12:50, the timeline shows, the Jets announce an agreement on a trade with Denver…not on their website or on radio or through a press release or conference call. It was on twitter. Then at 1:03 the Jets contact their media members that they have reached an agreement with the Broncos…via text message. The next piece of news comes from ESPN’s Adam Schefter that there is a hangup because of contract language…again on twitter. 5:18 Schefter, one of sports’ most well connected media members…reports…again on twitter…that the Jacksonville Jaguars are again in the mix. While many other pundits are friending, monitoring and following every player, coach and media member connected with everyone from Florida to Broadway. While players like Antonio Cromartie vilified his team and others chimed in with opinion…officially…nothing. The Broncos official twitter feed? crickets. Finally at 8:47…Schefter again tweets that the trade is done.

Also in a world where news does not hold, the Jets finalize the deal, rally their parties and hold an extensive conference call…not a tweet up…late into the night, at a time when back in the day deadlines would have passed (they no longer really exist)…answering questions with all interested parties. In the postmortem and debate that will continue to rage on, the social media using Jets post 23 tweets, retweets or statements from press conferences, positive statements from players…one tweet saying an unauthorized tweet was posted…to continue to manage their message. GM Mike Tannenbaum, coach Rex Ryan, Tebow himself all use the traditional airwaves to tell their story lest it be lost in the fast moving public opinion of the day.

Now one thing is for sure. Nothing will really be settled until games are played in the fall. Debate will rage on but in a bottom line game, results are what count, and results are what will heal any wounds, tweets, or feelings. What is really interesting in the announcement was the choice of medium not just once, but almost every time news broke in the story. The Jets started the fire on twitter…a very short, sometimes effective to get a message out, if that message is not complicated. The debate then raged back and forth until the clearer news, and the traditional official statement, was released by both parties involved. Throughout the debate there was no use of TV or radio to communicate the first message from a news source…it came from social media and the spin went from there. Whether that is a healthy or consistent way to break news in today’s 24/7 world is probably a matter of style and circumstance.

The Jets choose to use the medium more to communicate hard news and speak directly to their fans, and to the media, than most, and it will be interesting to see if others follow. Years ago the Toronto Maple Leafs were vilified for being the first team to break a trade on their website. Now such a move would be considered quaint.

Regardless in what was a headline grabbing news cycle for the NFL, the mix of traditional news sourcing (which the league used) and a more helter skelter new age approach used by the Jets showed how diverse breaking coverage can be. Which is more effective? That’s probably a debate still to be settled, if ever. Or until the next medium of choice takes hold.

USTA Flies, Redbirds Tweet…

More good ideas seem to be coming in pairs these days…here are another few that make good sense…

Majoring In The Minors: The Memphis Redbirds, like most other organizations, are trying to find ways to activate and engage their fans with social media that makes good sense. So their idea? write it down. The first 500 fans through the gates that use Twitter can write down their Twitter username, allowing the Redbirds to follow them. Prior to the game, a Twinterview will be held with one of the Memphis Redbirds players. Twitter handles from each player will also be included on their headshots on the Redbirds’ new video board. Fans will be encouraged to take a photo from where they sit at the ballpark and share it on Facebook. Adding their seat location to the picture caption will give them a chance to win a social media themed prize during the game. One fan will also receive a prize pack that includes a bird watching book, a team-signed hashtag and a box of figurines containing 140 characters.

Nothing flashy, but certainly fun and a good way to measure the social engagement of their clientle. Low cost and effective way to build a data base while giving something back.

USTA Grabs A Carrier: The US Open Series has always been a good idea to unify the lead up tournaments to the US Open, but monetizing it and activating against it has always been a bit of a struggle. Tournaments still like to control their own signage and sponsor categories, so the USTA has either had to buy out a category or create one that was above the norm for a local tournament. Olympus, looking to find a way to continue to crack a tough market, came through as title sponsor for the series, but they have since left the fold. So last week the USTA announced that Emirates Airways would be coming on as title sponsor.

The announcement raised eyebrows in some circles, while other more traditional marketers held their breath for a backlash, presenting a Middle eastern Airline in such a prominent role across the United States, and with a sanctioning body that is part of the USOC. Thankfully no backlash came. Unlike a controversial move by Allianz to become the title sponsor of the New Meadowlands Stadium a few years ago (the company had been accused of assisting the Nazi’s during World War II and Jewish groups were very mush opposed to the placement as a constant reminder of the atrocities committed by the Nazi’s), Emirates has been slowly and steadily engaging not just in sports but in entertainment sponsorships across the United States for several years. They supported the Breeder’s Cup successfully with sponsor dollars and activation around the event, and now will probably put much needed dollars and platforms around a tennis series which needs some new brand lifting. The airline is growing in access in this country, and getting associated with a mainstream, well respected sport like tennis and its clientle makes great sense for all involved. The airline has been above reproach on its marketing tactics in the United States, and has learned what is effective in pulling the U.S. consumer. If successful it will be the next stage in engagement by non-American brands in American sport, as we become more global in thought while addressing needs locally. Tennis, even in America, is a global sport, and this partnership addresses that global view.

Pro Bowl And Social A Next Step For Sport?

The Pro Bowl has been an afterthought for sports fans for years. Like most professional All-Star Games, mass exposure by media, the lack of any great value to players and the hyper-sensitivity to injury has made the games themselves into less than they used to be, and have made the weekends into great opportunities for sponsors to engage and the teams to get a respite, but not into the mega-competitions in days past. The NFL has always faced a bigger dilemma, as their game comes at the end of the season and has traditionally been in a far off site like Hawaii that is inaccessible to the average fan. While MLB has put in Futures Games and Home Run Derby and NL vs AL for the World Series, and the NBA turned All-Star Weekend into more individual skills and celebrities, the NFL has searched for other options. So Sunday, instead of having the fans just watch, the league will open up all its social media channels in game to get fans to engage with the players on the field and in real time. While there will be some screens put in to avoid controversy, it will give fans the opportunity to engage with their folks while they are standing on the sidelines, should the athletes choose, as opposed to just getting info from those at the game second hand. Will it work?

It is a solid test idea that other sports should look very hard at. Can you create brand engagement oppts off of social media that will grow a brand? Could Larry Fitzgerald for example, use his twitter feed as a call to action for Reebok to do a micro-giveaway to 10 followers with a code they would use in the next ten minutes? Could the State Farm offer discounts to 15 followers who call the next play? Those type of engagements, ala Fan Appreciation giveaways in ballparks, would be very useful tests.

Now the sport that could really take this platform to a new level in the coming months is baseball. MLB has long frowned upon the use of technology around the field, but the long days of spring training do lead to hours of downtime for all involved in Florida and Arizona. Could interested teams, through MLB Advanced Media, turn up the engagement level in the dugouts during spring training to give fans access to what players and others are doing? Why not some live tweets brought to you by x sponsor, during an afternoon of Cubs-White Sox? It would liven up an old ritual, give access to fans, create a new engagement platform without over commercializing the channels, and connect fans far away directly to the games going on in the warmer spots of Florida and Arizona.

Now these type of engagement oppts should not be a distraction to the games that count or the work players and coaches need to do to prepare. They should be kept to events needing a little pop where distractions are minimal. If it works for the NFL in Hawaii today, lets see how other use the onfield engagement going forward as a way to give added value and interest to events that may be waning for the casual fan.

Five Little Items That Are Big In Their Own Way…

As we hit the middle of January, a look at some good ideas, little things, smart moves that have popped up and are noteworthy. Individually they may not seem to be huge deals but in a business that is very large in stature but small in community, it’s the little touches that go a long way.

Giants Take An Ad To Show Their Twitter: The New York Giants put together one of their most satisfying performances in a long time in beating the Atlanta Falcons last weekend, and had nothing but positive things to say about all the fans support they have gotten through their run to the playoffs. Much of that has come out through social media, but what to do with a fan base that may be a little older and not as tech savvy? Go the traditional route, with a little spin. On Friday the Giants took out full page ads in local newspapers, aggregating their players twitter messages. Nice way to mix the traditional media spend with the new medium, and expose those who may not know a tweet online from a tweet by a bird, to what the team is doing in the social space.

Coast Guard Reaches Out To Lead: Tim Fitzpatrick is the new athletics director at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, and he is all about leadership and community. The problem is that the Academy, like all service academies, draws from all over the country and may not always have the local presence that other universities have. It’s not like there are dozens of young people from New London, or even the State, day tripping to the campus for classes every day. The Academy is also a Division III athletic institution, with good traditions but not the athletic legacy of Army, Navy of Air Force. So how does one spread the message? Fitzpatrick created the first-ever speakers bureau, intended to make head coaches, athletic administrators and other members of the Bears’ sports staff available to speak at schools, community events and other gatherings upon request throughout the New London region. Although not tremendously novel, the bureau will help fill a gap and bridge the connection between the Academy and the local connection and maybe forge long range ties that bind for both business and support, as well as expose the amazing stories of those involved with the school to young people who may know nothing of what goes on behind the gates and on the ships.

Finding The Jewish Kate Smith: Fordham University has had more than its share of challenging athletic seasons in men’s basketball and football in the last 20 years. The once proud traditions have hit the skids, but things may be on the upswing at least in hoops. Coach Tom Pecora’s squad posted wins at venerable Rose Hill Gym over Georgia tech and nationally ranked Harvard, and grabbed a groundswell of great press. One of the better stories was not about the players or the coaches, it was about a Cantor who found the Jesuit University and volunteered to sing the National Anthem. Cantor Daniel Pincus from Congregation Shaarei Shalom belted out his song, and Fordham responded with three straight wins, making him the school’s Jewish good luck charm. The streak ended with a narrow loss to Xavier, but Cantor Pincus added some color and some divine inspiration to a well covered story in New York.

Saints Nice Move: Sometimes even in the most stressful of situations, a little move goes a long way. As pointed out by Sports Illustrated’s Peter King this week, the New Orleans saints PR team, led by Greg Bensel had a full house for media for their playoff game with the Detroit Lions last weekend. However that did not stop the saints from a very touching gesture, not filling a prime press box seat at Saturday night’s game in honor of the late Detroit beat man Tom Kowalski, who died unexpectedly in August. They left a note in his place: “The New Orleans Saints honor the memory of Tom Kowalski.” Did it mean a little less space for others? Maybe. Did it show that sports goes above the game? Sure did.

The Timeless Game of Baseball: Courtesy of our friend Ben Hill, here is another of those little things that make sports great: On March 31, Shelby Harris of Rock Island, IL will turn 111 years old. Five days later, he’ll throw out the first pitch at the Quad Cities River Bandits home opener. Harris is the oldest man in America, and the River Bandits have extended the invite to have a man who has seen his share of baseball get another well deserved turn in the spotlight.

Again, none of these are mind blowing, game changing Tebow-inspired programs or ideas. What they are, are smart, fun interesting little things that show foresight, interest and remind us how important those little things we can do are to those who watch and follow and play.