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#Sport #SocialMedia #Trends #FanEngagement – by ‘guest blogger’ Malene Hejlskov Mortensen

Guest blog written by Malene Hejlskov Mortensen, BA in Sport Management, University College of Northern Denmark & MA in Sport Management, London Metropolitan University, passionate about sports and the business of sports – (Kenneth Cortsen, ed.).

The way in which we consume media has changed rapidly. Earlier, traditional mass media showed all the news, gossip and other content whereas clubs, organisations and players now tell it on social media before traditional mass media get the chance to reveal the information. One of the many challenges concerns ownership of rights; where does the content present most value? It is important to create dynamic content to engage with an audience whether engagement deals with fans, readers or customers. Engagement is key; it is no longer about awareness and impression only.

Content marketing and content curation are buzzwords in the sports industry at the moment. More content is needed as fans and spectators expect more; they expect more stories, more social media interaction and more video content. They want more ‘behind-the-scenes’ content to minimize the distance to the athletes, e.g. small footage from the locker rooms or from training. Another example is the last day of the transfer window, which is a massive opportunity to connect with fans providing news and gossip. It is simply an opportunity for lots of interaction. Those are just some of the things that create content and get people talking.

We are all becoming content creators as content emerges and stories are build around a single tweet or post on social media. Especially when athletes create content it creates a special interest for the fans, which results in fans intensifying their identification with the athletes through the athletes’ own platforms instead of the sports media sites. It is not only on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that athletes are active and are giving their fans an insight into their lives. More athletes have started to take advantage of Google Hangouts to connect with their fans worldwide. Thus, fans are expecting to get injury announcements, apologies and thanks directly from the athletes on social media.

The question of who owns the rights appears – are athletes and media now competing for the same audience? Is that how it should be? Should the TV rights be sold to other broadcasters or partners, as it is difficult to gain access to the digital content unless you are the broadcaster? And with the high expectations to deliver real time content it can be difficult for one broadcaster to provide it all immediately – should it be combined coverage and visuals?

Above-mentioned questions are only a few examples of what is trending regarding content creation in sport. There are many opportunities for the clubs to work around it and work with their athletes. However, there need to be some control of what the athletes are posting and tweeting and when they are. It is about finding a way of optimizing how the players and teams use social media; what is allowed for players and what ‘rights’ belong to the club.

How often do we visit a website? We go to their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Google+ site as the first thing instead. It is recommended to differentiate the thinking surrounding the club’s or organization’s website instead of standard links to the various social media sites. Social media hubs (real time marketing platforms) and content curation are some of the latest trends in social media. By using an integrated website, the users join the conversations directly from that and it is made easier to keep the interaction and engagement going. Also it increases the experience for the fans; they only have to look at one site. It also means you can include brands to be a part of the conversation with the fans and take notice of their interaction and use it for business purposes.

Content curation means the practice of using social networks to find, organize and share the most relevant and best content on a particular topic. There is so much ‘noise’, which makes it vital to find the most valuable content to increase traffic and create a better engagement and interaction with the fans. It is not only about re-tweeting or repeating others, but finding content that aligns with the brand, club or the organization. To make real time content richer it is important to also integrate photos from Instagram, and YouTube and Vine videos to tell the story.

The focus is also on hashtags and creating a community around them, which you target with the most important and valuable content. The fans want to be a part of the conversation and hashtags are a great example to increase the engagement as it drives the conversation – it generates good content, which generates even more good content. As mentioned before, the rights have so far been restricted but now we are all asked to share photos and videos to help tell the story.

One of the big questions is how you activate the curated content to increase the value. So you need the right content, bring in numbers and data in real time to generate great interaction with the fans. This is something you can build upon by for example creating a time line for the season; what was trending and what peaked, which means you need to find the best content representing that moment where for example x player was sold to another club or x player got injured. This really opens up for greater sponsorship opportunities and activation of sponsorships too, which I believe we will see much more of in the future. With content curation you are ensured to get the best content aligning with your brand and the brand’s messaging.

A lot of stadiums are to some degree threatened by the home experience. At home you are able to watch more than one screen, you do not have to queue anywhere and you have a better connection. Therefore, it is important to really work on the fan experience and meet the needs of the fans. A lot of initiatives, including free Wi-Fi, are being put into place to enhance the fan experience as we are very much expecting to be connected everywhere we go. How many times have we not tried to tweet or post from a venue but are not able to do so because the network is too busy? Connectivity before, during and after an event is crucial.

Being able to see the shot you missed on an instant replay on the phone and capture that experience will increase the overall experience at the venue – it will assist in bringing the experience to a whole other level and it will also create sponsor opportunities. 99.3% of everything on this planet is still unconnected; in 1984 only 1000 people were connected to the Internet, now 10 billion and around 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet in 2020 so there are still plenty of opportunities to come to enhance the fan experience (#Sportsconf). It is also shown that brands’ messaging influences many; it is said that 56% of Twitter mobile users are influenced by content on Twitter when they buy a product or service (Twitter, 2014). Also increased audience engagement topped the list (76%) in the UK of benefits of real-time social engagement and second ranked was customer satisfaction and positive brand sentiment (58%)


Photo: (eMarketer, 2014)

For a better fan experience at the venue, they are (in the US) talking about putting cameras or censors on the players. Imagine that on Cristiano Ronaldo at the 2014 World Cup Final when he is going to take a penalty and how great an experience it would be if you were able to see his heart rate. Not just does it entertain but could it not be valuable to the coaches and medical staff to be able to track the athletes? It might seem a bit too far but we already see a greater transparency and content made around individual player statistics, and is it not really in that direction it is evolving? It brings along interesting challenges including the legal challenges. It is very exciting but also scary in some ways.

Many experts agree that interest based communities are one of the trends we will see increasing in 2014; going beyond just being a sports fan. Community and activation are important, fans want recognition from athletes or brands and it makes them join communities and increases the level of interaction. The understanding of user behavior and fan trends are crucial to fully activate and get the most out of those communities.

Activation of hashtags for commercial and marketing purposes is very valuable for brands. Some experts even call the hashtag for the new URL as most teams and clubs have a hashtag associated with them. In regards to branding, too many hashtags can be ‘confusing’ so you can expect and already do see more ‘unique’ hashtags to every brand. Hashtags are very powerful therefore it is important looking beyond a single hashtag as that is where the real value is; finding out which hashtags can be used to tell a story or build a series where people can contribute. For example, AC Milan does not only use the first team but is also creating lots of content around the upcoming stars at their academy by using #thefuture (YouTube, 2013). We are seeing a greater transparency on how athletes, clubs and fans come together. Creating a strategy is always important to maximize the opportunities, also when it comes to fan engagement. But brands also want to be able to collect data and drive revenue and commerce from the hashtag activation.


You want fans to engage and with 75% of fans at a live entertainment event having a smart phone and using it during the event there are plenty of opportunities. Fans want extra entertainment as they get when they are watching at home. Getting to know the fans give other opportunities for sale; consumers and fans want personalized offers. In other words it comes down to a much more targeted marketing approach. You want to drive people in the direction of signups, downloads, and purchases with the long term objective of getting more loyal customers, users and fans. (#Sportsconf)

Fan experiences, branding, sponsorships and activation are coming more together by increased communication and interaction. And in that case, is it realistic to keep fighting against rights and digital? At big events there will always be challenges with guerilla marketing. We all know the restrictions at the Olympics and Super Bowl and actually we are not really allowed to tweet those words or use the pictures but it is done anyway. It is not realistic to ask people not to do it, but of course you need to get your guidelines out to the public to protect the official sponsors. Additionally, FIFA is one of the best organizations to police its brand but you also want people talking about the events and the brands – that is what makes the events valuable and you have to be very careful going “against” the will of the public. However, you still need to protect the brands that pay a massive amount of money to be sponsors of the events (#Sportsconf). It is very interesting discussion topics and we will see them brought up more frequently with social media playing an even bigger role than it does already, and especially at the football World Cup in Brazil this summer, which is predicted to be the ‘most social’ event ever.


Infographic: Why Brazil 2014 will be the first truly social FIFA World Cup (source: Mediabistro)



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