Last week we re-purposed a twitter aggregation service we created (http://sunstweets.com) for the superbowl. Cardtweets utilized a set filters to pick out individual tweets from the global stream matching Arizona Cardinals, and Superbowl related terms. At the peak the filters were picking up 48 tweets/minute. These are all displayed in the traditional twitter UI style in chronological order as they came in. It was interesting to watch the twitter stream on my iPhone as I was watching the game in real time.
The usage and feedback of the site itself was all positive. With many people asking when they will see a myteamtweets.com in the future. So first I thought I would breakdown cardstweets a bit more to gain a better understanding of what happens when one attempts to track the swarm of conversation over a real life sporting event.
- People will talk about anything. There were tweets ranging from in depth (140 characters…) analysis of the Steelers defensive stand on a particular play, all the way to people not even watching the game talking about the traffic snarls in Tampa around the arena. The peripheral conversations are happening in nodes surrounding the main dialog. How does a sports franchise direct and channel this conversation inwards to engage the fringe?
- Fans now control the brand. I think this is the biggest takeaway here. There is an very active and lively group of sports fans that are on twitter, and they want to evangelize their home team. In a sense they are taking the conversation with them, outside the arena, outside their living room, outside the pub.. and taking it directly to other fans across time and space. The sports franchises no longer control the brand, or the conversation. The fans now dictate in real time, what the brand is, and what the brand means. The Cardinals played a heck of a game.. and they built huge brand loyalty from their efforts as evidenced by the overwhelmingly positive conversation. Even though they lost, they scored major points for giving it a great effort. Even Steeler fanz were offering props to the Cards for such a good game. But see, the community decided this, not the Cardinals. The community came to a consensus thru the dialog that it was a valiant effort, and worthy of praise, even if they did not win.
As an aside, the same thing is happening with the Suns right now in reverse, the fanz are re-branding the Suns as a lost team. Whether it is fair weather fanz turning south, or the die-hards giving up.. the Suns brand equity is in peril. Even though they still sell out games, and sell jerseys.. the dialog is not trending in their favor.
- Huge opportunity exists for cross-over conversation/media. With the fanz actively engaging, in real time.. outside the walls of the arena, there is low hanging fruit available for the franchises and leagues to pick at will. Our sports marketing company (http://socialsportsmarketing.com) is creating tools and communities where this can happen. Sports franchises have the ability to reach out from the TV screen and make meaningful brand connections thru simlu-cast video, live-blogging, twitter, photo sharing communities, SMS, etc. HINT: building another walled garden, a branded membership based fan community is NOT the right approach. Go to where the fan is, at that very instance.. and engage. Don’t force them to come to you. Make it easy for your fan to communicate., within the communities they already reside in.
- More signal less noise. The trick with engagement across multiple channels is distilling the message down to cut thru the noise. Does a sports organization need 50 voices? or 1 strong one? Where is the point of focus? The Superbowl is a media frenzy, the advertisers and the league have 1000’s of touchpoints surrounding the game, what meaningful impressions can be made when the secret sauce is spread so thin? Pick the top online touch points, and direct the fringe to them.. utilizing communities and the inherant social graph of the individual fan.
- Do more with more. Identify the signals that are being received, and amplify them. The @superbowl twitter account I think popped up 4, maybe 5 days before the game. They were late to the discussion…(only 2,987 followers). Missed opportunity this year, but they are primed for next. Admittly @cardstweets was late as well.
So in summary.. All the major sports are feeling their way thru this social media thing. Some like the Phoenix Suns, are doing it a bit better and faster then others. The energy needs to come from the top down, the fans are already talking, and shaping the brand of the players, teams, and leagues. The top execs need to make “meaningful online social engagement” a top priority or risk not having a say at all.