BREAKING NEWS: NBA game balls are officially social.
If you were hoping that NBA game balls could now tweet, interact, like and engage with NBA fans, think again. The only thing social about the NBA game ball is that it now proudly boasts the league’s Twitter handle on it.
Yes, the NBA announced today that the official game ball is going to be adorned with their Twitter handle– @NBA– in pint-size font.
After the announcement on Twitter, my timeline started blowing up—“the NBA is smart, it’s so social, hail NBA game ball.” But as I sat and watched the coverage unfold (that included tweets from media outlets like ESPN, Mashable, etc.), I couldn’t help to think the whole thing was a little silly. Why are we talking about the NBA placing their Twitter handle on a ball?
Just because the NBA had to cut through a lot of red tape to get the Twitter handle there, does not mean that it deserves a standing ovation. There’s nothing social about placing a Twitter handle on an inanimate object. Oh the irony.
As football season gets into gear, athletics departments and teams are ramping up their social and digital efforts in order to drive anticipation for the upcoming season and ticket sales. As I’ve watched the content come across my screen, a particular campaign from South Carolina stuck out to me—Here. The campaign isn’t just about football and the gameday experience; it’s bigger than that. The campaign is about the culture of the school and town, a retreat from the grind, the commonality that ties all Gamecocks together and the passion of the team and fans. Instead of just selling football tickets, South Carolina told their story. Ah, emotion:
It wasn’t all that long ago where we saw little engagement and stiff copy from teams and leagues on social media. I remember writing over and over again about the need to engage on Twitter. After all, the ability to connect, converse and listen to fans is what makes social media unique from any other communications / marketing tool or platform.
Thankfully, we’ve seen a shift. More and more teams are beginning to understand the importance of brand personality and connecting with fans on social media. The LA Kings were one of the first teams to draw attention on Twitter for their snarky personality, and it seems since then, others are starting to buy in. That’s the good thing.
Nike has dominated the World Cup from a brand perspective. Period. If you think this happened by chance, think again. Nike is a company that understands digital through and through. Just last week Nike CEO Mark Parker made some powerful comments during their earning’s call that reinforced this belief:
“An ongoing two-way dialogue with consumers is also a critical element of our digital ecosystem. It provides us insights that drive innovation, strengthens consumer connections to our brands, and provides a platform for consumers to interact with each other. Through our social media platforms, we leverage the power and passion of sport to deepen our relationship with our consumers.”
Nike doesn’t just “do it” when it comes to social and digital. They get it. They understand what companies need to invest in in order to make social and digital successful.
If you’ve been following US Soccer on their social media / digital channels during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, it’s clear they took a look of time to prepare for the event. Not only are they cranking out stellar content on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, but they are tapping into brand ambassadors and celebrities left and right (I’m sure this didn’t happen by chance, but by outreach). And while I could probably list 20 or more things that US Soccer is doing right, below are five winning tactics we can all take away from their smart and savvy social media play:
No. 1- Create fan-first initiatives.
While US Soccer is not engaging with fans directly on Twitter (one of the few things I wish they were doing), they’ve had some very fan-friendly activations for their faithful following including personalized jerseys, good luck wishes in the locker room and a doctor’s note:
During a live and major event, it’s easy (unfortunately) to ignore the fan piece—there’s a story to tell, content to produce and game updates to give. I know it’s exhausting, but teams and leagues have to take the time for the fans when emotions are high. This is the time to leave a lasting impression.
If you are looking for a little content inspiration, league drafts are always a good place to start as plenty of content is created. For your viewing pleasure, I’ve compiled graphics and photos from schools and NBA teams on Twitter for the top 25 picks of the 2014 NBA Draft (please note, not all teams created graphics or used photos):
Athletic Department Graphics / Photos
Major brands have come out in full force for the World Cup from a social media and digital perspective. After all, this is THE most social sporting event we have ever seen. Below are five social / digital activations that have caught my eye so far (note: this is focused solely on social media activations and not the stellar content / video we have seen from brands):
1. US Soccer: Surprises & Delights
If you tweet at @USSoccer in support of the team (while using the hashtag #USMNT) there’s a good chance you’ll get your very own personalized jersey:
This is probably my favorite social media activation from the World Cup so far because it’s simple, easy and thanks fans. US Soccer didn’t have to advertise this initiative and force it down fans throats for it to be successful. Their fans would already be tweeting in support of their team, with or without this campaign. Quite simply, this is a great way to say “thank you”.
Twitter has come out in full force for the 2014 FIFA World Cup like we’ve never seen before. They brought back hashflags, made it extremely easy for fans to follow along and let the Twitterverse proudly choose their side and wear it like a badge of honor on their profile. When you look at the social media numbers surrounding the World Cup, this was an extremely smart move.
I’ve been swooning over Twitter’s World Cup activations the past few days and have six big takeaways from their success that I think we can all carry into our work:
1st- Make the point of entry easy.
Each point of entry for Twitter’s different activations is super easy. As you can see from the photos above, they literally walk you through the steps. And, it was also easy to skip steps (which is very much appreciated).
Anytime you run a social media campaign, there needs to be as few steps as possible. If the point of entry is long and tedious, people won’t have enough patience to figure out how to participate (unless there is a grand prize of $1,000,000, of course).
Additionally, Twitter’s activations were seamless because they were not run by a third-party platform. I know this is easy for Twitter to do, but it’s a great lesson to activate on the platform where people are and not make them jump back and forth.
People remember stories. Tell them.
I believe that stories are the thread that connects consumers to brands. A brand that knows how to tell a powerful story is memorable. After all, emotion is one of thing that ties humans together.
We need more storytelling from teams and leagues. There’s too much on-the-field action and not enough human-interest pieces. There’s too much stats coverage and not enough behind-the-person coverage. ESPN has seen success with their storytelling pieces from 30 to 30 to their College GameDay features, and it’s time to take notice.
Fans don’t only care about what the players do on the field. They also care about who they are off the field. Why? Because their personal struggles and gains, tragedies and triumphs are what makes professional athletes relatable. It’s the human emotion.
One thing I love about the sports industry is that it lends itself to storytelling in many different forms and fashions. Written word, spoken word and visuals can all tell a powerful story for fans when you approach content the right way. As a social media manager, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and not take a step back to see how you can tell a story in a different way.
Why is this important?
Repeat after me: Your role expands far beyond the platforms. Content is king and a good social media strategy starts with a content strategy. Platforms may come and go, but the need to communicate and tell a story online is here to stay.
Too often in social media we create content for the platforms without having legs to stand on. A content strategy should be inclusive of all platforms from web to social to in-venue and should include more than one element. After all, 140 characters are never enough to tell the full story.
Below are some of the basic questions you should ask as you embark on a content strategy:
- What’s the goal? What’s the story you are trying to tell?
- What’s the key message and common thread that will tie all the content together?
- Who is the audience you are trying to reach?
- How can you tell the story? Brainstorm all the pieces of content you can use to it.
- Where will the content live?
- How will the content be pushed out?
As you go through the process, I thought it might be helpful to have some examples of the content you can create. Below are 14 types of content you can use to tell a story (and remember, you often need several different elements to tell a story not just one piece of content). It’s my hope that this post might get you thinking outside the box if you are in a content rut: