As Dr. Alyssa Tavormina, a faculty member at the University of Florida’s online Master of Science in Sport Management program describes, “Through social media, fans not only connect with sport teams and leagues, but the athletes themselves have accounts which allow potentially millions of fans to connect personally to the athletes and their teams. This direct connection has allowed fans to now be a part of the sport organization’s story.”
Today, sports businesses can use social media to actively listen to their customers. They can recognize and follow their specific needs and wants rather than use out-dated methods of data collection such as surveys and focus groups, which do not provide rich information to better understand customers. It allows sports businesses to keep their customers updated on the latest news and information as well as interact with them on an individual basis. This instantaneous two-way communication tool available to sports businesses allows them to provide quality content within short time frames and interact with customers in real time.
In terms of marketing, this can also be seen as a form of competitive advantage. They are able to interact the way they want, in the way they wish, using the medium they like most. This gives sports businesses additional edge in terms of marketing. Effective utilization of social media enables sports brands to provide their customers with THE best possible experience and expand their marketing capabilities.
It is A WIN WIN situation.
The benefits of social media are for both sides. Apart from sports businesses benefiting from the use of social media in the context of relationship management and marketing, customers also get to experience the same level of benefits. The constant interaction between sport businesses and their customers allows organizations to know and learn about each individual customer on a deeper level. As a result of this, customers feel more valued and this leads to higher customer loyalty. Social media enables sport businesses to involve customers in the marketing process by receiving feedback and ideas, which can then be implemented in future products and services. By doing so, sport businesses strengthen the level of engagement and connection between the organization and the customer, and this reinforces the importance that customers hold in the brand building process.
Professional leagues, teams, and athletes have started using social media as a part of their marketing strategies during the recent years. The most popular social media platforms are Facebook and Twitter, but athletes and teams are also using sites including Instagram and Snapchat for marketing. As in case of all businesses, the advantages of social media use in sports include building brand awareness, reaching a larger audience in an easy and cost-effective way as well as creating brand advocates and engaging passionate sports fans. There are numerous examples of athletes and sports teams using social media for marketing and promotions.
Examples of sports teams and athletes using social media
Michigan Presale Incentive: Michigan used a very clever way to increase the total amount of “likes” or “followers” for their Facebook and Twitter Pages in order to find higher recognition. In order to have the opportunity to apply for pre-sale tickets for their Michigan football games, at the largest football arena in the nation ‘The Big House,’ fans are required to “follow” or “like” their page on Facebook or Twitter. This allows them to be able to purchase pre-sale tickets for any game that they desire, making this method of marketing a great tool for gaining awareness for their team and many other things.
Louisville Slugger Scavenger Hunt: After the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series in 2011, Hillerich & Bradsby, makers of Louisville Slugger bats and other baseball equipment, created a scavenger hunt through Twitter in order to raise awareness for their company. The hunt involved 45 world series commemorative bats, scattered all over the city of St. Louis, Missouri. The Louisville Slugger Twitter page posted “tweets” that hinted at where the bats were located within the city. The fan or participants used their mobile phones in order to remain up to date on the specific “tweets” referring to the hunt. If a fan or participant found one of the several bats, the participant was told that they were to be kept by the seeker. The reason this company held a scavenger hunt was to find recognition and to increase their number of followers on Twitter. The statistics shows that their fan base skyrocketed, lifting the number of Facebook likes by 143%, number of people talking about the brand on Facebook by 834% and its number of Tweeter followers by 161%.
Many athletes including Kobe Bryant, Russell Wilson, and Rafael Nadal have taken advantage of social media to increase their followers and improve their brand recognition. Athletes have also promoted brands through social media including Russell Wilson’s sponsorship of Recovery Water and Serena Williams’ promotion of Wheels Up. Because of this marketing tool, these fan-based website pages have increased greatly in numbers and give them the recognition that they were looking for.
Bringing it all together
Sports and famous athletes have been a ubiquitous part of marketing in this country since the 1870s, and remain one of the most potent tools for reaching customers. As teams and brands develop new ways to harness and integrate fan passion into their customer experience efforts, they will set themselves up for greater success.
By promoting the athletes as the public wants to see them, utilizing those athletes in experiential marketing and engaging fans through social media, teams can realize genuine customer experience results.