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Emotional Connections


People love the world of sports and because fans want to be the first to know everything, real-time social media coverage has become the norm across the board. Professional sports teams jump on social media because their passionate, bloodhound-like fans are constantly searching for breaking news and if the team can’t provide what the fans want, the fans go elsewhere.

How do you keep them interested? Here’s four tips to follow:

1. Listen more than you talk

In most cases, a team has a built-in customer base that will buy merchandise and attend games. The trick is bringing all those loyal, passionate people together as one. This is an issue teams struggle with greatly, and they usually resort to “talking at” their fans instead of trying to foster a community that has plenty of incredible content ready to be shared. A lot of fans have a strong bond with the team because they grew up with them, but it’s not enough anymore, it has to be taken to another level. The reason? Fans now have as much access to a team in New York as they do in Los Angeles – geographic location is not an issue anymore and fans will begin to stray if they’re not listened to and respected.

2. Turn diehards into ambassadors

The amount of unofficial blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook groups dedicated to each team (and their star players) is a great resource for sports teams. Why? Because when it comes to breaking news and behind-the-scenes exclusives, the fans would rather interact with the official team. So by turning these unofficial accounts into ambassadors, a sports team now opens up the door for fans to discuss things like rumors, potential signings and other matters the official team wouldn’t be able to comment on.

3. Stay consistent

Another aspect professional teams struggle with is consistency. When trying to get people to join a conversation, they have to make sure they know where it’s taking place. For example, having a specific hashtag across the board for a team or campaign is how people get engaged and it draws them online where they can see cool stuff the community is sharing. This is a good place to join in and see what’s being discussed because finding out what the fans really want is vital when creating brand-loyal customers.

Branding continuity should also extend to any offline promotional materials. Social networks should be a priority on all print so that people know “this is where we are, come join us.” Confusion should be eliminated and online/offline efforts should work together seamlessly in order to create a strong brand.

4. Keep up with the competition

Following other teams on social media is a great way to gain access into what’s working and what’s not.  Here are just a few examples of professional sports teams who got it right:

  • Chicago White Sox: By opening the ‘#SoxSocial Lounge’ in May 2013, the team became the first in professional baseball to have a social media hangout within their ballpark walls. The Lounge is equipped with TVs streaming fan- and player-generated content, as well as the game. There are also charging stations and throughout the season there have been celebrity guests and giveaways.
  • San Francisco Giants: As one of the most social media savvy teams in all of sports, the Giants opened their own social hub called ‘@cafe.’
  • San Francisco 49ers: In the 2012 NFL playoffs, they implemented the #questfor6 hashtag as part of the team’s run to the Super Bowl. It was embraced by fans and players, and was even printed on their official rally towels. Then for April Fool’s Day, the team played a prank by announcing that head coach Jim Harbaugh was coming out with his own clothing line called the Harbaugh Collection. The positive reaction to the shirts prompted the team to seize a monetization opportunity and had the shirts produced for fans to purchase.

Which teams do you think are doing a great job of listening to their fans and creating strong communities online and offline? Leave your comments on twitter, and don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter.