No field is better equipped to take advantage of real-time marketing than the sports industry. Whether fans are sharing game-time reactions on social media or checking fantasy team scores, they’re constantly connected and engaged while watching their favorite teams. And because excitement peaks in the moment, sports marketers cannot wait several hours, or even a few minutes, after a big play or important win to interact with fans on social media.
The exciting game this season between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots provided a great example of the power of social media to create buzz in real time. The last few minutes of the game were filled with big plays, with the Broncos ultimately taking down the Patriots with a touchdown in overtime. The Broncos marketing team capitalized on the excitement in real time, amplifying the buzz through hashtags like #BeatThePatriots and #BroncosCountry and generating more than 30 percent more Tweets and retweets than the Patriots.
Sports are prime opportunities for real-time marketing, because they are essentially a string of unpredictable events happening at a moment’s notice. In today’s interconnected world, sports fans are engaging online at a similar pace. Smart sports marketers like the Broncos reach fans in the moments they’re most likely to be paying attention through the most popular social channels.
Here a few tips on how sports marketers can effectively use social marketing to engage and activate fans in the era of constant connectivity.
Go where the fans are: Sports fans are captive and engaged at live events, so in-venue visual displays can be a great way to reach fans when they’re paying attention most. Sports franchises that have done this successfully aggregate content from fans in real time to be displayed on screen, which personalizes the experience for fans and creates a sense of excitement and community. Additionally, teams can integrate other promotions within the stream of user-generated content to expand reach for marketing materials.
This advice also applies to social media sites. Millions of fans watch games from their couches or barstools, and are subsequently interacting on social media in real time. In addition to an in-venue strategy, sports teams should create engaging, real-time content that is appropriate to the channel they’re leveraging. For instance, Instagram should be a place for images that share an up-close look at the team during the game or behind-the-scenes, as well as a more personal view into the lives and routines of the players or coaches on off days of play. Twitter can be more of a live feed, where sports marketers react to exciting plays in real time.
Create momentum: To successfully drive engagement on social media, sports marketers need to create momentum themselves. Whether it’s during a big game or the days leading up to one, sports franchises can encourage engagement by creating hashtags or contests that motivate fans to create relevant content. When fans begin to engage, many of their followers take note and also respond, which ultimately creates excitement and builds the momentum.
Set specific goals: Like any marketing tactics, social media marketing can only be effective when brands set specific, measurable goals ahead of time. Do you want to create awareness and expand reach? Or do you want to drive significant engagement? Depending on the goal, your strategy and definition of success will change. For awareness campaigns, pushing branded content to a broad audience of fans should be your strategy. But with an engagement campaign, franchises will need to be more strategic about how they motivate fans to interact. In other words, know what you want and focus your efforts accordingly.
Build a real-time plan: An effective sports marketing campaign cannot be a string of random posts, but should instead involve a real-time strategy. On top of strategically planned content, sports marketing teams need to have a strategy in place for reacting to real-time events. The excitement for sports really only exists in the moment, so if brands are unable to join this conversation in real time, they’ll never reach their full potential on social media. Invest in the right analysis and visualization tools that allow for immediate reactions to real-time events.
Sports fans today are more connected to social media during sporting events than ever before, so franchises that are able to reach them during their team’s most exciting moments will be able to expand reach, activate fan bases and drive engagement.
Jordan Slabaugh has spent the past decade building global brands. In her role as Vice President of Marketing at Wayin, Jordan leads all aspects of brand marketing, corporate communications and digital activation initiatives to further develop the Wayin brand and leadership in the marketing industry.