Opendorse, a social media marketing platform geared toward athletes, is taking to the ice following a partnership with the National Hockey League, which was revealed Thursday.
The Devils went on to lead the NHL in player social media engagements and engagement rate throughout the 2017-18 regular season and the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, ranking second in player follower growth.
Opendorse co-founder and CEO Blake Lawrence said in an interview that former Devils manager of social and digital marketing Tina Jain touted the platform as one reason why the club went from the bottom of the league to the top in terms of social media engagement, and 10 more NHL teams signed on for the following season.
Lawrence also gave a tip of the hat to PGA Tour director of player content Preston McClellan for connecting him with NHL senior manager of social media programs David Klatt. The PGA Tour is a longtime Opendorse partner.
NHL chief marketing officer and executive vice president Heidi Browning said in an interview that the league saw the Opendorse platform as something worthy of investing in for all 31 clubs, adding that 110 players have been onboarded on the platform to date, and she expects that number to rise as more players and clubs gear up for the upcoming season.
Browning said fans tend to follow players first, before clubs and league, and fans wanted to know more about the on-ice and off-ice lives of the NHL’s “interesting, relatable and friendly players,” so the league’s goal is to “strip off the visors and feature their personalities and their lives” via more original content.
She added that the NHL’s four objectives are: to give fans what they want; to grow NHL social channels collectively (players, clubs and the league itself); to expand beyond the league’s avid fan base and spark casual interest; and to help build players’ personal brands.
Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said in a statement detailing the partnership, “As players, we create so many moments on the ice but rarely have access to it after the fact. With Opendorse, I get back to the dressing room after a win, and boom—there’s a post ready to share with fans. It sounds simple, but this partnership is a big win for us as players and for the game itself.”
Lawrence pointed out that some sports leagues tend to focus only on their top players, while Major League Baseball makes content such as video highlights, photos, graphics, cartoon imagery, logos and GIF files available to its players via content-management application Greenfly, but the NHL opted for an outcome-driven approach, helping every player have a plan to engage audiences and back the sport.
Under the partnership with Opendorse, the NHL will send individual players specific photos, videos or GIFs that are tailored to drive engagement with their audiences.
The players receive text messages when this content is available for sharing, and they can add or edit their own messaging, and then either push a green button to approve it or a red one to reject it.
Content is published automatically, with the proper specifications for the various social platforms, and analytics and scheduling are part of the process.
Opendorse closed a $3.1 million funding round in June, when it also revamped its platform to enable scheduling and content sharing with an unlimited number of athletes and channels, as well as the addition of customized workflows and a simplified process of building integrations.
Lawrence said the last item on that list was key for the NHL, as the league already had tools in place, and integrating those tools into the Opendorse platform streamlined the process.
He added that NHL players tend to be “notoriously humble, slow to adopt social media and infrequent in posting,” preferring to talk about their teams instead of themselves, so the company and the league will strive to build plans for each player.
Browning said the NHL isn’t setting unrealistic expectations when it comes to player participation, and while she doesn’t foresee every player onboarding, a modest goal is to do so with one-third of the players who are currently active on social media.
She added that the league learned a lot from its pilot with the Devils and the 10 teams that joined last season, including, “You don’t onboard the entire team at once.”
Browning concluded in the statement, “Our players have some of the most passionate, engaged fans in all of sports, and we believe we can help them continue to build and capitalize on that connection on social media. With Opendorse, we can grow the game and provide value to our players that will last long beyond their time on the ice.”