Guest Post: Sports Marketing in 140 Characters or Less

sportsin140Today’s post is courtesy of guest blogger Brendan Wilhide, creator of the website which covers sports on Twitter and features the “Sports on Twitter” directory of confirmed athletes and teams:

The number of professional sports teams on Twitter has exploded in the last six months. New teams join each week as word of Twitter’s use as a marketing tool grows through the media and throughout the sports industry. As teams join Twitter, they discover new ways to interact with and engage their fans and their audience. In the last few months alone, Twitter users has seen their favorite teams embrace Twitter through unique contests, giveaways and promotions.

We caught up with two early adopter teams: the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream and Minor League Baseball’s Lakewood (NJ) BlueClaws and asked them how they use Twitter as a marketing tool. Both the Dream and the BlueClaws made waves on Twitter in the last few months with unique promotions and giveaways.

The WNBA regular season doesn’t start until early June but the Atlanta Dream front office is already busy. The team maintains a social networking presence on Facebook, Myspace and, as of early January, Twitter. Dream Vice President of Media Relations Tonya Alleyne says using Twitter was the last piece of the team’s online marketing puzzle. “One of the many reasons we chose to use these [social networking sites] is because of the grassroots appeal it has with our fans and more importantly our potential fans,” Alleyne says.

The promotion was simple: the Dream would give away tickets to the team’s May 27 game against the Connecticut Sun if roughly 1,000 people became fans of the team on its Facebook page in one week. When the promotion began, Alleyne says, the Dream had roughly 500 Facebook fans and the team reached its goal of 1,500 total fans in less than a week. Once the promotion ended, the front office set out to fulfill over 1,000 free ticket requests for the May 27 game and for that, the team once again turned to Facebook.

The Dream created a Facebook message blast informing fans how to redeem their ticket by filling out a special form on the team’s website. Alleyne says the team will set up a special Will Call window at the stadium box office specifically for fans redeeming tickets from the Facebook promotion and will do the best to accommodate fans that wish to purchase additional tickets.

Alleyne says the team’s ticket giveaway is just the first of many unique social networking promotions for fans this season. Last week, the team hosted its first ever “Twitterview” in which Atlanta Dream star Chamique Holdsclaw answered fan questions live on Twitter. Alleyne says the team expects to host more “Twitterviews” in the future.

“[Twitter] has given us a way to directly connect with our fans in a place where they are already comfortable,” Alleyne says. “Folks are already using these sites for their personal use and enjoyment and as an organization we want to be where our fans are,” she says.

The challenges of marketing to fans is not limited to major league franchises, something that Lakewood (NJ) BlueClaws Media and Public Relations Manager Greg Giombarresse knows well. “You always have to find new and creative ways to..reach both our fans and prospective fans or you risk falling behind,” he says. “We really made the decision [to integrate Twitter into the team’s marketing efforts] in the last few months and we’ve seen Twitter grow at a rapid pace over that period.”

The BlueClaws are an affiliate of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies and play in the low-class A South Atlantic League. Giombarresse says the BlueClaws intend to use Twitter frequently this season as a way to reach their fans quickly and effectively. “It’s free and it’s simple. Our fans can go to our Twitter page and see a running log of what we’ve been releasing, what’s new and what’s coming up, with links back to our homepage for quick reference,” he says.

Even though the BlueClaws’ season is less than a month old, Giombarresse says the team has already seen the benefits of using Twitter to communicate with the fans. One successful idea was born on a rainy Monday just hours before a rain-threatened home game. The team set up a banner on its website directing fans to the team’s Twitter page, where it offered constant updates on the weather and the status of that night’s game. “We decided to capitalize on that and said that fans that printed out our Twitter page [that night] received a free all-you-can-eat bracelet for the next night’s game.” Giombarresse says over 25 people redeemed the team’s offer. “It was a big hit.”

While the BlueClaws have had success using Twitter, Giombarresse is quick to add that Twitter does not replace the need for a team website. “The one thing about Twitter that is a little scary is you don’t want to get people into the habit of going there instead of your own website,” he says. Giombarresse says the BlueClaws will host giveaways via the team’s Twitter page in addition to its official blog and Facebook page. “You have a great program with the ability to reach a lot of people very quickly, and steer them back to your own website or blog.”

Be it major league basketball, minor league baseball or any sport in between, Giombarresse thinks sports teams have only scratched the surface of using Twitter as a promotional tool. “I think the future is very bright. The far more personal nature of Twitter and other social marketing sites is certainly a welcome change that we all have to keep up with as best as we possibly can.”

2 thoughts on “Guest Post: Sports Marketing in 140 Characters or Less

  • May 4, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Nice job Brendan. What the Blue Claws are experiencing really underscores the need to have a well thought out social media plan that integrates all aspects of the organizations marketing & public relations outlets.

  • May 5, 2009 at 7:08 am

    I think that this one quote really was a great summary of the strategy: “Folks are already using these sites for their personal use and enjoyment and as an organization we want to be where our fans are.”

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