Don’t Block Your Social Advocates

iVideoCameraAppLet me paint this wonderful picture for you…

You are standing feet away from the green at the 18th hole of the Ryder Cup, when your favorite golfer nails a beautiful putt from eighty feet out for eagle and everyone around the green goes crazy. Being the social media enthusiast that you are, you recorded the entire experience with your iPhone, and immediately share it out on Twitter and Instagram. Because you use the right hashtag (the “official” event tag, of course), it suddenly goes viral and thousands of people who might not even be golf fans see and share this exciting, experiential video. Many of these people decide to tune in to the Ryder Cup coverage later that day to see how the entire competition is going.

Fans are excited, ratings are up, social sentiment is positively buzzing, and everyone is excited about golf!

This sounds like the perfect scenario, something executives should dream about in their sleep — a wonderful example of how user-generated content and social media builds excitement around a sporting event, driving fan engagement and increased viewership. However, because of a new policy from the Ryder Cup banning photo/video uploads, my picture will stay a figment of my imagination. And don’t think that this type of policy only exists in golf. Here’s a story from the BBC (thanks @SportsGeek) about how the Premier League is going to block goal videos this season. This seems like the start of an unfortunate trend. My question to everyone out there…

Does anyone actually think this is is a good idea?!?!?!

The parallel that comes to mind is when television was this “scary” new medium and teams were convinced that they’d lose their gate revenue because fans would never come to the games anymore. Well fans still attend the games, and the value of those “scary” media deals exceeds gate revenue for almost the entire industry.

I completely understand that you need to protect the value that your media rights holders are paying millions of dollars for, but there is HUGE difference between 5-15 second social video posts, let alone pictures, and the content being generated by media outlets. If you are a media outlet, and feel that a six-second Vine post will prevent someone from tuning in to your coverage, I’d be MUCH more concerned about the quality of your coverage.

Social content from passionate fans ENHANCES the overall portfolio of content available for consumption – it does not replace it! These fans are advocates for your product, going above and beyond to promote your sport and essentially providing free, word-of-mouth marketing. In fact, media outlets can look at this content as an opportunity to engage in active conversation with passionate fans, sharing your own additional content as part of the conversation and ultimately driving fans back to your other, more traditional media outlets. Looking at the Social Media Scorecard study put out by Navigate Research and Wasserman Media Group, the top fan behavior that social media drives is watching TV!

Teams, leagues and brands are actively launching loyalty programs and social campaigns designed to encourage and reward their most passionate fans. Let’s make sure that we’re not creating policies that flip the script and prevent these fans from being the amazing advocates that they want to be.