SBJ/October 24-30, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

USA Swimming cheers on fans with new program

In the never-ending quest to find a social media strategy that engages fans, USA Swimming believes it has found one that will appeal to swimmers.

The organization’s newly created Deck Pass, a free digital platform and phone application, allows swimmers to track their best times, set goals and earn patches via Facebook for accomplishments in the pool.

For example, a swimmer who qualifies for a big meet gets a patch; a swimmer who qualifies for a club’s sprint team gets a patch; a person who drops his time by 2 percent gets a patch. The patches can be awarded automatically when a swimmer hits a goal set for himself or by coaches monitoring a swimmer.

“By having a connection to Facebook and people earning different patches, it allows these kids to brag or have USA Swimming brag for them,” said Jim Fox, USA Swimming marketing manager. “From talking to coaches and swimmers, it’s already building and has been really exciting for folks.”

Deck Pass replaces another online offering that USA Swimming provided that allowed swimmers to log and track their times. But that service was more user intensive, Fox said. Its 70,000 users were automatically enrolled in Deck Pass last month during a soft launch of the digital program. Only a small percentage are using it so far.

The idea for Deck Pass was developed in part by USA Swimming media relations manager Karen Linhart. She bought a season ski pass from Vail Resorts last year and the pass had a chip in it that automatically tracked how many feet she descended and allowed her to earn pins for runs she skied at various Vail Resorts. It led her to wonder whether USA Swimming could design something similar for swimmers.

The organization developed the idea for Deck Pass internally and then worked with Statera, a technology company, to develop the program and Appcelerator, a mobile application company, to develop the mobile application.

USA Swimming hopes eventually to integrate its sponsors into Deck Pass. Executives believe it can be another vehicle to connect corporate partners with the organization’s 280,000 members.

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