SBJ/Nov. 11-17, 2013/Franchises

Twitter TV Ratings to track Suns traffic

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The Phoenix Suns have become the first major pro sports team to sign a deal with SocialGuide’s Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings service that tracks Twitter activity during games.

Financial terms of the one-year deal were not disclosed. The agreement was finalized late last month, ahead of the start of the Suns’ season.

With the deal, the Suns receive access to SocialGuide’s platform, which allows Suns officials to track and analyze real-time tweets during their games. The day after the game, Phoenix gets results from the Twitter TV Ratings product, which lets the team see the total activity and reach of the TV-related conversation on Twitter during the game.

The deal is part of the Suns’ efforts to more closely monitor and identify the reach of Twitter activity during the team’s games. It’s also the latest step for a team that has been one of the more progressive in sports in using social media. The Suns were one of the first pro franchises to hire social media specialists and were one of the first to create their own website built around social media.

But until now, the Suns monitored Twitter activity during games through Twitter’s TweetDeck app, which aggregates tweets using only team-name hashtags. Through SocialGuide’s platform, the Suns can track tweets that include all team-related hashtags but also players’ names and other key words related to the game, creating a far more extensive collection of data.

“This is the true reach, which we’ve never been able to get before,” said Jeramie McPeek, vice president of digital operations for the Suns. “We have known for years that we have an active fan base tweeting about our team, but this gives us the opportunity to really determine how large that audience is and the impact it makes.”

McPeek said the Suns get a detailed report after each game from SocialGuide, from which current staff analyzes the information.

The team began monitoring its Twitter activity at the start of the season. Through their first four games, the Suns had 11.3 million Twitter impressions related to their games, an average of 2.85 million per game.

The data also showed that during the first four Suns games, more Suns players were mentioned in tweets than their opponents. During the team’s Oct. 30 opening game against Portland, for example, seven of the top 10 players mentioned in tweets were Suns players.

In addition, team executives said that the data showed that Phoenix’s Nov. 3 game against Oklahoma City was the 13th most tweeted about sports program of the day, which included 11 NFL games, six NBA games, three NHL games and the New York City Marathon.

“As the game goes on, it helps identify the key topics that are being discussed; it helps us report what the audience was much in the same way as TV ratings,” McPeek said.

The team will look to use the data to attract sponsors and advertisers.

“From a sponsorship standpoint, advertisers are looking at impressions, and this is a big data play, and that’s the name of the game today,” said Suns President Jason Rowley.

Other potential uses of the data include touting promotions and ticket offers when the game is attracting the most Twitter activity.

“It helps us tell that story to leverage key moments in games and to see if there is a way to push out a ticket offer or a key sponsorship message,” McPeek said. “It is still new, and we are trying to figure out how to best use it.”

The University of Michigan has a deal with SocialGuide (SportsBusiness Journal, Sept. 16-22), but both the Suns and SocialGuide representatives said Phoenix is the first team from the four major U.S. leagues to subscribe to the Twitter TV Ratings service.

Nielsen rolled out the service with the start of this year’s fall television season. SocialGuide has deals with all major TV networks.

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