SBJ/March 3-9, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Company will launch social media index devoted to sports

A Dallas-based social media agency this week will unveil a sports-specific index that measures the social media power of athletes, leagues and teams.

The MVPindex will rank them based on their social media reach, engagement and the conversation they generate. All of those factors will be combined into an algorithm that produces an MVPindex score.

Spieth
Nelson
LeBron James’ MVP score, for example, can be compared with other NBA players, other athletes his age, other athletes in the Miami market, and even other teams and leagues. More than 9,000 athletes and teams from the major sports leagues, plus the Olympics, are measured.

The company behind the MVPindex is Stout Partners, a social media consultancy co-founded in late 2012 by Shawn Spieth and Kyle Nelson. Spieth is the father of PGA Tour star Jordan Spieth.

It was during Jordan Spieth’s climb into the top 15 in the world that agents and brands began to regularly approach his father about representation and endorsement deals. Shawn Spieth, whose background is in mobile app consulting and digital sales, found himself intrigued by how many companies remain stuck in what he called traditional media.

“Very soon, digital advertising is going to surpass TV advertising,” Shawn Spieth said. “Most measurements are still gauged by traditional media, almost across the board. That’s where we saw an opportunity.”

So Spieth and Nelson, a software and social media entrepreneur, began working on a sports-specific index that would measure and rank athletes and teams, based on real-time data. Several patents are pending for the formula they use.

There are other players in the space but few with such a broad offering. Nielsen has BuzzMetrics, which measures the social media conversation around brands, and HootSuite features a dashboard that analyzes social media traffic, but neither is sports-specific. Klout has a product that scores social media influence of celebrities and other public figures on a scale from 1-100, but includes everyone from President Barack Obama to Justin Bieber. In terms of athlete rankings, The Marketing Arm produces the Davie-Brown Index, based on surveys of fans, but it isn’t a social media measure.

Spieth and Nelson will unveil the MVPindex this Friday in a new sports segment of South By Southwest, the annual film, music and interactive festival in Austin.

At launch, the MVPindex will have at least three clients — Under Armour, Lagardère Unlimited and TaylorMade — two of which have close ties to Jordan Spieth, the 2013 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. Under Armour is Jordan Spieth’s apparel sponsor, while Lagardère’s Jay Danzi represents the golfer. Spieth, however, plays Titleist equipment.

Subscriptions to the Web-based MVPindex will start at $1,000 per month for basic access. Monthly fees can go into the low five figures, depending on how specialized the client wants the information.

The index is intended for brands and agencies to help them measure the social media power of the athletes they’re currently sponsoring or would like to sponsor. Access to the index is through a password-protected Web portal.

“The athlete’s brand presence on social media is stronger than the brands themselves,” Nelson said. “It’s a completely new form of relationship management. It’s much harder to have interaction with a brand than a person, and the athletes who are doing it well are becoming the strongest brand influencers.”

Stout Partners spent the last year-plus collecting roughly 20 million points of data to gauge social media reach, engagement and conversation tied to the athlete or team. Their measurements use data from the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus and YouTube platforms, as well as search engines.

Those points of data range from the most obvious — retweets and followers — to keywords that determine whether the conversation around an athlete, league or team is positive or negative. The index can also break down the audience by gender.

A comparison of James and Kevin Durant, for example, shows that James is No. 1 in overall reach among NBA players, while Kevin Durant is fourth. On Twitter, James’ 11 million followers is almost twice Durant’s. The MVPindex also indicates that 82 percent of NBA players are on Twitter, compared to 44 percent on Facebook.

While it’s not breaking news that James ranks first in social media juice, the index makes it quantifiable.

“The goal is to help athletes better position themselves digitally, and for brands to maximize their returns,” Spieth said. “We think it’s the first sports intelligence platform with real-time tracking for all of the major sports.”

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