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Volume 24 No. 116

Events and Attractions

The IMG Sports Marketing Symposium concluded Thursday with a keynote presenation from theKMco Founder Kenny Miller called, "Fan Engagement: Optimizing Your Social Content Experiences." Miller opened his speech by advising marketers to be fearless experimenters. “You know what you should do -- experiment, try things out, don’t be afraid to fail, make a lot of small bets and see what works, because, truthfully, everybody is still figuring it out. It’s new.” Miller then highlighted the importance of Facebook in the growing social landscape. He said, “Some time in the next three to six months … more than 20% of time spent online will be occurring on or around Facebook. Other things matter, Twitter matters a lot, Foursquare is interesting, but Facebook matters a lot.” Miller then talked about his company’s strategy for engaging Knicks and NHL Rangers fans. “Our strategy is about connecting the fans in ways that are valuable, fun, natural and persistent," he said. "The persistent part is really, really important. Doing one-offs is no way to build a business. Increasing value over time is really, really important.” One example Miller gave of how his company has sought to do that is with the “Face-Off” poll for the Rangers, which is called “Tip-Off” for the Knicks. “This is a poll where a fan can come in and make up their own questions. ... If you make a quiz, you get 10 points, and for everybody who then takes the quiz, you get another point. The better the content the more people will take it and the more points you get.” Those points may be redeemed for tickets, prizes and other items from the teams, which is just one more component to drive fan interaction. Miller: “What we’ll see these sites evolve into is a bit more of a game show experience, where it’s like a game show is wrapped around an entire season.”

The discussion during Thursday's panel titled "Brand Building: Fostering Community by Creating Sustainable Conversations through Social Media and Sports" largely centered on how to best utilize social media to create a community and what brands are most effectively integrating the platform. Facebook Strategic Partner Development Manager Nick Grudin underscored the value of conversation-propelled touch points: “For every time a user shares the fact they’ve purchased a ticket to an event on, it generates an incremental $5.30 in revenue for them. So an advertisement from a friend is a lot more compelling than a banner advertisement.” Foursquare Business Development & Media Partnerships Dir J. Crowley said, “We’ve seen a trend of users who are checking-in to stadiums. We want to know not only where you are but what you’re doing. ... We’re capturing all that data which then makes it easier for these teams or sponsors to do marketing plays like specials.” Twitter Business Development Dir Omid Ashtari said, “It’s about social currency. It’s about connecting that in-stadium experience to that person at home to give them that feeling of, ‘Crap, I’m missing out, I better get to the stadium.’” FanFeedr CEO & Founder Ty Ahmad-Taylor added, “If you don’t get involved in social channels, you’re going to pay because those conversations are going to happen anyway."

SUCCESSFUL IN THE SOCIAL SPACE: While Ashtari said “all teams want to attack the social space” and that “they see the value with daily dialogue with fans,” some have been particularly adept. “At the beginning of last season, the Chargers had a situation where they couldn’t sell all of their home seats and were going to be blacked out (on TV) and the Chargers and the Patriots, who were visiting, sent out a Tweet saying, ‘We need to sell a thousand more tickets or else we’re going to get blacked out,’ and they sold the tickets within an hour.” Crowley: “U.S. Soccer, for a friendly they played against Argentina over the summer ran a swarm special. If 500 people check-in here, you unlock 20% off the new red Nike jersey. I remember kicking around a soccer ball in the parking lot and all of a sudden our phones buzzed along with 500 other people to say, ‘Congratulations, you’ve all worked together to unlock this special, now enjoy 20% off.’” Grudin: “Folks that are willing to move fast and take risks, those are the folks that are going to see the biggest benefits.”

The final panel of the conference's opening day lifted the lid on Under Armour, which in just 15 years has grown from a handful of staff working the trade show circuit to a billion-dollar sports and lifestyle juggernaut with more than 4,500 employees. The secret? Never sacrificing the brand, according to UA Senior VP/Brand Steve Battista. He said, “From the very beginning it has always been brand first. Accounting, finance -- it’s all of our jobs to build brand equity.” UA's media and marketing campaigns have always reflected lifestyle and brand image, as showcased in its debut TV advertisement in '03. Battista: “We had all these agencies come in and every one of them wanted to talk about the technology of the fabric. For us, that was a key point in our brand to say, ‘That’s great, but we need to show passion and emotion and what our brand is all about. If we have 30 seconds, we’re not going to talk about moisture-wicking microfiber fabrics. We’ll do that online or on a hangtag.’”