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Volume 24 No. 135
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Social Studies: A's President Dave Kaval On Reaching Younger Fans, Emerging Tech

A’s and Earthquakes President Dave Kaval (@DaveKaval) has been doing quite a bit of juggling recently, as the A's were in Arizona for Spring Training while the Earthquakes' season is barely a month old. Despite the more than 700-mile distance between venues, he made it a point to keep fans in the loop. Kaval, who became A's President in November and has been with the Earthquakes since '10, said, "I try to give people a view of what it’s like to be the president of a baseball and soccer team. It gives people an idea and access to content they normally don’t get but does it in an authentic way that people appreciate." Being so close to Silicon Valley means the A's are in a unique position of access to tech that can help MLB solve one of its biggest concerns: attracting a younger demo. Kaval: "I have a lot of experience with soccer reaching millennials, and baseball needs more emphasis on reaching younger fans. This is a great opportunity, and we hope experimentation and some of the new ideas that we’re bringing to the A’s will be a real selling point." He added of social media, “A lot of the people who see that content, they are not necessarily an A’s fan or a Quakes fan. But if they see our brands or our companies are progressive digitally and are trying to be at the forefront of media consumption, maybe they will start consuming our products just because it is new and innovative.”

Must-follow: John Legere of T-Mobile. I always feel like he is pushing the envelope in terms of stuff.
Favorite app: At the end of the day, I like Twitter the best. But Instagram is a close second. Instagram is way better with data.
Average time per day on social media: A fair amount. If I’m traveling or in an Uber going to the airport, I try to stay in touch on Instagram, on Twitter. I like to give people a snapshot of where I am because there’s no regular day for the president of two sports teams.

Connecting through social: It’s just a really important way to reach people these days. Media is changing, and you have to be progressive about reaching out through these other mediums in order to communicate the message and the vision that we have for our club and our new ballpark.

Time split between franchises: It’s a lot of juggling and prioritizing and leaning on the great team members I have in both marketplaces. I go to all the Quakes home games; I try to go down to Mesa to see a fair amount of Spring Training and get a sense of the team, keep the fanbase excited about what we’re doing. I’m also balancing, making sure we get after our efforts on our ballpark.

Departments that run teams’ social media: It exists within marketing, and one thing I’ve always done as team president is it almost has a dotted line to me. I’m heavily involved. In San Jose, (Digital Marketing Strategist) Paul Dewhurst, (Digital Marketing Coordinator) Sam Benavidez, who are actually the guys or (Senior Marketing Manager Travis LoDolce), who does it with the A’s, I’m actually talking with about ideas -- backward and forward. It’s important to have the give and take between the people who are physically doing it and the person in me that is setting the vision for the organization and is the main communication point. 

Bringing Earthquakes’ social approach to A’s: One was just responding more to people’s inquiries through Twitter or Instagram, just making sure we were more interactive. It was also to be a little more playful with our voice and really make sure people understood who we were as an organization and what were our brand values. I think people appreciate the leader of the organization being accessible in that way.

Execs who do social media well: Mark Cuban does it really well. He is always getting back to people. The CEO of T-Mobile (John Legere) is pretty prolific. His voice is different than ours, but it’s something to look at and model the behavior.

Using his feed to connect teams with Silicon Valley
: It allows us to demo all these new technologies, whether it’s a new social media platform, whether it’s an actual platform that amplifies your social-media reach and engagement. All those types of things exist day-to-day in Silicon Valley. I have friends who are either running those business or involved in them, working for them. Just being in this location and having all that cross pollination creates opportunities for success. Not all the ideas work, but we have a spirit of trying ten or 12 things and if only three or four work we’re fine with it.

Best platform for MLB to reach younger audience
: Snapchat is a great one for younger fans. I have two teenage daughters and so I see firsthand how this stuff is happening. Instagram is good, too. Facebook Live is an interesting vehicle to use and find success with. We have hundreds of thousands of people watch my weekly Facebook Lives. You need to use them all, but you need to have people using them who know how to use them. And you can’t be afraid to have very young people in your organization in charge of these streams and training in a way they know how to articulate our voice and message.

Favorite technology
: The one that we are demoing right now, and it’s really early, there’s this company called Lithium that allows you to automate some of your social media to really be able to amplify your message and answer quick questions. That’s kind of a cool technology that’s coming down the pipe that you are going to see a lot more positivity about.

Important to be leaders: We’re in a perfect city for it. We’re a young, energized, rising city in Oakland where you have all these tech workers, knowledge workers and a great cross section of America. These people are on digital platforms. There’s this great history of art and music and these things come together and fit with this new type of media. We’re in a really good Petri dish to kind of experiment with and some of the lessons we learn and some of the partners in technology that we demo will be at the forefront of sports in the future.

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