Social Media & Sports: The SMBSyr #2

By Joe Cunningham, Internet Marketing Manager

After being such a big fan of the first Social Media Breakfast Syracuse (see my blog about it here), there’s no way I was going to miss the next one which was all about “Social Media and Sports” and featured social media representatives from three of Syracuse’s main sports teams: the Syracuse Orange, Syracuse Crunch hockey, and Syracuse Chiefs baseball team.

Poe Messes Up My Morning

I arrived, grabbed coffee, a donut, and seat with Poe the Gnome (Cowley’s social media ham) who immediately succeeded in alienating the other attendees from talking to me (that gnome is so embarrassing to be with in public!).

Poe meets his biggest fanNevertheless, though I looked foolish for appearing in public with a gnome, Poe managed to sneak in some time with the local female social media professionals and enthusiasts.  He was able to finally meet in person his #1 fan on Instagram – Ms. Becky Guiles, owner of Boundless Media (@BoundlessMedia1), who was ecstatic to have her picture taken with him.  Poe sat next to Joanna Giansanti (@JoannaGiansanti) of Giansanti Design.  He later got an exclusive tour of the stadium from the Chief’s own Marketing Executive, Desiree Ellison (@DesireeatChiefs).

Our CEO, Paul Cowley (@PJCowley) also made it out to see what all the hubbub was about and got rub shoulders with the up-and-coming social media generation.

Tips and Tricks For Social Media From Sports

Kevin Morrow (@UncleDuke), Executive Director of Public Affairs Strategic Communications at SU, graciously introduced the event and emceed.  As one of the Advisory Committee members of the SMB Syracuse chapter, Kevin encapsulates the passion to not only to increase knowledge of social media best practices in the CNY professional ball field, but he truly has taken the steps, along with the rest of the SMBSyr organizers, to truly unite this community and make it come alive from within itself by means of these incredible new means of communication that are so prominently at everyone’s fingertips.

The Chiefs (@SyracuseChiefs)

First up to bat were the Chiefs themselves, also graciously hosting the event (thank you for the Dunkin Donuts and coffee – genius) who were represented by their social media staff member Brandon Massey, a US Army vet and social media magician and Desiree Ellison, the Chief’s Marketing Executive, whom Poe was enamored with.  They talked about various strategies they’ve employed that have been successful in promoting the Chiefs online and several ideas for the upcoming season.

Several interesting features to their campaign were:

  • The “guess who” pictures that got people calling the phones off the hook to guess which player was being portrayed by Rendon, an online photo editor.
  • The professional use of Pinterest.
  • Focusing on the players and testing what fans want to see and hear about.
  • Engaging fans via Twitter “Tweet From Your Seat” in the upcoming season on the biggest TV in CNY – the Chief’s HD scoreboard.

Poe with Chiefs MemorabiliaThe social media campaign is especially inclined to engage their target audience (that is not as regular as families and elder fans) – the young people.  By meeting them on social media – where they are – the Chiefs hope to fill the seats with the social engaged generation to enjoy and experience anew America’s national pastime.

SU (@cuse)

Next up was Jen Falco, from SU athletics talking about their highly successful Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram campaigns.

“Five years ago, our campaign was non-existent,” she said.  In a few short years, their fan count has hit the “huge stats” mark, driving traffic to their websites as their number one source, thanks to a successful internship training and management program the university has set up to delegate social media posting to responsible students with expertise in that area.

Some interesting facets from their campaign were:

  • Painting the hash tag “#ORANGENATION” on the court.
  • Incorporating cool daily posts such as “Throwback Thursdays” and “Follow Fridays.”
  • Changing the Facebook cover photo with photos and the team schedules.
  • Using fans to vote on designs.
  • Creating questions based on sponsors which has become a viable asset due to such a huge fan base.
  • Utilizing Google Analytics to the full to gauge the success of specific posts and activities.
  • Having social media presence and interaction with a “Social Media” night during the season.
  • Making T-shirts with hash tags.

During the Q&A, Ms. Falco eloquently answered all the questions including clarifying how from a PR standpoint, they always look to the school to set the precedent on any issue that may arise.

The Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch)

Maggie Walters introduced the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube campaign that they have running for the Crunch.  She made several interesting points I took home:

  • They successfully adjusted their social media to the massive rebranding.
  • Like the other teams, use social media to get people to come to games.
  • Use social media (as the Chiefs do also as a farm team) to connect with the team and fans of their pro team (in the case of the Crunch, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and for the Chiefs, the Nationals).

The Crunch fundamentally asked the question: how does one generate revenue, rather than just social media “fans”?  Answer: brand awareness.  A funny but viral example of this is their latest billboard campaign: the first with the sexy Crunch fan lady laying over the hockey net, followed by a similar pose from one of the players (who subsequently gets harassed for it by his teammates) gained national recognition as a humorous and effective advertising campaign.  The national awareness came after the COO of the Crunch tweeted the pictures, creating a PR firestorm.

A really nifty idea the Crunch has put in place is its making use of their player, J. T. Brown’s huge gaming passion as a social media presence.  The Crunch has created a social media campaign for fans to win a chance to play NHL 2013 against him online!  How cool is that?  Now gamers can not only pretend to be in professional sports shape, but actually contend against a pro in that online venue!  Cool idea.

SMBSyr PeopleClosing It Up

The Q&A session brought out some interesting comments on how FourSquare and Google+ have been definitely on the back burner for the teams’ SM; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest (unarguably the biggest and best purely-social networks) have been the most effective and have been consequently given more effort.

Other notes from the campaign managers included stressing how fans love pictures (the most viral content by far); how fans love info on the players and promotions as the two most effective sports topics for posting.  Social media marketers for the team expressed examples of taking advantage of star players to generate the buzz they were looking for.

It was cool because though we were speaking about three Syracuse teams “competing” for your ticket dollars; ultimately, each season barely overlaps the others and each other’s successes increase potential interest in going to a different type of Syracuse game.

A big shout out and thanks to all the presenters, hosts, and organizers of the event.  And to Mike Heagerty of NoExcuses Syracuse (@NOexcusesSYR), who is always energetically working to promote this city in his cool social media work, who also got to meet Poe (or rather, Poe got to meet Mike).

I’m already signed up for the next one (and Poe, sigh) which is going to rock as well.  It’s entitled “Beyond the Basics: Using Social Media as a Pro” with our client, Anne Messenger (@AnneMessenger) (we designed her awesome site) and Kim Brown (@Kimincuse) from SU Career Services talking about strategies to position yourself and grown using social media.  I know Anne personally, and can’t think of a better person to talk about that than her, being both a Twitter “Must Follow” and the best career coach around.  I met Kim once at SMBSyr #1, and her News Channel 9 and SU iSchool background gives me great anticipation that this will be a very enlightening event.

Tickets are free but limited (sign up here with EventBrite), and bring as many people as you can to share this wealth of new knowledge.  The event is being held at Destiny USA and includes free refreshment (hint, hint) as well (come on people, free stuff!).

Poe is excited because he plans on visiting his gnome friends as “My Favorite Sports Store” after the event.  Okay, and he’s looking forward to learning more about being a pro on social media.

[Wait, he’s saying something… (Poe - I can’t say that online!)]

We are both very excited and will see you there!

[(Shut up gnome!)]

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