The Importance Of Blogging In Sports

Let’s face it. Blogging is a content marketing tool that works. People like unique content that speaks to them and encourages them to interact. It works that way in the sports industry. Blogging is something I wished MORE teams did to engage their target audience – the fans of their team and the average sports fan.

People innately want to know more of something. Blogging provides a solution to the curiosity of every sports fan. It serves a need and if it can reel in someone who just a casual fan and turn them into a hardcore, engaged fan, then you know it works.

Here are my recommendations for the sports industry to leverage the power of blogging:

  1. Guest blogging. I see guest blogging as something that would be incredibly popular. We’ve seen teams have a few athletes do Question and Answer features where fans have the opportunity to send their questions to the athletes. The team will put out an article or video with answers to those questions. I’d like to see more teams doing guest blogging where the ‘guest’ is a player on the team. Fans like engaging with their favourite athletes and want to hear a unique voice. I know that I would be more willing to engage with a brand/team if their athletes were more accessible to fans. That helps with creating and building a brand that cares about its fans.
  2. Behind-the-Scenes blogs. Every fan would love to be a fly on the wall in the player’s clubhouse to hear what is said and what gets talked about. It’s just part of the human condition. We’re all curious people. If teams are more transparent with their organizational structures, they’ll earn more trust from fans than they think. Building this trust is an integral part of building a brand. If a team were to let a camera in and follow a player around for a day, on a semi-consistent basis, it’d be captivating and pretty entertaining for fans to consume. Mesh that video in with a regular written blog that incites comments and questions from fans and you’ve got a great piece of content going.
  3. Expand the reach of the blog. Using social media and search engine optimization to make your post shareable and searchable are must-do’s for blogs. While the business of sports is big enough that a team blog would get shared around well, you still want to promote it through social networking websites and make sure that every post is optimized for search engines. Getting your blogs indexed through Google will increase your potential traffic and generate possible leads that would have never otherwise crossed your blog post had they not seen it in search results.

Creating and leveraging new, unique content will positively impact any professional sports team. It’ll generate interest, get fans engaged and build and nurture relationships with other fans. That’s what every sports team/brand wants to do – get more fans involved in the on-goings of their team.

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Nashville Predators: Tracking The Buzz Ahead Of The 2013/2014 Season

With the 2013/2014 NHL season quickly approaching, here is an analysis of all the conversations happening over social media regarding the Nashville Predators. I used Social Mention to track and report on the conversations and it is a very thorough free tool to use.

My focus in selecting conversations was on timeliness. Rather than going through topics that might have been dated back a few months but might have more people commenting on it, I chose conversations that were more recent to reflect the upcoming start of the hockey season. Here are 10 conversations related to the Preds that are happening now:

1. With season debut of NFL Football season (yes, football), Carrie Underwood now voices the new intro to NBC’s Sunday Night Football, as one Twitter user notes. Where’s the connection the Preds? Underwood’s husband, Mike Fisher plays for the Predators. Underwood has been seen at many Preds games. She has also sung National Anthem and performed at the Intermission shows for the Predators. Given her popularity, it’s not a surprise that people are talking about her and her impact on the Preds’ business side of things has been sizeable.

2. In July, the Predators signed goaltender Carter Hutton to be the backup to star Pekka Rinne. It’s the first time in awhile, the Preds have some nerves about their backup situation. Rinne played through an injury last season and the team has usually had effective backup performances in lieu or relief of their Finnish starting netminder. One Twitter user tweeted out an article from the Nashville Tennessean newspaper on Hutton and how he feels he is prepared for the NHL season.

3. One of the biggest off-ice Nashville Predators news items of the last few weeks happened in an email that the team sent to season ticket holders. Everything had gone well up until the bottom of the email, where it is signed “Go Perds!” – an obvious accidental misspelling of “Preds”. This went viral very quickly and even the organization made fun of it.

4. With rookie sensation Seth Jones about to hit the ice in Nashville, he and the rest of the Predators prospects are playing other teams in a Rookie Tournament. Jones, a Texas native, was taken 4th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft this summer and has plenty of hype to his name and ability. In Saturday’s game vs Tampa Bay, Jones scored his first goal as a Predator (non-regular season) as the tweet to the story indicates.

5. As with any professional sports team, various outlets of media members and bloggers alike publish who they feel are players to look out for. It’s a common kind of article and provides some sort of spotlight on a number of players who may deserve it. This tweet is of an article on 5 Predators to look out for this season.

6. Closely related to number 1, Carrie Underwood’s voice and appearance on Sunday Night Football drew a tweet and then response to that tweet. As I mentioned, Mike Fisher is the husband of Carrie Underwood. Understanding that fact, I think the tweet below speaks for itself.

7. Related to number 4, someone posted an article to Tumblr on the Panthers/Predators rookie game from Friday. It’s a Panthers blogger who wrote the article, breaking down the game from a Panthers point of view. There are a sizeable amount of comments on it as well.

8. Among many of the Predators off-ice initiatives to build their brand, they put on a little scavenger hunt for fans. The prize? Free season tickets. Not too bad of an investment if you get them! It was just an article that Social Mention found over Yahoo News. It seems like the article was indexed to be place for conversations to happen. However, none were happening at the bottom of this article. Grade: 1/10

9. This conversation is a bit dated but very noteworthy from this offseason. The Preds painted their home ice gold for a few days and this was captured and posted to Reddit, where it received plenty of comments (as most things on Reddit do). The conversation is length and mostly positive with a few inappropriate and irrelevant comments (but that’s going to happen over Reddit!). Grade 8/10  – lots of discussion and very little negatives on the Preds.

10. If you read my last blog on the Predators trying to “Keep The Red Out”, then you’ll know that this ticket policy of the Preds has generated a fair amount of discussion. Preds fans love it and Blackhawks fans seem to hate it. This is exactly what the Predators want – more revenue and more of a rivalry. This is a post off a Blackhawks forum so the sentiment towards the Preds is mostly negative (not a surprise!). Grade: 5/10 – poor sentiment but plenty of discussion.

As you can see, I did not give a grade for many of the conversations that I have tracked here. I did that because some of them are “one-off” posts or tweets and don’t exactly contain what we would call a two-way conversation.

I did grade the conversations that were more two-way and the overwhelming majority of discussion surrounding the Predators is positive going into the 2013/2014 season. Naturally, going into any season, the mood will be positive. Fans have been waiting a few months for hockey and given the eventful Predators offseason and what is expected to come this season, there is no doubt in my mind that the fans of this brand are overwhelmingly positive.

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Predators Aim To “Keep The Red Out”

Last week, The Nashville Predators announced a new ticketing strategy aimed at keeping fans of visiting teams to a minimum. Because the length requirement of the video was one minute, I detail it briefly here: 

For years, Detroit Red Wings fans came in droves to Bridgestone Arena. There was a Ford plant in middle Tennessee and many were transplants. They frequented Red Wings/Predators games wearing their Red Wings jerseys. During the opening round of the 2012 playoffs, the Predators ran a promotion where fans could trade in their Red Wings jerseys for 50% off a new Preds gold jersey. It worked and resulted in around 300 exchanges.

Because Chicago Blackhawks home games are a tough ticket to get a hold of, fans travel in packs to other cities to watch their team. Nashville had become one of those places. Patches of red were routine for Hawks/Preds games over the last few seasons. This new promotion is targeted at those Blackhawks fans

As Jeremy Gover from Section 303 summarizes: “This season, for the first time, you will not be allowed to buy single game tickets for the November 16, December 17 and April 12 home dates against the Blackhawks. In order to get tickets to those games, you’ll be required to purchase a second game as well.”

I think this is a great move for the Predators. It has two distinct benefits:

1. If Hawks fans make the trip, they will have to buy in most cases double the amount of tickets they likely were originally going to purchase. This means more revenue for the Preds and higher demand for their tickets.

2. If Hawks fans are turned off from coming to Nashville, that means more Preds fans can attend Hawks/Preds games.

This is a win-win for the Predators (and the St. Louis Blues who are implementing a similar policy). It is great for physically keeping the fans you want coming to the games. This new policy and the name of the policy puts an “us vs. them” image for Preds fans. This furthers the team’s dedication to building a brand, culture and team filled with die-hard Predators hockey fans. It’s the kind of environment that the Preds upper management has tried to usher in since CEO Jeff Cogen and COO Sean Henry were hired in 2010.

Would a policy like this deter you from watching your team play in another team’s arena? Is this ethical or fair? Or is completely fair game in a private business? Let me know your thoughts!

-RR

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Top 10 Fan-Based Traditions In Sports

What got me really interested in sports marketing was the ability of organizations to build a fan base and create a following through promotions, traditions, and more. Creating a culture is something that all teams strive for and only some succeed in.

Traditions are a great sign that a sport is really taking off, especially when they are started by the fans. They help fans become part of the team and wanting more. This leads to them buying tickets, memorabilia and other merchandise. I am a huge fan of fan traditions and here are my top 10 fan-based traditions in sports:

1. Octopus in Detroit

Red Wings staff member Al Sobotka swings the octopus around, a tradition dating back decades. (Photo credit: nickdoeshockey.files.wordpress.com)

Back in the day, when the NHL had just six teams in the league, it required just eight victories to win the Stanley Cup. Detroit Red Wings fans started a tradition where they would throw an octopus, which has eight tentacles, onto the ice. That tradition has since stuck and is done at every game.

2. Hat Tricks

Whenever someone scores 3 goals in hockey or soccer, it is called a “hat trick” and fans throw their hats on the ice. It’s almost like an obligation (even though it isn’t!).

3. White Towels

After numerous bad penalty calls in a 1982 playoff game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks head coach Roger Neilson waved a towel on the end of a hockey stick to signal surrender. The team came home for the next game and a tradition was born. Canucks fans have waved towels during every playoff game since then and it has turned into a free item for simply coming to games. Other teams in other leagues have since adapted this tradition.

4. “White-Out”

The

The “White-Out” has been a tradition for the Coyotes franchise dating back to its years in Winnipeg. (Photo credit: Norm Hall/Coyotes)

Hockey fans in Pittsburgh and Winnipeg started what was called a “White-Out”, where fans would only wear white to playoff games. The end result was a tide of white in the stands. When the Jets moved from Winnipeg to Phoenix, Coyotes fans continued the tradition and still do it to this day. Penguins fans also still hold true to the tradition.

5. Red Sox Fans Singing “Sweet Caroline”

The Red Sox started playing Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline in-between innings late in games and fans sung along. It became the 8th inning tradition at some point in the 2000’s. The team even invited Diamond to sing at a game.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18j3ZpZOjOY

6. Fans Singing National Anthem

Canucks anthem singer Mark Donnelly debuted in 2003 and made fan participation his goal. He succeeded. Fans would sing the middle verses of ‘O Canada’ while Donnelly did the first and last verses. That feeling sent chills down everyone’s spines, including mine.

7. Liverpool Fans Singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”

Everyone in Europe goes crazy for soccer (football). It’s a fact. Fans of the English Premier League’s team Liverpool sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” when it’s played over the stadium speakers. It was a tradition dating back decades ago when the game operations crew always played the top 10 popular songs prior to the start of the game. The top song would be right before the opening. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was one of them and became a hit.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xx0Ru_1zPVk

8. Fans Singing To Whatever Is Being Played

The Red Wings game operations crew might be the best in the business. They pick the right songs for the right times and get fan involvement going. It also helps to have a musically-knowledgeable fan base too. I absolutely love their sing-alongs during the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals.

9. Goal Chants

The fans of the Nashville Predators have made a tradition out of chants. They specifically do chants during the goal song and two more right after the goal is announced. They have other chants. Most of these begin and are orchestrated by Section 303 – ‘The Cellblock’. See if you can make out what is being said and leave a comment saying what you think it is!

10. Blackhawks Fans Cheering During National Anthem

Prior to the 1991 NHL All-Star Game in Chicago, it had been announced that day that the United States was sending military forces into Iraq to combat the war at the time. An outburst of patriotism was on display during the National Anthem at the game as fans cheered throughout it. That turned into a Blackhawks tradition that still goes on today.

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Severing Ties With Troubled Athletes: How Far Will Teams Go?

I posted an article to Digg about the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL) offering free Aaron Hernandez jersey exchanges for all fans. Hernandez was recently charged with first degree murder along with five gun-related charges.

Former New England Patriots football tight end Aaron Hernandez

Former New England Patriots football tight end Aaron Hernandez won’t see any Patriots jerseys with his name on it anytime soon. (Ted Fitzgerald/Boston Herald via AP Photo via ABC News)

Fans were allowed to exchange their Hernandez with a jersey of any other Patriot of their choice. As of July 7, reports show over 1,200 Hernandez jersey exchanges had been completed.

The piece, written by Charles Harris, examines what the Patriots were willing to do to rid themselves of Hernandez and any fan connections he had to the city of New England. Harris adds that “fans need no longer feel embarrassed about the purchase or the link to this troubled player and the move will surely create a more positive opinion about the team in the short run”. By simply getting Hernandez jerseys out of circulation with this tactical business decision, the Patriots have all to gain from this, including good PR.

My question: Are teams willing to go this far to rid themselves of certain players? This practice has been used before but very rarely so and usually in less-serious cases.

The San Francisco Giants removed all images of former outfielder Barry Bonds from AT&T Park following his departure from the team in 2007. Bonds has steroid allegations and perjury charges hanging over his head and it’s no surprise that the Giants were so willing to cut off ties to Major League Baseball’s all-time home run leader. Team President Peter Macgowan said that it was “time to turn the page”.

Last year, after the Columbus Blue Jackets had traded forward Jeff Carter to Los Angeles in exchange for defenseman Jack Johnson, the team ran a promotion that for one game only, the team store would change any Carter nameplate to Jack Johnson’s for free. Carter was acquired in the summer of 2011 from the Philadephia Flyers in exchange for forward Jakub Voracek, a 1st round pick and a 3rd round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Early in the 2011/2012 season, it was rumoured that Carter was unhappy in Columbus and had requested a trade. So it’s not a surprise that the team was willing to do this promotion. It employs an ‘us vs. him’ mentality and unites the team and the fan base. The team and the fans were willing to put Carter in the past and toss his half-season history with the team out the door.

I expect teams to do this more and more as time goes on. From a branding perspective, it can create an identity of the right kind of players you want on your team and therefore, the kind of fans you want on your side. In the Carter case, it showed that the Blue Jackets had said ‘you either want to be here or you don’t’. This kind of a promotion also can create a standard of conduct that your players should have. Even though this is stated in contracts and documents, when the consequences that a player like Hernandez faces for his actions hit, they hit hard. The salary, the endorsement deals, everything goes down the drain. The fact is nobody wants to be associated with that kind of activity and in my view, teams should absolutely be willing to take the actions necessary to distance themselves from a player that went against what the team stands for.

I posted this article to Digg because the Aaron Hernandez story is still relatively fresh in our minds and it is interesting to see what teams are willing to do cut ties with troubled players to preserve their brand. Brand management is huge in sports and this was a good move by the Patriots. It was probably the easy move too.

I look forward to your comments and what you think about this kind of a promotion. Should teams do this?

-RR

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Transparency in Social Media: Does it Play A Role in Sports?

With Social Media becoming so integral to the marketing initiatives of any professional sports team, transparency is an essential issue to confront at the very beginning. People want to know who they are interacting with when they connect with a team over social media. I thought Mike Volpe’s post on when transparency in social media is and isn’t needed was very succinct and I thought I would apply it to the sports world.

When you see the social media profiles of teams, those accounts are usually managed by a person or a team of people, likely in the marketing or communications departments. In this case, transparency isn’t necessary. People should see that teams and more broadly, brands or companies have this same sort of internal structure. The realization is that the “team” is speaking but the posts are being put out there by a team.

In the case of individual player accounts, these are personal. However, transparency is necessary. People want to know whether they are speaking to Sidney Crosby or a team handling Sidney Crosby’s Twitter account. In this case, many athletes with Twitter accounts, for example, will use the line “Tweets are my own” or some variation of that to indicate the authenticity of what is coming from that account. As Volpe notes, its not entirely bad for an athlete to have someone post on their behalf. Some do it well.

However, the important part is that transparency is not always needed for teams in social media but definitely for athletes. If for some reason the sports marketing tie-in is beyond you, well, social media is one of the biggest ways that teams connect with their fans. Furthermore, teams need respectful and transparent players to be connecting with their fans and promoting the team’s brand. The end goal is to build a bigger fan base, sell more tickets and get people in the door.

 

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Welcome!

Hello there! Welcome to my blog. If you haven’t checked out the About section yet, I am Ramesh Ranjan and I am a diehard sports fan. People tell me I’m a fan of the most peculiar and unique teams around. For example, I am unabashed fan of the Nashville Predators. There is a reason behind that and perhaps I will save it for a blog post later on.

What I am more interested in is what marketing ideas and actions that teams like the Predators are doing to bring fans into the building. What is it that professional sports teams do to build a brand, create a following, and bring them back for more? This blog will look at the business of sports and what teams are doing through social media, sponsorships, partnerships, branding, promotions and more to bring people into their building.

I openly encourage respectful comments and discussion. A lot of the time, I will substitute the word ‘team’ with ‘brand’ because that is what these organizations are trying to do. With that said, I would love to know what your favourite sports ‘brands’ are and what makes you want to follow them?

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