Some of the biggest concerns and questions many sports team and league executives have regarding “social media” are:
- “Why should I do this if I can’t quantify my ticket sales?”
- “Do I have to hire another staff person to do this full-time? I already have a director of marketing and one for media relations, so shouldn’t they already know this social media ‘stuff’?”
- “I can’t stand Twitter and Facebook. Aren’t people just blathering on about nothing all day long?”
- “Can this social media stuff really make my team money? If so, is it worth the effort and costs?”
These are all great questions!
Sports Teams And Leagues Can Do Well On Social Media
The first thing a uncertain sports executive should understand is that, YES, social media CAN bring in new revenues which are worth the time and effort to tackle this new marketing concept. Doing so artfully and consistently, however, requires a slight “mindset shift”. Here is what I mean:
- Always treat your fans with respect on social media. If your staff somehow offends fans then they (the fans) might fire off an angry tweet/post because:
- doing so is something within their immediate control at the time
- costs nothing
- is quick to do
- Please know that there over 50 CATEGORIES of social media, and thousands of social media properties! This can be daunting for even the most hardcore social media marketer to conquer. This post will help you narrow down some of your options to increase the odds of generating profits
- It IS possible to generate non-traditional revenues and profits through social media. To do this, however, you MUST think beyond JUST selling more tickets and merchandise through these pipelines!
- Remember that social media is about being… SOCIAL! In social settings people will trust you and become loyal fans over time IF your team:
- Send out tweets/posts/comments/offers which are not always sales-oriented
- Send out tweets/posts/comments/offers which are not always self-serving
- “Add value” with virtually every post/tweet/comment (to be discussed shortly)
- Make the majority of the non-mandatory (scores, trades, signings, etc.) posts/tweets/comments to the benefit of your current fans AND those who may become fans…. even far outside of your geographic area
You Must Generate Trust
Let’s take professional independent baseball as an example. The target market for most teams in any local area is families with kids ages 4 to 12. This means, on average, the market is parents who are 26 to 47 years old; and this is based on parents who had their first child at 22 years of age to parents whose last child was born when they were 35.
Parents under 33 years (born 1980 and more recently) were born not remembering life before cable TV, their high school years had the internet, and most importantly they have issues with TRUST. Go talk with most parents 33 years of age and younger in your market and ask them if:
- the majority of their parents and their friends’ parents had successful marriages — Likely not
- they trust any politician (local to national) — Likely not
- they believe most corporate executives — Likely not
- they trust everything coming from their media sources — Trust in these sources is failing
- their friends and fellow parents read the newspaper — Most do not because there is no way to reply if they think an article or editorial is false or misleading, whereas they can do so on a blog or social media property
- they automatically trust a referral from friends without first checking the referral through online means — Likely not. People are more skeptical and hesitant than ever
- they watch TV commercials in their entirety — Likely not. They likely switch the channel to escape commercials and/or skip the commercials with technology like TiVO
All of this means is that your local market is craving people and businesses which are TRUSTWORTHY. If any of you were Boy Scouts then you remember that first point of the 12 points of the Scout Law is, “A Scout is trustworthy.” You need to remember this in order to endear yourself to your fans both locally and nationally.
That’s All Great, But Can I Help My Sports Team Or League Make Actual Money With Social Media? If So, How Do I Achieve This Without Having To Sell One More Ticket?!?
The answer is yes.
You can do so in four ways:
- Local market — direct revenues
- Local market — indirect revenues
- Outside of your local market — direct revenues
- Outside of your local market — indirect revenues
Local Market (Direct Revenues)
This is the category which most minor league sports team executives understand, although it is arguably the most limiting in terms of helping you boost team valuations, increasing your fan base across the country, etc. Boosting team valuations and getting people outside of your local market to genuinely care about your team or league will be the topics for future blog posts.
In this area, you must choose the right types of social media properties in order to:
- boost ticket sales, therefore leading to concessions, beer, parking and merchandise sales
- boosting local sponsorship sales
- finding more host families in order to cut player-related expenses
Please remember that social media is MORE than just Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Do what you can to post MORE than just:
- news (scores, trades, signings, announcements) — these are fine as it is now expected by local fans
- ticket incentives
- merchandise incentives
- self-serving announcements, often which kill the momentum gained by the other types of posts
- basic game video highlights
Here is what can be done to boost local direct revenues:
- Have an intern take fan dozens of fan photos every night and then “watermark” the photos with the team’s website and phone number. Upload these photos (by date) to a Facebook album, Flickr, Photobucket and the other image-sharing sites
- Then invite fans to download the pictures, share the images on THEIR Facebook/Twitter accounts, “tag” themselves on Facebook, e-mail the photos to friends and family around the country, etc.
- When a group night comes to the stadium or arena, such as “church night”, then take dozens of photos and make a slide show music video of that particular group’s night. Contact usfor options on the software to make these.
- Then you can make a YouTube video of it and send it to the group’s leadership as a “video thank you card”. They, in turn, are likely to share the video of everyone having fun with their members who COULD NOT attend… and this will increase the likelihood of people who “missed out” to book their own birthday parties and other group nights as a direct result of the video thank you card. They also may share these videos on their own Facebook, Twitter, e-mail or YouTube channels
- Promote your events on event calendars which have syndication power locally. Contact us for more information on this
- Have your fans leave positive reviews about their experiences on sites like:
- Yelp, Yahoo Maps, Google Places/Google+ Local, TripAdvisor, Insider Pages, etc.
- Have a trusted staff member participate on local forums which have lots of traffic in your area. Have the staff member be professional with every post and give quality tips and help to other members of the local forum to build “trust” in your team. This increases attendance and possible sponsorships
- Have a staff member learn how to use YouTube as its true purpose, a social network. Get comments, likes, shares, subscribers, and channel comments to promote your team’s videos both locally and nationally
- ** Be “social” and use your team to address deeper emotional issues in your area
- For example, if people are lonely then invite them to come to a game, sit in a specific section, and meet others who want to learn how to score a game properly. Or have them come to games with a small musical instrument (e.g. harmonica) and have them become an actual between-inning (or intermission) promotion. It costs you nothing and endears you to the local audience
- Use LinkedIn and Facebook/Twitter/e-mail to invite local business professionals to come to the stadium or arena on a specific day/time each week and just have lunch. If you have permission to do this, imagine how much positive “buzz” you will get if you invite a business professional to bring his/her lunch to the stadium and just talk sports for an hour
- You will boost ticket sales and possible sponsorships because there is no “hard sell” and you are building trust with local people who likely have influence
Some independent baseball teams are toying with the idea of having one of their charismatic players get on YouTube and do a “video promo”, much like pro wrestlers do. Instead of challenging the opponent, however, the player invites fans to challenge him to a “trivia challenge”.
The idea is that fans show up and, for 5 minutes between pre-game warm ups and the first pitch, the player will choose a particular year or team in baseball history. Fans would challenge him and, if they “stump” the player, then they would be featured on the team’s YouTube channel and win a prize from a sponsor. This will increase local attendance as people will want to challenge the player on trivia and possibly win a prize. Fans from outside of the area may show up as this type of interaction would make the team more of an “attraction” and increase ticket sales plus give the prize sponsor more exposure. The “prize” could be restaurant coupons, free admission to a local golf course, or other prizes.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of what can be done locally to boost ticket sales and sponsorships with social media. The best part is that most don’t cost your team a dime to implement other than time and some brain power!
Local (Indirect Revenues)
Get “into the heads” of what your local audience needs outside of just “local, affordable family-friendly entertainment.” Doing this will be an eye-opening experience for most sports team staff members and executives.
Figure out what your fans and prospective fans need in their personal lives. For example, people may want:
- to lose weight
- help finding a quality painter or roofer
- tips on how to save money with their kids
- saving money on restaurants and increasing food costs
- look more attractive
Here is an example of something fun which can be done on social media which has the potential to “go viral”. Consider filming a player and his girlfriend and creating an online video called the “hardball makeover” or something like that. Have a local spa/salon sponsor give the tips and his/her address, website, and phone number. Make sure that the sponsor includes the recommendation of purchasing some sort of grooming or skin care item which can be purchased on Amazon. Of course, make it funny or otherwise entertaining while simultaneously being educational.
When the video gets uploaded to YouTube, include an affiliate link to Amazon to buy the specific grooming item(s). No matter what the person purchases on Amazon in the next 24 hours (the current length of the tracking “cookie” for the affiliate link) the team makes between 4-5% of the purchase price. The video, if done well, will get shared by everybody; and you will get indirect revenues from your local market (as well as the national market) which have NOTHING to do with selling an extra ticket or t-shirt. The extra exposure for the team, however, may boost attendance or online merchandise sales.
This is just one way to get people locally to have fun watching your content, increase the trust levels in the team, AND simultaneously boost revenues locally (and nationally) without getting an extra butt in seat. The best part is that this has nothing to do with the quality of the player or the level of on-field talent. This means that an independent baseball team is now on-par with higher levels of talent regarding social media because the independent team “offered value” by being entertaining and educational. Yes, independent minor league sports teams now can have an advantage due to their “independence”; and this does work for major league and affiliated minor league sports teams equally provided that they are compliant with players’ unions. Some of the social media ideas can work with college and collegiate-league sports businesses as well.
Again, the “hardball makeover” just an example. Make sure that you get the underlying notions of what is needed and THEN craft a specific example. Just like deciding on which promotions to run, not every idea is a good one. With promotions you want to make sure that the cost to get items, market and advertise your promotion, and fulfill your promises costs significantly less than the revenue generated by the promotion.
The same principle applies here. Make sure that your social media attempt to generate indirect revenues locally:
- Costs very little
- Is done tastefully
- Educates and/or entertains without offending
- Isn’t SOLELY about the revenue stream (e.g. Amazon affiliate link) you are trying to promote
- Can be shared easily
- Has “lasting power” far beyond the end of your season
- Has some sort of tracking component
- Using the Amazon affiliate link example, Amazon provides on its dashboard the number of clicks and revenues generated over specified time periods. You can track a particular social media campaign’s success in terms of clicks, revenues, etc.
Outside Of Your Market (Direct)
If you want to boost direct sales (tickets and merchandise) outside of your local market area (e.g. 30 mile radius) then you really need to add value to your social media efforts. What works here are strategies which are fascinating, entertaining or educational to your audience nationally.
Let’s use an actual example of what COULD HAVE worked, but ultimately failed from a revenue standpoint. The following video about an independent baseball player doing cool bat tricks:
- Made it to the front page of Yahoo one morning. Talk about “going viral”!!
- 3+ years later has over 4.7 MILLION views!
- Fascinates even longtime pro baseball executives who never saw it
- Was uploaded by the actual team’s representative on the team’s official YouTube channel
Pretty cool, right?!?
The only problem is…. the 4.7 million views (up until recently) hardly made a dollar!
You can’t much more “viral” nationally than waking up and seeing your player favorably mentioned on the front page of what most people see when they first open their internet browsers. The problem is that there were no revenue streams embedded in the video NOR in the description field underneath the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YngyMco72QA). Only recently did YouTube embed Google ads on the video; but I cannot determine if the revenue goes to the entity which owned the team, the league in which the team played, or if 100% of the money on the clicked ads goes right back to Google.
Here is what could have been done to make LOTS of money:
- Having a phone number added on the video (or the beginning/end) to buy tickets and see this guy. The team could have made him into a “celebrity”
- Having TV producers to book him for some “human tricks” segment where the team could have received a fee and/or boosted awareness and ticket sales
- Having merchandise to purchase nationally (e.g. “Bat Trick Man” t-shirts)
- Having a DVD for parents to buy with the player being able to teach every kid in the country how to do these tricks
- Being an affiliate for the type of bat the player used in the video
- Anything else which would have been appropriate and generated revenues from people watching the video anywhere in the world
4.7 million views… and virtually no money except for a few passive ticket sales increases.
This is not to knock the player’s talents or anyone else. Just learn from this in case you have the ability to fascinate the national audience, if even only for a minute. The ability to garner interest and attention, even for a short time, can be monetized if done artfully and after adding value. In this case, the “added value” was a “Wow!” element. That is all you need to begin to make direct revenues from the national audience.
Outside Of Your Market (Indirect)
Let’s use the professional independent baseball teams and leagues for this example. These teams now have a page dedicated to them on IndependentBaseballTrivia.com, which offers a commonly-shared daily trivia question about the history of these independent leagues. Each team’s page has a coded section which rotates the daily trivia question; and the teams now have the ability to place ads above/below the trivia question.
This means that each year these teams now have a potential 365 additional Facebook posts, 365 Tweets, and however many number of e-mails to send to their fans to offer “added value.” In this case the trivia question each day is the added value.
The teams can monetize their pages with:
- Google per-click ads (including allowing people on mobile phones to click an ad and putting money directly in the team’s Google account)
- Amazon affiliate links/widgets
- eBay affiliate links/widgets
- selling the spots on their team’s page to a local or national sponsor
This is just the tip of the iceberg of how all college, summer collegiate, independent league, minor league, and major league sports can make indirect revenues from people all over the country. Again, this helps teams begin to think that their profits are more than JUST “local, affordable family entertainment” which is dependent on “butts in seats” and sponsors.
If a team is adept enough to generate 50,000+ followers on Facebook, Twitter and email newsletter lists then they can make some decent money. Let’s assume 5% of the people click the link to the daily trivia question. Of course 4% of those people click an ad which produces an average of $0.30 in profits passed onto the team.
Here are the numbers:
- 50,000 people have the potential to see the daily trivia question
- 5% click the trivia question each day = 2500 people click the link
- 4% of these people click the revenue-generating link = 100 clicks on Google ads (or other revenue-generating graphic/link)
- 100 clicks * $0.30 = $30/day
- $30/day * 365 days = around $12,000 per year (obviously, no guarantees as this just a hypothetical example)
- This does not include any revenue from people who click a trivia link directly off the sports team or league website. Examples of league websites currently with a link to THEIR specific page on the trivia site include:
The element which helps the teams is that if a fan likes a particular day’s trivia question then he/she may share the content. Whether your fan shares/likes/re-tweets the Facebook post, Twitter post, e-mail newsletter or the actual link which contains the trivia question and the advertisements all benefit the team. Hopefully a respectful percentage of these “friends of your fans” will join your social media and/or e-mail newsletter lists.
As you can tell, it becomes a numbers game so do whatever you can to increase your fan base around the country!
Thank you for reading this far. All of what you read is just the beginning of what can be done with proper education in order to produce legitimate revenues, directly and indirectly, from both local and national audiences by the effective use of social media.
Please contact us. We can help your sports team or league discover new ways to generate revenues, and then we can delve further into how to customize it for your specific staff and desired audiences.