Match Week 7: Sport vs Social Media Marketing

CNorris13    November 9, 2015

The usage of social media by sports fans has exploded forcing teams to develop their presence on the various platforms. Below are just a few good examples of what various sports teams, events and sponsors are doing on Social Media to engage fans, develop followers and grow their influence.


Tsonga vs Twitter 

In 2013 banking giant BNP Paribas was looking to mark 40 years of sponsoring the French Open. They enlisted the agency We Are Social to help them celebrate. What resulted was Tsonga vs Twitter and their Tweet & Shoot event.

Fans could log on to the Tweet & Shoot Website with their Twitter account, and then set up virtual shots Jo-Wilfried Tsonga would have to face in practice. The user could select and change various things about the shot to make it unique and then all the information was encoded as a hash tagged tweet. This tweet was then decoded by an court tennis ball throwing robot for Tsonga to hit. Users could also include messages of encouragement with the code for the shot which was passed along to Tsonga. Tweets were selected at random by the robot, but if you signed up to be one of the VIP Twitter Trainers, you were guaranteed to have their shots played. All this happened at a close practice just days before the 2013 French Open in May 2013. The whole event was streamed live on the Tweet & Shoot Website.

Orlando City Soccer Club Social Media Scavenger Hunt

In 2015 Orlando City SC was a new club to Major League Soccer and still trying to build its fan base. Soccer in America is not one of the big sports, and MLS teams are always trying to build and grow their fan base. In June of this year, Orlando City did something that, although was not truly unique, did engage fans on their various social media platforms and gave away tickets. Their marketing team hid three pairs of tickets around the city. Then at 3 predesignated times, fans had to log onto the corresponding social media platform to get clues as to where the tickets were. The three platforms they used were relatively new Periscope, Twitter and Instagram.

On Periscope the marketing team gave out a code word and live streamed from the location of the tickets. Fans had to figure out where the tickets were from what they were seeing on the stream and then when they got to the location give out the code word. One great thing about this part of the give away was the the fans reactions were captured on the live stream.

On Twitter three clues were tweeted out about the location of the tickets. On Instagram they posted a super zoomed in picture of where they were.

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Wimbledon’s Game Plan

Similar to on the field or court, companies need to have a social media game plan. Prior to the 2013 tournament, Wimbledon created their game plan with a goal: Put Wimbledon a the forefront of Social Media conversations. At a tournament of ups and downs, upsets and  intrigue, they wanted to make sure that their fans did not miss a moment.

In order to create their plan they broke down each platform and created a strategy and partnerships for each. A breakdown of the coverage is in the following video:

Similar to regular marketing, they took a planned and strategic approach to their social media campaign. They had designated teams for each platform, and intertwined content with ads. They made sure their fans did not miss a hit or result, but also gave them behind the scenes action that many fans crave. This had a great result, with Wimbledon 2013 being one of the most social sporting events of the year.

Trash Talk on and Off the Field

In May of 2012 the LA Kings of the National Hockey League, sent a tweet “that shook Canada” and in the process threw the Social Media playbook out the window. Having just beat the Vancouver Canucks, sending them out of the playoffs, the official account posted a tweet reading, “To everyone outside of BC you’re welcome.” Many were aghast at the break in etiquette; trash talking was fine on the ice, but not okay on twitter.

Then they sent this and threw the etiquette book right out the window:

New Jersey was the team they were playing next in the finals. Pat Donahue and Dewayne Hankins were the two responsible for these tweets. They explained to Mashable in May of that year, that “their approach deviates from the traditional pro sports strategy intentionally, and also benefits from the social media team being a part of the Kings’ marketing department as opposed to its public relations arm.”

This tweet has allowed sports teams on twitter to do a 180. Now you see tweets like this on a regular:

ESPN TweetESPN Tweet


Or more recently, this beautiful thread.

Yes things like this can get you in trouble, and the Kings did apologize for the tweets in May of 2012, but they did also gain thousands of followers in the process. Having a sense of humour isn’t always bad and now you already have those followers for when you want to communicate a little more serious contents, like season seats renewals.

Lessons for Others

Keep it simple – You only have 140 characters on twitter, no need to rewrite the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. Keep it simple. Get your message across quickly and be concise. Don’t forget the saying, a picture is worth a 1000 words.

Involve the fans  – The Tsonga vs Twitter is a great example of involving the fans in the content. Allowing the fans to connect like that we create a deeper connection between the fans and the product. A contest or competition like with Orlando City was a great way to thank fans and free tickets are always a great reward! Fans want to be a part of something. You can hear it in how they talk. Its not “the team is playing Saturday” but rather “We are playing Saturday”. Giving the fans, behind the scenes access will only strengthen the connect the fans have to the team. In this interview with the man behind the LA Kings twitter page, Pat Donahue, says “We tweet to engage our fan base”

Know your platform – Orlando City SC did a great job of knowing their platform. They know that Instagram is picture based and Periscope was video. Using Periscope in the way that they did, so that the audience could see how the contest progressed and the reactions of the winner was a great way to make it real for people who at their computer screens.

Don’t be afraid to have a sense of humour – Yes it could get you in trouble, but interacting with fans, and creating a memorable moment is important too. If you are just posting basic content fans will get bored.

Create a game plan – Same as on the field, there needs to be a game plan for your social media platforms. Wimbledon did a great job of developing a goal and creating a plan to achieve that goal and they got the results for it too.


Tsonga v Twitter 

Orlando City SC


LA Kings

Submitted by Chelsea Norris 

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