Sports Marketing & Social Media


As leagues and teams deal with challenging financial realities such as the $175M NBA loan arrangement for cash strapped teams, or the NHL’s Phoenix Coyote’s rent fiasco – there is little doubt that the business of sports sponsorship is in for changes.

Those two “C” words cause a lot of anxiety – Challenge and Change. Luxury suites sit empty this season – but paid for – and who knows what challenges or changes are coming this summer when it is time for teams to negotiate renewals. Sponsors will be reviewing their spending on sponsorships as marketing budgets tighten further…

Challenge and change also have a positive by-product – opportunity. A few teams are increasingly turning to social media – a great marketing fit to leverage engagement and sponsorship within a limited marketing spend.

For this post – I’m going to focus on the NBA, the NHL and Twitter

NHL-LogoNHL Team Twitter Feeds

Have a look at:

At the time of writing, the Red Wings have 1500+ followers, Canucks 600+ and the Caps 700+. One of the Twitter strategies that the Wings are successfully employing is to to follow people – they are currently following over 1600, where are the Caps are following only 2.

These teams are using Twitter to drive fans to their site/blog, score and game play updates and the most powerful exchange in 1-1 fan engagement. While these teams, as well as many other organizations, are unsure how to deploy, track and leverage social media – these are great starts. The look and background of these twitter feeds could be improved, but the messages are getting out, and the participation is there. I have yet to see any sponsorship tied into Twitter, and this is a must moving forward in dealing with the economic climate and requirements of Challenge and Change.

nbalogo44NBA Players and Twitter

A few of players in the NBA are using Twitter on their own – not as part of a team/league strategy – but as individual users:

Notice something? Chris Bosh currently has 4000+ followers and Shaq has almost 200,000. Lots and lots of followers. Why? Authenticity. Fans follow these guys because they receive their own messages and thoughts in real time. Some of their posts are about the previous game while others are just random posts. The ability to tie in sponsorship here at this level has huge potential – but also potential for failure as it could erode the unique and authentic nature of social media engagement.

I love the immediacy of these players reaching out like this – the fact that they are “real” gives fans more of that 1-1 relationship and identification. Part of me fears that sooner or later, a controversy will arise – a situation which prompts team or league social media policy creation or enforcement (hmm… Sean Avery + Twitter = News x Bad Publicity).

These are the early days for sports and social media – it is an exciting time and ideal fit for today’s landscape of media, technology and financial climate.

* UPDATE * March 12, 2009

Phoenix Suns on Twitter

I came across something today… Here is a great link to a blog post about the Phoenix Suns innovative use of Twitter. Very strong fan engagement strategies here…


9 thoughts on “Sports Marketing & Social Media

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