Tampa Bay Lightning #BoltsSocialCentralWelcome to the first of what I hope are many Sports Geek Podcasts, hope you enjoy it as much as I do making it.

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In this podcast we talk to James Royer (@JamesRoyer) from Tampa Bay Lightning about #BoltsSocialCentral on ABC Grandstand Digital with Francis Leach.  On HarfTime with Daniel Harford this week I discussed how to handle emotional fan feedback on social media platforms, when to block and when to forgive fans.

More specifically, in this podcast you’ll find out about:

  • Why Tampa Bay Lightning decided against selling final corner of stadium to sponsors.
  • How cupcakes make sports fans sell their “digital soul”.
  • What sports teams can learn from talk back radio.
  • Does Seth Godin have the best description for sports digital fans?
  • How to deal with passionate sports fans when the team is not performing.
  • How to build Infographics quickly and easily using Infogr.am.

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Resources from the episode

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Thanks for tuning in, I’d love your feedback in the comments or send me a tweet @seancallanan

Podcast transcription

Sean: Welcome to episode 1 of the Sports Geek podcast. We’ll talk to James Royer from the Tampa Bay Lightning, talk about fan feedback on social pages, and you’ll learn how to build an infographic in only five minutes.

Sean: Good day and welcome to the Sports Geek podcast. My name is Sean Callanan and this is the very first, proper, and I’m going to explain what proper means in a moment, Sports Geek podcast. And what do I mean by proper. Well previously, and thank you to people who have previously listened to my radio spots which I’ve been putting up, and you’ve been up subscribed on iTunes under Sports Geek Radio. I’ve been tinkering with the idea of diving into podcasting and I’ve got a few shout outs, or I guess thank yous in inspirations behind it. Pretty much I’ve been listening to podcast more and more. So, to begin just to say thanks to guys like Bill Simmons who pretty much has brought podcasting to ESPN and the sports space in a large way with his work at Grantland, if you don’t listen to the BS report with Bill Simmons it’s well worth listening to. Pick and choose the topics you like. I’m not a big fan of listening to the gambling stuff, but I love his stuff on NBA and occasionally touching on pop culture. Another one from a basketball point of view, if you are an NBA fan you should be listening to the Basketball Jones. Those guys bring a terrific NBA podcast daily. It’s a great companion, especially now we’re in the NBA playoffs. Coming from my home town and my home country from Australia, Wil Anderson is an Australian comedian who does a terrific podcast called TO FOP or FO FOP because he has now renamed it. I was lucky enough to have Wil Anderson at our Twitter Brekky in December last year and it was good to hear from him as a comedian and how he uses social as a business development tool. One of the big take aways that I took from the Twitter Brekky was him talking about his business model. He said that he didn’t care he had two hundred and fifty thousand followers on Twitter, his goal is to get fifty thousand of his followers to buy one fifty dollar ticket every year. And so that’s how he treats both his, figuratively wanna call it content marketing, all the content he puts on on Twitter and Tumblr and his podcast. He does it all for free, but the main goal is to deepen that connection and tie with his fans, so when he does do a show people will go and see it. I went and saw his latest show at the Comedy Festival. My kids got me tickets for Christmas and it was a great show. So if you do see Wil Anderson on Twitter and he is in your town I highly recommend going. But definitely tune in into his podcast. So, one of the goals of this podcast is to help digital and sports marketing professionals get access to best practice and the latest trends, and what’s happening and what other people are doing. Because I know, working with clients with Sports Geek, is that guys that working behind the scenes at sport teams have so much content to produce, have so little resources, they are very stretched and they don’t really have the time to step back, look at what other people are doing and also strategize on potentially what they want to do. There’s a little bit of a content grind where they just keep punching at their content. Hopefully within half an hour, forty minutes each week we’ll be able to give you a few take aways that you can take back to your work, start implementing, and we’d love to hear how they’ve gone. I also love connecting the sports biz community, so hopefully by this podcast you’ll get to meet a few people that I’ve met over the journey, both that I’ve worked with, with Sports Geek, but also met on my travels doing things like Sports Geek Trip which I recently came back from. Please go to the site and check out sort of my findings and my report that I’ve reported back to my clients for Sports Geek Trip recap where I caught up with, from a team point of view, the Gold State Warriors, the Auckland A’s, the Portland Trailblazers and the LA Galaxy. And then because I’m a geek as well, I was also lucky enough to catch up with tech companies like Twitter, Pinterest, Tint, List.ly, Chirpify, TicketNet. I think I’ve got everyone wright there. But check out the link to the Sports Geek Trip recap, or sportsgeekhq.com-sgt4 because it was the fourth trip. My first interview on the Sports Geek podcast is with James Royer from the Tampa Bay Lightning who came on ABC-s grand stands with Francis Leach, or at St. Frankly if you are not following him on Twitter. We were lucky enough to talk to James about Bolts Social Central. So the Tampa Bay Lightning have recently done some renovations to their stadium and we talked to James about how they made a few changes to the stadium to better activate and better engage their digital fans.

Francis: Francis Leach on this Saturday morning on Grandstand Breakfast. We’d like to catch up with the digital Sports Geek Sean Callanan each Saturday to find out what’s been happening in sport in the digital space. Good day Sean.

Sean: Good day Francis. How are you doing?

Francis: I’m not too bad mate. Interesting stuff that you’ve brought to the table today on the Tampa Bay Lightning. For those who don’t know they’re American sport. What made you competition today play?

Sean: They’re NHL on the ice, ice hockey there in Tampa.

Francis: Now they’ve taken a different approach to the social media. They’ve been particularly solving a problem… Explain what was going on.

Sean: They were pretty much in the process of remodeling their stadium and they had these four corner suites as part of the stadium that sort of looked in on the ice. And as part of their renovations they remodeled them and sold three of the corners to sponsors. So the corners are all owned and operated effectively by the sponsors, but they had one corner left and weren’t quite sure what to do with it as far as sponsorship and things go. What they decided to do is what they called Bolts Social Central. We talked before about the big display boards, electronic display boards, and they’ve used it to show things, all things social. So it shows their Instagram feeds, their Twitter feeds, fans checking in. It’s a digital activation really getting the fans to really rally around the things they’re doing online.

Francis: Well James Royer is with us he’s director of digital media at the Tampa Bay on the line from the United States. Hello James, welcome to the program.

James: Thank you Francis and thanks Sean for having me.

Francis: So, how hard was it to do this, to actually get this wall up and operating?

James: I think you have a number of different factors out playing place with it. Within the building technology, within your internal TV network and how those TVs are fed and then obviously the Wi-Fi in the building too. So, it was a challenge to get it up. I know a lot of teams have called me up and said: ‘How you guys pulled this off? We’re trying to do the same thing.’ It was a bit of a challenge. Fortunately we have great relationships with some local partners who get social media, and they jumped in and took on the project and champion it through.

Sean: So James how… you know you’re writing all the social and digital channels about the Tampa Bay Lighting, and also the stadium. So that relationship works really well. How have you used the board to, rather the visual spectacle of fans being on the go by and tag their Instagram shots, how have you actually used the board to get fans engaged both in the stadium and probably more importantly the ones watching at home and getting a little bit jealous that they’re not there?

James: Yeah absolutely. We know that in the sports world… we saw a lot of stats coming through in social media that one of the most frequent places that people take photos and share them is from sporting events. It’s usually in the facilities. So that’s what we’re trying to capture here with a lot of the photos coming through, and we wanted to organize them in some way, shape, or form too, so we can see those. We also saw that adoption of hash tags, even within Instagram, it has been slower, but now I’m seeing results, reports saying that photos on Instagram that do have hash tags are performing much better from an engagement stand point. So we’re trying to capture some of those elements of that and it obviously gets people excited. We have activation inside the building. We give away something simple and we ask people to go on photo hunts for us, go onto a sponsor location to get pictures of this area and share it. It’s been great from that stand point, because they’ve been able to get some more… you know partners are happy about seeing their own logos in place. But obviously what we re trying to do too is to create great conversation in the building with people who are here. So that it is reaching out to the networks and people are saying: ‘Oh my gosh, a lot of things are going on’ at the Tampa Bay forum, and ‘We’ve got to be there for a game’ or ‘We’ve got to be there for a concert or an event’. So, we have been able to create another version of this for arena football league team as well. We use the same technology and the same thing. It’s all to keep you there channels and we’re gonna run up for some concerts and events as well. So it’s been able to utilize different platforms and really make this a better experience for the fans.

Francis: James how do you curate it? Because you can’t allow people to throw on anything up there it could be a rather hair raising experience. So is there somebody whose job is to be an editor to see what’s coming in and pick and choose what goes up on your Bolts Social Central?

James: That is correct we have to put it basically in a queue that we will review the photos. We don’t want the wrong things going up and we know that that kind of things happen. I think even on the Twitter site… the Twitter site is a little more real time. You know fans… you get upset and, especially when the team does not perform the way they want them to perform and it is challenges to see what kind of things are put up there. But fortunately with Twitter it displays only four or five tweets at a time, which was very strategic for that purpose. If something is gonna be put up there it’s gonna be refreshed out of there very quickly. So we weren’t too concerned about the Twitter aspect thing. As a part of the discussions we even talked about putting their Twitter profile images on there and we said no. I think the that’s the part of a bigger concern, we can see some problems with that. So we said just put the tweets, the text of the tweets, and usernames as opposed to anything else.

Sean: And so you discuss with other teams, a lot of them will say: ‘We wanna put this up, but we don’t have the funds’ and then they start looking for a sponsor to do it. Now, in your case, you invested in this corner of the stadium as effectively a fan engagement play that I’m sure now you’ve done it, you’ve made that investment, I’m sure now you have sponsors saying: ‘We want to be part of that. We want our brand integrated with the wall’, like you’ve done with sponsored integrations. Is it a bit of putting the investment and both the fans and the sponsors will come? Is that sort of the goal of the next twelve months?

James: Definitely. We definitely want to activate this area with a sponsor who gets social. A lot of sponsors will come to us and say: ‘Hey we wanna be part of this social media thing’ and sometimes they know what that means, sometimes they don’t. What we try to do is to educate them on the best practices and uses, so we could be a good corporate partner.

Francis: James Royer is with us. Director of digital media of Tampa Bay Lions…

Sean: Lightning.

Francis: Lightning not Lions. Sorry, I’ve got lions in my brain. From the United States with Sean Callanan as digital sport analyst here on Grandstand Breakfast. James in terms of the Wi-Fi, this is a frustrating thing for all Australian sports fans, cause we can go to big events, and we are encouraged to get involved, and then we log on to our smartphones, or whatever your using and it’s just like you just hit the brick wall, you cannot post anything. How is it that you can get twenty thousand people in that space and make sure that everything can flow through nicely?

James: Well Francis I make the same mistake sometimes. I actually say Lions, cause I worked for the Lions about ten years ago. I still make that mistake so don’t worry about that. Regards the Wi-Fi we were very fortunate. Our ownership really gets what we’re doing here and they made the investment to invest in Wi-Fi and it just so happed that we held the Republican National Convention as part of our presidential elections last year in the US last August and September. So that accelerated that process of getting Wi-Fi in the building. We had a local cable company who is our partner on that. They came in and helped us out with that. We also were very fortunate to have all the cell-phone companies, because of that effect coming into play. Saying: ‘Hey we got to prove ourselves on that building’. Even If sometimes the Wi-Fi is not working we have ramped up the cell service in the building enough that they can get through on their devices through cellular means as well.

Sean: That’s been a constant topic the time I’ve been here with Francis and one that’s a big discussion at SEAT Conference. We’re gonna be talking again in Kansas City. But it is something, the info structure needs to be there, because then marketers like yourself and trying to do sponsorship activations, you need to have that info structure in place, otherwise, you know I was lucky enough to go to a few stadiums and if you don’t have the info structure and if you take the San Francisco Giants on one side of the bay and the Auckland A’s on the other side of the bay…

Francis: First world- third world?

Sean: It is exactly like that. AT&T park is the most Instagram pole park in the world and it’s all because they’ve got the info structure there. So that definitely helps down the tract if you’re selling sponsorship signage and anything you’re doing and gate activation for getting people through the gate. Just being able to have that ability to brag. And I think the good thing about this Bolts Social Central is that it trains the fans, even just by them just walking past. ‘Oh now I know the hash tag. I better take my shot because it’s gonna end up on the board’. And the more fans you do the more you can develop your, you know what we call digital cheer squad. Get them out there and promoting it, it makes James job a lot easier because they’re pushing the Tampa Bay message.

Francis: Well I love the Bolts Social Central wall, it’s a great idea. James how’s the season going so far?

James: Well we actually rapt up our hockey season last week. We didn’t make the playoffs this year. We had a couple of challenges and changes over the year. But we’re looking forward to being in the playoffs next year and getting ready for that. So, I think you said something there that really resonated with me in training our fans. One of the things we’ve done, we’ve increased our check-ins to our building on an average of thirty five percent a night, and that’s on Foursquare and on Facebook. One of the things we’ve been doing is that we give away something simple. Like on St. Patrick’s week day we gave away a simple pin which basically said: ‘Kiss me I’m a Bolts man’. Or on Valentine’s day we gave away cupcakes, and we gave those away to people who checked in the building. They show us that check-in and we give them a cupcake. And it was great to see that grow tremendously. That has a lot of value to us as an arena for a lot of purposes. The other thing was really fun to watch, was when we were interacting with these fans coming up when doing this, some people would say: ‘Hey what is this?. And we said: ‘You have a smartphone?’ and they go: ‘Yeah’. ‘Do you have Facebook?’ ‘Yeah’. And they pulled it out. That’s the first time they’ve ever checked in to a place, but they were willing to do that because they enjoy the take away from that.

Sean: It’s a pair of cupcakes James?

James: It’s funny you say that, because I would see people from opposing teams… we’re in a location in the US where people… it’s a vacation destination. It’s warm weather climate almost all year around, and you get people from the northern cities, or even Canadian cities who circle Tampa Bay when their team is playing Tampa Bay and they plan their vacations around it. They come down here. So we see a lot of opposing fans wearing their jerseys or their sweaters… and I said there were some people that came up to me from Buffalo and they wanted a cupcake, and I said: ‘I’m not gonna give this to you until you give me a Go Bolts!’. And they were happy to tweet ‘Go Bolts’ out for me. So it tells you have quickly people will sell their souls, or sell theirs sports loyalties for cupcakes.

Francis: Good on you James. Great to talk to you.

James: Great talking to you guys. Appreciate it.

Sean: Thank you very much for James Royer from the Tampa Bay Lightings for his discussion on Bolts Social Central. I’ll add some notes and some links in the show notes if you want to check out Bolts Social Central. I guess the main take away for me from that interview is ABT- Always be training. You know the inside there on both telling the fans what the hash tag is and informing them that you want them to check-in to your stadium, becomes bigger all the time and the more you can train your fans to be doing the actions you want, the better results you can have later on when you wanna do those sponsor activations. The other one for mine, it’s a little bit Kevin Costner like ‘Field of Dreams’, you know ‘If you build it they will come’. That’s what we’re seeing a lot with a lot of digital innovation. It’s a matter of building it, proving it, then selling it. A lot of sponsors aren’t really ready to take that leap on new ideas. But if you can do this micro tests and. Not that the Bolts Social Central is a micro test filling out a corner of the stadium. But if you can put in the investment to test these theories and do this activations, then you’ll have the proof there that you can take back to sponsors and then they’ll want to be involved because they’ll see the cheddar online. This week just moving across to Harf Time. Catching up with Daniel Harford on Wednesdays this week. It was a bit of a trigger from last week’s show where I got some SMS-s on the SMS machine, as happens when I’m on tour back radio. And it got me thinking about some of the discussions I’ve had with teams around handling fan feedback on social channels. Some of the problems you sometimes find yourself in when you’ve got some passionate fans that just are a little bit upset, and we discussed some of the scenarios on how you can handle that from a Facebook, Twitter, and from all social platforms point of view. This is myself with Daniel Harford on Harf Time, on eleven sixteen, SEN.

Sean Callanan, a sports digital media guru for sportsgeekhq.com.

Daniel: Hello birthday boy.

Sean: Hi, good day Harf how are you doing?

Daniel: Happy birthday mate.

Sean: Thank you very much. Thank you very much.

Daniel: Good to have you in on your birthday. Nice of you to do that. (Missing part 20:30min)

Sean: We’re here today discussing fan feedback and the thing is that social media offers all these new channels for fans to express their opinion about teams and give them that public form. We’ve talked about it before with Seth Godin that describes sports fans or fans in general, but I think Pits describes sports fans perfectly, positive deviance. What a sports fan is you know, love for his team, so much passion pouring out of them, and most of the time it is positive. As much as they’re in the stands cheering their team on. But occasionally emotions get the better of us. Your team might not be doing as well as you would have liked, and sometimes you will go to social media. That might be on the teams Facebook page, complaining about player x,y,z, or complaining about a certain play. It might be a game like yesterday’s game with the Golden State Warriors. They had an awesome game. Steph Curry’s going off and then they lose that lead at the end. Now I’m sure ninety eight percent of the Warrior nation was ecstatic about the effort and what they’ve put in. But there will be a certain percentage of them who will be hanging the couch for not drawing out the play wright and leaving (player name) wide open or why there wasn’t a… So there will always be those kinds of fans. As someone who’s managing those pages you’ve got to take on board the situation the fans are facing. You’ve got to have a bit of empathy. Feel just as hurt as they do if it’s this close loss, or even worse if it’s an absolute belting and you’re going through a long losing streak. As we did sort of helping out the Sidney Thunder who haven’t won a game since 2011. Didn’t win one last year. So obviously fans are gonna get angry. In this case it was Chris Gale- why doesn’t he do better? We had to sometimes tell the players, any player that’s reading the Facebook comments on a Facebook page, really just shouldn’t. Because sometimes there’s the worst and the best of humanity on those pages. So the main thing is, from a club point of view, is when to block. Like when to say ‘enough is enough’.

Daniel: It’s like the SMS machine.

Sean: It is a bit like the SMS machine. You get a few comments there and you say: ‘No we don’t want to read that one out’, or ‘we don’t want to read that one at all’. And so it comes down to… and normally our rules are if you are abusive, and threatening, and swearing… You’re protecting the other people on that page and a lot of the people on the page will be kids, as all the kids have Facebook and Twitter. So you wanna protect them. So especially on Facebook it’s very visible if someone is having a go… Facebook is doing a better job with capturing all of those words and just automatically hiding them through a filter. But if it’s a constant, negative Nelly kind of abuse, and they just don’t wanna see another point of view then yeah, put the block and say: ‘Hasta la vista’. But then there’s the case of- it just might have gone on in the wrong time. They might have just been overly emotional and had six to twelve too many bears, and decided to have a big ran on the Facebook page. So that’s probably where you wanna get into that red card system and say you’ve got a ban for three months. We’ve got a club policy here. Here’s an e-mail, if you’ve been blocked please e-mail us and think about why you might been blocked, because we would have blocked you for one of these things, and you have done one of these things. Sit in the corner Johnny, have a think about it, and then e-mail us back with an apology. Show us some contrition. And normally after a couple of months yes you’re back in and you’ll follow the rules that we’ve laid out there.

Daniel: It’s popular with children. It’s a bit like dealing with children isn’t it?

Sean: It is a bit like dealing with children. The main thing is, one: protecting your brand. You don’t want people spreading rumors on your pages and things like that. The other thing is to not get too much emotionally invested if you’re the one reading it all. So we’ve had a lot of people going on: ‘Oh it’s so draining reading all these comments’. You start taking them on board yourself, or you start wanting to protect the players. The players are not reading it. They get said far worst things in the media. People like yourself, the papers and those kind of things. Having a crack. So you don’t have to protect the players, most of them are big boys. Just sort of step away some times. If it’s getting too much step away. Come back in a half an hour and normally it does simmer down. Just having that processes in saying: ‘No, we don’t like that kind of behavior.’ Go have a spill and then come back.

Daniel: That’s great advice. Sportsgeekhq.com for more on that sort of stuff from the birthday boy Sean Callanan. Thank you pal, happy birthday.

Sean: Thank you very much mate.

Daniel: Sportsgeekhq.com with Sean.

Sean: Thank you Harf there for the birthday wishes and thank you to everyone who did post a comment, or flick me a message, or text, or write on my Facebook wall to say happy birthday. Thank you very much. Genuinely thank you very much for the comments. Just a bit of a rap from that discussion with Harf. I will send you a link to the Seth Godin post on positive deviance. It is a perfect description for the sports fan. Again some of the take aways. If you have a player that’s reading your Facebook page and reading the comments definitely cancel them not to do that. It is not the best place for players to do it. Definitely have a policy in place, house rules, this is how we want you to behave. But also know that no fan will read it, but you’ve gotta have that in place. It could be as simple as a one line policy that says: ‘Please don’t be a dick-head’. But it should be in place so you can refer your fans to it, and also you can refer your fans to appeal any blocking or suspension that their might get for their activity. But again, the main thing is that you’re protecting your brand and don’t take any of the comments too hard. We’ve all read comments on Facebook pages, or on Twitter that have said: ‘The team shouldn’t be facebooking so much they should be training more. And the fans sometimes cannot disassociate the performance on the field with the digital thing. You just have to sort of let that one go through the keeper, if I’m using a strange expression, or let that ball go wide of the strike zone if I change it for the US market. So don’t take those to hearth. Please in the comments let us know some of the issues that you have faced from a fan point of view and fan feedback. I’d love to get some co-stars and maybe use them in future podcasts. So this pretty much raps it up. Hopefully this isn’t too long. Trying to get it just right, long enough for a jog. Be doing this once a week. What I’m gonna do to just finish this up is to give you one tool tip, something that we’ve found recently that’s been working really well. And that one is… I’ve got this one from Melanie Duncan at Social Media Marketing World in San Diego and it’s called infogram. Infographics are obviously the new thing. Everyone loves doing them. There’s a few teams doing them. I’ve got… actually Jamie and Curtis are actually working on the blog posts, on some of the content that is getting produced by some of the teams in the infographic space. I know that Melborne Storm are doing a great job and getting some great results with their infographics each week. Infogram- so it’s Infogr.am. It’s a website that helps you build an infogram. So if you go to infogram/sportsgeek, and again I’ll put the link in the show notes, or if you go to sportsgeekhq.com/infogram it will actually send you to our infogram page. But you can see it’s clickable, it’s embeddable in the site, a really cool way to do it. Again if you jump on using infogram please send me your links. I’d like to see some examples of what people are producing and we’ll attach them on the show notes for some examples. So, that’s pretty much it. Thank you so much for listening. If you don’t get our Sports Geek newsletter please sign up. Go to sportsgeekhq.com/signup to sign up. Hopefully we’ll be sending one out very shortly. We try to send it monthly. We’re very busy, but we try. Other than that I will see you on the Internet at Sean Callanan, or at Sports Geek on Twitter, and you should know all of our channels- facebook.com/sportsgeek for Facebook. Thank you very much for listening and I will speak to you soon. Cheers.