Westpac Stadium CEO Shane Harmon chats about his experience with Rugby World Cup in 2011 and his new role at Westpac Stadium in Wellington. On Harf Time we look look back at why #WarriorsLive was a success bringing fans into the huddle at a preseason practice.
On this podcast you’ll find out about:
- What sports teams can learn from Gary Vanyerchuk’s book promotion on Twitter
- The importance of Facebook for ticket sales for Rugby World Cup
- How Twitter was vital for Rugby World Cup as a comms tool around Christchurch earthquake
- Challenges and opportunities for stadiums and venues entering social media
- How Golden State Warriors got me out of bed at 5am
- How sports teams can leverage Google Hangouts on Air
- Find Shane Harmon on Twitter (@shaneharmon) and Linkedin
- Connect with Westpac Stadium on Twitter (@WestpacStadium) and Facebook
- Follow Rugby World Cup on Facebook
- Find Gary Vanyerchuk on Twitter (@garyvee) as well as his book @JJJRHBook
- Grab Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World on Amazon
- Watch #WarriorsLive replay and see how Warriors engaged on social media during it
- Julie Phayer’s recap of #WarriorsLive and Warriors recap
- Sounds of the game thanks to Rich Clarke from Arsenal take a listen to these fans in full voice
- Thanks for iTunes reviews in Australian iTunes and USA iTunes.
- THANK YOU we reached 7500 downloads last week.
- Have you signed up for weekly Sports Geek News?
Make the effort on Twitter
Follow the example of @GaryVeee (he has 1M Twitter followers)
— Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) October 22, 2013
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Sean: Welcome to episode 23 of the Sports Geek podcast. On today’s episode, what can sports learn from Gary V. I chat with Shane Harmon from the Westpac Stadium about sports and digital. And how did the Warriors get me out of bed at 5 o’clock in the morning?
DJ: Welcome to the Sports Geek podcast. The podcast built for the sports digital marketer. And now here’s your host, working through rehab because he still fancies himself a dancer, Sean Callanan.
Sean: Thanks DJ Joel. My name is Sean Callanan from Sports Geek and this is another episode of the Sports Geek podcast. Thank you very much for downloading. On today’s episode we’re going to have a chat with a good friend of mine, Shane Harmon, who’s the CEO of Westpac Stadium, about some of the things he is looking to do in his new role there, around activating the stadium in Wellington, New Zealand. And also later we will look at Warriors live, a Google Hangout on Air where the Golden State Warriors invite their fans to watch practice, and there was a bit of a Google Hangout while it happened. I was lucky enough to be part of it. But first, here’s my chat with Shane Harmon, CEO of Westpac Stadium, on ABC Grandstand with Francis Leach.
Francis: Good day Sean.
Sean: Good day Francis, how are you doing?
Francis: Not too bad. Another interesting week. It was a #socceroos #ange.
Sean: Well #welcomeange and #farewellange.
Francis: The Twitter verse this week.
Sean: It was by the socceroos and pretty well received by most football fans.
Francis: Indeed it was and last night was a really nice to send him off. What’s been happening this week, you’ve been in touch with a guy who maybe has had a listen or two for some of our big sports conglomerates on how to stay in touch and be authentic with the fans.
Sean: Yeah, I guess he’s a social media expert and a wine entrepreneur. Gary Vanyerchuk who’s based out of New York I think and @garyvee with a couple of e’s at the end. He’s got over a million followers.
Francis: That’s a powerful platform.
Sean: It is a powerful platform. He’s well known for a book called Crush It. So he’s a bit of a social media antiroll as really motivating. I’ve been telling people how to use social to connect with their audience. He’s done it with his wine business and now he sort of teaches people in that space. He’s got a new book coming out called Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, which is a bit of a metaphor for his method using social. And so I knew it was coming out, I keep an eye on what he’s doing. But on Twitter the other day I got a tweet from JJJRHBook. On Twitter it said: ‘Hope you’re crushing Melbourne SC ’.
Francis: So a very specific…
Sean: It was directed… It wasn’t a direct message, but it was a reply straight to me. Whether they identified me, used a tool like Cloud or…
Francis: Can you do that? Can you, if you’ve got somebody who’s a regular follower or may be directed…
Sean: You can. You can do it with the influences or targeting people who you think might be a good candidate for your product. So it was a little reaching out and so I just went… the idea was right. I knew about the book. I retweeted and said you’ve got to give Gary V some credit. He’s really reaching in and hustling to get that book out. And then, on top of that, I wasn’t expecting anything, Gary replied: ‘Thanks Sean. Good luck with it.’’ He replied with his million followers, so the lesson I take away from that from a sports point of view is to not forget that, Twitter especially is an engagement platform, it is a conversation platform. And that’s pretty much how Twitter pitches itself. They don’t pitch themselves as a social network anymore; they are saying they’re an engagement-conversation platform. So not to forget that that’s what the platform is for and the value of reaching out and connecting with those fans. So there is a lot of sports that see the follower amount and say, good we’re getting that reach and getting those phone numbers, and just becoming a broadcast platform. Because it is pretty hard to find a new Twitter account or a new initiative on Twitter if you’re not following that particular account really closely. So what advantages could a league or a team have by having something that reaches out to their fans. Whether it’s to say ‘thank you’, thanks’ for being a member’, or ‘we’d love to see you come to a game’, or ‘did you know we’ve got a special promotion coming up’. There’s a fine balance to becoming straight ads spam I guess, but something tactical, but making sure you are staying in that conversation it’s really important.
Francis: Indeed. You can have a lasting impact. It’s a level of authenticity with the fans, and that’s what really has a serious impact on their conviction for your team or whatever brand that you’re trying to sell on. And I guess that’s something that our next guest can tell us about because he had to build an entirely new tribe on Twitter for the Rugby World Cup which up to that point, two years ago, didn’t know how to engage social media.
Sean: Yes that was old school. I think we’ve got Shane Harmon on the line. Who’s now the CEO of Westpac Stadium in Wellington. But was also one of the guys behind all things social at the Rugby World Cup in 2011. Shane, are you there?
Shane: Good morning Sean.
Francis: How are you Shane? Welcome back to Grandstand Breakfast.
Shane: Good morning Francis how are you and Sean Callanan?
Francis: Two years ago the Rugby World Cup, when you took that on did the Rugby World Cup have any social media presence to speak of at all?
Shane: No. None whatsoever. It really was fairly early days in that space because we established those platforms in around 2008. So any team and leagues around the world were really only dipping their toes in the water at that stage.
Sean: And so sort of taking the similar scenario as Gary V. with his book there, you were reaching out to fans in a one on one basis to inform them of when the game is on, how to get tickets, and really to strengthen those ties with those fans so you could sell those tickets.
Shane: Yeah I think Sean we built probably the early, first… Facebook was the most important platform because it became our most significant marketing tool for international marketing. We didn’t have projects that were going to extend above the line campaign internationally, so Facebook became quickly important for us. We built up a Facebook page following of around 1.6 million, but 89% of those were outside of New Zealand which was extraordinary and it became… Facebook became the number two driver of traffic to our ticketing web site. So we absolutely used it as a business objective to sell tickets, but also to engage fans as well, multiple promotions. Twitter was a bit of a slow burner for us, but then it came to its own, particularly when we were facing issues along the way. And the biggest issue we faced, six months out to the tournament off course was the Christchurch earthquake and we had to move eight games out of Christchurch and really refund 26 million dollars of tickets and start again. We have a large number of fans from international markets who book flights, accommodation, etc. The first two days obviously a lot of empathy, but human nature after a few days comes back to how did this impact me, and we absolutely got involved in a conversation where there was misinformation, or people needed assistance. While we ran for sponsors for airlines and hotels we got involved there as well, and tried to help fans and connect them with the appropriate authorities to help them out. So it became a great medium to help fans, to correct misconceptions and misperceptions and really just to engage one on one.
Francis: And such a dynamic tool I guess as well because things were changing on the ground all of the time.
Shane: Absolutely. And I think Twitter has actually left Facebook for dead as a live engagement platform for major events and sports as far as I’m concerned and I think in the next Rugby World Cup I would hope you would see Twitter become a much more vibrant platform than it was even during 2011, because it’s really come on leaps and bounds. It’s such an open platform as well and I think one of the big disadvantages that Facebook has is that so many people have locked down their profiles, whereas Twitter’s such an open platform and it really helps with that engagement.
Francis: Can I just ask you, also Sean was talking about before, the power of personal touch… so if you would respond directly to an inquiry, how much validity does that give you with the customer, in terms of their sense that you actually care about their circumstance?
Shane: Look I think maybe a year or two years ago people were surprised if you responded to them. I think now it’s becoming more of an expectation and a norm. And when people tweet a corporate account or a sports account with a question or an issue, they are generally expecting to get a response now. So I don’t think is such a big deal or excitement any more for people to actually get a response. It is becoming the norm and people are using Twitter now as a means of extracting customer service. So it’s always nice if you’ve got a verified account, 700 000 or 1 million like Sean’s example early on of Gary V. and he’s a machine. He’s always responded to anything I ever said to him, but it is… a little bit of a buzz when somebody with that large of a following does take the time to respond to you.
Sean: So now in your new role at Westpac Stadium and what you’ve learned from the Rugby World Cup and that expectation of customer service that keeps rising all the time… What does that mean for your new role and what are you looking to do with Westpac Stadium?
Shane: I’ve been in for ten weeks Sean and the first thing I did on day one was to establish a Twitter account. There wasn’t one before and I got one up and running and verified. It’s got 600-700 followers at the moment, in a few weeks, which is great. I think what it allows us to do as a venue, because venues, a lot of venues don’t have a real strong personality like a team has. What Twitter allows us to do is to humanize the venue that many people will see as a facility, a building, but the heart and soul is going to be the team and the product that’s out there on the field. So I think what we’re doing is giving our stadium a personality. Stadiums are often soft targets; we got plenty of comments on the food and beverage selection, the performance of security, or the weather. You can get blamed for all kinds of things being a stadium. But opening up on Twitter and responding to these inquiries I think is a great way of actually giving the stadium some personality, that maybe it previously didn’t have.
Francis: And some connectivity too.
Francis: Is it important? Because as you know from your restraint warnings, it’s one of the biggest stadiums here, it’s pretty hard to actually share your experience because the Wi-Fi platform just won’t allow all of the traffic.
Shane: Yeah we’re investigating that at the moment and I see that in a couple of stadiums here in Australia that have taken that leap like the SCG, I think it will be a domino effect. I think in ten years’ time a free Wi-Fi is going to have the same expectation amongst fans as tap water.
Francis: Free Wi-Fi in Australia instead of paying 27$ an hour at your local hotel when you check in.
Sean: The expectation is that Wi-Fi, access to Wi-Fi, will be as expected as bathrooms in stadiums in the future. I agree with what you were saying, the stadium point of view from a social, it lets you tell both the stadium story and tell the story behind, and the people behind it. But also allows you to tell the fans story as well.
Francis: Good on you Shane. Good to talk to you. Enjoy your Saturday there in beautiful Wellington.
Shane: Thanks very much.
Francis: Shane Harmon is the CEO of Westpac Stadium in Wellington and formally in charge of social media and the publicist for the Rugby World Cup there.
Sean: Give it a follow @WestpacStadium.
Francis: Off course it hosts the AFL, the same applies there, rugby most importantly, cricket, and also the Wellington Fenix, you started a big campaign there. Sean thanks for coming in. Remind people of where they can find you in the digital universe.
Sean: sportsgeekhq.com or look up Sports Geek in iTunes.
DJ: Sign up for Sports Geek news at sportsgeekhq.com-signupnow.
Sean: Thanks again to Shane Harmon for joining me on ABC Grandstand. I didn’t actually get a chance to talk about a big event that’s coming up for Westpac Stadium. So give Westpac Stadium a follow. They’ve got the World Cup Brazil qualifier coming up on the twentieth of November with the All Whites New Zealand football team taking on Mexico for a spot in Brazil. So it should be a big game and I look forward to seeing the Westpac Stadium crew handle it and I expect to see a few absolutely cracking tweets from a massive crowd, because I’m sure the New Zealand All White fans will get behind it. Up next, I had a chat with Harf on Harf Time on SEN about Warriors Live, Google Hangout that was hosted prior to the NBA season that took Warriors fans or any fans for that matter around the world into a Warriors practice, using Google Hangouts.
DJ: Sean Callanan our sports digital media guru for sportsgeekhq.com.
Harf: We’re back again good afternoon. Good day Sean.
Sean: Good day Harf. How are you doing?
Harf: Very well mate. Very well indeed. Opening night of the NBA season, I’m sure you’re very excited.
Sean: Yes I am, I am. It’s good to have the NBA back. So the opening night tonight… but earlier, or on the weekend I was lucky to participate in what was called Warriors Live.
Harf: What’s Warrior Live?
Sean: So the Golden State Warriors hosted a Google Hangout and they provided live coverage from Warriors practice.
Harf: Video coverage?
Sean: Video coverage. And they had a few guests talking about the Warrior season coming up and always representing Andrew Bogut’s hometown of Melbourne. So I wanted to have a feeling of what the Aussie fans down under thought of the Warriors. Yeah so they ran it via Google Hangout. It was pretty cool, they had Festus Ezeli, second year center, who’s rehabbing an injured knee, was on the Google Hangout as well. So the fans were firing in questions. So they had Aaron who’s one of the sports broadcasters on it. They had Al who’s a comedian on the Daily Show. We were all firing questions and then just talking about the general game, and then we were all flicking and watching them have practice. They had a 3 point shootout. And then we saw Andrew Bogut take the rookies through their hazing and their ritual, so they gave him a few… I think it was a One Direction backpack, some pink beanies… So you can still check out, watch it. It’s eighty minutes long. I was talking about the Warriors season coming up and watching them run up and down the court and talk about the season in hand so, it just provides them; I guess another way of connecting with the fans. It was imbedded on, streaming live on YouTube and you can now watch the replay. So there’s potential for more teams to sort of use that as a platform to provide that closer access.
Harf: Well Wayne Elwood must have been involved in this or watching this. Wayne good afternoon.
Wayne: Good day Harf and Sean. Yes I did click on that link and watched it. I didn’t watch it live because I wasn’t up at 5 like Sean was, but that was amazing mate to see what they went through and what you guys did. Superstar Sean sits on the panel there, was fantastic and then Andrew Bogut at the end. I think it was a Hello Kitty backpack.
Sean: Yeah one was a Hello Kitty.
Wayne: It was something that… just straight ahead of everybody else for the fans to be able to check in and watch was amazing. It was really good.
Sean: And the thing it was… when it was live, if you were watching it live, you could peek in and say, ‘I don’t want to see the talking head I just want to watch the vision of the practice’, so you could click the, you select the view and say ‘I want to watch the vision of them doing a three man weaves and running post drills and stuff like that, but you were still having the chat up backwards and forwards.
Harf: Right, so they’re the only ones doing this, the Warriors?
Sean: There were a few doing it, but it was the first one to sort of do it live at a practice and sort of have their voiceover, they had their TV guy. So they’re hosting it. We were talking to Mark Jackson at the court, asking him about where the practice was going and stuff like that. So they’re really looking forward to the season at hand. So I pushed the case for the Warriors to make a trip and said we’re ready for the NBA game. Hopefully we get them here they were in China earlier this year as part of the promotion in Australia. Andrew Bogut’s out there pushing the barrier to say we’re going to have an NBA game down in Australia.
Harf: Well I heard the NBA calls to respond they’re looking into that market. Who knows what that means. But if you’re going to go to China you might as well come to Australia.
Sean: Well Australia is about the only market that hasn’t, and now we’ve got Matthew Dellavedova, Patty Mills, Aaron Banes, Andrew Bogut. We’ve got four guys playing in the NBA and we deserve a spot.
Harf: If you want to check out the Warriors live episode, 80 minutes of goodness, check out sportsgeekhq.com. Thank you Sean.
Sean: No worries mate.
DJ: Need help with your content? Book in for a content brainstorming session with Sports Geek now. Go to sportsgeekhq.com/work.
Sean: So I want to say thank you to the Warriors team, so Kev Ackers who I’ve caught up with at SEAT the last couple of years, and Kevin Coutu thanks for inviting me. And Kenny Lower from the Golden State Warriors. Thanks to guys from Google who helped get it all set up. So I’m hoping to catch up with Greg Wright who helped set it up for Google. I think the product itself, the Google Hangouts on air, the fact that you can start streaming it and embed it on a site, which is what the Warriors did; I think it’s a very effective YouTube product. I’m not sure it’s still going to get activated on Google +, but from my point of view it’s really nifty. There’s probably a better description than that; a really nifty YouTube product from a live streaming point of view. Some technical things that I saw from… just from my position as a panelist on it, they ran it as a private hangout, they didn’t let fans go in. So you didn’t have the problem of having to moderate or those kind of things. And they pretty much ran the hangout via two links into the hangouts. So they had one that was pretty much pointed at Festus who was at the Stadium at the practice facility as well, and then they had another one that was obviously connected to a vision switcher; the switch between showing Tim Roye the Warriors announcer and flicking between shots from practice. But there were obviously some technical hurdles they had to cover. If you had watched the video, there was some issue with the microphone and the ear piece that coach Mark Jackson had when we were trying to talk to him, but overall I think it was really important that they had Festus on there. If not it would just have been a panel of fans and journalists and those kind of things, then all the questions would have sort of floundered. So I think the fact that they were able to have a player on as well as effectively a host, I think it worked very well. So give it a watch. I think the live element really amps it up. The fact that you can pick and choose the camera angles you want to watch. I think probably if I had some feedback on how it ran, I think it could have been more of a smoother run down. It started quite well with Stephen Curry giving a bit of a tour of the practice facility. But then they sort of went into sort of a general practice. They promised a 3 point shootout, but it wasn’t really covered on the hangout itself. But you know the fans who were watching, and I was following it on Twitter while actually on the hangout, they really loved it. To get that kind of insight view of a team at training was pretty special for the fans. So I’m hoping to speak to a couple of the Warriors guys once the season is in full swing, and they can bring their heads up. Have a chat about how it went, what they’re expecting from the season at hand, and also hopefully talking to the Google guys about where they see Google Hangouts on Air being positioned. I think it’s a really unique property, it’s the only thing that Google + can really hang it’s hat on and it’s obviously partnership with YouTube. So I think it is something that sports should be definitely having a look at. As I said it was well worth getting up at 4.30 for the 5am start. And if you actually watch the video you can actually watch the sun rise, actually happening behind me while the practice is going on. So, it’s part of the problem of living on the other side of the world, but I’m more than happy to get up early for cool digital initiatives like that. A little thank you to Wayne in Elwood for calling up during my segment on Harf Time. Good to know people are clicking on my links and I completely agree that’s a great initiative by the Warriors there. Now, that clock is to remind me to continue my dedication of this episode. This is episode 23. You can get the show notes and all the links I talked about on the show at sportsgeekhq.com/23 and really who couldn’t I dedicate this to, but the none other than Michael Jordan, the greatest basketballer that has ever lived. And that’s coming from a Detroit Pistons fan who had a fierce rivalry with Michael Jordan, but number 23 will always be Michael Jordan in my eyes. So that’s it for the show. Sounds of the game is just coming up now and it is actually a clue for the guest on episode 24 coming up (audio clip). So if you’re not familiar with English football that crowd noise, that sound of the game, was from Arsenal. Arsenal Football Club over in UK. I am very lucky to have Richard Clarke, content editor at the Arsenal Media Group, will be actually on the next podcast. Looking forward to that, so tune in. If you haven’t subscribed please do so and please tell your friends about the Sports Geek podcast and if you could leave a review that would be great. We are now starting to upload them all on Sound Cloud and we’re on player FM…. Speak to you soon. Cheers.
DJ: Please leave a review on iTunes. Go to sportsgeekhq.com/iTunes. Find all Sports Geek podcasts at sportsgeek.com/sgp. Check out which teams work with Sports Geek at sportsgekhq.com/clients. Thanks for listening to the Sports Geek podcast.