On this week’s podcast I chat with Michael Briggs from the Australian Rugby Union about how they engage Wallabies fans using social and digital. On ABC Grandstand I chat with Francis Leach about current stadium fan engagement debate between Vivek Renadive and Mark Cuban.
Like this episode? please leave a review in iTunes.
Looking to improve your skills in social media? Come along to our Sports Geek Social Media One Day Educational on March 31st listen to podcast for promo code ($50 off).
On this podcast you’ll find out about:
- How the ARU engaged fans using Rugby Rewards
- The ARU partnership with Accenture delivered stats infographics in game to fans
- Why it was important for Wallabies to engage casual fans
- What effect 35,000 travelling British & Irish Lions fans have on social chatter
- What off season content strategy the ARU will employ in 2014
- Should fans use smartphones in stadiums?
- Which NRL team hit 200K Facebook fans this week
Resources from the episode
- Follow Michael Briggs @mick_83 on Twitter and on Linkedin
- Like the Wallabies on Facebook and follow @QantasWallabies on Twitter @australianrugbyunion on Instagram and more info on rugby.com.au
- Here is an example of match infographics via Twitter
- Some more info on Rugby Rewards
- Vivek Ranadive wants more technology in stadiums
- Mark Cuban’s response on Blog Maverick
- Listen to Dan Pinne on Melbourne Storm Cast on iTunes
- Ep #41 dedicated to Dirk Nowitski from Dallas Mavericks. I was lucky enough to see him score his 20,000th NBA point.
- Have you signed up for Sports Geek News? You missed this last week.
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Closing 2 Cents
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Sean: Welcome to episode 41 of the Sports Geek podcast. This week I catch up with Michael Briggs from the ARU to discuss all things Wallabies digital and talk about the British and Irish Lions tour. We’re also looking in and checking on the stadium fan engagement debate stirred up again by the Mav’s Mark Cuban.
DJ Joel: Welcome to the Sports Geek podcast. The podcast built for the sports digital marketer. And now, here’s your host on the podcast that he doesn’t drink while recording, Sean Callanan.
Sean: Thanks DJ Joel. My name is Sean Callanan from Sports Geek. Yes, sometimes it does take me a few takes to get going. Maybe I should have a beer to get things started like I do on Beers, Blokes, and Business podcast. But this is the Sports Geek podcast, so I try to stay sober. On this week’s episode, I had a chat to Michael Briggs from the Australian Rugby Union. I discuss things social and digital and how they engaged fans on the British and Irish Lions tour. Later on, I have a chat with Francis Leach on the current debate that’s been stirred up again. Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Renadive and Mark Cuban providing alternate and opposing views around engaging stadium fans and how much the smartphone should be involved. Also, later on, I answer some listener questions about how we put together Sports Geek news. And introduce a very special sounds of the game from the Melbourne Storm. Don’t forget, later in the show, I’ll have another one-day educational promo code. That’s going to be on March 31st. If you’re in Melbourne, I’d love to have you come along. But if you do know someone who needs a little bit of help understanding the social media space and how they could use it for their business, please send them along to sportsgeekhq.com/ode, for that one-day educational. Let’s get cracking and into the discussion with Michael Briggs from the Australian Rugby Union. A very happy to welcome this guest on the podcast. He is the manager of online and social media at the Australian Rugby Union. Michael Briggs, welcome to the Sports Geek podcast.
Michael: Thanks very much Sean. Good to be here.
Sean: No worries. I wanted to try to touch base with you; I think it was late last year, after a really successful British and Irish Lions tour. And it was very tough to get ahold of you, because it was a very busy time and a very successful time for the ARU. First of all, do you want to take us through what your role encompasses, what you oversee, and what properties you’re overlooking?
Michael: Yeah, absolutely. My title is Manager of Online Social Media Marketing here at the ARU. First and foremost, the ARU being the governing body of the code here in Australia, and having several different off spins in the sense of, super rugby, grass roots rugby. All the competitions that fall from indigenous rugby perspective, right through to women’s rugby and sevens and so forth. My role is purely, from a top line perspective, devise a social strategy across each of those lines of business. And obviously, work with the various stakeholders, both internally as well as externally, at each of the state based unions, to help develop activations leveraging social to engage fans and provide attendance. Increasingly from a social perspective, looking to leverage the technologies we’re looking to implement to help profile these people and help build the game here in Australia.
Sean: How many are in your team in driving that digital content out of ARU?
Michael: It’s just the two of us at the moment. Myself and my colleague Matt Lewis. Outside of that, we’ve started, towards the end of last year, to develop a really rigorous instruction plan as to how we work with each of the state unions. Whilst internally here there’s only a team of two, I’m very comfortable in the knowledge across each of the state unions, there’s a growing emphasis in social. There’s certainly a growing team, when you look at it on a national basis. A lot of work to do, no doubt. I guess we’ve made a concerted effort to focus on some of the key things and some of the key areas that we feel drives positive conversation around the game at certain key periods. We’ve got quite a strict approach as to how we approach social and how we approach content marketing, depending on what year we fall in.
Sean: Yup. Obviously, your primary or your main property and the property that most people know you for would be the Wallabies. As I was saying before, the British and Irish Lions tour last year, what were some of the key successes and lessons you had out of the real big focus of most of Australia following that series last year?
Michael: It was an exciting period. Certainly since I’ve been here at the ARU since early 2012, the Lions has been one of those things on everyone’s lips. Hopefully it wasn’t too far after me starting that plans really started to come to fruition. Despite it being a year and a half away at that stage. It was certain something we were prepared with, I suppose, when you look at it on a domestic cover basis. We had 12 years to prepare for it. In hindsight, we made sure that the tactics we’re activating, not necessarily just from a social perspective, but from an in game and match day perspective, were really exciting. We not only involved our fan base, but made sure we were able to tap in to the huge amount of traveling supporters from the UK. I think there were upwards of 30,000 or 35,000 that travelled for the tour and made their way to most if not all of the tour and test matches. A hugely exciting period for us. Some of the lessons that we learned throughout that period have really shaped our thinking for 2014. Certainly, in terms of attendance being such a highly sought after. Attendance and retail wasn’t necessarily a primary focus for us. We knew that each of the games would be in high demand no matter if they were in Newcastle, Perth, Sydney, and no matter what team they played. People just really wanted to see the Lions in the flesh. That was really good for us. I think knowing that and having comfort in that, the attention then switched from us to how can we leverage the profile of this tour? How can we leverage the excitement that was growing? Certainly, at least a year out. To start to build some anticipation around it. I think one of the key learnings from us and one of the things I personally was really impressed with was how we were able to integrate a lot of the social content within multiple different platforms. Obviously, we had support in stadium during match day. We had the ability to feed a lot of that into Rugby HQ on Fox Sports.
Sean: When you say you’re feeding it into stadium, what specific examples of content were you pushing to that traditional media and in stadium to tell people about the social component you were trying to do?
Michael: With the size of the team that we do have, and the need for us to continually be constructing content to filter through the content hungry audience. We developed a program off the back of our social loyalty program, Rugby Rewards, which was called a social map. Essentially what that was, was a listening service and a data visualization map. We were able to cross examine and monitor some of the conversation that’s happening around the country. Both from the traveling contingent Lions supporters and the domestic Wallabies fan base. We were able to not only locate and isolate where it was happening, but able to help distinguish the sentiment within each of those conversations, and be able to cross reference that against a metric we developed which helped determine what we would determine as the most vocal fan or the most vocal city, the most vocal state. Beneath that, looking at what that was saying and what they were talking about. Being able to categorize and rank some of the conversation that was happening around what was most topical. Who is the player on everyone’s lips? Specifically, what are they talking about? Some of the trending themes that people were discussing. And what we did quickly. Right from the word go, in early May last year when we launched the program, we had a huge amount of conversation being automatically fed in. We were able to cut up each of those social stories and then filter that through to the relevant areas. For instance, match day. For the test in Sydney, we were able to cut up stories that were relevant to Sydney supporters. So, what people in Sydney were talking about. How Sydney fans ranked, in terms of their level of conversation comparative to other states and cities around the country. And drive that in game experience by acknowledging them and the impact they have. But also on the back of that rating audience around the platform itself and urging conversation and registration. That concept is cutting up social stories, distributing it to the relevant platforms, was something that was really surprising for us. We found we did the same thing for Rugby HQ on Fox. There were certain stories that were relevant to either that program or the ability for us to highlight and isolate conversation around the Lions tour, specific to that program. And vice versa, across all of our social channels, in each of the state unions as well. Obviously, having tour games against the Waratahs, Force, and vice versa. We were able to cut up specific social stories that were relevant to those communities and pass that on to help spread the word.
Sean: So it really was just a bit of listening to help frame the content you were going to push back to the fans, based on what they were already discussing. And serving them more of what they wanted.
Michael: Yeah, absolutely. That was always the objective for us. That was always something we wanted to do. But, the trick was, the size of the team that we had. The scale and the magnitude of the tour itself, and obviously the ability for us to deal with all different stakeholders internally, including partners as well as all the other state unions. How to do that effectively. How to do that easily and simply. Ultimately, how to automate that to cut out some of the manual labor. We’re able to do that effectively. We’ve got some extremely good results.
Sean: You were talking about your Rugby Rewards, which is your social loyalty program. Did that help frame the conversation and drive those super avid fans to be pushing the message, to be more engaged, to be more behind the Wallabies, to beat Torelli. The Lions were a brute force, both on the field and online. For people who aren’t in Australia and are overseas, and don’t quite understand the Lions concept, you said before, it’s once every 12 years. The British Lions is like a super team. It’s 12 years since they were last in Australia. Is that right?
Sean: So it’s every six years, the battle happens either home or away. It’s sort of Olympic like, in that it’s not something that’s happening every second or third year. It’s something that you do after playing for every six years. Rugby fans, both in British and Ireland and in Australia, wait for it. They’re just ready to go. Did that help train those fans to say, these Lions fans are loud. They’re vocal. They’re online. They’re tweeting. They’re breaking in our backyard. Did that help you rally the Wallaby fan base?
Michael: Absolutely. I think the Lions having four nations effectively, and four nations worth of fan, grouping together to support one team. Obviously we knew that challenge that was ahead of us. 12 years ago when they were last here in Sydney, I think arguably we didn’t understand the scale of that tour at the time. A lot of the imagery and content that we’ve captured from that past tour helped frame and helped group and rally some of those fans quite easily. A lot of the imagery, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, is very one sided. Looking out at a packed Allianz stadium and seeing 90% of the crowd dressed in red. It was quite an emotive and impactful image. It really was some of the sentiment from the previous tour that helped drive our strategy for last year. Even from a Rugby Rewards perspective, I think focusing on what we called the support of battle between the two nations, was the perfect vehicle in which to do that. We knew the Lions fans, being as vocal as they are, and being in such a huge number. As we mentioned before, 30,000 or 35,000 touring Australia at the time. We knew they’d be talking at scale. We knew that, essentially, there was an element of risk for us. The Wallabies fans, whilst vocal and passionate, it’s hard to compete with four nations who are all wearing red and talking quite emotionally about their team. There was an element of risk in that for us. A lot of the communication we developed early on, and when we scoped out the project in 2013, was focused around how can we build and recognize some of that support of battle, as it occurred 12 years ago. How can we leverage that, to make sure that when we flip the switch for Rugby Rewards and flip the switch for the social map, that people are going to recognize that, take up the challenge, and support the Wallabies. Essentially, Rugby Rewards as a concept is built on recognizing and acknowledging that fan support, and really allowing the fans themselves to spread that story and spread that message. Last year was absolutely no different. If anything, the message was a lot clearer for them last year and a lot of the Lions. So absolutely. I think they were able to acknowledge that take it on the chin and right from the word go, they did us proud.
Sean: One of the things I wanted to ask you about. I recently did a Google Hangout for the Hash Tag Sports Conference. One of the topics there was sports data and the growth of stats and the geekiness of stats. You did some stuff with your partner Accenture, delivering real-time info graphics around the Wallabies games. In trying to find a new way to visualize stats and give it in a consumable form. How did that go and how is that received from a fan point of view? We’re seeing a lot of teams these days trying to figure out a way to best represent that sports data to the fan.
Michael: Yeah. It certainly wasn’t a small project. I think we probably kicked off discussions around that in January and February of last year. It was really a five to six month process leading up to the Lions, to activate that initiative and to do it properly. Certainly, a huge amount of testing. Driven by Accenture and ourselves, it was something that we obviously knew there would be a huge amount of interest in the tour. Certainly from both a media perspective and a consumer or fan perspective, we knew that there was a lot of passionate fans out there that liked to read between the lines. They like to immerse themselves in numbers. I guess when you’re talking about what is ultimately, admittedly quite a technical game in parts, the issue for us and the challenge for us is how do we distill that information in a meaningful way. How do we replicate that and visualize that in a way that not only a hardcore rugby passionate can understand, but the sport enthusiast. Your A league fan, your AFL fan, your soccer fan might be able to understand as well. We worked with Accenture and their design team and their stats team to develop templates for what we determined are some of the critical pieces of information. These range from kick accuracy right through to things like a substitution analysis. Obviously, standard stats such as possession, the amount of kicks, penalties, all that sort of stuff. And the impact that they have. Replicating that in a way that made sense to people, so they could quickly look at it and understand. I think for us, the tactic was really split up into two core strains, one of which was real-time. So being able to update those templates and populate those templates in a way that we could distribute them in a matter of seconds or minutes after a key event had happened. From a media perspective, being able to provide something of value to some of our key print partners, so that they could integrate that within their post match summaries the following day. For us and me personally, the real-time information was where my focus was at. What it did, was it added a huge amount of weight to our live Twitter commentary. We had quite a set process in place as to how we covered these games, both from a domestic perspective and internationally during the TRC as well as spring tour. We’ve got quite a set in post process as to how we conduct live Twitter commentary and how we leverage some of the other platforms to assist in updating people on key stats and information. But what this did, was it really added weight and some relevance and some context to some of our live tweets. What we did, we looked at this and we were able to embed that and integrate that within our existing plans, which were to focus on some of the play by play statistics and commentary, ball by ball commentary. Some of the entertaining content and image based and video based content we would be distributing. This just added a third way which was around real-time statistical information that assisted people in understanding the game better. What we found was, looking at the existing amount of conversations and mentions around the Wallabies, based on the previous year, it was a 30% to 35% increase in what we saw in the amount of mentions we would typically get on game day.
Sean: Yeah. You were talking before about the different types of supporters, whether they be super passionate rugby knowledgeable fans. Because the Wallabies are a national team, in big events that are coming up, you are going to get the casual or bandwagon fan. You need to produce that content that they can understand and they can engage with, without saying I’m a rugby aficionado, or denying their love for the other code. You want to give them permission to say, I’m supporting the Wallabies because I’m an Australian and they’re our national team. That kind of content makes it easy for them to consume and easy for them to understand, to say okay, I’ve got something to talk to my mate at the pub with. That’s a kind of content that helps reach that kind of thing.
Michael: Absolutely. I think in those what we call high profile rugby years, those years where there is a key event in our calendar, be it a Lions tour or Rugby World Cup, a Rugby Sevens World Cup, and soon to be Olympics. These are all years that we need to make sure that we’re broadening that conversation, making rugby as accessible as possible. We’re leveraging some of that increasing chatter around the game to drive a broader audience to our channels. So this is one of a few tactics, rugby rewards being the other, that really sought to do that in a fun, engaging, and simple way, that had real-time relevance. And something that, as you say, they could latch onto and help them pass it on to their own social networks as a means of displaying their own patriotism.
Sean: The next questions is, what are the plans for 2014? How do you help keep those fans on the escalator that we see from a fan point of view? How do you keep progressing those fans to be deeper engagement with Australian rugby and the Wallabies, and with super rugby? One of the challenges when you’re looking after a national team that has its peaks and troughs. We’re active. We’re in camp. We’re playing games. We’re on TV. We’re in everyone’s psyche too. Now, it’s six months off, we’re not going to see the Wallabies for a while. What’s it like from your point of view, to keep that conversation going or keep that interest going, in that offseason period? When all the players go back to their clubs and things like that. How do you keep the interest in the national team? You don’t want to fall into the trap of, I’m just putting out content to keep my social graph up and going. And knowing these fans that are just new to go, I don’t want to be involved with that all the time. I’m quite happy with Netspace. What’s your take on that conundrum, when you are running a national team type account?
Michael: Yeah, it’s a unique challenge, isn’t it? We are quite distinct from some of the other codes here in Australia, in the sense that, typically in a calendar year, we would only get access to the Wallabies for what would be three or four months a year. The rest of the time, there are other super rugby teams, and have an offseason. The way that we’ve approached 2014 is vastly different to how we’ve approached previous years, in a sense that, what we’re taking is a one rugby approach. Our primary goal is to reengage our passionate fan base with the game. This isn’t just at a Wallaby level. It’s focused at grass roots, looking at the opportunities that present themselves within women’s rugby, and obviously our national sevens team. Our sevens team, mens and women’s now, being centralized out of Narrabri, which is quite an innovative approach. Effectively, we get access to those guys 11 months a year. There’s plenty of other opportunities and plenty of other topical and interesting conversation points and opportunities that we have to drive rugby and the interest in rugby outside the Wallabies. Obviously, recognizing that the Wallabies is our hero brand, to an extent. It’s what the bulk of rugby fans in Australia have a distinct knowledge of and interest in. From a Wallaby perspective, our goal here is, what can we do to help reshape some of the thinking around the Wallabies? Linking back to our objective of reengaging these passionates, who to a certain extent, experience these highs and lows with us, for the last two or three years or more. We want to make sure that we’re building story as early as possible in the years we can, to help link back to that objective of reengaging those people and reinstilling and reinforcing some of the pride and passion and heritage in the jersey. For us, it’s based around how we develop a content plan. This content plan can sit across video content, across imagery, across audio. How we leverage partners and some of the opportunities they have to activate these and tap into perspective. All of these here. How do we work with them, work with the team management internally, and work with the state unions to develop a plan that helps address our core offering this year. From a video perspective, largely, this is arguably one of the more important things we’re looking to activate this year. It’s to have a steady stream of video content that helps tell a variety of different stories. One of the things that is of real importance to us is how we profile some of the players within our squad. How we profile the Beau Ryan’s of our code, of which certainly there’s been some coverage of Nick Cummings from the Western Force. That’s just one example of some of the personalities and opportunities we have within that squad, of which there is growing and increasing appeal. From our perspective, when we look at video content, largely our plan falls in a few different buckets. One of which would be how we leverage some of the really rich archival content that we have on tap. This obviously is spanning back to the ’60s and ’70s. Some of the heyday of nonprofessional and professional rugby. How can we utilize some of that content? Some of the classic Wallabies that we have direct access to internally, to help tell the story of the Wallabies of yesteryear. Some of the pride and passion that they feel. Some of the interesting stories. And ultimately, some of the optimism they have for the future. We saw towards the end of last year, obviously with the spring tour performance, there was a shift in mindset. There was a shift in culture within the team. That’s one thing that we’re really trying to leverage and emphasize this year. 2014 is a new year. We’ve seen some positive performance toward the end of last year. What we want to do is reemphasize the fact that 2014 will be vastly different in how the players approach the game. Obviously, vastly different approaches to how we market them. The historical rivalry content, that’s an area we want to focus on and emphasize. We’ve got a whole range of different ideas that we’ve taken to team management in order to get their feedback on that. Outside of that, there’s an element of us entertaining fans for entertainment’s sake. I think making sure we’ve got an interesting and consistent and frequent artillery of content to distribute to them. It gets them engaged. It gets them interested. It gets people talking. It ultimately shows a different side to rugby. Our vision, especially with the social team and some of the content initiatives that we drive from Rugby Rewards through to real-time statistical analysis, through to video content. Even something as simple as Twitter amplify. All of these are tactics that are focused around bringing people closer to the game. Be it a cliché or not. But bringing people closer to the game. Making sure that we’re emphasizing there’s a real need for us to be innovative. There’s a real need for us to be open with our fans. There’s a real need for us to acknowledge what they’re saying. Ultimately, we want to communicate to them what we’re hearing from them. Some of the learnings that we’re leveraging. All of these are things that we’re using to help shape our approach for 2014, from the video content we create, through Rugby Rewards and our loyalty program, through super rugby and Twitter amplify. And making highlights content more accessible. In a nutshell, that’s our approach for 2014. The way that’ll be done will be vastly different, depending on what channel we use. Our core action now, our market and communication this year is focused around posing the question back to fans. In a sense, we have a direct line to our players. We know there’s obviously a huge amount of passion and pride they feel. I think in terms of our fan base, as we’ve said, they’ve experienced some of the highs and lows. I think for 2014, it’s based around how we can pose the question back to our fans. We’ve got quite a lengthy rugby calendar this year. Something that we’ve seen. Certain elements have been proven towards the end of 2013. We’re in for the long haul, and posing the question back to them. A lot of what we’re doing is focused around this tagline of, wherein are you? That are you component, is what will be retrofitted and reflected back to fans across a range of different tactics we launch in different ways.
Sean: So this year you’ve got a test series against France. You’ve got the Rugby Championship with some tests against New Zealand, Argentina, and South Africa. Then you’ve got the Bledisloe Cup, obviously in August, being your key event around the Wallabies. I just want to finish up the interview. A lot of the things and questions I get when talking with teams and people running their digital teams and social, is what metrics should I be following? What are my key indicators that what I’m doing is working? Do you want to give some insight? You’ve got these matches coming up against France. Obviously, the Bledisloe Cup, All Blacks is always a high focus point. What are some of the metrics? You said video is going to be a big thing for this year. There’s a stack of teams that are diving into video and making sure it’s available for the mobile and they keep seeing the more video they produce for their fans, the more video they want. What are some of the key metrics for you in 2014 that you’re going to be keeping an eye on and trying to track and hit marks on?
Michael: That’s a good question. I think it’s one of those things that, no matter what digital executive you talk to, they’ve all got a different perspective. I think for us, based around our objectives, we tend to alternate, as I alluded to before, a range of different objectives, depending on what year we find ourselves in. This year, for instance, what we call our standard or typical rugby year. The emphasis in these years is very much how we can look to reengage fans. How we can look to develop content and tactics that get them talking. How we distribute that content to the right places at the right time.
Sean: So with that kind of stuff, if it is engagement, are we talking raw form of comments on Facebook posts and mentions? The usage of hash tags from a Twitter point of view? Or photos shared in Instagram? From a pure execution point of view, are those the kind of numbers that you’re keeping an eye on to say, we’re not in game mode. The Wallabies aren’t in camp. What’s our engagement on Facebook look like. Are we still getting chatter happening on Instagram. Is it that kind of stuff that, from a lower level point of view, when you’re talking to both your team and from an execution point of view. Are they the numbers that you’re diving at to say, way to go guys, we got a thousand photos on Instagram this month? Is that the kind of thing that you’re looking at when you’re talking about those kind of numbers?
Michael: Absolutely. Depending on what channel you find yourselves in, they all measure engagement in different ways. But absolutely, engagement on Facebook, views on Youtube, mentions across Twitter. More broadly, the vine of mentions as reflected throughout our radiant six social listening campaigns. These are all things we’re keeping constant tabs on. As you say, we’re outside of the Wallabies season at the moment. I think what we can do is base this on where we were last year, or potentially last year is not an accurate gage, the year before. Where we were last year, this exact point in time. How can we develop tactics that we’re seeing considerable growth in, based on a similar period in the past? And beyond that, how we can accurately as possible measure sentiment on top of that. Not only are we getting more people talking, but they’re talking more positively around the game. They’re talking more positively around certain individuals, aspects, and announcements that we’re making. There’s been a lot of important announcements we’ve made so far this year. The announcement of the NRC competition, for instance. That is an example. We’ve got strict processes of how to monitor and measure those announcements, and how to get a sense of what the fans are saying. Therefore, what the approach is from there on in. Both from a general consumer fan engagement perspective, the engagement metrics for this year are our primary focus. Beyond that, around announcements, that’s a separate killer fish. But how we’re monitoring clearly what people are saying and how we’re feeding that back internally into our business process and media approach.
Sean: It is a matter of almost a campaign approach in the different types of modes of the season you’re in. Whether you’re in this offseason mode or as you’re leading up to the France test or some of the tests around August and the Bledisloe Cup. It’s important also, I think, not just to look at that macro level, like how’s the whole season gone. But to also look at how did those info graphics go. If you’re not looking at that micro, that campaign and content piece thing, you’re not really understanding why that piece of content worked. You’re always at this 15,000 feet view of the world. You’re not seeing what happens. It is a mix of those two strategies, to figure out what is working.
Michael: You’re right. An overlaying some of that micro data, if you like, combining that with the aura around a particular period of the year, be it the Lions tour. There’s nothing to say, if we rolled out real-time info graphics this year, that they would work as well as they did last year. It might just potentially be where we were last year, the amount of appeal that particular tour had, that might have been successful. Going through a process where we’re tapping into fans and making sure some of the things that we’re planning, we’re not just basing it on past successes and rolling them out again. That we’re building it and making sure that it taps into a need that is relevant to the context we’re in this year and where the teams and our fans our at in that overall fan journey.
Sean: Well, thank you very much for coming on the podcast. I’ll link in the show notes some of the stuff that we discussed with some of the info graphics and some links to Rugby Rewards and some of the stuff you did in the Lions tour, as well as links to all the different properties that you’re in control of. So everyone can know, tell everyone what your Twitter hand is, so everyone can send you a tweet and tell you that they’ve been listening.
Sean: Your Twitter handle is?
Sean: Mick_83. Again, that’ll be in the show notes and also a link to Michael in LinkedIn if you want to connect with him. Thanks very much for coming on the podcast. Next time I’m in Sydney, we’ll have to catch up for beer.
Michael: Thank you very much.
DJ Joel: Sign up for Sports Geek news at sportsgeekhq.com/signupnow.
Sean: Thanks again to Michael Briggs from the Australian Rugby Union for joining me and talking about what the Wallabies do. I’m really interested to hear from the listeners, especially the ones that are running teams from that off-season question. Especially the national team. We are always working with teams like the Socceroos, who are similar to the Wallabies in that they have those peaks and troughs in engaging fans. What do you do in the offseason? How do you engage your fans when there isn’t content from the court or the field? What are some of the tactics you do in the offseason? I’d love to hear that. Just a quick question from a listener, Baz. I don’t know exactly how to say your name Baz, but you know who you are. They sent me a message, asking me how we put together the Sports Geek news. You can sign up for Sports Geek news, as that ad said previously, that promo. Just simply go to sportsgeekhq.com/signupnow. There’s no real big trick or tool used there Baz. We curate the list pretty much off my feed and off the social accounts for Sports Geek. So any article I read, I will push out via my Twitter account @SeanCallanan or the Sports Geek one, as well as LinkedIn, Facebook, and the like. Meg puts together the newsletter, pretty much based on your clicks. If an article gets a lot of clicks and retweets and engagement, we know that’s an article that you as subscribers to the newsletter will want to hear. It is pretty much crowd sourced. It is by your clicks. If you do miss an article that I may tweet or put up on LinkedIn, more often than not you will find that article in the weekly Sports Geek news. Or if you don’t want to get it straight away in your inbox, or in the in case you missed it. Look on the website. Look at the in case you missed it, to see some of the articles that are in that post. It’s still hand built. We use some metrics to find out exactly which articles are popular. We put it into an iTunes template and it gets delivered to your inbox. Thanks Baz for that question. This week on Grandstand, one of the articles that actually was one of the top ones in a recent Sports Geek news was, Mark Cuban’s response on stadium marketing engaging fans inside the stadium. It was an update on a blog post he did around 2010. He probably did another one in 2011. He pretty much came back and reinforced his views that he doesn’t want fans using their smartphones. So here’s the discussion I had with Francis on ABC Grandstand.
Francis: Sean Callanan, digital sports guru, is with us. To tweet or not to tweet at the game. To take your phone or to leave it at home. An interesting debate going on at the moment, particularly in American sport, around the role of digital media in the in game experience. Morning Sean.
Sean: Good morning Frank. How are you doing?
Francis: I’ll be much better when I can actually hear you. How are you going now?
Sean: I’m still here. Yeah.
Francis: You’re there. Fascinating debate going on between some heavy hitters in American sport about the role of social media in the in game experience.
Sean: It’s been a long held debate. We’ve discussed the trials and tribulations of a sports fan not being able to connect and not being able to tweet or send out a post or text their mates while they’re at a game. It’s a worldwide problem they’re trying to solve. You get 30,000 or 40,000 people in one place, it does put strain on mobile networks. Recently, the NBA all-star game, they normally have some technology meetings when the all-star game happens. It happened in New Orleans recently. One of the new Sacramento Kings owners, Vivek Renadive, comes from a technology background, and has really pushed all his chips in. He’s said we want to be tech savvy, Sports Geek like is how I would call it, team in the NBA. We really want to give fans that connected experience. He’s saying the NBA and the Kings overall, need to lift their game to offer that connected fan every opportunity that they want. Some of the arguments and debate over the last couple of years has been, and we see it here in Australia, it’s better to watch the game in the comfort of my home with my high definition TV. With my second and third screens if I want. I can pull up stats and highlights and recaps and everything like that.
Francis: It’s a really attractive proposition. We’re talking more about this today on Grandstand breakfast with the NRL. They’ve had their best offseason ever. Their television ratings have been through the roof. But people are staying away from the games. Only 28,000 on Thursday and only 18,000 last night for the Broncos and the Bulldogs. Maybe people are making a choice of, I’d rather be at home with my iPad or phone tweeting about the game, talking to my mates, watching it in high def.
Sean: I think the NRL, it’s a historical problem more than a technology problem. The fans have been trained to watch it at home and have live coverage. They have live coverage sooner and quicker than the AFL. It’s not so much a tech issue, it’s just they’ve been trained to watch the game and not, you’ve got to be there. I really enjoyed Richard Hines piece on the telly saying, you can’t complain about the NRL if you’re not turning up. You’ve got to appeal to those fans that want the comfort. The other side of the debate, it’s been long standing on that side of the debate. When Vivek put out those points, a lot of the articles used Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavs. If you’re listening to Grandstand today via streaming device, you’ve got Mark Cuban to thank. He started internet radio effectively, by streaming it in his garage. And sold it to Yahoo. He did it at the top of the dot com boom, so now he owns the Mavericks. He understands the space and understands the tech. You would think he would be definitely in the, I want to be connected. I want every fan to be connected. But he’s really in the, I want every fan to be completely immersed in the fan experience.
Francis: He writes this article, which I’ve read, about going to a college basketball game. As the man that created the online experience in streaming, he doesn’t want his phone there. He just enjoys an old fashioned pep rally type basketball experience.
Sean: Yeah. If you’ve ever been to NCAA games, they’re all like that. I’ve been to NCAA basketball games, which Mark Cuban attended. It is 48 minutes, whatever the length of the period is, of just pure excitement. Fans jumping up and down.
Francis: It’s very ritualized, isn’t it?
Sean: Yeah. It is the youthful enthusiasm of college students. His point was, none of them were pulling out their phones. They were fully engaged with the game for the whole game. He’s trying to recreate that experience, because he wants people to walk away with the experience saying, I had a terrific time at the Mavs game. I think this is where the debate sort of becomes the digital religion wars, in effect. People are so adamant of, I’m on this side or I’m on this side. When really, as a strategy guy for a team, you’ve got to look at the different types of fans. For instance, I agree with a lot of what Mark Cuban is saying, because that’s the type of fan I am.
Francis: So even though you’re the Sports Geek, you won’t pull your phone out during a Collingwood game and start tweeting away. You wait until afterwards.
Sean: As Mark said, I’ll turn up. I’ll check in. I will take my photo beforehand. I have my digital ritual. But when I’m watching the game, I’m watching the game. I’m invested in that game. That’s where Mark falls. But the thing is, there are different segments of the customer market now, or the sports fan market, that do want to engage with that. It’s not just giving your phone to your son or daughter to distract them while you’re watching the footy or the sport at hand. Some fans, that’s how they communicate. They might be having their banter back and forth with someone. That’s what they do every single day.
Francis: And there are different sports that’ll lend themselves to that opportunity. Say, for instance, test cricket, which we love. And baseball will be the same, because of the gaps that give you an opportunity to be involved that way. The other aspect to it too, is there is a very particular self interest in sports organizations having you do that. Because you provide data to them that they can then, as they would like to use the phrase which I don’t think is a word in the English dictionary yet but it might be soon, monetize. So they know what you’re interested in. They know who your favorite player is. They know how often you come. This is the thing that Renadive talks about. He wants to know, do you buy Coke or do you buy Pepsi at the stand? Do you like popcorn? Do you like hotdogs? We want to know your profile, so we can pitch directly to you.
Sean: That’s the thing. The savvier the stadium, from a digital point of view, the better those offers can be. They can pop up and say, Francis, would you like to order that Pepsi and hotdog in your seat? If you just clicked a button, you can. That’s the opportunity. The other part of it is, the more capacity the stadium has and the more encouragement the fans do, as they’re sending out information and showing how great the experience is, they’re doing it in a live manner. They’ve become an advertising arm for the team. We’ve seen that in things like the SEG and the pink test. Because the fans had the capacity to get on, they were all sending out photos of the Victoria’s test and the Australian cricket team and saying how great it was to be at the game. That’s part of the problem with the NRL. To get people there, we need the fans there to say, it’s a really great experience. It’s a different experience to the home experience. It is a mix. But you definitely have to cater for these digital natives that are always connected, and want this extra experience. When the tarmac comes, they want to watch that replay of that Blake Griffin dunk or Boogie Cousins, if he’s at the Kings, you go, I want to see that play. Then I want to be able to send that out to my friends and say, I saw it live. Here it is. You won’t believe how it was live.
DJ Joel: Learn from Sports Geek at our Sports Geek ODE one-day educational. Go to sportsgeekhq.com/ode.
Sean: So, where do you sit on that, as I said, religious digital debate? Are you in the Vivek Renadive or the Mark Cuban camp? Or are you like me, and understand there are different segments of fans and you have to cater for them all. How often do you use your mobile phone or your smartphone when you’re at a game? Again, I’d love to hear your feedback. Either hit me up @SeanCallanan or @SportsGeek, and join in that debate. I want to quickly wrap up this episode. We’re hitting the 50 minute mark. If you’re running while you’re doing this, congratulations. I’m not quite yet up to running 50 minutes consecutive, with my achilles rehab, but I am getting there. As I said earlier, I’m hoping to play pickup in Miami in July for SEEK. BJ, I’m ready to take you on one on one hopefully. This week’s Sounds Of The Game. It’s going to be a shout out to another podcast. It’s good to see the Melbourne Storm launching their own podcast this year. Former guest Dan Pinne is hosting. The Storm are now doing a podcast. You can go to melbournestorm.com.au/itunes, to find it on iTunes. I’m going to use them for Sounds Of The Game where they interview Cameron Smith.
Dan: Last one. TV show you can’t live without? Go on. Admit it.
Cameron: Do I have to say this? I’ll put it this way. It’s not on any more. But I couldn’t go without watching . . .
Sean: No spoilers here on the Sports Geek podcast. You’ll have to tune in to the Melbourne Stormcast. Available now on iTunes. To listen to that chat with Australian skipper, Storm skipper, and Queensland skipper, he’s an inner religion, Cam Smith. You can follow him on Twitter @camsmith9. I would not have admitted that was my favorite show Cam. You’re a braver man than I. But tune into the podcast. Well done to Dan and Jono for kicking that off. For social media post of the week, it’s going to be another client shout out. Congratulations to the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Not only did they win the opening match of the NRL season, defending Premiers, the Sydney Roosters, on Thursday night in the NRL season opener. They also crashed through the 200,000 Facebook fan barrier in the meantime, which takes them to the fourth team in the NRL to reach that milestone. Congratulations to the guys, the Rabbitohs. I know they’ve worked very hard to get to that milestone. So congratulations to guys like Jess and Chris, who’s now in the role there at the Rabbitohs. That clock ticking tells me it’s time to wrap up this episode, get out, and let you get back to your business. This is episode 41. Since we had a discussion about Mark Cuban and I have shared my story about Dirk Nowitzki previously on the podcast, I was lucky enough to see Dirk score his 20,000th NBA point. I’m going to dedicate this episode, episode 41, to the one and only Dirk Diggler, Dirk Nowitzki. You can get the show notes at sportsgeekhq.com/41. That’s it for this week’s episode. Don’t forget the Sports Geek one-day educational coming up in Melbourne. It’s for a wider audience than just sport. If you’re in sport, you’re more than welcome to come along. It will take you through all the things we teach all of our sports teams, but with a bit of a wider scope from a brand perspective. If you have someone who is running a business, running marketing for different types of businesses, and wants to understand how to use social media, obviously we’ll be covering the big three: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. We’ll be looking into things like Facebook ads, content strategy, running competitions, pulling it all together. On top of that, I’ve got a couple good mates of mine, Steve Sammartino and Josh Rowe, who are from the Biggest Blokes in Business podcast. Really savvy digital guys, coming in to also share some of their insights as well. You can go to sportsgeekhq.com/ode. As it was for last week, this week’s primary code is Dirk. That will get you $50 off. More than happy for you to share that with your friends. Anybody in Melbourne that you think might want to go, please send them that link. Send them a tweet. Let them know who I am. I’m more than happy to answer any questions before then. Right. Closing two cents. I’m going to go back to our discussion that we had with Michael. Especially around this fan data and info graphics. Fans want stats, so work out creative ways to deliver them via your content platforms.
DJ Joel: I love what you’ve done with name, by the way. The one day educational. Monday the 31st, March 2014. Sportsgeekhq.com is the place to go to find out a whole lot more about it. Please leave a review on iTunes. Go to sportsgeekhq.com/itunes. Listen to Beers, Blokes, and Business at beersblokesbusiness.com. Thanks for listening to the Sports Geek podcast.