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SGP 041: Michael Briggs on Wallabies social media and digital initiatives

Michael Briggs Wallabies Online & Social Media ManagerOn 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.

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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

Episode 41 dedicated to Dirk NowitskiResources from the episode

Social Media Post of the Week

Congrats to our client South Sydney Rabbitohs becoming the 4th NRL team to break through the 200,000 Facebook Like milestone, we remember when they were just 25,000 a few years ago.

Rabbitohs 20000 Facebook Likes

Closing 2 Cents

Wallablies Accenture Infographic - Closing 2 Cents

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Podcast transcription

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?

Michael: Yes.

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.

Michael: Perfect.

Sean: Your Twitter handle is?

Michael: Mick_83.

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.

The psychology of being a Sports Fan – ICYMI – @SportsGeek News

In case you missed it – Reprint of Sports Geek News – Tuesday 25th February 2014

What @SportsGeek reads…

Olympic snowboarders find advertising loophole at Sochi

House of Lakers: What if Frank Underwood where the Los Angeles GM?

Facebook to buy Whatsapp for $16 Billion

Do your players have a game day social media plan?

The world’s top 10 most innovative companies in sport

NBA, tech execs gather in New Orleans to debate role of mobile technology in live sports

“Pitino: Social media largely a waste of time” – I’d like to debate that!

LinkedIn, Love it or Hate it?

Daytona Rising will turn speedway in first-ever racing stadium

Sochi 2014: Team GB want social media protection

Nice work by @Pacers to capture Danny Granger saying goodbye to his team mates

17 GIFS of most painfully awkward high fives in sport

Want to help decide where next #SportsGeekODE is?

Register your interest for next #SportsGeekODE event

Aussie ski resorts silenced by AOC – ICYMI

In case you missed it – Reprint of Sports Geek News – Tuesday 18th February 2014

What @SportsGeek reads…

Aussie ski resorts tweets silenced by AOCHear from Dan McLaren from TheUKSportsNetwork.com about the world of #digisport in UK & Europe

NBA star Mills shares Goodes story

Confused? No photos but please share on Instagram

Jamie Anderson, snowboarder: Tinder in Olympic village is next level

Goalposts shift as sponsorship game turns more complex

Wearables, who will win?

Pinterest shoots for world domination with new mobile site

Dale Hansen unplugged: celebrating our differences

Facebook fraud response: Are Facebook ads a waste of money?

Joakim Noah and the All-star game conundrum

Nice post on Digital Marketing by Jim Stewart

Twitter testing major profile redesign that looks alot like Facebook

Thoughts on Derek Jeter announcing his retirement on Facebook over Twitter?

28 days of fame: the strange, true story of ‘Flappy Bird’

Sign up for Sports Geek News

30 deleted sports tweets & farewell David Stern – ICYMI

In case you missed it – Reprint of Sports Geek News – Wednesday 29th January 2014

What @SportsGeek reads…

New Melbourne @Storm Auckland 9s jersey with new Twitter handle on the frontWhy sports is the ultimate winning play for engagementDavid Stern, a real league leader – great read on the commissioner who ends his 30 year run with the NBA this monthThink before you tweet: 30 deleted sports tweets you were never supposed to see

Great article on “Content that drives engagement”

Super Bowl survey: Almost 60 percent of viewers intend to use smartphone or tablet during the game

Content Marketing: Tell your story

Social Media Matters: Here’s a goal: Be more like Sporting KC

Do you have a “Woe is me” sales staff? – every team that has a losing record that is trying to sell tickets should read this

Facebook News Feed FYI: What happens when you see more updates from friends

Federer & Nadal – in fits of laughter on this commercial shoot

How iBeacons could change the world forever

10 Creative rituals you should steal

2014 predictions & Sochi secret social media platform – ICYMI

In case you missed it – Reprint of Sports Geek News – Tuesday 21st January 2013

Over 70,000 Seattle Seahawks fans have #TappedInWhat @SportsGeek reads…

The Olympics social media secret weapon

10 things I’d like to see more of in #digisport in 2014, great article by Dan Pinne

NFL IT Leaders bring Football and the Superbowl into the digital age

Athletes decry social media excess

Facebook continues Twitterisation

NBA dreams big for black history month

Why does the World Cup matter? First foray into partnership with ESPN & Medium

“The world is now an airport” – Interesting article on privacy
Leigh Ellis on The Starters making free throws & tearing towels

Facebook marketing declines: how business should react

Amazing 360 windmill by Paul George shared by NBA on Instagram almost immediately

An open letter to Rebecca Wilson from Lucy Zelic – will she take up her offer?

Why audio never goes viral

Great work from Danny Greene – “One punch can kill”

Sign up for Sports Geek News to get these links each week in your inbox.

SGP 034: Leigh Ellis from #TheStarters and Seahawks fans #TappedIn

Leigh Ellis on The Starters making free throws & tearing towelsOn this episode of Sports Geek Podcast I chat with Leigh Ellis from NBA TVs The Starters on producing killer podcasts that helped them break into the NBA and we tap in with Kenton Olson from the Seattle Seahawks as they prepare for the NFL’s NFC Championship game.


Like this episode? please leave a review in iTunes.

On this podcast you’ll find out about:

  • How a couple of Canadians and an Aussies ending up hosting a night NBA show
  • Importance of diversifying your skills (and working hard) to break into sports business
  • Why sports teams need to make sure their content is NOT BORING
  • What planning goes into making The Starters work
  • How the Seattle Seahawks are connecting fans around the world with their locker room
  • How Seattle’s coach Pete Carroll was a big driver behind the I’m In activation
  • Seattle fans rewarded via Twitter with a Starbucks Coffee

Over 70,000 Seattle Seahawks fans have #TappedInResources from the episode

Watch TBJ Show 1000 – Top 20 moments of TBJ

Watch Kenton’s panel from #SportsConf – Engaging Fans With Social In-Stadium

Social Media Post of the Week

Love this shot from @AustralianOpen Instagram account.

Send in your nominations for best social media post of the week – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine… for whatever reason fan engagement, sponsorship activation, cool content….

Good luck to Seahawks Sunday

#SBNight at HONEY

See you at #SBNight

When: 6pm January 21st
Where: HONEY Bar, 345 Clarendon Street South Melbourne

Grab your ticket at Eventbrite

Eventbrite - #SBNight Sports Business Networking Night

Interplay Media sponsors #SBNight

Big thanks to James Spinks from Interplay Media for sponsoring #SBNight, we can now offer EVERY attendee a drink upon arrival to get networking underway.

HONEY will be cool on #SBNight

Closing 2 Cents

See you at #SBNight

Listening via iTunes?

Subscribe to the Sports Geek Podcast in iTunes, if you liked the episode please leave a review on iTunes and help spread the word on your networks.  Thanks in advance.

On SoundCloud?

Follow Sports Geek on Soundcloud, all episodes available.

Podcast transcription

Sean: Welcome to episode 34 of the Sports Geek podcast. On today’s episode I chat with Leigh Ellis, from NBA TV’s The Starters. Our producing killer podcast that help them break in to the NBA and we tap in with Kenton Olson from the Seattle Seahawks as they prepare for the NFL’s NFC championship game.

DJ Joel: Welcome to the Sports Geek Podcast, the podcast built for sports, digital and sports business professionals. And now here’s your host, who uses hashtags and emails and texts, Sean Callanan.

Sean: Thanks, DJ Joel. I actually use hashtags also in Christmas cards and birthday cards. Welcome to another episode of Sports Geek Podcast. It’s been a busy week here at Sports Geek and if you’re in Melbourne, we are going through a heat wave. If you’re out of Melbourne, if you’re watching the Aus Open, I can attest that it is bloody hot. I do hope that Kim, Dan and the rest of the Tennis’s Australia Digital Team have installed air conditioners in the social shack that we discussed on episode 30.

It is a hot one here in Melbourne and we do love to complain about how hot it is when it does get a little but hot. But it is over 40 for the 3rd straight day, and that’s over 100 for the people in the U.S. Big podcast today, I’ve got Leigh Ellis from The Starters talking about the content that they produced prior to joining NBA digital and NBA TV crew. And then I’m luck y enough to fit in with Kenton Olson’s busy schedule as they prepare for the NFC Championship game.

And talk about an activation they’ve got with the Seahawks, connecting fans around the world. One quick word of mention now, SBNight, Sports Business Networking Night on next Tuesday, the 21st at the Honey Bar. You can grab tickets sportsgighq.com/sbnight. Again thanks to James Spinks at Interplay Media. Thanks to their kind sponsorship, we’re able to offer everybody a free drink upon entry. Now, here’s my chat with Leigh Ellis from The Starters.

Okay. Very happy to welcome a special guest today to the Sports Geek podcast today. you may know him as the Australian fact checker from NBA TV’s The Starters . But as he picked A-Dog as his jersey nickname that’s what I’ll call him throughout this podcast. Welcome Leigh Ellis.

Leigh: Hey, Sean, thanks for having me.

Sean: So for those of you who don’t know about The Starters, formerly it was known as the Basketball Jones and you and the TBJ crew report into the NBA Digital Family and now you’re in Atlanta. How’s the move from Toronto to Atlanta gone a few months in?

Leigh: Well, overall, not too bad. From a family standpoint, moving my wife and our young son here, that was quite hectic, of course. But now we’re in, we’re settled in, we’re feeling a little bit more at home now. And so that always makes a difference when you feel you’re out of backpack and you’ve unpacked everything. And from a professional standpoint, now the show we’re up to nearly 40 shows that we’ve done.

Obviously, at the start, the first few shows there’s a few problems and everyone’s not quite sure about the format and how they’re going to work. But really in the last couple of weeks, we feel that we’ve got a little more comfortable and a little bit more confident and overall, it seems to be going quite well.

Sean: So for those who don’t know, just a little bit of backstory with the Basketball Jones, you did over 1,000 episodes in various forms. So it wasn’t always a podcast; for a little while there it was a TV show. Do you want to give us a little bit of background of what TBJ was and how you ended up joining that crew?

Leigh: Yeah, well, it was nearly eight years ago to the day when Skeets, Tass and JD, who were the original three, just got started doing a podcast and they originally did it on Skype, kind of like we are right now. JD reported it in his basement and they put it up on iTunes and they had some success. They were only doing it, really once or twice a week at the start and then gradually they just started doing it three times a week and then it built up to a five day a week thing. And again, it was a lot of interaction with fans and this was before Twitter and Facebook and that had really taken off as well so there wasn’t the same sort of instant communication that there is now.

And the guys just seemed to build up a loyal following. They took a loyal approach. I mean it was never the same sort of analysis type show. It was always looking at the league at a different way and always trying to add a little bit of color and a little bit of insight that is not normally there. And then Matt came along and joined the guys. He went to school with the guys earlier in the 2000s and he hooked up again when Matt finished what he was doing at school. Trey and Skeets kind of knew each other because Skeets used to write “A Ball Don’t Lie” for Yahoo! on their basketball blog and so they sort of had a relationship there in the past.

And then, they joined the Score in 2010, and I was already working at The Score, which is a television network in Canada, a sports TV network. And so I just started. I noticed what they were doing and I tried to get involved with them and tried to see where I could help out. And they started to use me to do a couple of things, just minor things. You know, helping out shooting a couple of shows and doing a few things when JD was busy and then, gradually, the relationship just grew and grew.

And then it was the season the lockout season of 2011 when the guys needed something to do and so they decided to go on the No Season Required Tour, which basically, we went around America for 34 days into nine different cities and just did a live podcast. And at the time I wasn’t officially a member of the crew but they basically needed someone to carry their bags and get their coffee in the morning and they offered that spot to me. And so I pretty quickly jumped on it.

So we went around America in November 2011 and when we came back, it was really perfect timing because while we were on the tour. I think we were in Miami and it was around Thanksgiving weekend when the NBA announced that they had an agreement and they were going to come back starting on Christmas Day. So when we got back to Toronto, I mean, I was obviously keen to continue working full-time with the guys and they felt that they could use me in some way other than getting their coffee.

So basically from there, I started working full-time and again, my role has expanded throughout the whole time of being there to basically doing behind the scenes production work to then being involved in the overdose, which was Friday’s show. And then, again, as last season progressed I was more involved in the daily show in a minor only capacity and then when we made the move to NBA TV this year I became one of the 4 guys on the panel.

Sean: And so, a thing that’s funny, I’ve seen some of the tweets that you guys have been getting this season for the people who didn’t know you and they’re’ sort of just feel like, “Who are these guys? How do we get a couple of Canadians and an Australian on NBA TV?” It just shows you the hard work you have to put in to break into the sports business. So you’ve got a background, you were doing tennis reporting and also you were working at [The Score] doing a lot of web content and associate producer type stuff before you even got close to doing stuff with the guys?

Leigh: That’s right, yeah. I mean, some people who don’t know us just think that we’re four guys that were walking along the street one day and someone said, “Hey do a show on NBA TV.” But as you mentioned, the guys, I haven’t’ been a part of all 1,000 episodes before they went to NBA TV. But it was a process that really started so long ago and they had to just keep doing it and doing it and doing it for free until someone noticed. And the same with me. I was working at a bank here in Toronto and I didn’t really like it so I tried to change my career and fortunately what happened in Toronto was Sports Media College opened, so enrolled into that and it wasn’t cheap. And that gave me my little window into getting my foot in the door in the sports industry. And then again, once I was in the sports industry, you’ve got to be pretty much prepared to do anything and that’s how it was for me and then when the opportunity with the guys came along again you don’t want to do something that someone else can do. You always want to try to bring something new to the table and obviously having an accent obviously helps, but I wanted to show the guys that I can do more than just do more than produce from behind the scenes.

I have an opinion on things as well. I guess it’s one of those things that it takes time. You can’t just put three or four guys in a studio and expect to have a great podcast straightaway. I mean, things build up over time. Chemistry takes a long time to build up and you just have to know how each other work and just getting to know each other; it’s like any sort of relationship I guess like that. There’s always that “getting to know you” period and then you start feeling more comfortable with each other.

So if anyone is interested, the only advice I would say is you just have to pick up some sort of recording equipment whether it’s a microphone or a camera and you have to do it every single day, and don’t expect anything to come straightaway. It took a long time, it took eight years to get to NBA TV for the guys. And if it wasn’t for them doing it at the start every single day, JD is well the main producer had two boys, two babies while this was happening

And I mean the stress that a baby has on any sort of relationship, and he was still able to produce to the quality that they had done to that point was incredible, really. No one I don’t think would’ve blamed him if JD said, “Listen, I’ve got too many things to worry about with my kids and my family,” but he didn’t. He kept at it and it paid off in the end. But it’s just one of those things, because that’s the thing. People tweet us and say, “Ah, these guys suck; I can do their job.” And I say, “Well okay. Do it. You pick up a camera and you start recording every day at the same time. Make it good, make it interesting and make it funny,” and it’s amazing how people, when they think about it, they realize that it’s not like we just turn up at 11:30 in the morning watching highlights and then go and sit on a panel for an hour and talk about the games. There’s a lot that goes into every single show.

Sean: Don’t dismiss the theatre of the Internet; we like to think that you just turn up.

Leigh: I mean, we like to think that that’s what people think. You know, we hope that that’s the sort of show that we show that we’re just turning up and we’re casual and it’s fun and it’s engaging. But it’s totally the opposite. I mean, basically as soon as one show finishes, we’re planning for the next one.

Sean: Yeah. We’ve been working with a few teams. I’ve really bought into podcasting as a real, strong communication form for the teams because you get to choose. The fans get to choose when they listen to it. So whether it’s a football team or a basketball team or whatever. It can be a preview show, it can be a review show, it can be insights. From a production point of view, it’s far easier to produce a half-hour podcast than it is a half-hour TV show, just form the amount of moving parts that you need and whether you’re going to do editing and those kinds of things.

So I just want to take all the stuff that we do in helping the teams produce shows, and we have a few of the teams actually going to dive in and do a few more podcasts on another content theme this year. Give us an idea; you just come out of a show meeting for tomorrow’s show. What types of things do you discuss in there and how do you plan it out? Is it a show-to-show thing? Do you have longer sort of theme shows planned out? Give us some insight into that kind of planning.

Leigh: Well, Monday’s shows are always a little bit different because basically we try to look at the weekend, starting from Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night. We basically just try to pick out winners or losers storylines. For example, Josh Smith last night, who’s had a pretty rough week. He had a pretty good Friday and Saturday night, he had an incredible run on Friday night and then he had the game-winning basket on Saturday night. So we’ll focus on that.

We won’t necessarily break down the game as such; we’ll just look at more story lines and talking points and then, for example, the losers. We can look at something like the Washington Wizards last night. They had a leak in the roof that delayed the game for, in total, about an hour. And we just try to point out those sorts of things rather than…because you know how quickly things move on the Internet.

If we were to talk about a game on Friday night on Monday morning, no one’s really interested because everything’s changed since then. You know, Sunday night’s games might be interesting, and we might talk about one game if something spectacular happened, but that’s generally Monday’s show.

And throughout the week we have a mailbag segment on Wednesdays. Tuesdays, we have a crossfire segment where we basically just debate different topics. And that’s really Skeets, and Tass and that’s one of their old things that they’ve done from the start. We try to keep things so that each day there’s something that the fans look forward to listening to.

Sean: It’s a feature segment that they know you’re going to go to.

Leigh: Yes. That’s right, that’s right. So that they know, if that’s their favorite segment, or if they don’t like that segment, they know whether to tune in or tune out for it. And you know, again, we try to keep things very similar from Tuesday to Friday, especially because that way people know what’s coming and they know that if, let’s say, Monday night’s game is The Heat vs. The Thunder and it’s a triple overtime game, well, we’re obviously going to lead with that game the next morning.

But let’s say, for example, there’s a game that we looked at and we thought The Heat and Thunder was going to be our lead topic on the next morning, but Miami blows them out by 35 points. We probably won’t talk about that game in depth as much, but let’s say that the Bobcats and the Sacramento Kings had an incredible game, then we’ll probably incorporate that game into it. So we have a rough idea the night before, what we’re going to talk about. But it’s always subject to change, depending on the storyline and depending on what happens the night before.

But so the show goes up at 12 o’clock Eastern U.S. time every day. It’s live online at NBA.com. Then, after the show, we have a quick chat about things that we liked, things that we think worked, things that we think maybe didn’t work, then Matt and JD basically then edit the show for the TV version. They might just trim things up a little bit if we talked a little bit too long or they might just make a slight adjustment. There are generally not that many things, but there are always a couple of things that I just need to tweak.

And then pretty much we have lunch and then we start talking about the next day’s show because we always want to find things, like the segment that we have about 35 minutes through, called The Goods, where we’re talking about just general talking topics. You know, the Andrew Bynham trade, and the Andrew Bynham free agents, where he’s going to sign next, those types of things. If there’s a controversy between a coach and a player or something like that, we try to bring those topics up then. And by the time that we finish up for the day, it’s basically 5 o’clock. I know that I come home, I have dinner, put Sebastian in the bath, put him to bed and then the games start at 7 o’clock and then you’re into it straightaway again.

And so it’s very hectic, because between the six of us, we need to be on top of every major talking point, and we get most of them. There’s always a couple that you miss out on but it’s one of those things, I mean, I love the game of basketball; I enjoy it. But at the same time, I’m looking at it through different eyes now because you’re looking at it to try to find that you make sure that you hit those talking points and you find anything that’s of interest from the fan’s perspective, whether or not it can be serious or it can be light-hearted. Because that’s the other thing; we always have, after each game, a segment called Random Notes where we basically point out things that you might not have seen on the broadcast. And that’s always great because fans are now really starting to tweet into us to say, “Hey, did you see this guy did that,” or something happened in the crowd and we incorporate that into the show.

Sean: I mean, you just mentioned in Twitter how, I think one of the reasons I want to chat to you and chat to you guys is because I think you do community development really well, which is what you would call it. But basically, is just engaging your fans on Twitter. Do you think part of that is, I guess, starting seven years ago sort of in a pre-Twitter space when you would’ve been engaging via blogs, message boards, those kinds of things. And then, when Twitter really started taking off in 2009, 2010 and then when you’re doing the lockout season, the fact that you can have that backwards and forwards with the fans, you have a regular segment with the army where you read out twitter handles in an Australian Accent as Skeet says.

How much importance do you put on that backwards and forwards that all of you do? Like all of the guys have backwards and forwards with fans while you’re watching the games. Like you said, people will be tweeting you random notes. People will send you a tweet and say, “Hey, did you see this Instagram of Dwight Howard’s bored so he’s dancing in his hotel room. That kind of stuff, how important has that been to the development of TBJ and now The Starters?

Leigh: Oh, it’s huge. It’s so important because you want to let the fans know that they’re involved in the show. We never think that we see everything and we know everything and often after the show one of us might bring out a stat or a fact and we might have it slightly wrong in the working or something like that and people will tweet in and say, “Well, actually you’ve got this wrong.” And I love that. You know, because no one’s perfect and if you make a mistake whether an intentional one, or you got your research wrong or your facts wrong, it’s always good for someone to say, “Hey listen, this is actually what the score was or what the fact was.”

Because it just shows that we want the fans involved in the show and they do that throughout. Pretty much every show I’ll send out a tweet during the show to say, “What do you guys think of this,” or, “Tell me your five favorite players that are left-handed,” or something like that. And it gets people watching the show because people love to see recognition. And at the end of the show I always, well not always, but I try to read at least one or two tweets that we get from the fans who are watching the show live and put their name up, put their twitter handle up, and people love seeing that.

And we don’t do it just to sort of say, “You’ll get your name on TV.” We do it to say, “Listen, you guys are contributing to the show. You’re helping us make this show.” And that’s what’s so important. I mean, during games I try not to keep my eye on Twitter too much because sometimes, as I’m sure you’re aware, you can end up just watching Twitter and you can miss a big segment of a game before you realize it.

Sean: Yeah, it can be a bit of a rabbit hole. You can fall there.

Leigh: Ugh, exactly. And if you start a conversation then three or four people tweet in and I always try to respond to people where I can, because I appreciate them commenting on a tweet that I’ve made or whatever like that. But I know there’s been times where I’m like, “Oh my god, I’ve missed the last quarter of basketball because I’ve just been sort of on Twitter here.”

Sean: It’s a professional hazard.

Leigh: It is, it is. It’s so easy to get distracted by it and that’s why, now, I’m trying to take a different approach. I’m trying to leave my laptop upstairs and just watch a game. But, you know, you’ve always got your phone on and you just quickly, if there’s a delay in the game or a commercial break, you can’t help but just check Twitter to see what’s happening. So but overall, everyone, there are people out there that know easily just as much or more than some of us at basketball and that, to me, I want those guys contributing to the show.

There are obviously people who watch games in the cities like Washington, there are fans there that watch every single game and every single play. Now, we don’t’ see every single game and every single play, so you want them to contribute to the show because they might see something that we don’t normally see, whether it’s a rotation change or a substitution or something like that that affects the game.

It might’ve happened three or four games ago and we missed it. And then they can bring that to our attention so I love it. There’s always a few, you always get a few people who just want to try to bring you down and all that. But that’s, you know, you just have to ignore those people.

Sean: You would know that. You’ve obviously told the boys that it’s tall poppy syndrome as we would call it in Australia.

Leigh: Yeah, I mean, like, that’s the thing. I understand. Not everyone, our show is not for everyone and I understand that and not everyone has to love us and tweet compliments to us. But there are people who purely look to try to engage you in trying to criticize and be stupid and you just have to unfortunately put up with a bit of that. And sometimes I have a bit of fun back, but after a while you think you’re not making any progress with this person, because sometimes they’re have been people who have challenged me on an opinion or a stat and I say to them, “You’ve got that right. I was wrong.” And then I’d write back and say, “Yeah, see I got you, you’re dumb; you don’t know what you’re talking about.” All it is, is like any of it, you make mistakes. For example, last week I sent out a tweet that Bradley Beel wore #23 in college and the reason he wore it, he said, was because LeBron was #23 when he was growing up, not Michael Jordan.

So I sent out a tweet and said, “Bradley Beel wears #23 because it reminds him of LeBron, not Michael Jordan. What makes you feel old? My wording was wrong because he wears #3 for Washington, not #23, it was in college. A guy tweeted in and said, “Hey you got that wrong. Bradley Beel wears #3. He wore #23 in college.” And I said back, “Yup. You’re right.

Sean: It was just a context thing.

Leigh: Exactly. But at the same time, I got it wrong and it’s out there and I think it’s always better to admit your mistakes rather than try to then say, “Well, no. But I meant to say this.” You said what you said and you made a mistake and no harm done.

Sean: I think that, again, the stuff that you guys have done developing your Twitter army is effectively the same thing we do with all the sports teams. The fact that if you got fans tweeting in, cheering on, contributing, you want to acknowledge them whether it’s with a favoring a tweet, retweeting it, replying back. I said all the time when we’re responding to fans from a team account, they’re absolutely jazzed and you lock them in.

Follow the guys from The Starters. I’ll have Leigh’s Twitter handle in the show, but just to see how they’re going about connecting with them. I guess the other part of it is you’re a massive NBA fan. What is it like working at NBA Digital? I mean they’re pretty switched on guys from all the products that they put out. Australia, I think, has the highest subscription rate to NBA league pass and pretty much a lot of stuff that they do at NBA Digital is absolutely top-notch. Yeah, what’s it like working in Atlanta at those offices?

Leigh: It’s amazing. I really I don’t know if I can put it into words, really, because I was an NBA fan from when I was basically ten or 11 years old when, obviously, there was no Internet or cable TV back in the late 80’s. And I used to get up in the mornings and watch NBA Action when it was on channel 10 at 6:30 in the morning and stuff.

Sean: You don’t remember getting the lighten on ABC? You’d get an NBA game every now and again.

Leigh: Oh, yeah. That was it. I remember that; that started in ’89. I used to tape them sometimes, but the thing is that they tried to get it at 11 o’clock every Friday night but they’d always bump it if something else came along. “Andrew Denton’s Live and Sweaty,” I don’t know if you remember that. That sometimes used to go late and put the NBA late and you know, I’d sometimes have the VCR set up to record at 1 o’clock and if “Live and Sweaty” went ten or 15 minutes over, I’d miss the game because of what time I’d have the tape ended, you know, to stop recording.

Sean: I was just on ABC Grandstand just last week with Debbie Spillane, who used to be on “Live and Sweaty,” so yeah, I do remember the days.

Leigh: So you know, for me, that was where my sort of passion and love for NBA began. For now, to be working for NBA TV and NBA.com really is incredible. And the fact that we have one of the restrictions that we’ve had in the past, working for the score and counter, was we weren’t able to use video footage because we weren’t able to post it globally. So we had to just get the images and things like that.

And there have been times this year where I want to talk about Isaiah Thomas or a play from the 80’s or something and we get the video and we can play it. And it’s incredible; it really is amazing to be in this position and I enjoy every single moment. It’s hard work, though, as well. That’s the other thing. I think that, again, people look at TV and think it’s all glamorous and it’s all easy. But it’s the complete opposite.

I mean it’s very, very hectic and it’s a lot of hard work. And trying to watch the league and cover the league as closely as possible when there are 30 teams. Some nights, there are 12 or 14 games of basketball. It’s very, very difficult to make sure that you’re on top of every single story line. And, again, that’s where the fans come in and that’s where all the sort of teamwork from everyone else gets in. We try to make sure we cover everything but you know, I’m up every morning basically at 6 o’clock and I’m not in bed before 11 o’clock at night usually and so it’s exhausting and it’s tiring but obviously I wouldn’t…

Sean: But you’re living the dream.

Leigh: Exactly. And to get to that position, I don’t think anyone’s dream job really is a sort of 10 to 2 Monday to Thursday type of job. You want to be in that position where it’s demanding and it asks a lot of you because the rewards in the end are great.

Sean: So as an Australian in the U.S., do you still follow Australian sports?

Leigh: Oh, yeah. I mean, obviously, I watch the Ashes. Well, I didn’t watch it so much. I have it sort of like on the radio and stuff like that, on the BBC. I mean I don’t have the time to watch the AFL as closely as I’d like to but I always know what’s going on. And I do always watch the Grand Final. That’s the one game I make an exception for because that’s still something that I just love greatly.

But things like the cricket, generally, you follow the scores and I try to catch highlights and things online, but I obviously can’t sit there and watch five days of Test Cricket anymore. But, the good thing is with the Internet and stuff now, you can catch up on the AFL and you can get all the highlights. And every sort of Sunday I watch AFL.com and see what’s happening and see who’s performing well and things like that. But, obviously, I don’t follow it as closely as I did in Melbourne.

Sean: Yeah. I do want to have a shout out to Adam Warney, @WarneyDT on Twitter. They’re following a similar path of you guys at TBJ. They set up a website called Dream Team Talks, it’s all based around the AFL Fantasy Comp and they stack some really great content and videos and podcasts and stuff. And I think the coming season, they’re going to be doing some of the Fantasy Coverage for AFL that I use. So I was chatting with him recently and, yeah, he’s definitely following in the TBJ’s footsteps into becoming official.

Leigh: Yeah, great. Well, good luck to them. Because, again, I’m sure those guys have probably gone through, I don’t know how long they’ve been doing it for but I’m sure there’s been periods where they wonder if it’s ever going to lead anywhere because I know that, particularly, Skeets and Tass and JD and those early years, speaking to them a lot, they were like, “You know you’re doing all this and people enjoy it and stuff but at the end of the day, you need to pay your bills and you need to get an income.”

And they wondered if it was ever going to lead to anything. And I guess that’s another thing for anybody who’s interested in starting. You know, don’t think things are going to happen at the start. It takes a long, long time and you’ve got to be consistent and you got to be proactive in just trying to make sure you’re always bringing something new to the game. And it’s not easy, that’s for sure.

Sean: Exactly, exactly. But it is just a matter of, and again, for the teams out there trying to figure out how they can do it or if you’re trying to crack into the sports business, it is about producing that content that the fans want. And the good thing is, now, you have got that instant feedback of social, so you can put it out there, you can develop a community around your content. And again, that’s what Warney and the guys have done around Dream Team Talk. They’ve developed the fan base and they’ve got the page views, they’ve got the round in the board, they’ve got the likes and it’s much easier to convert, to go to an AFL or an NBA and say, “Look. We’ve already got a product that works, that the fans like.” And it’s much easier for them to pick up.

Leigh: I mean no one’s going to accept you if you’re walk into the AFL office and say, “Hey listen, me and my mate, Johnny, we are really funny. Our friends think we’re great. We’ve done five shows. Have a listen to this.” Basically, what companies want is the audience. If you’ve already got an established audience, that’s proof that people do enjoy your content, people are listening and you know, again, it takes a while to build that up. The way to build that up is to just be consistent and to have something, really, every day. Not necessarily Saturday and Sunday, but Monday to Friday, people want something new and fresh and also they want something that they haven’t heard or they can’t hear anywhere else.

Sean: Yeah, and that’s something that I’m always pushing to the teams. Because they’ve got access to the players, whether it’s an NBA team that they’ve spoken to in the podcast, or AFL or NRL. They’ve got access that no one else has. And I’ve really tried my best to retrain them to go, “Don’t do the same Mets report. Don’t do the same preview, because that’s what everyone else, that’s what AAP’s doing. That’s what all the ESPN and FOX, they’re all dong that kind of stuff.

But if you can produce content that someone else can’t get. A really good example is the Melbourne Storm in pre-season, and the team walked all the way from AAMI Pack right next to Rod Laver Arena, where the tennis is happening now, all the way out to the Dandenong. And it was like a 14-hour walk and they videotaped the whole way and that content, no one else has. So their fans absolutely ate it up, but you’ve really got to produce that content that is different to all the other media outlets. Otherwise it’s just same and people will just pass it over.

Leigh: I mean, people will sometimes tweet me or email and say, “You know, I’ve got my Pal rankings here,” or, “Check out this report after the game.” I want to be kind to them to say, “Why would anybody read your Pal rankings when NBA.com and ESPN, CBS, they all have Pal rankings?” They don’t really mean anything. Give me something that I haven’t read before or that I can’t find anywhere else, because that’s what’s going to keep your interest.

But again, that’s a lesson that I learned early on as well. When I started doing writing–I don’t really write anymore–but I had a blog and stuff like that, and I wrote to some newspapers reporters and stuff at the time and they were the same. They’re like, “Well, why would anyone read your report or recap? You’re nobody.” And in the nicest possible way, but at the same time you don’t want someone saying, “Ah, yeah, that’s great. You’re going to be a superstar.” You want people to be honest with you and up front and you need to, you need to bring something to the table that no one else is bringing and that is what is going to separate you from other people.

Sean: Well, thank you very much. I could spend another hour talking about the bad boy Pistons era and what it’s like to see Isaiah wandering down the hallways. I’m a big Isaiah fan as well, so I’m very jealous of that. But I’ll be in the States in July heading to SEAT Conference in Miami. So maybe I’ll stop by Atlanta on the way and check out everything NBA Digital.

Leigh: Yeah, certainly, if you want to make the effort, I’ll be here for sure and I’ll be happy to take you to the studios and you can have a look around there. You know, it’s been good. We’ve had some visitors already come over and take everybody in the studio and they all like to shoot a free throw and have a bit of a feel for it. So if you’re here, for sure.

Sean: Alright, thank you very much, mate.

Leigh: My pleasure, Sean. Thanks.

DJ Joel: Sign up for sports Geek News at sportsgeekhq.com/signupnow.

Sean: Thanks again to Leigh Ellis from The Starters for joining me on the podcast. I just think, one, they’re producing a quality product. They’ve persisted on it so it’s a great story for anyone trying to break into the sports business. You would’ve seen there–and there will be links to Leigh’s details to connect with him both on Twitter and LinkedIn–starting, producing, content, being a digital producer, getting some work on the show, developing these skills in multiple areas, writing, radio, those kinds of things. If you’re looking to break into the business, it’s a really good model.

Again, follow the guys at Dream Team Talk and they’re following that same model. There’ll be links to the 1,000th show where they go through some of the clips of some of their best pieces. And I guess the only thing that I can say is a testament to what they’ve done is the fact that The Starters have a page on Wikipedia. So that, to a certain degree, says that you’ve made it if you’re on Wikipedia.

So my next guest, I’m very lucky to get him, it is a very busy week at the Seattle Seahawks. They’ve got the NFC Championship game coming up this weekend vs. the San Francisco 49ers to see who will get into the Super Bowl. I met Kenton Olson at SEAT Conference Kansas City this year. And I was really impressed by a site that they built around connecting their fans around the world. It’s called, imin.seahawks.com. So I was lucky enough to get a little bit of Kenton’s time to chat about that website and what they’re planning and what it’s like to be inside an NFL team as they prepare for an NFC Championship Game.

Sean: I’m very pleased to have a very good friend of mine who I met at SEAT in Kansas City from the Seattle Seahawks and the Seattle Sounders. He’s the director of Digital Media and Emerging Media for both of those teams, and he’s joined me in a very busy week with a big game coming up this weekend. Kenton Olson, welcome to the SportsGeek podcast.

Kenton: Thanks for having me.

Sean: I really wanted to touch base with you and again. Thanks for joining me on such a busy week. You’ve got this site called imin.seahawks.com and it’s really around engaging the Seahawks digital fans, the 12s, as you would call them. You want to give us a bit of background about the site and tell us a little bit more about the 12s?

Kenton: Yeah, absolutely. So taking a step back, we were lucky in the fact that we retired the number 12 after our fans many years ago, and so we kindly refer to our fans as 12s. And you know, one amazing thing about our fan base is how widespread they are, literally around the world. I think there’s been some games this year such as, I believe it was a Thursday night game down in Arizona that we were lucky enough to win the game and afterwards our fans literally stormed the Thursday night football set and were down there cheering and chanting.

So we have fans everywhere and looking at, moving to the playoffs we wanted to figure out a way, how can we connect these fans with the team as well as show them really how diverse the actual fan base is in terms of the location of them. So, we came up with this concept around the building. Coach Carroll has kind of a philosophy and a mentality that all the players and coaches tap in before they step out on the field, before they step out in the practice field, weight room et cetera and essentially it’s all about tapping in and saying, “I am putting all the distractions behind me. I’m focusing all of my time and effort on this opportunity in front of me.”

So if that opportunity is practice, a game, whatever it is, just putting everything aside and really focusing in. So we thought, “Hey, let’s give people a way to tap in online.” So that’s where the site came from and essentially the site functions as a fan simply goes to the website. It’s a responsive website, so it works for desktop, tablet and mobile devices. Essentially, a user taps in and if they’re using a modern web browser it will ask them for permission to use their location. If they say yes, we will plot them on a map and in real-time you can see all of the other 12s around the world that are tapping in. So it’s been pretty successful so far. We’ve had just under 70,000 people tap in now from over 100 countries so it really shows how widespread and how excited our fans are for this playoff run.

Sean: And it really does bring the fans into the locker room, the fact that you’re extending what you just said there, that Coach Carroll is really pushing the arm in and mentally tapping in to say, “I’m ready for practice. I’m ready for the game.” You’re also amping up the fans in that same way, so they want to show their support and this is just allowing them to do it a while way around the world.

Kenton: Yeah, absolutely. It’s really inspiring. We have it on a TV/Dashboard that we have down in our office and we’ve pretty much kept it running all throughout the course of the playoffs, we’ve had it running. And just walking by on your way to and from our offices and just seeing people tapping in from Australia, where you’re from, or Russia or China or Antarctica, all over the world people are tapping in and they’re all so excited about this great opportunity we have in front of us.

Sean: And the Seahawks, absolutely crazy in the loud fans I’ve seen earlier in the season. You’ve broke some records at CenturyLink, and I’ve been to a Seahawks game way back in the day when it was the King Dome and then I’ve been to the new stadium. Is that passion translating online, that volume and velocity and the passion translating online, especially going through the playoffs as it is now?

Kenton: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s just inspiring how many fans are talking about the Seahawks and are excited for the game moving forward. I don’t have the social data in front of me right now but we have literally hundreds of fans tweeting every couple of minutes about the Seahawks just during the traditional workweek. It’s just absolutely phenomenal on game days and right around big announcements. So people are excited here in Seattle but as the site shows, people are excited all around the world.

Sean: And other things are part of, it’s a very busy week, what are the things that you’re trying to focus on this week from a digital team point of view with these big games coming up?

Kenton: Yeah, we have a couple of pieces that we’re focusing on. Obviously the ImIn site is a very big part of that. I should mention, there’s a social component of this site as well, so fans obviously ask to share the experience using #tappedin, and we’ve gotten over 7000 people share on social media already, which is great.

Some other initiatives we’ve working on here internally is there’s a concept called Hawkatecture, which in the past was we were really looking for building the crux, the area to put up 12 flags or to paint their buildings blue or all kinds of crazy stuff. We actually had one building here in town that essentially turned off all the lights on their building and turned on the appropriate ones and formed a huge 12 on the side of the building and if you look at the pictures, it literally changed our skyline so it was really powerful.

So we’ve extended that this week, the personal Hawkatecture, asking fans to share their cubicles or offices or homes or man caves, how they’ve decorated their lives up using Seahawks and really showing their passion. In addition, we’ve just really have spent some added time and focused on monitoring the social conversation and engaging with fans. So I think if you look at our Twitter feed for the past couple of weeks, we’ve really spent a lot of time making sure that we’re interacting with folks who are really showing their passion online and thanking them in a variety of ways.

We’ve been interacting with people just by simple replies, and we’ve done some custom graphics, so we’ll actually create some custom graphics that are kind of in our look and feel and send back to people. We’ve been using a program powered by Starbucks, called Tweet a Coffee, where we essentially we can tweet someone a cup of coffee. The nice thing is Starbucks is pretty much everywhere so we can get someone instant gratification, for the most part, wherever they are. As well as just interacting with just the fans and making sure that people know that we hear them, and we’re with them during this historic run.

Sean: Terrific, terrific work. I just brought up the social stats for the ImIn right now while we’re chatting. You’re approaching 25,000 Facebook interactions across likes and shares and comments. Getting close to nearly 4,000 tweets, so terrific work considering it’s only been out and really rallying around the playoff picture. I’m going to leave you there because I know it’s an absolutely busy week. I look forward to catching up with you after a very successful NFL season, and then you roll into what will hopefully be a very successful MLS season with the Sounders.

Kenton: Yeah, absolutely. You know, we have the super draft this week. We announced some big moves already this week. We’re constantly looking at building our team for next year and have some cool stuff we can talk about in the future after the Sounders planned.

Sean: Thank you very much for joining me on the podcast. Where can people find you on the Internet if they want to connect with you?

Kenton: Yeah, you can follow myself on @KentonO on Twitter. I’m definitely not the most prolific tweeter in the world but, obviously, follow the Seahawks and Sounders. My team does a really great job and so that’s a really great way to follow everything Seahawks and Sounder related. They’re just our primary account.

Sean: And also, if you didn’t catch Kenton on the #Sports Conference yesterday, you were on the panel engaging fans with social in stadium. Catch that replay. It’s on the actual site, sportsgeekhq.com/33. Those were fun to be part of and people can watch that replay on our site.

Kenton: Yeah, absolutely. It was a lot of fun, and we had this lucky distinction of being the first panel so obviously it was some great conversation on the first one as it built throughout the day. It was really something special.

Sean: Okay, mate. Well, like I said, all the best for this week and hopefully it’s a really busy and successful next couple of weeks for you guys.

Kenton: Great, well thank you so much, Sean.

DJ Joel: Are you following SportsGeek on Instagram? Follow SportsGeek HQ.

Sean: Thanks again to Kenton Olson from the Seahawks and the Sounders. Very busy week as they prepare for the championship game. I’ll be definitely tapping in and supporting the Seahawks this weekend. You can catch Kenton’s panel discussion from the #Sports Conference in these show notes, as well as every single video is in a playlist in the show notes from episode 33, where there’s a replay of my sports data and sports gaming panel.

That sound you hear underneath me is the sounds of the game this week. I went to the Victory game, where they took on the Western Sydney Wanderers and that’s the sound you would hear after Archie Thompson scores a goal at AAMI Park. This week’s social media post of the week comes from the Aussie open, from their Instagram account, a really good shot of Victoria Azarenka. Coming out of the shadows in one of her early round matches. Give them a follow on Instagram at AustralianOpen and be following the AusOpen hashtag. There are plenty of fans sharing content on Instagram, as Dan said in the podcast when we caught up with him on episode 30.

That’s the clock windup music. That tells me to dedicate the show and get out and let you get back to your lives. Episode 34, being an NBA fan, as you well know, like Leigh Ellis, nominations will be Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon; from the MLB, Pitcher Nolan Ryan; from an AFL point of view, the Crows’ Ben Hart. But this episode, I’m going to dedicate to Chicago Bears running back, Walter Peyton.

And show notes you can find them at SportsGeekhq.com/34. Just put the number on the end and you can get the show notes from any episode. Once again, as I said on the last episode, episode 33, podcasts are now being uploaded to SoundCloud as well as iTunes and Stitcher. So sportsgeekhq.com/soundcoud and you’ll be able to find them.

If you can, leave a review on either iTunes or Stitcher and give it a rating; I’d very much appreciate it. And as we have the Sports Business Night at Honey Bar next Tuesday. Grab your tickets at sportsgeekhq.com/sbnight. Yes, I have confirmed that the Honey Bar does have air conditioning so you will be able to escape the Melbourne heat wave.

So my closing two cents. You want to break into the world of sports business? You have to remember the second part: business.

Please leave a review on iTunes. Go to sportsgeekhq.com/itunes. Find all SportsGeek podcasts at SportsGeekhq.com/sgp. Want to maximize returns from your digital team? Contact SportsGeek about a content and commercialization workshop. Thanks for listening to the SportsGeek podcast.

SGP 032: Kenny Lauer on how Golden State Warriors engage fans & Fiona Green on understanding sports CRM

Kenny Lauer from Golden State Warriors (Picture credit @Warriors Instagram)Action packed Sports Geek Podcast we chat with Kenny Lauer from Golden State Warriors and from London we chat with CRM specialist Fiona Green.


Like this episode? please leave a review in iTunes.

On this podcast you’ll find out about:

  • How Kenny brought is customer strategist skills to sports
  • Why Google Hangouts is the jewel in the crown for Google+
  • How Warriors leverage their proximity to Silicon Valley
  • How the Warriors are using Oracle Arena as a petri dish
  • Why new Warriors stadium will be a living & breathing stadium where contextual computing will be the norm
  • How Warriors will use inaudible tones from stadium speakers to drive actions in mobile app
  • What Warriors are planning for their own Google Glass app
  • Why sponsors are excited with development in sports CRM industry
  • Fiona’s take on how sports industry has grown into sports business
  • what sports can learn from companies like Amazon
  • How Excel can be a CRM because it’s not about the tools
  • CRM must be driven by need not technology

Fiona Green from Winners discussed sports CRMResources from the episode

Social Media Post of the Week

Denny’s takes it out this tweet for this well-timed jab at Auburn fans.

Send in your nominations for best social media post of the week – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine… for whatever reason fan engagement, sponsorship activation, cool content….

#SBNight at HONEY

See you at #SBNight

When: 6pm January 21st
Where: HONEY Bar, 345 Clarendon Street South Melbourne

Grab your ticket at Eventbrite

Eventbrite - #SBNight Sports Business Networking Night

Interplay Media

Interplay Media sponsors #SBNight

Big thanks to James Spinks from Interplay Media for sponsoring #SBNight, we can now offer EVERY attendee a drink upon arrival to get networking underway.

SBNight sponsored by Interplay Media

Closing 2 Cents

Don’t forget the NETWORK part of Social Networking. We’ll see you at #SBNight

Listening via iTunes?

Subscribe to the Sports Geek Podcast in iTunes, if you liked the episode please leave a review on iTunes and help spread the word on your networks.  Thanks in advance.

Podcast transcription

Sean: Welcome to Episode 32 of the SportsGeek podcast. On today’s episode, I chat with Kenny Lauer of the Golden State Warriors on engaging fans in the stadium, using Google Hangouts, and how to design a stadium for the future.

Then we jump across the pond to London, chat to Fiona Green on CRM, fan engagement, and understanding data.

DJ Joel: Welcome to the SportsGeek podcast, the podcast built for sports digital and sports business professionals. And now, here’s your host, who’s reading your Tweets right now, Sean Callanan.

Sean: Thanks, DJ Joel. That’s right. Send in your Tweets, either to myself, Sean Callanan, @SeanCallanan; or to Sports Geek, @SportsGeek. And one thing you will see is a lot of Tweets for SB Night. That’s the hash-tag for our Sports Business Networking Night that we’re having on Tuesday, the 21st of January.

As everyone is starting to come back to work, I expect more people to be signing up for that. So go to SportsGeekHQ.com/. It’ll be at Honey Bar, who always provide a great venue for our events.

And a big thank you to James Spinks from Interplay Media for sponsoring the event. That allows us to offer everybody who attends a free drink upon arrival, which should help get the networking started.

Big show today; I’ve got two really good interviews, so I want to really get cracking. We go around the world, like we did in the last episode, where we went to Finland and Kansas City. Today we got to San Francisco and to London.

My first interview is with Kenny Lauer, the VP of Digital and Marketing at the Warriors. And then we cross over to London to catch up with Fiona Green, from Winners, who has vast experience in the sports CRM space.

But first, here’s my chat with Kenny Lauer from the Golden State Warriors.

I’m very pleased to welcome Kenny Lauer, the Vice President of Digital and Marketing at the Golden State Warriors to the SportsGeek podcast. Welcome, Kenny.

Kenny: Thank you. I’m glad to be here, excited to have an opportunity to chat with you, Sean.

Sean: You started the role in September 23rd, if LinkedIn has it correct. Can you tell me a little bit about your role and your background, from a digital and a marketing point-of-view?

Kenny: Well, the interesting thing is my background is really as a customer strategist, to really understand how to use the technologies to engage customers, and, in this case, fans. So a lot of my background was more traditional in that more of a consulting role.

I worked with a company called Peppers and Rogers Group, who coined the term “one-to-one marketing”. I worked with KPG in traditional consulting. Started my career at Apple as an evangelist. So I’ve been involved with technology and the use of technology to engage customers, or engage fans, for most of my career.

Most recently, before joining the Warriors, I ran a global digital practice for one of the largest in the world experience marketing agencies. My primary role was the threading and integration of digital experiences into live or physical experiences.

So when I had the opportunity to come to the Warriors with an amazing ownership that believes in story-telling and believes in entrepreneurialism, with raving fans, and the ability to test in that arena, and then build out a new arena in San Francisco, was just something I couldn’t pass up.

Sean: Yes, and that’s the beauty of what draws so many people into sports. You’ve got those fans; I like to call them sports fans. In the digital point-of-view, I steal Seth Godin’s line, “positive deviants”.

Kenny: Yes, yes.

Sean: Because I think that’s a really great way of describing sports fans. And then the other side of it, is sports is a great story-telling platform, overall, because there is so much content coming at you, all the time. You’ve got so many options ahead of you.

I wanted to talk to you a little bit about something you did in the pre-season. I was lucky enough to be involved in Warriors Live. You did a live Google Hangout from a Golden State Warriors practice in the pre-season. You had Mark Jackson mic’d up, and you had your TV crew there, and you had a few people also joining the Hangout. I joined all the way from Melbourne.

Do you want to give us a bit of background on, one, that activation, and also the response you had from your fans?

Kenny: Yes, absolutely. This was an opportunity for us to try an experiment that hadn’t been done yet to really blend the physical world and the virtual world, and use some technology to really, with all due respect, allow more visibility, more access for our fans to see what happens at a typical practice.

We teamed up with Google to do this. As you know, we used Google Hangout, which, for those who don’t know, is really a tool …

Sean: It’s a live-stream, Google+’s live-streaming product.

Kenny: Yes, that’s right.

Sean: I guess, the jury’s still out on Google+ as a complete platform, but if you’re looking at their jewel in their crown, it is Google Hangouts. By and large, it works. You point a camera at multiple people, and they can have a conversation.

But I think the way that you guys did it for Warriors Live was really good, because it was engaging content that was happening on the court. Where you could choose the vision, say, “I want to watch the court”, but you also had the banter happening, underneath.

Kenny: That’s exactly right. We specifically picked individuals whom we knew would comment, and would be engaging, while in parallel, streaming what was happening on the court. And it was an incredible success.

It took a lot of planning; we really needed Google’s help to do it. But the overall feedback from the fans, which was most important to us, was overwhelmingly positive.

Now, there were things we learned, and things that we could do better. We had special privileges from both Google and from NBA to do an open practice like this. But we would do it again in a second, because of the feedback that we got.

Sean: One of the advantages of being at Golden State is being so close to Silicon Valley. Does being so close to all the tech companies, and the hottest things happening in tech, does that have its advantages for the Warriors?

Kenny: Yes, absolutely. We are 15 to 20 miles from the three largest social media companies in the world. We are the basketball team in the Bay Area. That presents unique opportunities for us.

In fact, we are in talks right now and trying things with Facebook, with Google, with Instagram. We also have the ability to access such an amazing wealth of entrepreneurial efforts that are happening in San Francisco and in the Valley. It really presents a unique opportunity for us to truly be innovative in terms of how we change, evolve, and truly excel in the fan experience.

A lot of it is because we have ownership that is open to that, and giving us a runway to do that. We’ve got people onboard who know what to do with that information. And we’re, as you said, clearly situated geographically in a desirable place to be able to actually do that. It’s really a perfect storm.

Sean: Yes, I completely agree. I was lucky enough to go to a Warriors game, back in March. Kevan Akers, who sets up all the tech and makes sure that the fans can actually connect and share their experience at Oracle Arena, he’s done a great job at setting up the Wi-Fi, there.

You’ve really done a really good job of trying to integrate the social and the digital experience at the games. You really do want people to check in. You know, I tell all my clients about the Warriors’ check-in desk and how effective that’s been.

Kenny: It’s crazy, yes.

Sean: Just from a giveaways point-of-view. But it really, like promoting that FOMO, the fear of missing out, you know, fans do want to brag that they’re at a Warriors game. And if they can do that with an Instagram picture of a foam finger, all the better.

You talking of fan experience, if you want to double that up, into Oracle Arena. What do you want to do in Oracle Arena? And then how can you explode that, and make that even better in the new arena?

Kenny: We are already doing quite a bit in the Arena. We are really looking at, I think as I mentioned before, the Oracle Arena as a petri dish, to be able to really try out new technologies.

We have the kinds of fans, which I love, raving passionate fans, but also those who want to be part of these experiments. They want to try certain things, to see how they work. Remember, they live and work in the Bay Area as well.

We are already, obviously, are doing a lot with Twitter; we’re doing a lot with Instagram, obviously, the Facebook check-in, where we really can tap into the tribal nature, and the feeling of that belonging that fans have.

But we’re also looking at extending things, using different ways to engage people with our app. We’re in the process of testing out inaudible tones coming out of our speakers to drive certain things on the app.

Sean: Oh, wow.

Kenny: Yes, it’s really unbelievable. Because, and to your point, Kevan Akers is a master in helping us enable what we need to do, within the arena, with Wi-Fi. But this particular instantiation of an experience doesn’t require Wi-Fi, because we’re using little sound chunks that will come out of our speaker system, which we have plenty of speakers, to drive different sorts of experiences.

We are also, and this came through an unique opportunity with one of our owners and an entrepreneurial effort, creating a tool that allows for multiple video feeds, multiple content, both live and pre-programmed, to come to your mobile device. And allow you to be able to click on different ways, different cameras, to see within the arena, different content mechanisms.

Sean: Will that be geo-fence? So only fans that are at the venue to sort of, again, amp up that live experience?

Kenny: Yes.

Sean: So if you want to be at the game, obviously, it’s an amazing experience. Everyone’s screaming for almost the whole 48 minutes of the Warriors game. It’s almost a college-like atmosphere.

But if you want to pull up a vision, down in the tunnels, or on the practice courts, or from the bench, you’ll only be able to get that from the stadium, using the geo-fencing technology there?

Kenny: Yes, that’s exactly right, absolutely doing that. We are also doing a test, in fact, in the next week, with Google Glass. It’s not really of interest to me to use Google Glass as a PR stunt or to get press. It’s more about, “How can we actually improve the fan experience?

So our app, which is designed by YinzCam, we’re the first NBA team to actually have a Google Glass app created. And we are testing it out in some specific areas in our arena, where they will actually get an augmented experience while they are wearing the Glass as a way to really test, “How can we offer more to our fans?”

Again, even within the arena, we’re looking at how to use contextual awareness. I know, Sean, you’ve probably heard of the use of beacons and sensors.

Sean: Yes.

Kenny: All of this is going to be incredibly relevant when we move over to the new Arena we’re going to create. This new arena is going to be a living, breathing arena. It’s going to have ubiquitous computing, and it’s going to be very relevant to everyone who is actually coming to a game or an event, or even if you’re just coming to experience it and there’s nothing going on in the arena.

Sean: That’s the exciting thing for tech geeks, like you, and Kevan, and Kevin Cote, who is now activating the Digital. It’s like you’re now planning a stadium for technology that people don’t yet have, or it’s not yet adopted. So things like wearables, and context computing, which is the trend.

I’ve already spoken about Robert Scoble’s latest book, “The Age of Context”. That is where everyone’s going to be heading. Whether it’s the current vision that we see Google Glass, and we see, I think they’ve termed, “Glass Halls”, where people are walking around with Google Glass. We won’t be talking about that version of Google Glass.

Kenny: No.

Sean: It will be far more integrated. And they won’t be abnormal; they’ll be the norm. Whether it’s that, or the technology in our phones that enable us. Even just yesterday, I saw there’s an Android up-writing system that has that contextual awareness. So when you’re in the gym, the whole phone changes, and only just shows your gym apps. It’s called Aviator. And when you’re traveling, it shows you Google Maps, and it shows you all the different traveling apps. Even our phones are getting that contextual smartness about them.

So moving into a stadium where you’re trying to plan, you know we’ve had five years of smartphones doubling the amount of data down every 18 months. That’s a big issue that you’ve got to face in designing this new stadium.

Kenny: Yes, absolutely. I was one of the early reviewers of Robert and Shel’s book. I think they hit on a lot of things that are right on. To me, the most important word is “relevancy”.

We can get caught up in a whole bunch of technology and, believe me, I’m the first to be an early adopter. I was on the first wave at Apple Newton. For me, it really is about relevancy. Which then moves to, “Okay, how do we drive certain behavior?” Then, “How does that behavior drive value?”

This toolbox of things that we can pull, when we start to think about things we want to do. We look at, “What is the behavior we want to drive?” And then we dive into our toolbox and say, “Oh, we can use Twitter, we can use some sensors, we can use an inaudible tone. We can use second screen.”

Remember, we’re not only just focusing on the fans that are in the arena; we are looking at, and currently working with Comcast, right now, on how to deepen engagement through second screen, through those fans who are experiencing our game remotely, watching TV.

Sean: That is a jewel focus, both of the team, but also your digital team. You really want to be promoting the live event and how great it is at the live event. But, yes, you’ve still got the majority of people are following a lot of things social.

I guess, even 18 months ago, a lot of our social content that was going out was for the person on the couch, because the person in the stadium couldn’t get that content. Now we’re serving two audiences, because the person in the stadium, if they choose, can get that content.

But I tend to agree, to a certain degree, with Mark Cuban’s remarks of, “If you’re at a game, you should be entertained by the game.” So there’s a mix, there, where you want the fans to be taking their Instagram shot, or pulling that vine when the slam-dunk and the trampolines come out.

But when they’re in the game, Warriors games are like that, they’re very much focused on the game. So it’s a bit of getting a mix of engaging that digital fan at the stadium, but then also making sure that the fan on the couch or in the sports bar is getting as much information as they can get possible.

Kenny: That’s something, Sean. When we get together, we can debate back-and-forth around Mark’s comments. I found those very interesting.

Sean: What’s your stance?

Kenny: I can see where Mark is coming from. And, to tell you the truth, that is not unlike some of the comments in the corporate space, which is, “I want people looking at the person on stage and not engaging with whatever they’re holding on their lap. I want a lean-back, more a lean-back, maybe not a lean-in experience.”

What I find is that when you allow the fan to choose the experience that is going to deliver the best value to them, is going to allow them to align themselves with what the customer profile, whether they’re into: stats, maybe they’re into video replays. Allow them to slot themselves into that.

If you offer that opportunity, what you find is that the overall experience when they walk out is, “I had a great time.” Which is, to me, what my goal is. I want them to be in that arena, and this goes back to Mihaly’s book on flow, which you’re probably aware of.

Sean: Yes.

Kenny: Which is to create an optimal experience where, in a sense, the rest of the world falls away. That’s what I want to create when these fans are watching and immersed in our game. Many of them are already looking down. What I would like them to be doing is looking down and deepening the engagement in something that is happening right in front of them, than checking email, or doing something else.

Now I do understand the cadence of basketball, for example, versus baseball, where you have a lot more downtime, requires a whole different treatment on how you do that. Which is one of the challenges that we always have as a team. We have very small amounts of time to actually engage. So you do have to take that seriously, and you have to make sure that you own that, on behalf of the fan. But I believe it’s not one or the other.

Sean: Yes, I think the key point, and I think that’s probably an extension of Mark Cuban’s one, is that it’s what the fan wants. It’s the experience that they want, and you need to be able to deliver that. So I think I understand Mark’s point because, as a sports fan, when I’m not just SportsGeek, and I’m a sports fan, I like to consume the game and have that envelop me.

Like you just said, “have the rest of the world fall away,” because I am so in on the live experience, whether the live experience is at a football game, or a basketball game or a music concert.

Whereas, other people, and you see it every time, who are at a concert or a game, their live experience is either on their phone or through their phone. A lot of times they’re taking shots, or SnapShotting, or Tweeting, or texting with someone, either on the other side of the stadium or at home. That’s how their experience is. So I think that is an extension on that, and building it for all those different types of fans that you have in your Arena.

Kenny: I agree. I think this is going to be something that’s going to continue to evolve. We’re getting more research; we’ve already got a tremendous amount of research that says that most multi-screen behavior is involved in unrelated activities.

But now, we’re even getting more where we’re overlaying that. There was just a new study that came out that said one in four TV viewers use second screen to simultaneously watch more video.

So, how do you start to really look at these trends? You get what I call the “quiet signals” or the “early signals” so that you can evolve. And keep in mind, for us, we have a dual purpose. We absolutely want to maximize the experience in the Oracle Arena.

In addition to that, we are also looking at the trends and trying to understand, “What is the fan experience going to be like when we light this up in 2017?” When we light it up in 2017, in San Francisco, how do we make sure that it’s not already out-of-date? That it’s put in, it’s scalable, and it enables the fans to really experience things over the next decade or so. But just listen to what we’re talking about; it’s incredible.

Sean: Exactly, it sounds like there might be a panel discussion at SEAT in Miami. I’m sure it will fire a few people up.

Kenny: Count me in.

Sean: One question I did want to ask you. You’ve recently had a trip to China. You’ve opened up some accounts on Weibo. Do you want to give us a little bit of background on, one, how that trip went, and how your efforts are going, sort of pushing in to things like using things like Weibo and reaching that Chinese market?

Kenny: Yes, absolutely. The trip was phenomenal for us. It happened relatively quickly after I joined. I only fully appreciated it as I experienced, remotely, what was going on over there. Not only was there a tremendous amount of excitement but Kevin Cote, who leads our Digital effort, did a phenomenal job at creating the right online presence to be able to support that trip.

We localized, launched an entire site in Chinese. We are one of just a few teams to have a Weibo account. And we have continued to develop that relationship with everyone who is following us on Weibo.

In fact, as part of an All-Star campaign, we did a Weibo chat with Curry, and it was phenomenal. I think what this shows is when you find opportunities where you have a fan base, the value of communicating in their language, and understanding their customs, and understanding what resonates with them, not unlike as you create profiles for your different customers, say, in the US.

It’s just incredibly, incredibly powerful. We have a huge base, and we’re definitely leveraging that for the All-Star vote. We just got the latest numbers, and Curry is number two. We believe that has a significant amount to do with it as well.

Sean: Terrific. You obviously will be getting lots of votes from Australia, now that Andrew Bogut is on the court there.

Kenny: Yes.

Sean: I do remember the guys from the back said that we’re getting unusual amounts of traffic from Australia when Andrew Bogut was with the Bucks. But now he’s with a West Coast and a time-friendly team. There are definitely a fair few Aussies watching the Warriors, one, because it’s exciting team, and then the Andrew Bogut-Stephen Curry alley-oop, off the backboard, was on the news the other night.

Kenny: Yes, great.

Sean: Any time the Warriors are on a bit of a tear, you’re always going to get a bit of press in Australia. Well, Kenny, I know you’ve got to head off to another meeting. Thank you very much for joining me. I’m looking forward to catching up with you in Miami for the SEAT Conference. We can have a chat a little bit further, and maybe discuss the multi-screen environment and Mark Cuban’s comments on a panel, too. So I look forward to catching up then.

Kenny: Thank you, Sean. I look forward to it as well. I appreciate the time.

Announcer: Sign up for Sports Geek News at SportsGeekHQ.com/signupnow.

Sean: Thanks, again, to Kenny for joining me on the podcast. Really good insights, especially on his experience as a customer strategist, and what he’s bringing to the sports space, and really focusing on the fan engagement.

I’m really, super-interested to see what the new stadium is going to be, especially with all the contextual components of it. The Google Glass app and all those kinds of things that will develop I’m sure will actually, probably, be a discussion point. I’m very pleased to have Kenny join the Digital Steering Committee for SEAT. It will be good to catch up with him in Miami.

My next guest is Fiona Green, from the UK. And thanks to [Bez] for suggesting Fiona. We’ve been following Fiona for a few years on Twitter, so here is our chat about the world of sports and CRM.

Sean: I am very pleased to have on SportsGeek podcast this week, all the way from the UK, and I promise not the mention the cricket in the Ashes, but I’ve already done it in the intro. Fiona Green, from Winners, they are a CRM and business intelligence consultancy out of the UK. Fiona, welcome to the podcast.

Fiona: Thank you very much for having me. And, yes, you did promise me you weren’t going to talk about the cricket, but let’s leave it at that and move on.

Sean: Yes, I really couldn’t. I really couldn’t after the five-nil whitewash, but I will stop there.

Fiona: Thank you.

Sean: For people who don’t know Fiona, @FionaGreen66 on Twitter. And you’re from Winners, which is @WinnersCRM. Do you want to give us a bit of background of your background in the sports business industry?

Fiona: Yes, sure. I’ve been involved in the sports marketing industry, gosh, for a long time, over 26 years, actually. I’ve spent the majority of my time representing rights holders with their intellectual property, primarily sponsorship, media, and licensing.

I think it was about three years ago, now, that I stepped in to the world of CRM. I just think this is such a right time for sports organizations to be embracing CRM to its fullest. We’re probably a bit behind, actually. Certainly when you think about what’s going on in America.

I think it’s down to the fact that ten, 15 years ago, we’d open our gates and people would come. Of course, we don’t have that luxury anymore. Taking what I’ve learned over the 20-odd years with rights holders, and now applying the principles of CRM that businesses like Amazon have been doing for many, many years.

Sean: Yes, definitely. I think sports has really dived into the CRM space. I’ve definitely seen that with my involvement with the guys at SEAT. Guys like Russell Scibetti at the Jets, and the stuff that they’re doing, and the guys whom I’m meeting in the CRM track of SEAT.

It’s understanding the fan and getting that 360-degree view of the fan is something that sports is now getting a hold of. That things like retail, the hotel and hospitality industry, the travel industry, they’ve been all over that for 15 years, or so. Now, sports has realized, “Well, we’ve got these people who are turning up to stadiums; there is so much information we can get about them. What can we now do with them?”

Fiona: It’s staggering. As you just mentioned, the financial services industry, the telco industry, the travel industry, they’ve been using CRM for years. But they’re also sports’ biggest partners, sports’ biggest sponsors.

At the moment, we’re just doing a piece on the role of CRM in sponsorship. Again, it’s staggering that none of our sponsors, people like Visa and MasterCard who have grown out of CRM, have turned to any of their sports properties and said, “What are you doing about CRM?”

But the minute the sports rights holders go to their sponsors and say, “We are now embracing CRM,” the sponsors get excited Because they know this is the way to go, understanding their customers, understanding the fan base, identifying them, and being able to relate with them in a way that’s meaningful and relevant for them.

Sean: I think, too, rights holders are now getting a bit of a handle on the value of the data that they do have. They’re not just selling signage rights; they’re not just selling logo spots on stadiums, or jerseys. The access to the data, and better understanding of the data, is something that the sponsors have always wanted, and sports are now getting better at integrating that into their offerings.

Fiona: Yes, you’re absolutely right. But I don’t feel it’s a criticism of the sports industry. Because the way I look at it is, for example, we specialize in the football industry, the soccer industry. This industry has been around for, I don’t know, 150 years, or so. So they grew up in an environment where all they had to think about was getting those three points on a Saturday afternoon.

Of course, now, fast-forward to the 21st century, and it’s so much more than that. It’s growing the sport. It’s entertaining. People are so used to being entertained 24/7; they’re so used to having multiple screens from where to get their information.

I think that’s why the sports industry has been a lot slower. We talk about Amazon as being the best representatives of CRM. They grew up in the Technical Age, the Technology Age. LastMinute.com was all about technology.

That’s why I feel the sports rights world is only just now waking up to the power of their data and understanding how to use it.

Sean: I think the other thing, from the sports point-of-view, and again, it wasn’t a criticism, it’s also the fact that the infrastructure has now been put in place for them to be able to get that data. So we’re getting season tickets that are getting smarter, that have more tracking ability in them.

But then, we’re also looking at the stadiums currently getting more up-to-speed, from an infrastructure point-of-view, which makes it far more valuable from a CRM point-of-view.

I only have my reference point of going to the SEAT Conference in 2011. The big discussion was, “How do we get Wi-Fi solved? How do we sell [DAS]? How do we make sure more fans can get connected?” That was a really big discussion point in 2011, but by 2013, it was seen as, “It’s a necessity.” Wi-Fi and those kinds of things are a must for stadiums. We’re seeing rollouts now, and in the next 18 months, where more stadiums will have capacity for fans.

From a CRM and business intelligence point-of-view, what do you think the opportunities are in the market for the CRM specialist for all that data that’s coming in from the stadiums?

Fiona: I’ll come back to that issue about stadiums in a second, but I just want to go back to something that you started this segment of the conversation with. That was about technology. I have to say that as a consultancy, an agency, we take quite a specific stance on technology.

We say, “CRM is not about technology. Yes, the best technology, the best software, can help you be CRM-mature more efficiently. It can help you achieve things, perhaps at a greater pace.” But we don’t want sports rights holders to be scared away from implementing CRM because of the fear of technology.

Nor do we want sports rights holders to be sold technology by a slick, software salesman, because technology is only one element of CRM. If you’re talking about a sports club that’s got, I don’t know, a capacity of 10,000, and a membership of 5,000, they don’t really want to be invested in technology. They can get away with mining their data in Excel. They can get away with some of the simple applications out there.

Sean: Oh, yes, I completely agree with that. The technology is really just the tool. And, I guess, CRM comes across multiple spectrums. There are still a lot of people, even the ones whom I’ve spoken to, who are using high-end CRM, but who are still doing some data dumps, and mining that data in tools like Excel.

Fiona: Yes, exactly.

Sean: You don’t have to be at that super-high-end solution. A lot of the pro teams are moving that way. But along all the different scales, there are definitely CRM solutions that are in that space for different price points along the way.

Fiona: You’re absolutely right. So, our view is the technology has to be driven by your need and your objectives. You can never let you CRM decisions be driven by the technology; it has to be the other way around.

Back to your question about stadium. For me, it’s all about the customer experience, obviously. There are massive debates going on about whether stadiums are missing out, because the TV broadcast quality is so high that people prefer to stay at home.

The benefit of having a network stadium and being to collect or, more importantly, utilize already collected in the stadium, is to get messages to people, for a start, telling them what’s going on, telling them where they need to be, telling them, I don’t know, if they’re selling out of beer and pies in the concession stands. Telling them that there’s a special offer on the new home jersey in the souvenir shop, giving them an opportunity to buy a ticket to next week’s game because somebody scored a goal and won a high.

But it’s not just that. It’s about the fact that watching a match, watching an event on its own, is no longer sufficient for people. They want more entertainment. They want to access the Internet and find some statistics related to what they’re watching. They want to place a bet. They want to SnapChat with their friend who’s sitting in the stadium on the other side. That’s why the network stadiums are so important.

What you can do with your CRM data is acquire more data during the match that will help feed your insight, and to build your customers’ profiles. But it also allows you to communicate with them in a way that’s relevant.

CRM, for us, is really basic. It’s about getting the right message to the right people at the right time. You can’t do that on a match-day environment, unless you’ve got a network stadium.

Sean: Yes, definitely. And I think the other thing that I definitely saw, helping at the SCG in the last test match, the fact that they had the new stadium. I’m sorry, not the new stadium, but the new stands, at the SCG. The Bradman and Noble stands were added, and those stands were serviced with the new Wi-Fi.

It was the first rollout of, I think it’s a Cisco implementation to the stadium. And just the fact that they had, I guess, lessened the load on the 3-and 4G networks opened up the rest of the stadium to be able to Tweet and post and share Instagrams, and consume content.

We were able to send them a video, saying, “Oh, do you remember this great moment from the previous match?”

Fiona: Yes, yes.

Sean: They were able to consume it. And you just realize how much the fans love it. I was seeing in the SCG’s feed that fans were taking speed tests of the Wi-Fi, SnapShotting the photo, and sending it out. It just shows you how much fans love it.

Even last night, I was at Rod Laver Arena, and my girlfriend was trying to check in. The 3G and the 4G were getting a bit stressed, and she was getting the shakes because she couldn’t check in to say that she was watching Roger Federer. It’s become a necessity now, because you are trying to rival that in-home experience.

Fiona: What’s the business model down at the SCG because, for me, this is the thing that’s stopping the sports rights holders being more ambitious with the Wi-Fi. It’s the fact that they’re afraid of the install costs, yet, of course, we all know that there are providers out there that will do it with no cap-ex, no investment from the rights holders at all. But that’s another matter.

People are nervous that nobody is yet producing their results and showing people how much more merchandise they’ve sold, or how much more betting, or how much more content was consumed, etc. What was the model at the SCG?

Sean: Yes, it’s still a work in progress. I don’t have all the numbers, but I’m planning to catch up with the team at SCG in a future podcast. For the last 18 months or two years, there has been a bit of a standoff on the “who pays”. There are a couple of different ways that it happens.

It’s actually in the best interest for most of the telcos, and I’ve seen this is some of the stadiums in the US, for the telco to implement the Wi-Fi and the data, for instance, that usually would be on your mobile plan. It’s actually cheaper for the mobile operators to actually put you through their Wi-Fi. It’s less stress on their network, and it’s actually cheaper for the mobile operator.

That’s one that I’ve seen. I’m not quite sure of the full details of what Sysco has done at the SCG, because they’ve done deals with a few stadiums here. It’s sort of been rolled into most of the upgrades around stadiums, and it just becomes a must-have thing.

Fiona: The leaders over here, in Europe or, more importantly, in the UK, their model, and there are various agencies doing it in partnership with Sysco, actually, is to go to the rights holder and say, “Okay, it’s going to cost X-hundred thousand, or even X-hundred million to build a Wi-Fi network dedicated to your match-day experience. But you don’t have to pay us for that. You’ve just got to let us sell advertising, commercialize your data, link in the gambling companies, et cetera, and once we’ve paid off the hardware costs, we do a revenue share.” That’s the type of model that seems to be prevailing over here.

But it’s one of those things that they’re sitting and waiting to see. Glasgow Celtic, up in Glasgow, they’ve leapt in. They’re doing it. We’re all watching with bated breath, and waiting to see what happens there.

Liverpool have done it in the same way that SCG have; they’ve got one stand that’s Wi-Fied up. But of course, they haven’t had to enter into any sort of rights barter; they’ve just paid for the installation. Because, of course, they can. Yes, there are a number of different business models floating around.

Yes, it’s all about enhancing the game-day experience for the fans, but also about acquiring more data to help you leverage better, on non-match days.

Sean: The other question I had, one of the hot terms from the last 18 months has been “big data” in the fact there is so much data out there. How do you sift through all of that data, as a CRM specialist, to say, “What’s the data we should be focusing on?”

Fiona: Firstly, when I see people talk about big data in sports, I think, “Yes, you can talk about big data when it comes to the participation, when it comes to the statistics.” The pace of the ball and the player body temperature, and the speed, et cetera, I’m not convinced we have big data when it comes to the marketing and commercial aspects.

The data that sports orgs need to be focusing on, for CRM commercial purposes, of course, is contact data. That’s your number one aspect.

Sean: Yes.

Fiona: Is demographic data. Behavioral data, both online and offline. Socio-economic data. I guess that falls into demographic. Transactional data. Lifestyle data. It’s stuff that’s going to allow you to identify, to put it crudely, what sort of things you can sell to them, what sort of things they’re interested in.

Also, of course, as we mentioned earlier, what sort of people your sponsors are interested in. We’re just writing a piece at the moment; we’re saying, “You know, if you’re Superdry,” I’m sure you’re familiar with that clothing, but “if you’re Superdry, a men’s darts team does not want to be contacting Superdry, asking for sponsorship.” Because the target demographics just don’t work, don’t match each other.

They need to be getting the type of data, and using the type of data that will allow them to communicate in a meaningful way. And also go out and find partnerships with broadcasters and corporate sponsors.

We take a very simple view. There is no much data out there, as you know, as you’ve already mentioned, so we use the term, “single-customer view”. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that.

Sean: Yes.

Fiona: Yes, okay. Our view is the single-customer view is not all the data you have about all your customers; it’s the data that you need to achieve your CRM objectives. Of course, those objectives will continue to change, and grow, and move, as your business develops, as technology develops.

Sean: Yes, and they’ll be different for every team. There will be teams that are sold-out, that have a waiting list, that have a different objective than a team that’s still trying to fill out a new stadium, that just might be starting out and they’re trying to sell single-game tickets.

Or there will be other teams that will be trying to fill out their season ticket, or their membership lists, as we would call it in Australia. So it all comes down to what your objectives are.

Fiona: Yes, absolutely. So we say, “Take your single-customer view, your very first starting point is objectives, and then you work it back from there.” And that’s where you end up with your question on data, “What data do you need to achieve your objectives?”

And it will vary, as you said, for every sports organization, for every different sport, for different size of venues, et cetera. For example, Man United, they’re in this fantastic position, where they’ve got fans all over the world, a global fan base. So their needs are to find out about people in Indonesia.

Well, unfortunately, Portsmouth Town don’t need to know what’s going on in Indonesia. So, yes, it’s very much based on the individual property and what their objectives are.

Sean: I just wanted to finish up with one. There’s a little cartoon you’ve got on your website, which I see. It’s very similar to the world that we work in, in the digital and the social space. It’s one around the cultural silos in the workspace and how CRM fits.

We see the same thing, because digital and social sort of touches all departments. CRM is a little bit the same in that it’s of use to everybody, but for a little time there, it didn’t have a home.

That’s obviously changing now that there are dedicated CRM departments. But it’s still something that CRM is sort of the glue of an organization, to a certain degree.

Fiona: Yes, again, our view is that CRM needs to be sponsored at the organizational level. It need to be bought into and accepted at a senior management level. There’s always going to be a specific department that will tend to drive it and lead it.

Of course, it’s natural that it might be a marketing department, marketing/sales/comms commercial. But, yes, it’s relevant across all departments in a sports organization.

The way we advise our clients to deal with the cultural silos, and this is really, really easy to achieve with CRM as it is with digital media applications, is to find some quick wins. For example, if you’ve got either departments, or individuals, and sometimes it can boil down to personalities, if you’re got either individuals or departments, that are all standing there with their arms folded, saying, “No, no, no, we don’t buy into this whole CRM thing,” get an objective from them and do something sharp and snappy, that can quickly help them understand how impactful CRM can be.

For example, if you’re thinking about your participation department, say you’re got a sports team that is all about growing participation. They want to put on a summer camp and they’re not getting enough traction. They’re not getting enough interest.

Go to your participation department, say, “Okay, let me take your database. Let me communicate with them. Let me figure out who’s relevant to this, from a geographic, from a gender, from an age standpoint. And let me tell them all about your participation camp and see what happens.”

It’s those types of quick wins, using some very basic CRM principles that we believe will help break down those cultural silos.

Sean: Well, thank you very much for the chat today. Just for the listeners, where can we find you, and Winners, on the Internet?

Fiona: Our URL is WinnersFDD.com. That’s WinnersFDD, for Fiona Dan Darren. But as you said, it’s @FionaGreen66 on Twitter. And our LinkedIn group is Sports CRM and Business Intelligence. So if you do a search in LinkedIn, you’ll find us there.

Some great conversations going on in our LinkedIn group. And I’d love to have more members getting involved.

Sean: Not a problem. All of those links will be in the show notes for this podcast. Thank you very much for joining me today. I’ll actually be over in London and Europe for a bit of a tour, and a bit of a holiday, a bit of both. So maybe we’ll be able to catch up when I’m there in May.

Fiona: Great. Looking forward to meeting you, Sean. Thank you very much indeed.

Sean: Cheers.

Announcer: Did you know SportsGeek podcast has listeners in over 35 countries? Thank you for sharing.

Sean: Thank you, again, Fiona, for joining me. Apologies for a little bit of a technical mishap with the audio. It was a little bit scratchy. I tried my best to clean up the audio with Fiona’s interview, there. But it was really good to have some insight on the sports CRM market in the UK and how especially the football teams are using it.

Fiona is very much in the thick of things, all things football. We’ll probably catch up with her again with her thoughts on sports CRM. And definitely check out their LinkedIn group. There will be link in the show notes to their LinkedIn group. A really vibrant conversation around all things sports CRM and business intelligence.

Another reminder, Sports Business Night. Tuesday, the 21st of January, at Honey. That will be SportsGeekHQ.com/. Now, that would be “Sounds of the Game.” That’s not applause for me or the podcast. That’s actually from the Roger Federer and Friends Night.

It was a fun night to see both Roger Federer and Rod Laver on the actual arena that it’s named after. Two greats of the game. If you’re at a game this weekend, or any weekend, for that matter, or during the week, take your phone out, record some of the sounds of the game. Send them to me Sean@SportsGateHQ.com. I’d love to include them.

This week’s Social Media Post of the Week comes from the BCS Championship Game. I’m going to give this one to Denny’s diner. Denny’s diner trolled the Auburn fans with a single Tweet. “If it’s any consolation, Auburn fans, there are 47 chances to win on the way home.” And they mapped out where every, single Denny’s was, on the way home.

Not bad; they got nearly 6,500 retweets for that one. It just shows you the usefulness of doing a bit of planning. I’m sure they would have had one set up for either team. So congrats to Denny’s.

Okay. That’s the clock wind-up. That’s to tell me to wind up this episode, dedicate it, and get out of the show. This is Episode 32 of the podcast. That means, for me, it only means one thing. I did have a few nominations from a few people tweeting in, a few AFL fans Tweeting in Travis Cloke, Tim Watson. NFL, Bo Jackson. Baseball, Sandy Koufax, Jim Brown.

But for me, I can only dedicate this episode to one man, and that would be the Magic Man, Earvin Magic Johnson. You can get the show notes at SportsGeekHQ.com/32.

And that’s the signal for the closing two cents. “Don’t forget the network part of social networking.” We’ll see you on SB Night.

Announcer: Please leave a review on iTunes. Go to SportsGeekHQ.com/iTunes. Find all Sports Geek podcasts at SportsGeekHQ.com/SGP.

Want to maximize returns from your digital team? Contact Sports Geek about Content and Commercialization Workshop. Thank for listening to the Sports Geek podcast.

SGP 013: Digital Case Studies explained from #SEAT2013

Sports Geek Podcast Presented by SEAT ConferenceBack from SEAT Conference in Kansas City, what a great conference.  This special Sports Geek Podcast episode is a full audio replay of my #SEAT2013 presentation with Philippe Dore from NASCAR.  You can follow along via on Slideshare below or download from Slideshare.

More SEAT related podcasts coming up soon, so stay tuned.


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

  • What makes up the digital campaign trifecta
  • Why you’ll want to visit Western Australia for next holiday
  • How Nike activated Kobe Bryant using Twitter BEFORE he joined Twitter
  • How Australian Open & Wimbledon developed infotainment for digital fans
  • How you can activate a stadium even when it is EMPTY
  • How NBA & NFL teams activate off-season events like Draft night

Follow the slides as you listen…

Sean Callanan and Philippe Dore present digital case studies at #SEAT2013Resources from the episode

Videos from presentation

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If you have a question for the podcast please leave it using Speakpipe plugin on the left of this page.

Download Episode

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Podcast transcription

Sean: Welcome to Episode 13 of the Sports Geek podcast, presented by SEAT Conference. Today’s episode is a special replay of my presentation, “Digital Case Studies Explained,” from SEAT 2013 with Philippe Dore from NASCAR.

DJ Joel: Welcome to the Sports Geek podcast. The podcast built for sports digital and sports digital professionals. Your host, Sean Callanan.

Sean: Thanks, DJ Joel. My name is Sean Callanan from Sports Geek, and thank you for the prompts on Twitter and LinkedIn asking where the next Sports Geek episode is. Traveling on crutches and trying to record a podcast is pretty much tough work. That’s why there has been a little break.

If you’ve been following tweets, I was in Kansas City for SEAT 2013. This episode of the Sports Geek podcast is actually a recording of the presentation that I did with Philippe Dore, who’s the Senior Director of Digital Services at NASCAR.

We walked through a bunch of case studies around the world in this presentation. There’s a few spots in there where we show some video clips as well as the slides from the presentation. They’ll all be accessible from the show notes. If you go to sportsgeekhq.com/13, you’ll be able to download them.

As far as all content from SEAT, I’ve got a couple of other podcasts. I did a bunch of interviews with some of my mates at SEAT. There’ll be Episode 14 and 15, will be very SEAT-heavy with some interviews with guys from the NBA, MLB, NFL, and of course Christine Stoffel, who put the conference on and did a remarkable job with over 450 people in Kansas City.

It was great to see the CRM and the digital tracks growing from what was a small base last year in Boston. I expect all of you listening to the podcast to be at SEAT 2014 in New York.

For now, we’re still looking at SEAT 2013. Here is my presentation, “Digital Case Studies Explained,” with Philippe Dore from NASCAR. Enjoy.

Sean: We’ll get started. Thanks a lot for coming along. My name is Sean Callanan, and I’ll be presenting Philippe here. We’ll be going through some digital campaigns. I’ll let you get things started.

Philippe: Absolutely. This is looking forward to Sean presenting, because usually he’s the moderator and talking all the time. We pulled some good case studies here; hopefully you’ll find them interesting.

Let’s jump right in. We discuss what makes a digital campaign successful. We call it a trifecta here.

Sean: Yeah, so the first thing was around content. We’re all in the content business. We’re fighting against Fox, ESPN, Sporting News, all these other places. My campaign should be around our content and pushing it out. We’ll be focusing on campaigns that profile content.

The next one we’re looking at is engagement. Everything we’re doing in social is about engagement, engaging the fans and deepening the ties with the fans. A lot of the campaigns, again, that we’ve got through the deck are on engagement.

Then we’ve got one more component, which is for our friends in the other track, which is data. If we’re going to have a campaign, having some component that, gets some email, geo-location data as I was just talking about before with mobile.

If you can hit the trifecta and hit those three boxes, you’re doing well. But you don’t have to with every single campaign. We’ll just go through a couple campaigns and show that they’ve got different focus and what they were trying to do. How they did it, how they went, and for some of them, what we might do differently.

Philippe: The first one, Sean, is West Coast . . . your part of the world, in Australia.

Sean: Yeah, West Coast Eagles are an Australian Rules football team. Just to give you a background of what they’re like, they’ve got a full stadium; they’ve got a waiting list. The fan base is getting older, but they’ve got these waiting lists. They want to keep engaging.

Usually they would do a season membership renewal, sort of TBC, at the start of the season. Since they didn’t need to sell the tickets this last year, they just went with a real brand campaign and just wanted to build excitement around the brand.

They did that around a video campaign. This is one of the videos.

Recording: [music 05:14 to 05:38]. Coming down to the beach helps me to relax. Memories of how close we were last season keeps the fire burning inside.

I know we’re close to something special.

Childhood heroes made me believe anything is possible. There’s an excitement within the group for the season ahead. It’s not hard to find inspiration around here.

Sean: Those videos were four weeks out from the season, when the fans were just craving access to the players and starting to build up the season. Mark LeCras was the guy running the pass. The next video was a backstory to him.

They ran the video campaign, they pushed that to YouTube, they promoted it both on YouTube and Facebook. Really, the fans just rallied around it. It was really good to run that high end content. I’m sure you all now want to have a holiday in Western Australia. They could probably do that as a tourism ad. That’s the West Coast one.

This one is the Minnesota Timberwolves. Again, a content play around the NBA draft. The NBA draft gets stacks of coverage on ESPN, but once your peak happens, they start to focus on every other team.

What the Timberwolves have done in the draft the last three years—they’re hoping to not do this eventually and make the playoffs—but what they have done is been doing a large, streaming show from their venue and have a big fan event. They have talking heads talking about the draft, interviews with fans.

Over the last few years there’s been increasing sponsorship and activations around it. Again, really profiling their talent as far as their digital team. Their fans really rally around that site for that night.

This is a close one to my heart, because this is my scar brother, Kobe Bryant. I don’t know if you saw this campaign. This was a campaign from I think it was 2011 that Nike ran. We’ve got a video that pretty much explains how it ran.

Recording: Kobe Bryant transformed without warning into an unstoppable force.

Interviewer: “Black Mamba,” what is “Black Mamba” all about?

Kobe: That’s my alter ego. When you step on the basketball court, you’ve got to get into another frame of mind.

Recording: “Black Mamba,” an alter ego beloved by fans and feared by the competition. We set out to mimic Kobe’s physical transformation into Black Mamba on nikebasketball.com, so when Kobe transforms, the site transforms with him.

Since fans routinely call out the Black Mamba on social networks, a custom made Twitter algorithm was programmed to generate and monitor real-time, global social chatter to transform the site using Kobe-related tweets as a trigger.

Every time the Mamba struck, fans’ social chatter would cause the automated site to change from normal Kobe state to the Black Mamba state, once 1,750 tweets per hour were surpassed. During each of these Mamba moments, the site will offer exclusive access to content for the next six hours, like Kobe video images, personalized wallpapers, and transfer fans to an exclusive Nike ID zoomed Kobe.

As Mamba moments grew closer, the traffic on nikebasketball.com exploded as social chatter spread across the web. Our real-time Twitter tracker shows fans exactly how many Kobe-related tweets were being posted at that moment, how many were needed to transform the site and unlock the Mamba content.

Fans around the world were watching, working collectively to try to push the needle over the edge. Every time a Mamba moment happened, Nike Basketball spread the word with posts on social networks across the globe.

As a special surprise for fans, a short film directed by Robert Rodriguez, starring Kanye and the Black Mamba himself a couple days before All-Star Weekend, driving even more traffic to the site.

Then at the All-Star game on February 20th, Kobe Bryant scored a game high of 37 points, on route to winning his fourth career all-star MVP award. Global Black Mamba social chatter lit up the boards. The site transformed from Kobe to Black Mamba in the first quarter.

Notifications went out across Facebook, Twitter and We Boo. Over two million fans visited nikebasketball.com to watch Kobe transform into the Black Mamba. Night in and night out, the site continues to reflect Kobe’s transformation on the court. The Black Mamba may strike without warning, but not without reward for fans across the world.

Sean: Yeah, so that one, just an example where it’s hit the market on all counts. Producing the killer content, that you can only get the content if you get the engagement, getting the fans riled up on Twitter. This was all done before Kobe was even on Twitter. Without even having him being the one that drives it.

Phenomenal campaign, and I hope he makes a comeback from his Achilles, because it’ll give me hope.

Philippe: Again, this is a great execution. We’re finding a theme here, and you’ll see that the best executions are during live events. It’s nice to see that as he’s playing, again. A lot of the other case studies here that we have are very, very focused on live, engaging content.

This is another one from the tennis world. I’ve been partnering with IBM for years because they’ve got pretty cool slam trackers, reliable results. They kicked it up a notch this year and added a social component.

You can actually measure tweets, the trending module, and also what I like with this one is that they also added sentiment. Negative, positive. It gives it a little kick to more than having to show just who’s trending and who’s got the most tweets or something like that. Pretty cool execution here from IBM and the U.S. Open.

Sean: Again, it reinforces, if you go to the next part, it shows the tweets coming in for Andy Murray. We all know that Twitter especially works well in live sport, and to a certain degree, sport has made Twitter. Because that’s when it comes to life.

We will then pretty much follow it up with something similar, and so we’ve got that info-tainment sort of space. Taking all those stats and repurposing it.

You can take this engagement piece and make it part of your content strategy. If your graphic’s a really hot part of content marketing, you can show the buzz. It’s a good way of expressing to the fans that they’re part of a bigger collective. It gives them a bit of a push and shows the buzz around the world and in the media that Wimbledon have provided throughout the tournament.

Philippe: Yes, and the geo-mapping, we’ve got several other examples here. Thinks like, here’s a good example here. Why don’t you talk to us about this one?

Sean: This is one that we did three weeks ago. We were planning to do it, and then we were lucky enough that Manchester United decided to join Twitter.

You might have seen trendsmap.com before. It has local versions and global versions. It shows trends from Twitter on a map, which is why the name Trends Map.

What we’ve done, because the guys who built it are actually based out of Melbourne, we made a product out of it and allowed them to build a product that can be pivoted around sport. In this case we tracked a game they hashtagged “#ManUnited” and “#TheALeague.” The A League is the Australian MLS.

We’re able to show the trends around the world. Heat maps in both Australia and in the UK. We’re able to bubble up the popular content from an image point of view, and also the videos. Any Vines that were being shared and re-tweeted by fans, just click up and we’ll show more. They’re all able to be played in line, as well as showing what popular users . . .

And if you go down one more, it also would profile the top tweets. A couple of things that we learned, especially having a David and Goliath battle in this space with Manchester United in three weeks. Who was watching when they joined Twitter and they were adding followers by the thousands by the minute?

People were going, “oh, I’ve got more followers than Man United.” Not anymore. They’ve got so many followers, they dominated that top board. We’re going to most likely break that out to be different teams.

The other thing they also showed is the popular links that were being shared by fans. Again, another way, those links are hot, they can go back to your site. Also we profiled all the fans that were sharing illegal content. We had to put measures in to say, “we don’t want those links on this page.”

It’s a good way to get fans back to your site. Similar to the Wimbledon theme, we took content from this, back end analytics, and we repurposed it back to social, to tell the fans hey, way to go, you’re part of this.

We sent out half-time tweets telling them what the top cities were, how many tweets were coming in, what the map looked like, just to repurpose it and take it through.

This one, Philippe, you had this one.

Philippe: Yeah, this is an example from earlier this year from Underarm. Pretty good execution. It seemed like they invested quite a bit of money. They went multi-channel, made a lot of noise to it. They’re basically asking the fans or the consumer to use the hashtag “#Iwill,” offering giveaways for are they going to do something great this year.

Sean: Pretty much, yeah. They were just asking to people to write or share a photo. When I first looked at this I thought it looks great, but they didn’t really bring the social component until the last bit.

They said yeah, you can write on the wall. If you keep clicking through, and then it asks you at the end, I’ll share this. The incentive wasn’t there for it to really go far. If they had said, “oh, sign in with Facebook,” hit the button, it’s automatically going to get shared.

Try the email piece, but again, it wasn’t mandatory. I haven’t got the data as far as what they secured, but had they flipped—and the next slide, I think, shows “thank you for sharing your message. Please tweet it.”

If you move that to the front, like we were saying before with the apps, if you give people the sign-in and social connections at the front, the likelihood that they’ll share is much greater.

This one is a really unique one from Tunisia. Just watch the video and see what they did.

Sean: Yeah, so that one’s a pretty amazing case study. They didn’t have Wi-Fi problems on that day.

It just shows you, I think just how you can engage that fan at home, and thinking outside the box with some activations. Pretty phenomenal story with having to run out there without any fans at all, and being able to connect those fans in that sort of crowd source, make them feel part of it.

Philippe: Yeah, that’s the lesson. Be as creative, as crazy as you can. I think initially Sean wanted me to translate the French to English, but that subtitle appeared.

Sean: This one, I don’t know if you’ve seen it. It’s Mound Ball. It’s run by the guys at Major League Baseball. You’ll be able to play it tonight because there’s a Royales mound, but this is just an example of a pure engagement piece. Just having fun on the platform.

The way Mound Ball works is if the pitcher leaves the ball on the base, then they’re going to give away a prize. If he doesn’t, they’re not. They’ve got these fans now tuning in to see where the ball is going to be in between innings, and doing it via Twitter.

It’s completely stupid, but they’ve now got—I think you, Philippe—they launched it a couple weeks ago. They’re only doing a couple teams at the moment, but they’ve already got 5,000 followers.

It’s just, again, that thinking outside the box, how can we engage our fans in a weird way? We’re talking in some sessions earlier today, if you have a team that’s not winning or things aren’t going well, how can you make these silly events into some sort of activation, into some sort of engagement play with the fans?

It seems to be working pretty well for MLB. I’m going to be tweeting Mound Ball now tonight to see. I’ll be watching very closely at the end of innings to see where the ball is placed. Again, just shows you the advantages of just playing on the platform for what they are. It’s a really good spot for Twitter.

This one you brought, Philippe, from Tour de France?

Philippe: Yes, Tour de France in France, obviously. Good execution here from French TV. Basically it’s an Instagram base. At each stop, people were asked to upload their Instagram photo, and obviously with their geo-location. We created this entire record, document here that they put online here.

Sean: This one’s great because it’s crowd sourcing, it shows how colorful and awesome it is to be in the Tour de France. It’s perfect for Instagram, because you’ve got all the crazy filters. Everything, when you produce an Instagram photo, is beautiful. Or so people think.

It shows all the color. Again, because Instagram is more geo-friendly than Twitter, it’s great to be able to show all the content. For me, this one is really great because it’s profiling the fan content. We’ve done stuff with tournaments and stadiums, getting your fans to take those shots and send them in is a great way of doing it. Being able to activate a random map and show off what the fans are seeing is a really good way of doing it.

For example. This is similar to the Timberwolves stuff around the draft. This is the Falcons social hub. Again, making the draft an event and giving them a place to consume everything from a point of view of social content. So sharing both their content and some of the fans’.

It’s getting into that social curation space. Which I think is good, because you want to make sure your fans are connecting with other fans. I think, I can’t remember what session it was before, when Chris was saying how he’s got 20 or 30 of these brand champions. You need to be publicizing those brand champions in things like this so they know they’re doing the right thing.

Philippe: Again, those work well during an event. Use it for an entire season it can get old.

Sean: Yeah, so again, this is during the draft. They’re craving for information, they don’t have as much. This kind of activation works really well for that.

Philippe: These guys did as well.

Sean: I think this is with Wayne. I’m going to get a nod at the back, yeah, this is with Wayne.

Again, ask the fans questions, profile your content around the draft. Again, it just gives them that different . . . Twitter’s good to give those different visualizations. Because not everyone follows everyone that they need to do. Not everyone knows how to follow a hashtag.

Fans still need these kind of visualizations to understand why they should be on Twitter, or why they should be on Pinterest or why they should be on Tumblr. You want to be able to show those different representations of what they think might be normal, but shown in a different way to say, “oh, that’s why I want to be accessing that content.”

If you scroll down, it’s bringing all the tweets.

Philippe: I like how they added interactivity. It’s one thing to just bring in photos and call it a day, but if you take it to the next level and have people tweet or even, I would like to see maybe an input box there. Maybe you can pre-populate a hashtag.

Sean: This one is another Nike activation that they did around a women’s running race in Sydney. I’ll let the video explain it, and then I’ll talk a little bit about some of what they did with Facebook to integrate the social component.

Recording: Running community, Nike wasn’t seen as a credible choice for serious runners. In fact, most female runners wore Nike from head to ankle, but found it hard to commit to wearing Nike on their feet.

We also uncovered the truth that when women ran, they ran alone, and were left to overcome their fears and achieve their goals by themselves. To us, this seemed at odds with women’s natural inclination to discuss, share, and overcome barriers together.

In light of this, our idea was simple. As a female runner, you’re fast, stronger, and more powerful when you’re part of a group than you could ever be as an individual. There is true power in numbers.

We used this thought to ignite a community of female runners, empowering them to redefine their sport and change the way they train forever. We started our conversation with social media with a rally cry for change, stimulating chat around the barriers that women faced.

It was during this conversation that we realized we needed to tackle the biggest barrier at all, running alone at night. We began by recruiting women who already had the courage to run in the dark. We received hundreds of responses from women whose responses inspired an online short film.

Woman: The more of us that run, the brighter we can burn.

Recording: Next, we challenged our community by announced that we would hold a 13K night race The film also acted as a registration device that could be personalized to every runner and passed onto their friends, celebrating grass roots runners across gyms, online, in store, print, and outdoor.

Which in turn inspired other women to join. Every piece of communication incorporated an invitation to a women’s only event

Daniella: Hey, I’m Daniella.

Veronica: I’m Veronica. If you’re interested in night running, then come for a run with us at Pier Market.

Recording: Allowing women to not only train for the 13K run, but connect with other women along the way. Trying to unite female runners at every touch point, enabling them a way to share their stories, goals, and achievements. Race Night became a celebration. For one night, women turned the tables on the dark.

We smashed down our own barriers too, exceeding all expectations in KPIs. For us, this demonstrates the power of a culturally connected idea, one that helps a community to form, shifts perceptions, and ultimately changes how people interact with a brand.

We set out to shake up running for women, and sparked a movement that unleashed a powerful, thriving community. A community that’s still running.

Sean: That campaign was heavily integrated with Facebook. Like they said there they had a Facebook registration process, so obviously that’s terrific from a data point of view. We’re getting the data from all the registrants.

The engagement and the content side of things, again, absolutely killing it as far as the content they were producing, but then also getting their fans to produce it.

The race itself, because everyone had registered with Facebook and everyone had the Nike Plus tracking devices, as the women were coming up to the 5K mark, their Facebook avatar came up on the digital screen and said, “keep going.”

They were like oh and charging on. They really stepped up, I guess, the integration with the Facebook Connect and registration and put it through the whole race. Really powerful way of developing a community around the event.

This one you sent through, pretty recent.

Philippe: Yes, yes. I thought this was great, again, engaging the fans. PGA championship with Jack Nichols here. They’ve allowed the fans to pick the pin position.

Sean: In the end, this is just a multiple choice sweepstakes competition, but the fact that they’ve got the content pieces there, the fans can check the flyover, it’s got a bit of buzz. It’s really high value for a golf fan to be able to say they’re going to pick the pin. I’m sure there’ll be a few golfing buddies who’ve got bragging rights.

That was obviously right. It’s more unique than just saying, “tell us who’s your favorite golfer,” or “when do you play golf,” that kind of thing. I think it worked really well. It got really good press as well, because it was in that crowd sourcing space, occasionally allowing the fans to decide.

Sometimes you’ve got to be careful. Sometimes the fans don’t know what they’re doing. In this case, if they’re happy with one of the four options, it’s a good outcome.

Philippe: It’s funny, because they actually make an impact. It’s not just “what do you think,” and “oh, I would love to see this.” It’s actually things [inaudible 31:45]. We had a similar example at NASCAR, where we asked the fans to vote on the format for an all-star race. Do you want 30 laps, do you want 60 laps, we let them decide and he goes for it. Nice way for them to feel . . .

Sean: It gives them that emotional connection, because they’re feeling like a part of the decision process.

This one is one that we do with the Auckland Blues, using digital cheer squad where it was pretty much rewarding fans for what they were doing on social networks, so Facebook and Twitter. It wasn’t exactly the platform that did it, it was the way that the Blues ran it.

They really focused on servicing these fans, because they really added super-fans. Some of the stuff that generated out of it was, they found that the fans started congregating and sitting together. Now they’re going to have a specific bay so these fans can all sit together.

They started running events specifically for these super-fans, and gained really great results because these fans were trained on what they wanted to do. They would stand in front of the sponsored banner. They knew they had to Facebook it and tweet it and Instagram it.

It’s worked out really well. To the point where, we’ve got to the point where we say, “oh, don’t forget to thank the sponsor,” because they provided True Blue HQ, and they sent 194 tweets saying “thanks, guys.”

They’re Barfoot and Thompson. They’re not in the technical space. They’re a real estate agent. The social manager at Barfoot and Thompson loves it, because their feed is full of people praising how awesome they are.

I’ve actually got a meeting with them next week when I get back. I’m hoping we get the research back that says yes, we sold a house because all of the Blues fans have been tweeting about us as a real estate agent all winter.

Then from a content point of view, we’ve been doing stuff like infographics around the stats of what the fans have been doing, but then also profiling the fans with a simple “fan of the week.” Because we’ve connected all of those fans, the amount of digital back slapping that happens when you announce a fan of the week—because they all know each other, they’re all friends now.

They’ve met in real life. Which I think is having those fan events and connecting those digital fans, just locks them in. They won’t always be talking about your team, they become friends. Every time the Blues announce a fan of the week, they all get retweeted from everyone in the list. They’re all pretty pleased with themselves.

The other key component of it was putting the ladder and integrating it with the rest of the site. Again, fans were pretty happy to see their face on the regular site.

Philippe: You have the sponsors, the sponsoring product right there, right?

Sean: Yeah.

Philippe: We’re seeing a lot of that. Our partner is just asking for banner ads, things like that, they want to engage with content, and social’s a great way to do it. We’re cooking a lot of things like that at NASCAR.

Sean: This is another one that again goes back to the map theme, and there’s more around engagement and connecting your fans. I’m anxious to see, you’ve had this out for a while. It’s still live.

Effectively it allows you to tag where you are and find out where all the Manchester City fans are. It’s a terrific data play. You go to, say you want to tag yourself. Similar to the Fan Cam stuff. You’ve got to give your data to tag yourself, but they’re able to show that there’s over 24,000 fans there. Then you can find other fans.

You can go and put someone’s name in who you know is a Manchester fan, and they’ll say, “oh, he’s in London.” You can connect with your friends or tag your friends and that kind of thing. It’s about making a connection, but also showing that there’s 482 in Melbourne and there’s 1,100 in the eastern seaboard of the U.S. It just shows there’s like people around you.

Pretty much with Manchester City, they’ve extended this now and they’re building localized websites for different regions around the world, pretty much based on this data. They know they’ve got the fans there, so they can now pull off the sites.

This one was primarily a data play with the Melbourne Storm. The video there is, we ran a competition saying hey, come along the journey jersey. Come along the journey with the finals. We asked them intimate details, and we built this jersey with all the fans’ names on it.

We tell the fans it’s going to be in the locker room during the playoffs. The players will run past it, they’ll touch it. Or we’ll tell them that they’ll touch it. It was their way of being in the locker room during the playoffs.

We initially did it, then we produced a secondary one to have it out in the concourse, and fans could get their photo in front of it. In a week, I think we collected 1,500 emails of fans that wanted to be part of it. We then added a season ticket holder base to the jersey, so it had 1,500 in the end.

On top of getting all those social attractions that the fans gave it, it got in the media with the local television and the broadcasters showing off the jersey, both in the locker room and then around grand final week. All’s well that ends well win the championship last year.

Storm fans have found memories of the journey jersey, so we’re now trying to figure out how we can take it to the next level this year.

Philippe: That’s great, and again, it’s one thing to upload a photo to an Instagram sort of thing to see an execution like this. We’ve done it on some cars as well. [inaudible 38:16] has done it, Noonan’s done it. Put your photo and you get your little avatar on the car.

We’re working on another one right now for the Chase. We’ll feature a prize winner, their Twitter handle on the car. We’re working on that right now.

Sean: This is one of the last ones I want to look at. We thank you, Sir Alex. Man United said goodbye to Sir Alex Ferguson. Again, they weren’t on Twitter at this stage, but from a content and engagement and a data point of view, they actually smashed it.

They built this mini-site. They integrated with, they did some work with Twitter and pretty much pushed out the hashtag, “#ThankyouSirAlex,” which was trending worldwide.

What they did do is ask all their fans to post messages. If you’re already in the Manchester United system, you could just login and leave your message for Sir Alex. What they did is they sent it out to their 35 million Facebook fan base, a ridiculous number.

This is the picture that they put up on Facebook. “Send Sir Alex your thank you message, and we’re going to create him a book.” They could’ve just said “give us your email, please.” Because all they did was send them to a Buddy Media Facebook tab that said email, name, date of birth, and 25 words to Sir Alex.

The good thing is they didn’t just stop there. They took all that content and they created a book, leather-bound it. They did a couple of different versions. They got Sir Alex to sign it and there you go, now it’s a prize, it’s a limited edition piece.

Yeah, 161,000 people liked that post. They really capitalized on the traffic that they got for Sir Alex signing. For them they, like I said, smashed this activation out of the park. They knew they were going to get great engagement from their fans.

The unfortunate thing is four days later, because they had to replace, obviously, Sir Alex Ferguson, and David Moyes was keyed to take over. Now he’s the new manager. Unfortunately, and we all have mistakes, they tweeted out the link to the app to say “welcome David Moyes” two days before he signed.

He was still working at Chelsea. They deleted the tweet, but you can’t delete a tweet. It’s gone. They did everything right for Sir Alex, but it was a little bit awkward for the first day or two when they were announcing David Moyes. Trying to follow the same feed.

If you look at some of the data that was coming through from a Twitter point of view, again, for a team that wasn’t on Twitter, to get some of that content was pretty phenomenal.

Just to wrap up and not go too long, because I can only stand so along in this. The main things, when you are going to go and do a campaign, you’re going to be tackling one of these three things.

You’re going to promote your content, engage your fans, and get data. I don’t think you need to do all three with every one. You will have ones that just naturally do all three, or a killer like Black Mamba or the Nike one that do all three.

Then you’ll have ones like Mound Ball that’s just pure engagement. I think it is important to know that you want to try to tackle one of those three and have a goal around that. Which leads us to our takeaways from this session, is to first of all to know your goal, to know what you’re trying to achieve out of it.

You want to know what your goal is. If your goal is engagement, cute can work, but you’ve got to make sure you push that.

This one, I call it “market your marketing.” Obviously a lot of teams put a lot of effort into building some activation, and then just push it out and think it’s going to happen.

It’s bit like the brief, “can you make me a viral video?” Which no one can ever do when you ask them that. This one is market your marketing. How are you pushing this out? Where are you advertising? Are you advertising in-stadium?

Are you augmenting it with Facebook ads or Google ads, or promoting it with Twitter? Because you can’t just expect oh, our fans will just love that and eat it up.

There’s nothing worse than spending a lot of time and money and effort putting something together, and then stop putting in that effort once you’ve pushed it out. You’ve really got to still market it via all your channels.

Philippe: Remember the data from your initial slides. Make sure you get something out of it. Use connect, you can get a lot of data out of Facebook. If you’re doing a fan cam contest, you can get registering, you can get an ROI. I’ll get something out of the programs.

Sean: You’ve got to make it fun. You’ve got to think about it from a fan point of view. I know all of us will have seen ad sponsor promotions and we’ve had pushback, so the fans won’t want it.

You really need to have that fan hat on. Will they think it’s fun? Like Mark was saying, will it have the appeal for them? Their Instagram shot gets on the screen, or they might have a tour or something. It really does have to be fun and enticing to the fan.

That pretty much wraps up our showcase of different digital campaigns.

Philippe: Global showcase.

Sean: Global showcase. Glad to have the Tunisians involved. More than happy to take any questions or talk about different parts of digital campaigns.

Go to the next slide. If this is recorded properly, this will be a future Sports Geek podcast. If it didn’t record properly, Philippe and I will be doing this again and recording this for a future Sports Geek podcast. Hopefully it’s recorded, and if it’s not, then we’ll be back on Skype and recording it again.

Recording: Please leave a review on iTunes. Go to sportsgeekhq.com/itunes. Find all Sports Geek podcasts at sportsgeekhq.com/sgp. Thanks for listening to the Sports Geek podcast.

Jeremy Lin Fan Appreciation Week Review

What has Social Media provided for athletes? For some it has assisted with their career and for others it’s had a detrimental effect. The positives and negatives all relate and impact on the athlete’s ‘Personal Branding’. The growth of social media has changed the way professional athletes develop their personal brand. This aspect of their career is exceptionally important as it affects their marketability, popularity and sponsorship/endorsement opportunities.

Catalyst Public Relations published a study which found that sports fans are 55% more likely to purchase a particular brand that their favourite athlete, whom they are following mentions it on Facebook or Twitter

Jeremy Lin, NBA point guard of the Houston Rockets is a prime example of an athlete who has effectively managed his brand since he shot to stardom after an impressive run of performances for the New York Knicks. In the mecca of basketball, New York City, Lin’s sudden rise won him thousands and thousands of fans worldwide and the ‘LINSANITY’ craze caught on.

During the NBA playoffs Jeremy Lin hosted ‘Fan Appreciation Week’ using different social media platforms, giving him the opportunity to give back to his fans that have supported him throughout his career. A simple gesture which goes a long way in maintaining and building his popularity.

Jeremy Lin - Fan Appreciation Week

Facebook Q&A

Monday started with the Facebook Q&A, which featured 18,424 Likes, 124 Shares and 5605 Comments. As Jeremy Lin is of Taiwanese descent he has a large following of fans around Asia. To capitalise on this he has an English and Chinese Facebook page which reaches both fan bases. Unfortunately Lin wasn’t able to respond to all comments, but seemed to answer as many as he could during the time.

The Q&A was a simple and effective way for Lin to reach and engage with his fans while giving his followers the opportunity to ask any question, within reason and be answered. Questions ranged from obscure ones like “Chuck Norris VS Liam Neeson in a fight ….. Who wins?” to “Funniest guy in the Rockets?

Jeremy Lin - Fan Appreciation Week - Day 1 Facebook Q&A

Rockets Artwork Contest

This was the first contest of the ‘Appreciation Week’, which involved Twitter. Followers were required to send in any Rockets artwork they had created with five followers chosen to win a signed ‘Linsanity Movie Poster’.

This contest also had a dual purpose. Not only did it promote fans to interact with Lin, it also created an avenue to promote the upcoming ‘Linsanity Movie’. We have also seen this occur in posts from Teams such as the Golden State Warriors, where they promoted sponsors while engaging and interacting with their fans, providing the ever present dual purpose of social media. As we can see from the Topsy.com graph below the @JLin7 handle was mentioned 941 times during the day two contest.

Jeremy Lin - Fan Appreciation Week - @JLin7 mentions

Instagram Impersonation Contest

Fan Appreciation Week Day 3: Rockets Impersonation Contest! Post (and tag @jlin7) a picture on instagram of you impersonating a Rockets player(s). Heres my sample of @jharden13 on the left and @chandler_parsons on the right. Be creative and winners announced tonight!

Let the impersonations begin! Day 3 featured a Rockets impersonation contest via Instagram.

SINA Weibo Q&A

Lin hosted another Q&A, this time on the Chinese micro blogging site SINA Weibo. It was evident that Lin made a major effort to maintain his global appeal especially in Asia. In 2012 Lin returned to Taiwan to participate and instruct a local youth basketball camp with the assistance of NBA player David Lee – making good on a promise he made earlier in the year.

Multiple Choice Quiz via Facebook

We are back on Facebook for the final day of ‘Appreciation Week’ and the fans have to answer a Multiple Choice Quiz and the first person to answer them all right wins a signed pair of shoes.

Jeremy Lin - Fan Appreciation Week - Day 5 - Facebook Quiz

While this post received 7518 Likes, 137 Shares and 629 Comments, it didn’t experience the same success as the Day 1 Q&A. Besides the dilemma of going through the comments to find the winners of the competition (Lin mentioned he got a headache looking through the submissions), the quiz format would only reach those who waited for the post, thus limiting it’s reach. When social media competitions prompt followers to be the first to answer or post you are neglecting your casual followers who aren’t constantly connected. Having a competition which allows followers to post a simple entry such as the Twitter art work and Instagram impersonation you are now allowing the majority of your followers to participate.

Looking over the events of ‘Appreciation Week’, Lin has proved how simple it is using social media to interact with his fans and in the process thank them for their support. The ‘LINSANITY’ craze may have been lighting in a bottle with Lin’s move to Houston but through the use of simple and effective competitions and the continual interaction on a regular basis, Lin has be able maintained his popularity globally. The great use of social media combined with regular visits and accommodating his Asian fan base has in turn increased his marketability and improved his chances of garnering endorsements.

Lin’s Volvo Commercial

Lin heads out for some ‘street-ball’ with David Lee

Athletes in many sports worldwide have a short career span. What social media has provided is another avenue off the field or court to develop an athlete’s brand. It has also allowed middle tier players in many leagues to increase their popularity with their personality and social media savvy competitions to increase their name recognition to heights only reserved for the superstars.

Have a read of the ‘Social Media Guidelines’ post, which outlines what athletes need to consider when posting to maintain a positive image.

What other athletes do you feel have done a great job in maintaining their personal brand through Social Media? We would love to hear your thoughts.

Lin takes part in #HerosHangout on Google+

Lin also recently took part in a Google Hangout as a part of the Veteran’s United channel, where he discussed life as an NBA player and conversed with military heroes from across the US.