SGP 018: Activating your Digital Cheer Squad with Auckland Blues & managing fan reactions online with Brisbane Lions

Sports Geek Podcast available on iTunesIn this Sports Geek Podcast we chat to James Rigby from Blues about True Blue HQ built using Digital Cheer Squad helped him activate Blues fans with the team and a key digital sponsor.  We also chat with Jarrod Price from the Brisbane Lions on dealing with upset fans when a club legend is let go as coach and then amplifying fans buoyed by the another club legend stepping in a new coach.


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

  • Why it’s important to connect with your super avid fans online
  • Rewarding fans that deserve it is more important than attracting contest junkies
  • Understanding that brand awareness for sponsors can be very powerful on social media
  • How to train and identify your teams digital cheer squad
  • How sports teams need to take careful steps around breaking news
  • Importance of monitoring social channels and craft message for fans that are upset
  • How sports teams can use traditional media to attract more of their fans to their digital platforms
  • Why the sports content business is now a 12 month game and what you need to plan for off-season content
  • How far did Rocky Balboa run on that training run in Rocky II?

James Rigby from The Blues discusses True Blue HQ success for fans and sponsorsResources from the episode

Auckland Blues engage fans and sponsor with #TrueBlueHQ

 True Blue HQ activates fans for Blues and Barfoot & Thompson using Digital Cheer Squad

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Podcast transcription

Sean: Welcome to Episode 18 of the Sports Geek podcast. On today’s episode, we’ll look at how the Auckland Blues activated their digital cheer squad using True Blue HQ, and we’ll check to the Brisbane Lions, talking about coaching change. One legend out, another legend in.

Joel: Welcome to the Sports Geek podcast, the podcast built for the sports digital marketer. And now, here’s your host, whose professional sports career was tragically cut short at age 17 due to a lack of ability, Sean Callanan.

Sean: Thanks, DJ Joel. Yes, being cut from the team at age 17 by then-coach of the Miners, Al Westover, who went on to win a couple of championships in the NBL, still cuts pretty deep. But that said, I’m quite happy where I’ve landed. Professional sports obviously wasn’t for me on the court. It’s definitely something off the court with the Sports Geek.

First of all, I want to say a big thank you to the people who have downloaded the podcast, like yourself, and also the ones who have left a review on iTunes. So a bit of a shout out to Brock Tune, who left an A1 on the US store. Pat Davids Flavelson, inallairness again, Adam, great podcast. Check out inallairness. Francis McCarthy. Again, everyone who has left an iTunes review, very much appreciated. You can simply go to to leave a quick review. It’s very much appreciated, and actually helps spread the word and make sure that this content is being used.

So for today’s episode, we chat with good friend of mine and client James Rigby from the Auckland Blues about how they activated digital cheer squad on Grandstand, and also talk to Jarrod Price from the Brisbane Lions, and how they handled and managed the recent coaching change, where one club legend was ousted, in Michael Voss, and another one came in, in Justin Leppitsch.

But first, here’s our interview with James Rigby on ABC Grandstand. And stay tuned at the end. Find out how far did Rocky actually run in “Rocky II.”

Francis: Sean Callanan joins us from Sports Geek HQ. Digital sports guru, once again, to talk to us about sports in the outer atmosphere of the digital media. Hey, Sean. How are you going?

Sean: G’day, Francis. I’m good, thanks.

Francis: I don’t know what to watch last night. It was a pretty tough game, having the second scrum experience and also the third scrum experience in trying to watch the NRL, the AFL, and talk about it. I needed to be an octopus.

Sean: Yeah, it does get a bit that way. And effectively, social media can be something to help you change the channel in the channel flicker.

Francis: But I have adopted your policy, and I think it’s the right one, not to tweet during the games now. Just to watch it, be in the experience, and try not to engage in the eh-eh. Because I’m finding that I’m missing stuff, and I don’t want to.

Sean: Yeah, there is a tendency. I mean, I’m a bit the same. Because if you’re constantly looking at the small screen, if you’re flicking through your feed, whether it be Twitter or Facebook or Instagram, seeing what’s happening, yeah, you do read, oh, something happened, you have to look back up. So, yeah. Try to involve yourself in the game, and then, you know, the quarter time breaks, or when they flick to a goal, flick to the ads, take your attention there then.

Francis: You’ve got to have a disciplined Twitter game plan.

Sean: Yeah. It does. If you actually want to follow the game. Because you can end up just be following the commentary, and forgetting that there’s a game on. And to a certain degree, if you’re not super invested in the game as a fan, yeah, that’s a nice way to consume the game. But if you’re a fan of one of the teams playing, whether it be the NRL last night or the AFL last night, you really want to be following the game.

Francis: You want to be in the moment with the game. Or, well, both games were enthralling to watch, there’s no doubt about it. There was plenty to talk about on Twitter, too.

The super rugby season’s been come and gone, but rugby goes on and on with the rugby championship. But catching up with someone this morning, he was talking to us about how super rugby’s using digital media to build its brand and get closer and more connected with its fan base.

Sean: Yeah. So on the line we’ve got James Rigby from the Auckland Blues, or the Blues, as they’re known in the super rugby. G’day, James. You there?

James: Morning, Sean. How are you going?

Sean: Good, thanks, mate. Last week, we chatted with Chris Freet from the University of Miami about a loyalty program they had. And I wanted to talk to James about the one that he ran, which was True Blue HQ, which is a different focus to what Chris had from a loyalty, which was a swiping a card and attending and buying merchandise. This one was purely on social, and rewarded the fans for what they did online, on Facebook and Twitter.

So James, do you want to first of all just give us a little bit of feedback on, one, how the fans took up True Blue HQ, and what the response was when you launched it earlier in the season?

James: Yeah. Sure thing. Yeah, we’ve been working, Sean, for the past season on True Blue HQ, which is sort of a gamification model where you get points for following our fans on Twitter, following us on Facebook, and retweeting our messages, and that sort of thing. And it’s the first season we’ve done it, but the response that we had from our fans online was fantastic. I mean, we trended on the first day that we launched, and we ended up getting about 500, just over 500 fans on there.

And the feedback we got was tremendous. They actually loved it. Ticked a lot of boxes for us in terms of helping leverage a sponsor. Really sort of engaging with our fans. And also driving all our kind of key messages throughout the season. So yeah, it was fantastic.

Sean: So what were you asking the fans to do, James? How did they… when they came to it, what was the simple modus operandi that they got involved with?

James: When they logged in through their Twitter or Facebook account, they got a couple of hints to start off with, so that… you know, you get points for, say, following some of our players on Twitter. And you’d also get points for liking us on Facebook. But there were also kind of the things built in, where there were hidden hints. So if you sort of retweeted us, or mentioned us on Twitter, you’d get points for that. So top fans were constantly going back, logging in to check their score, and kind of competing with other fans to see who was the biggest online fan, really.

Sean: And so one of the things we did discuss last week with Chris around how do you reward this, how do you reward fans in a loyalty type of system, and this being a social media one. And for me, the fans who are following on social media, we were just talking about them, when you’re watching the game, it’s something intrinsic. Like the intrinsic value of showing that you’re a fan, and showing that you’re part of something bigger. And that’s a lot of reason why they’re on. They want to show their support. They want to follow the players and say congratulations, and feel like part of the team.

James: Mm-hmm.

Sean: And I think that’s something that worked really well with the guys at the Blues, is that they tied the rewards that they were putting into True Blue HQ into that motivation. So they weren’t saying, “Hey, tweet about us and you’re going to get a cap,” or, “You’re going to get a prize of some sort.” They really just leveraged on that. So they ran things like fan events and got the fans together for a special training session.

And the thing was that the fans actually started doing that without James’s involvement. Like, it just started to evolve that these fans started to meet at the games, because they were following each other on Twitter and extending their conversation. So James, you want to tell us a little bit about how those events and how that effectively, those fans who started congregating, both online and then at the games?

James: Yeah. For sure, yeah. It was a pretty organic sort of… well, when it came out. We ran a couple of events. First, we invited a couple of our most vocal online fans to come to a captain’s run which was closed to the public. So the day before a big game, the team usually go to Eden Park, which is our home ground. I’m not sure if you’ve been there, but it’s a fantastic stadium. So we invited 20 of our kind of most passionate online followers to come into the ground, when it was just them and the team, and they were on the ground watching the guys go through their moves. And afterwards, all the team would come over, and they chatted for about half an hour with the fans.

So for them, it was an incredible experience to get a lot closer to the action. It wasn’t purely an online thing. We were really trying to get those fans that were passionate about the team online, and bring them offline.

And that kind of started off a bit of a trend. All these guys were talking online, and then without any of our involvement, they started kind of congregating in the west end of Eden Park, and all wanted to catch up before hand, had a bit of a chat about the game. They’d bring massive floorboards with #TrueBlueHQ, and all this sort of online lingo that they’d used. And they’d all kind of cheer together and tweet together from that spot.

And we also ran a couple of other opportunities through the season where we invited them to our corporate lounge to watch the game. All you had to do was just be a part of True Blue HQ to enter. And invited 20 or so fans to come and sit in the lounge. It was all catered for all the guys that were either injured or weren’t playing that evening, would kind of sit in the lounge and have a chat with them and watch the game. And so as a fan, they were thrilled with that.

And it really helped out as well. Because they’re passionate online fans, they were tweeting about it; they were posting pictures on Instagram. So it really kind of started spreading the message.

And the final home game of the season, we had a bit of a big party, where we got them all T-shirts with #TrueBlue on the front and the sponsors’ logos on the back. And all the players, again, kind of turned up and had a great evening. So as a fan, they were thrilled. It was a really kind of nice experience for them.

Francis: Well, you obviously hit the right mark with them, because it was organic, and it took off of its own accord, which is fantastic. I’m just interested in the diagnostics. How did you actually collect the information to make sure that you’re finding the people that are your target market for this?

Sean: Well, effectively, that’s what the system is. I mean, so we developed it at Sports Geek, we initially ran it with the Minnesota Timberwolves. We’ve run it with some of the AFL teams here. So effectively, because the fans are logging in and using their social networks, they’re using both Facebook and Twitter, James has the data from behind the scenes to see which fans have liked the Facebook posts, have shown the most engagement on the Facebook page, and who have tweeted the most and used the hashtags the most.

So he’s not just picking a random fan who has just recently retweeted and just set up an account. He can see that certain fans have been very active and very social. And again, because they’re checking in at the stadium, so they might be checking in at Eden Park and those kind of things, you’re starting to get that profile of the fan that is doing what they want them to do.

Francis: James, has it also changed your perception of what your fans are, or who they are?

James: Yeah, it has, actually, yeah. There’s a lot more of a diverse fan base than we first thought. You know, rugby, our main target market is kind of the 24 to 34-year-old male. But there were heaps of females that were getting involved as well, and it was across, like, a whole sort of spectrum. So it was pretty interesting, yeah.

Sean: And the good thing is that you’ve now got that core, and doing things like running a fan of the week, and rewarding those fans, and saying thanks a lot. They were profiled on the site. The system effectively trained those fans who were just dipping their toe in the water, didn’t quite know what they had to do. They followed the steps, and then they saw some of these rewards, where they’d be turning up to events, or at least just having more people to chat to.

And the good thing was because all the rewards and all the engagement was just focused on the fan, the sponsor that was involved, which was a local real estate sponsor, got a lot of love because the fans knew that the system was in place because of them. So they were always tweeting to Badford & Thompson, the local real estate agent, that, thanks a lot, we love how much you’re doing. And they were getting lots of recognition, which is exactly what they wanted. They didn’t want to be selling a message. They wanted to be showing that they were supporting the team.

Francis: Amazing story, James. Sounds like a really successful program. Good luck with next year’s campaign, and thanks for being on the show this morning.

James: Thanks. Really appreciate it. Have a good day, guys.

Francis: James Rigby, Digital Media Manager at the Blues, the Auckland Blues, in super rugby, with their True Blue HQ project on digital media and the social space. Sean, where can we find you?

Sean: You can find me at or Sports Geek in iTunes.

Francis: And just quickly, tell us that Rocky story that you were telling me before.

Sean: Yeah. Well, things that you read in media. Someone has gone and mapped Rocky’s run from “Rocky II.” And if you check it out, he actually ran 50 kilometer around Philadelphia that day. So I find… and then he still went and beat Apollo Creed, so no wonder.

Francis: He was just tuning up.

Sean: Exactly. Exactly.

Francis: A 50-kilometer run. Met my run from the movies. I like that a lot. Sean Callanan from Sports Geek HQ with us here on Grandstand Breakfast.

Joel: Find all Sports Geek podcasts at

Sean: Thanks to James there for joining me on ABC Grandstand with Francis Leech. I’ve also included an infographic that James produced for the guys at Badford & Thompson. James did a really good job in activating and building brand awareness about Badford & Thompson using digital cheer squad. So you can actually check out that implementation at And the infographic will be in the show no. So it’ll be

Just some of the stats they had. Over 200 tweets of fans explicitly saying thanks to Badford & Thompson on Twitter. We just simply gave them the tweet button to prompt them to do it. Over 350 retweets of Badford & Thompson, and over 1300 tweets mentioning the True Blue HQ activation, and mentioning Badford & Thompson in the process. So very successful, and stacks of fan feedback, that they loved activation and look forward to doing it again next year.

And if you want any more information about Digital Cheer Squad, because it is one of our products that we developed, please check out, or contact me.

So my next guest is Jarrod Price from the Brisbane Lions. And I had a chat to him about managing the fans’ reaction when there’s a coaching change. So this is Jarrod Price from the Brisbane Lions on Sports Geek Podcast.

Sean: I’m very lucky and thankful to welcome a good friend of mine from the Brisbane Lions. He’s the Digital Media Manager for the Brisbane Lions, which is in the AFL. Jarrod Price, welcome to the Sports Geek Podcast.

Jarrod: Thanks for having me, Sean.

Sean: So first of all, just everyone is always asking me how teams are set up, and how people end up in the sports digital space. Can you give us a little bit of background on what your role is, how you got there at the Lions, and what your primarily looking to do with the Lions.

Jarrod: So my role is Digital Media Manager at the Lions. I’m responsible for social media, web properties, online video, and also our mobile apps. And that’s essentially my role.

I have a marketing background, so my previous roles have been in the marketing industry. Before joining the Lions, I was working for an IT company called Mobile IT, that specialized in web hosting, domain names, those sorts of IT services. So I guess while I had the marketing background, also got a bit of understanding of IT and digital media through working for that company.

And then I’ve always had a passion for AFL. My dad’s Victorian, so there’s always been a strong family presence there for AFL. So grown up watching, playing, and following it pretty closely. So I guess the option to combine a passion of mine with a career has been pretty lucky. And at the Lions, we’re, I guess, quite a small digital team.

Sean: So what’s the makeup of your team from a bodies on the ground kind of thing?

Jarrod: Yeah. So we are part of the communications department. And it’s interesting. If you look at a lot of the other AFL clubs, it varies in terms of where the digital team fits. Some are in the commercial, some are in communications. I think there’s even one club where they sit in the finance department.

Sean: Yeah. So it generated primarily out of the comms team?

Jarrod: Yeah. Yes, that’s right. And at the moment, there’s probably three of us in the digital team. There’s myself, we have a Lions TV producer that looks after all our filming and editing of our videos.

Sean: Yup.

Jarrod: And we also have a… I guess a website editor, if you like, that produces all our online articles, match reports, and is responsible for keeping that engine turning, if you like, with all our articles at our website, and also our mobile app.

Sean: Okay. I mean, that is a pretty common setup, of having the content producer, the journalist-style person, the beat writer. Video is one area that a lot of teams have been really feeling the crunch in the last 18 months to use, and starting to get dedicated resources. Because there’s so much… so many fans are crying out for more video content. Yeah, so it’s definitely been a growing space.

And I guess coming from Melbourne IT, there’s no concerns that the Lions will ever lose their domain, as you would know that space, coming from the Melbourne IT area.

Jarrod: No, I’ve still got some good connections there, so no danger of losing

Sean: Yeah. I don’t know if you did hear the story, that the Dallas Cowboys, for a little point in time, did forget to renew their name, and unfortunately, their website went down because someone did not pay the bill. So it’s always important to, when you do get that domain renewal notification notice, that it’s definitely one you have to pay, otherwise your site can go down in a quick… quite unexpectedly, if you’re not following up with it.

Jarrod: Yeah. Absolutely.

Sean: So what I want to do is follow up. You’ve had a couple of really big events in the last couple of months, from a coaching point of view. And I just want to get a bit of your feedback of, one, how you handled it, how the fans reacted, and sort of some of the things you’ve learned.

So for those that don’t know, the Brisbane Lions had a departing coach, and Michael Voss, one of your club’s legends, was not renewed for a coaching contract. That’s the best way, I assume, of putting it. He wasn’t sacked. He just wasn’t renewed. And he departed. I think it was three rounds to go in the AFL season.

Jarrod: That’s right.

Sean: There was a lot of fan feedback. Obviously, Vossy being a club legend and a fan favorite. What was it like from the digital team’s point of view, trying to manage that story?

Jarrod: Well, it obviously was a very interesting time. I think with anything with a football club, there’s always a lot of passion. You know, the fans really do love the club and want to see it succeed, and want the best for the club. And having, you know, someone like Michael Voss, who was a premiership captain, had been with the club for a very long time, there’s obviously a lot of people that are very passionate about him, and very passionate supporters of him.

So it was an interesting time. And I guess our role was just to stay across to what the fans were saying, and then also get out messages when we could. I guess one of the challenges that you have when you’ve got the official club accounts is that you need to put out information once it’s, I guess, been approved and verified 100%. I guess, you know, the flipside with the media is that they can start the conversation and put it out there, and then sort of retract the story as it goes along, whereas with the club, we need to probably be a little bit more tentative, I guess, and not… we can’t sort of put information out there until it is official.

And in some cases, we are a little bit behind the media. But yeah, I guess we like to think of it as we’re the source of truth, and that it’s an official club account and an official statement from the club.

So I guess our role during the whole process was just monitoring the social media. What fans are saying, what the comments were. Trying to get a gauge for the tone, if you like. So what was positive, what was negative. And then distribute any messages that we had once they are ready to go out.

Sean: I mean, the point you make there about the fact that the media, when they ever get a whiff of anything of a change, they’re going to automatically run with it. And it’s very hard sometimes, from a club environment… a lot of fans don’t realize some of those checks and balances that you were just going through there, that yeah, you’ve got to get… if the board has got to sign something off, or those kinds of things, you can’t just go and say, “Yes, this is happening.” Even if it is being reported as fact from a media point of view.

And it’s very… that’s where it takes a lot of savvy not to respond to all the fans, because you’ve got to have that company line that you can then put out the message. Is there potentially, looking back at that situation, is there a way that you could have done it potentially better, or streamlined the process from your point of view?

Jarrod: Look, I think hindsight’s a wonderful thing.

Sean: Yeah.

Jarrod: And it would be good if we responded a little bit earlier. But in all of the cases, you’ve just got to work with the cards that you get dealt. And I think at the time, I think we did a pretty good job. There were quite a few long days once the story broke. I know my boss is tired, probably didn’t go home for two or three days, just trying to manage and get in front of the story, and make sure that we’re controlling the message and putting out what’s actually happening and what the plan is.

So it was a challenging time, but I think we handled it reasonably well. And now we’ve got a new coach on board, so it’s great to sign him this week, and hopefully good things ahead.

Sean: Yeah. Well, that was one of the things. I think there was a lot of people listening to the Sports Geek podcast understand it, because they’re in sport, and they do know that the footy department, or the sports department, for a lot of the clubs effectively run some of the messaging, so you might not get that information as timely as you would like. And some of these things happen so quickly, you’ve got to be the agile… be able to handle these kind of things on the fly.

I did want to go to the Justin Leppitsch signing, and sort of how you handled that. You probably at least had some more timing to plan that kind of thing. Going up from one end of losing a club great and dealing with that fan feedback, and effectively being in that spot where you’re being the fan’s friend and trying to sooth those upset fans, to now going to a really positive announcement like the signing of Justin Leppitsch as the new coach. How’s the fan reaction and feedback to that announcement been?

Jarrod: Well, luckily it’s all been really positive. The Lions fans will obviously be very familiar with Justin Leppitsch, playing in a similar sort of era to Michael Voss, and a member of our Hall of Fame. So well-known to fans. Has coached at the club previously as an assistant coach for a few years, and then went to Melbourne to further develop his coaching skills. So it’s great to have him back on board.

And again, we were probably a touch slow. Like, it was being reported in the media before us. But again, we’re sort of hands tied, a little bit, in that we can’t go out there with an official tweet until contracts are signed and everything’s sort of ticked off. But once all that was finalized, we did get out there, we tried to take the fans behind the scenes, and we put some pictures up there from [inaudible 25:11] meetings with our football manager, already sort of looking at the list and getting to work straight away.

And then we just tried to make it… get as much information out as we can. So we put up some videos around the media conferences. We put up a rap to start with, and then the full extended version later in the day. It was done and Facebook covers and all like that. And then in the coming weeks, we were able to roll out a few other campaigns, like we were able to do an “Ask Leppa” campaign on social media.

Sean: Yeah.

Jarrod: Where fans could sort of tweet their questions in and get to know more about the coach and what his plans are for the club.

Sean: And that’s the thing. With the new cycle the way it is, the traditional media will jump all over it, and do the initial interviews in the announcement around Justin Leppitsch being signed, but your fans are always going to be clamoring for more. And I guess that’s the thing that you’re trying to leverage. The extended press conference, the extended video interview with Justin, all of that kind of thing. Because all your fans will be insatiable for getting new content from your club, and that’s where you can really take advantage.

Because they’re still going to want… traditional media will fall away. They’ll move to the next news cycle, to the next story, especially in a big week like Grand Final week. Whereas your fans, you’re serving your fans, and they definitely do want that content.

Jarrod: Yeah. Absolutely. And it’s probably helped us a little bit, in that the news has come in what would probably be a quieter time for us, not being involved in finals. So that sort of helped spike our traffic and spike interest about us during a quieter time, which is great.

Sean: Well, that leads me to another question, because you are now moving into the off season, and effectively you’ll be… I mean, again, I do laugh at chatting with people in sport and people outside of sport, and they think, oh, the season’s over, the Lions have gone, so you guys are all on holidays. It’s a common misconception outside the industry. But sometimes this is your busiest time. There’s things like rolling out memberships and those kind of things, and then the planning starts for next season.

So do you have a plan? Having someone like Justin is obviously good for you from an off-season point of view. But what do you look to do in the off-season to keep the fans engaged? Because again, the traditional media starts stepping away from the day-to-day reporting of football, and then we have the buzz of trade week and things like that that generate a lot of traffic. But what’s your plan for that off-season engagement with Lions fans?

Jarrod: Yeah, look, it is interesting. It does sort of seem to keep rolling for us. There’s never a dull moment. So I guess, yeah, for us, the next few weeks will be around coach. And that sort of leads almost straight into trade period. So we’ll be looking to try and build on our coverage of trade period from last year. We do a fan cast, where we’ve got a fan and also an AFL journalist that covers us, just chatting about the club and what’s happening, and interviewing players and staff. So we’ll do a trade period edition of fan cast.

Sean: Yeah.

Jarrod: Where they’ll discuss… they can discuss rumors and possible moves, and how that might work for the club. So having that, I guess, gives them a little bit more freedom to talk about those rumors, and what might happen, and how that might affect, because it’s sort of coming from a fan’s perspective. So we’ll keep that going.

And then sort of once we get through October, we sort of jump back straight into pre-season. And for us, our five year plus players are heading over to Arizona for an altitude camp.

Sean: Yup.

Jarrod: So we’ll be able to generate a lot of content around that, so we’ll be sending resources over to film and follow the guys. So for both BDOs and social media posts, but also web articles and photo galleries and the like there. So that’ll sort of get us through till Christmas, which is when it sort of gets a little bit quieter, through the Christmas period. And then we’ll come back fresh in January.

Sean: Oh, terrific. Terrific. Well, good luck for that period. Are you going to head over to Arizona? Have you started your pre-season training to be able to lug the equipment at high altitude?

Jarrod: I am going to head over to Arizona, and I have been told to do a little bit more training. And they said, yeah, it’s just… they said, “You’ll be fine. It’s just like running, but you’re breathing through a straw.”

Sean: Yeah, pretty much. I think you probably should talk to Luca from Carlton. Apparently he was taking shots of the players as they were going up the mountain, packing up his gear, running ahead, taking more shots of the players. They practically should have rookie listed him, he was doing such a good job getting up the mountain. So he set the bar pretty high for people in digital going over and working high altitude.

Jarrod: Well, yeah. We might be having a little bit of a dig at the players if we’ve got to carry gear and all sorts of stuff up the mountain. They’ve just got to take themselves up, and that’s it.

Sean: Exactly. Exactly. All right. Well, best of luck for the off-season, and thanks for joining me on Sports Geek Podcast.

Jarrod: Thanks for having me, Sean.

Joel: You’re listening to Sports Geek Podcast. Send us a tweet to @sportsgeek.

Sean: That’s it for another episode of Sports Geek Podcast. This is Episode 18. You get all the show notes and links from today’s show. Thanks to James Rigby from the Auckland Blues and Jarrod Price from the Brisbane Lions.

Just a reminder, if you are listening to this today, today is the AFL grand final, when I’m shipping this podcast out. You can follow #AFLGF. Next week, it’ll be the NRL grand final, #NRLGF. So if you want to keep an eye on the sports-mad Australians, you’ll definitely see that trending on Twitter over the next two weeks.

Another reminder: you can check out… I’ve cleaned up the Sports Geek Podcast episode list. You can actually see all the terrific guests that I’ve had on over the 18 episodes. We’ve just ticked over the 10-hour mark, as far as content goes. If you haven’t gone back in the back catalogue, I suggest you do. Some great people that I’ve interviewed and been on the podcast, and I’m very thankful that they did.

Another one more thing is I’ve got a second podcast – I really caught the podcasting bug — and I’m doing it with a few mates of mine. It’s not directly on sports, but it is on business. A few mates of mine get around and talk about business topics that might be relevant to you guys, or girls, or anybody listening. It’s called You can find that on all your good podcast catches and on iTunes.

Also planning to do an Ask Sports Geek episode. So please send in your questions. You can send them in by Twitter. You can use the speak pipe module and send in an audio one. Or you can use the old-fashioned way of sending me an email, I’d love to have a few questions and dig in and do an episode pretty much answering your questions.

That’s it for today. The noise you can hear and the sounds of the game happening right now is actually from 2011 when I was at a New York Yankees game on one of my Sports Geek trips, and this is Yankees fans trying to rally the Yankees to make a comeback, and they did, in the bottom of the 13th.

That’s it for me. My name is Sean Callanan from SportsGeek, #SportsBiz, #DigiSport, #Out.

Joel: Please leave a review on iTunes. Go to Find all Sports Geek podcasts at Thanks for listening to the Sports Geek podcast.

Value of old-school social networking


This week on ABC Grandstand, Sports Geek was in the studio to discuss Tweetups and the teams taking part in the new craze.

Download mp3

What is a Tweetup?

To put it simply, a tweetup is a meet up of Twitter friends and/or fans of a team. It’s a great way for teams to drive online fans into offline events. It’s a great way for fans to connect in person, not just online.

In the world of sport, more and more teams are looking to drive online fans offline using events like Tweetups.

Team implementation

The Melbourne Storm had a tweet-up earlier this month, hosting fans in the Storm Social Suite with a special guest Batman for the Dark Knight themed game.
The Western Bulldogs also hosted a tweet up before their game against Hawthorn, with Ed Wyatt on a panel discussing opportunities in sports and digital, while the NRL’s Canterbury Bulldogs invited socially savvy members into the “Dog Box”.
In the US, the Cleveland Indians have run the Indian Social Suite, that has been very successful the last few seasons, along with the Sacramento Kings using Klout scores to bring in influencers and run events.

Why do they work?

The main reason many teams are now having social media nights is to drive ticket sales and build fan engagement.  Helping fans meet in real life (IRL) connects the fans and helps to continue the conversation after the game ends and official club tweets stop.
Listen to the podcast to find out how Sean used Twitter & Linkedin to meet Brad Mayne CEO of American Airlines Center  home of the Dallas Mavericks, which led to the photo (right)

Until next week

Catch it live on Saturday mornings (at 7:40am) when Sean Callanan discuss sports digital with Francis Leach on ABC Grandstand. Tune into ABC Grandstand Breakfast Friday through Monday on ABC Grandstand digital radio.

Want to get these clips in podcast form? Subscribe here or Add to iTunes.

Special mention – The Aussie hurdler turned internet sensation

Not many have heard of Australian hurdler Michelle Jenneke, but she’s turned into an overnight sensation. Not hard to see why, unfortunately she isn’t competing in London.

Podcast transcription

FRANCIS: Sean Callanan is our man when it comes to all things digital media and sports. How are you Sean?

SEAN: I’m good thanks Frank.

FRANCIS: Tweet ups and meet ups. You talk to people online, you might have common interests with them, but it’s another step to actually go and meet them.

SEAN: Yes it’s funny everyone calls it social networking and – and really meeting people in real life and having a chat to them is the old school social networking.

FRANCIS: Face time.

SEAN: Exactly.

FRANCIS: Real face time.

SEAN: Real face time, not – not using it over a computer. So more and more teams are doing things like meet ups and tweet ups, and I think it’s really important to get those fans to connect, because you know we’ve all tweeted with people or had conversations and then you think oh it would be good to you know meet them in real life and talk about other things. And it really solidifies that connection, you know, so for a sports team it’s really great and we ran one last – last week at the Melbourne Storm, they had a Dark Knight Rises themed – themed game, I actually got to meet Batman, which was a bit of the thrill, I did get told off by my girlfriend for sharing a picture of me and Batman on Facebook, but hey you’re never too old to have a photo with Batman. But what we did – what we were able to do is to talk to all the – the Storm fans in this case and tell them what the digital guys wanted, and why we were doing certain hash tags and why we were doing certain things on Twitter and why we were doing things on Facebook and what’s good is now all these you know Storm fans there was about 20 of them that were in the Storm Social Suite, all know what the team wants from them, but now they’re also connected in that they’re tweeting and still continuing the conversation, you know after the guys at the Storm are doing the tweeting, they’re still talking, they’re still using all the official hash tags, they’re talking to the players in a certain way. So it really helps extend the reach of the team.

FRANCIS: Is there a specific demographic that turns up? I mean you get a sense of who actually is hooked into social media by having an event like that?

SEAN: A little bit, because a lot – there was actually a few there that weren’t terribly vocal because not everyone on social is – is – is a you know going to be tweeting every single action or — – -

FRANCIS: No there’s a lot of people that just like to read what’s going on.

SEAN: – – – yeah exactly. So they’re using it to consume and to a certain degree you know they started talking to other people and it sort of maybe draws them out a little bit as well, so they might you know now that they know 5 or 6 other people, you know they’ve got a face to the cartoon avatar or whatever they’re display picture might be, now they can have a bit of backwards and forwards, so it might draw them out to be you know converse a little bit more. But it is a really diverse thing. Like we had some people that were you know love their Twitter and do that all the time, but they’re not on Facebook at all, it’s just not their cup of tea. They had others that were trying different platforms. So yeah there is not sort of set demographic, I mean obviously they’re people with you know most of them all had a smartphone of some kind, and you know they use social to connect with their – to connect with their teams.

FRANCIS: Other clubs doing it as well in the AFL?

SEAN: Yeah so the AFL, Essendon ran one a couple of years ago where they had a guest panel talking about it. The Western Bulldogs ran one last week with Ed Wire was actually on the panel and they were talking about sports and social and sort of getting people in – getting people involved, from a pro team in the States point of view, the Cleveland Indians have run the Social Suite, similar to what the Storm did and they’ve done it for a while, they’ve actually had a sort of bloggers area where they’ve tried to activate their digital fans. And also the Sacramento Kings used a product called Clout, which measures your influence. So they – they brought in influential people from the Sacramento area, obviously if you put them you know give – put them in a nice suite and treat them to a good time, they’re going to talk about the Sacramento Kings in a positive light and generate a bit more reach. So there’s a few different ways of doing it, a lot of the – a lot of the teams now doing specific social media nights where they will sell a ticket and have an event either prior or after the game, maybe a meet and greet with the players and that kind of thing. But yeah the – if you’re out there and you’re tweeting and you’re just – just pretty much refining it to your couch I say get out there and – and meet people.

FRANCIS: Well we do it professionally too. I mean we have a dinner every couple of months for people in the digital sports media as well and it’s a great way of people who have probably connected via the social media platforms who share a similar professional interest to get together and talk about what they do and better ways to do it as well. So in terms of you know professional development it’s been really powerful tool.

SEAN: Yeah and I mean my best I guess taking online/offline is when I did a trip a couple of years ago I was tweeting away at Dodgers Stadium and someone, Jill, replied back you should come to a game sometime. I said I’d love too, and then my next port of call was Dallas and I was going to a game to watch the Dallas Mavericks and LA Lakers and Jill said I’m in Dallas too we should meet at half time, and I said that’s cool and I hadn’t met we just connected via Twitter. At the same point I trying to connect with Mark Cuban who owns the Mavericks and I’d connected with the CEO of – of the arena saying hey I’m checking out your venue I’d love a tour. Half way through the second quarter Brad Mayne the CEO of the American Airlines Centre comes down, because I tweeted where I was sitting, he goes Sean come up to the suite. And so at half time I was in the dilemma do I go see Brad and go into the suite or do I meet my new Twitter friend Jill.

FRANCIS: What did you do?

SEAN: Well what – what do you think I did?

FRANCIS: You went and got two tickets and took Jill.

SEAN: No I – no I went up – I went up – actually I didn’t think of that scenario, but I went up to the suite and Brad was introducing me to people in the suite that work in the different facilities around – around America, he was very kind he said we’ve got some Fosters on ice for you Sean.

FRANCIS: Thanks for that Brad.

SEAN: I said thanks Brad I’ll be very polite I’ll drink them all but Australians don’t drink Fosters. But while he was doing the introductions he’s going oh and this is Jill. Jill who tweeted me 3 days earlier when I was at Dodgers Stadium was in the suite with Brad and what I didn’t know was that Jill ran effectively what’s – – -

FRANCIS: Sounds like a conspiracy.

SEAN: – – – it does sound like a conspiracy, she ran the Venue Managers Association effectively in America – – -

FRANCIS: You walked into the honey trap.

SEAN: – – – it was. So it was quite funny and she was in the suite.

FRANCIS: Did you say you stood me up.

SEAN: Yeah she did. She said you stood me up but she was the one that was encouraging Brad to go hey get this guy up here, I’ve been tweeting with him he’s checking out all the stadiums. So it sort of shows you a way that you can take those online connections and they might be completely random. Like I didn’t talk to Jill or you know she talked to me first and I didn’t talk to her because she said I work in sports or anything, she you know didn’t say anything in her bio that led me to that and you know that random connection, you know helped me watch the Lakers/Mavs in the Super Box and I saw Dirk Nowitzki score his 20,000th NBA point. So just shows you — –

FRANCIS: Magic day.

SEAN: – – -how you can get those connections happening.

FRANCIS: You never know who’s out there. Before we let you go speaking of random connections, I reckon there’s a young Australian sprinter who’s going to have a few of those in the next little while. A video that’s going to go viral or already has.

SEAN: It already has gone viral. I actually got told about this from a guy in Boston who was saying I’ve got that video of that Aussie hurdler, and I just assumed like every Australian would, that there’s some video of Sally Pearson and he goes no, Michelle Jenneke, so if you Google Michelle Jenneke.

FRANCIS: How do we spell her name properly?


FRANCIS: Now this is a video that was shot I think recently in Barcelona at the World Junior Champs.

SEAN: Yes. Yeah and so she’s got a bit of a dance, pre-match – pre-race routine.

FRANCIS: It is pretty special, I have seen it.

SEAN: And you know she just fires up and she’s happy go lucky and loose and ready to go and someone’s put some cheesy music over the top of it and yeah you can see why it’s gone – it’s gone viral and you know unfortunately she won’t beat the Olympics, but if the you know the video’s anything she’ll have a lot fans when she next has an international meet.

FRANCIS: She sure will. Sean how can we find you in the Twitter universe?

SEAN: Well you can tweet me @seancallanan or

Fantasy sports – The first wave of social media?

Recently my inbox was bombarded with emails concerning NBA fantasy trades in my local NBA fantasy competition.  It got me thinking that if social media is defined as connected discussion then the boom of fantasy sports online could be seen as a pioneer in social media.

Like social media, fantasy sports connects people bringing them together over a common interest.  It stimulates off-line meetups like we see on Twitter with tweetups.  Our NBA fantasy competition regularly holds our draft night each year in company board rooms or stadium corporate suites.  Do you meet with your fantasy sports friends IRL (in real life) if so let us know how?

We keep hearing the statistics on how much time people are spending on social media websites like Facebook, Twitter & YouTube.  Fantasy sports is a huge driver of web site traffic as the guys at SuperFooty can attest with SuperCoach.  Not only is there a huge spike in traffic when the teams are announced each Thursday, fans flock to the site for the final match of the round on Sunday to check the progress of their weekly matchup.

On that note there are still spots available in the SuperCoach Twitter League Code 404204 please join in the fun.

What do you think?
Can fantasy sports be regarded as social media?

Why do you play fantasy sports?

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Contact Sports Geek
about the Sports Geek Social Media Workshop.

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