Sports Engagement. Say “Yes.”

I’m not talking about popping the question on the Jumbo-tron during a game (fellas take note: this is my nightmare), but a different kind of in-game engagement. I’m referring to the kind of engagement that you experience while you are watching a sporting event, whether you are at home or watching the game from the bleachers. Although, considering my blog title, and the proposal FAIL video I included, I can see how your brain might have gone there.

Back to the real topic at hand — when you have a product that is essentially similar to your other competitors, as is the case with sports, what other unique selling propositions or experiences can you offer your fans who are coming to the game? Often these fans are coming from long distances as well, so you really want to make it worth their trip – especially if your team loses that particular game (I’m looking at you, Dallas Cowboys. I’ll never forget the ONLY game I have been able to afford to go to that you lost.) In the sports industry, where most aspects of your product are variable, it is essential to find an area that you can control, and many teams look to customer engagement to get a handle on the product they are distributing.

Sticking with the hockey theme I have going in this post, the National Hockey League (NHL) engaged their at-home audience for 2011 NHL All Star Game utilizing Twitter. Like many events, it started with a hash tag (#NHLAllStar) that was advertised at the game and on the televised event, then NHL executives began posting questions pertaining to the sport. Fans could tweet their answers at NHL, and a winner was randomly selected from the correct responses. The All Star Game itself was not promoted on Twitter, but the trivia game that emanated from the on-ice events gave the league more free exposure to Twitter users, as well as enhanced the at-home watching experience for hockey fans. Naturally, I am sure it kept viewers’ televisions on the game, rather than flipping back and forth between other shows. I would imagine that is a pretty big goal of the NHL, given that their games are low-scoring, and could be considered by some as “boring.” (I won’t say that here, at the risk of being ousted from a Dallas Stars/Anaheim Ducks loving family) NHL also used this Twitter tactic during the Winter Classic, a hockey game played on a rink created by freezing over a football field, to create buzz surrounding the event, and the hash tag #WinterClassic became a trending topic on New Year’s Day in 2009 and again in 2010. 

How can the NHL take the successes they have had reaching out to fans in general using Twitter, and leverage them to reach out to women? How can they get Melissa to like hockey so much that she is overcome by the grand gesture of her boyfriend’s proposal that she can only say yes to a lifetime of New York Rangers games together? According to a recent report by Bain & Company, people who engage with brands via social media demonstrate a deeper emotional commitment to those brands. They also spend anywhere from 20 to 40 percent more money on products or services associated with that brand. Maybe a hash tag trending topic that encouraged women to say what they like about the sport, or even a contest to submit a photo from your watch party. Sports teams can even leverage this media to arrange a meet up for their fans. 

Fun fact! This past summer, I operated the video scoreboard for a minor league team in Fort Worth. During the game, a man wanted to propose to his girlfriend whose grandfather played for the team. He contacted me to make the images that went up during that time, but I was so embarrassed by the whole situation and nervous that I would screw it up, I had to make our media guy cue up the slides during the proposal. Although I am sure it was special to her, I would have been so embarrassed, and so I couldn’t watch it happen. It was like watching a nerd ask the head cheerleader to prom, and she says yes because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings in front of all his friends. No, I’m sure it wasn’t like that in real life at all, and coincidentally, her name was Melissa too.

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