It seems odd to talk about fan engagement at the end of the sports season. The competition has boiled down to two teams, and, quite frankly, many fans have moved on because their teams are no longer in contention.
Still, Major League Baseball execs can bask in the glow of another Fall Classic knowing the past season was successful on several levels. Most importantly, attendance figures were up in 2011. Major League Baseball’s social media engagement were way up, thanks to some successful social media risk-taking and increased player participation on social networks.
The rising star in social media and sports is arguably Major League Baseball’s Fan Cave, a “first-of-its-kind immersive fan experience” housed in New York City and hosted by two super fans chosen from nearly 10,000 applicants. Talk about dream job!
The winners, Mike O’Hara and Ryan Wagner, were paid to watch all 2,430 MLB regular season games AND every postseason game. They shared the experience with the world on Facebook, Twitter and a blog on MLBFanCave.com.
It was an impressive run, generating more than 100 million social media impressions for Major League Baseball in just six months, according the ESPN.
“[The Fan Cave] accomplished exactly what we set out to accomplish, which was we wanted to become part of the online social conversation this summer,” MLB executive vice president Tim Brosnan told ESPN.
The Fan Cave experiment paid dividends in the traditionally tough and snarky digital realm, bucking a trend of low engagement and negative sentiment. ESPN reports 45 percent of tweets about Fan Cave were positive, compared to 15-20 percent for accounts representing the league and its teams. That just doesn’t happen in one season.
Social engagement is higher for Fan Cave, too, according to ESPN, a full 20-25 percent better than team and league pages. It’s a model other leagues and individual teams are sure to copy. Can you say New York Yankee Fan Cave?
While there’s no way to directly tie attendance to online efforts, Major League Baseball teams overtuned dwindling attendance figures in 2011. For the first time in three seasons, the leauge enjoyed growth in ticket sales.
In today’s economy – and the economy of the future – meeting the customers where they are has to include a social media strategy. For the most part, MLB Fan Cave did it right in 2011. Its success will likely lead to bigger and better things for sports and social media. And that’s a good thing.
Thanks for being a fan.