Turning Casual Sports Fans Into Brand Advocates

Please Retweet!

Despite their popularity, today's sports teams still need help amplifying their messages.

Can I get a RT?

If you’re on Twitter enough, you’ve seen this slightly annoying request for help spreading the word about a cause, event or other news deemed important by the original sender. It’s annoying because if the original tweet, cause or event was worthy enough, a RT request shouldn’t be necessary.

It’s an example of the struggle we all have to be heard over an ever-growing din of social media noise. As a digital marketer and communicator, I constantly grapple with this, as do most marketers, no matter how sexy, or unsexy, the brand.

Sports marketers have the upper hand, I would argue, because they generally offer a high-demand product that creates a passionate following – both offline and online. (Note team Twitter follower counts and the Trending Topics on any given NFL Sunday.) But they still have to work for your time and money in a down economy, which means adopting aggressive social media tactics like the rest of us.

I’ve already featured Baylor University’s efforts  to reward brand advocates. The Baltimore Ravens partnered with SocialToaster to create a similar program for the 2011-12 season, called RavensReps. It combines a brand advocate program with gamification techniques, allowing fans “to pick which content types to share and earn points for participating in the program.” Fans earn points by signing up for RavensReps and promoting a variety of Ravens content on their personal social networks. The payback? They move up a fan leader board, and earn prizes like memorabilia and other team merchandise.

The best way to reach today’s fans is through their friends, who are likely also fans.

Brand advocates aren’t anything new, but they do provide value to brandsEven before Twitter and Facebook, marketers tried to connect with the most passionate consumers. Harnessing their collective voice was a challenge then, but it becomes somewhat simpler now.

How? First, social media makes it easier to monitor, collect and share conversations of the most engaged users. Second, consumers actually want to connect with the things they like. Forty-two percent of adults online seek a “social application from their favorite brands,” according to Forrester Research.

Using a social application to create and spread positive brand messages makes sense, even for highly engaging sports teams. Another Forrester study put it this way. “Social media has proven an invaluable tool for organizing offline influence events, as well as for amplifying the impact of those events.”

Providing fans with quality content and rewarding them for sharing it are two big pieces of the social media puzzle.

“The best way to grow share of voice is to delight your customers,” says Jay Baer, a social media blogger and content strategist, in an article about share of voice. “Delighted customers create satisfaction-driven content, which reaches other customers and prospective customers of your brand, essentially doing your marketing for you.”

The Ravens – and other sports organizations – realize your time (and money) is finite. The best way to reach you may not always be through traditional methods like advertising, or even team Twitter and Facebook posts. The best way to reach today’s fans is through their friends, who are likely also fans. The result creates a blooming conversation around a fan’s favorite team and ultimately influences their decisions, including purchasing tickets or merchandise.

Brand advocate programs, gamification and increasing share of voice are all traditional marketing methods that more of today’s sports teams – professional and collegiate –  are adopting. The good news is, fans are being rewarded for doing what they like to do – being passionate about their teams. The smart sports marketers will use social media and technology to monitor, capture and share that passion.

Now, can I get a RT of this post?

Thanks for being a fan.