I want to be a (paid) Mad Man

The Future of Social Media in Sport

Posted in Blogs by jartkin on November 3, 2009

jamie profileHi, My name is Jamie Artkin and I want to be a (paid) Mad Man.

We are seeing an increasing amount of money being poured into social media with respect to professional sport leagues. With the cost of a ticket being what it is, the interaction that an organization has with a fan has changed in the last 5-10 years. Teams shifted from trying to get people into the building to multiple revenue stream systems: luxury boxes, restaurants, private suites.

The average fan has been priced out, but the teams still want them to be loyal, i.e. they still want their money, just without their presence in the building. No one will come out and say it directly, but its what they all are thinking.

At this point, the economics of sport are probably not going to change a whole lot, so the strategy has to be to maximize the experience that a fan can have from the comfort of his own home rooting for his favorite team.

1a. Teams need to expand the fan experience online.

Yes, networks and teams alike are experimenting to a certain degree to find the perfect medium of interaction with fans before, during and after games online. Owners like Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks however are pushing the envelopeĀ  to give Mavs fans more access and information than any other team in the league. He established the Mavericks social media site: friends.mavs.com, interacts with fans via twitter, @mcuban and also runs a successful blog: Blog Maverick.

What is the purpose of all this? I mean, he is a billionaire and the owner of a professional basketball team. Why is he putting himself within such easy reach of Dallas Mavericks fans? From the beginning of his ownership he has always wanted to maintain his sense of being a fan. He has wanted to provide an experience to his fans that he would find enjoyable and engaging.

Teams are going to see the success of the Mavericks social media effort and should follow suit.

1b. Networks need to expand the fan experience online.

It drives me crazy to see networks and sponsors go half way when trying to promote their brand or product. NBC and TNT have done a good job of transitioning its viewers from television to the internet by offering multiple camera angles and live chats, but there is so much more that can be done.

During the World Series, Fox has the ‘Direct TV Mobile Cam’ which follows a player who has just hit a home run as he rounds third base and heads home. Now I realize that Fox cannot stay with that camera for very long after a player has just crossed home because the next batter is at the plate, but why not take the rest of that action online? Offer instant analysis from a ‘hitting guru’, or during the playoffs have a great home run hitter like Albert Pujols for instance, give his insight about the pitch, the swing and the homerun.

How about one step further, after the analysis from Pujols cut right to the dugout and get the thoughts from the player himself. This is already done between innnings with managers, why not talk to the player after he has taken a seat in the dugout?

Its little things like this, simple really, that will take a fan experience to a whole new level. And lets not limit this to just Major League Baseball. How about talking to a hockey player on the bench right after he has scored a goal, or a quarterback after he throws a touchdown? Yes, these guys are in the middle of the game, but lets be honest, those first few minutes when catching your breath, these guys are talking to their teammates about what just happened on the field.

2. Consumers as content generators.

A phrase that has been used over and over by the likes of Mark Cuban and Washington Capitals owner, Ted Leonsis, the concept is tied to the average consumer creating content and being a champion of your brand. The problem as I see it is this: Owners realize that the economics of sport has caused the average fan to be priced out of the building, but in the same breath, economics is all about incentives. These average fans that the owners are relying on to be content generaters suddenly have no incentive to do so.

I like to call this ‘The Economics of Being a Fan’.

For example, the next generation of sports writers, the young men and women who are say 16-25, for the sake of this argument are interested in Hockey, Basketball, Football and Soccer. Because human nature is predisposed to taking the path of least resistance, is a writer who will have great access to attend games and get additional content going to feed off of that and become the next great Soccer writer, or are they going to be content sitting on their couch and writing about the Toronto Maple Leafs with no idea or image in their head of what it is like ot be in the building?

So yes, it is a great idea to to want to have your consumers as content generators, but if they cannot afford to see your product, where is the incentive for them to engage in your social media efforts?

How far sport has come in the last even five years is astounding. HD picture, multiple camera views, in game sounds, coaches being interviewed during breaks in a game. The industry has come so far, but there is still so much they can still do.

Owners like Mark Cuban and Ted Leonsis continue to push the envelope to make the fan experience that much better, that much sooner. All the while trying to balance the economics of owning a team with the economics of being a fan.

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter, @jamieartkin