What the Super Bowl and marketers can learn from socially savvy sports fans

While sports fans eagerly await who will win the 2012 Super Bowl and look forward to diving into chips and a Frito Pie or two, marketers are eager to see who the winners (and losers) are on the social media front. Clearly big brands want to make sure their (estimated) $3.5 million investment for a 30-second spot pays off, but how do they go beyond the 100 million audience to cultivate new and engaged fans via social media after February 5th?

Here are a few suggestions on what marketers can learn from the success of sports engagement on social media.

Your fans have shifted to social…Refresh your playbook

Social media is changing how fans cheer on their teams. At the time of the 2006 World Cup, Facebook was still limited only to college and high school students. But then everything changed in 2010. At the South Africa World Cup, where viewing parties, mobile app badges, continual tweets from players, and live streams on social networks inspired a growing community of fans to share with socially-inspired sports fans around the world.

Games were watched worldwide in record numbers (19.4 million people watched the US vs. Ghana game). Twitter reported that the Women’s World Cup soccer final scored a new record with 7,196 “tweets per second,” the most tweeted moment in Twitter history. And number 2? Brazil’s elimination from Copa America! Social vuvuzelas were heard all over the world (and not only on those incredibly annoying vuvuzela mobile apps).

How are you going to adapt your media buying and social strategies to better engage your brand’s audience?

Facebook gives you the home field advantage

We know you remember the stat that if Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populated in the world. (That was initially shared when Facebook hit 500 million users. Now the site has more than 800 million users — as many users as the entire Internet in 2004!) Facebook has fostered a community of like-minded friends and fans. So, cultivate, engage and keep your fans (and their friends) where they already are. Don’t redirect them to your Web site.

There’s vastly greater value in having your fans share your message with their friends on Facebook, versus engaging them alone on your site. What’s your game plan for engaging with fans on Facebook and building new audiences on this important “hub” throughout the coming year?

Marketing needs to closely manage their “Xs and Os”

For the first time ever NBC and the NFL have agreed to live stream the Super Bowl online and on mobile phones. Marketers have a vast list of social and mobile tools or “plays” they can run, and they are tasked daily with the challenge of creating, managing, and maintaining these campaigns both offline and online. As a result, marketers have to think more broadly, and use social to connect online and offline more strategically.

For example, mobile campaigns are a perfect way to bridge online and offline — contextually relevant campaigns bring people in the real world to an online social world. And, using simple QR codes on billboards, product labels, and print ads connect people to communities on Facebook. I’m personally a fan of using a TV ad “jingle” recognition with apps like Shazam, Little Debbie’s Airstream, and the Volkswagen Peepster. Are you fully taking advantage of the uniqueness of social, mobile, etc. And, what steps will you be taking steps to better integrate your offline and online experiences?

Capturing Fans Before, During and After the Action

According to a 2011 study by Nielsen, roughly 40% of tablet and smartphone users in the US use their devices daily while watching TV. Technology offers brands a great opportunity to give fans something interesting to do before, during, and after the action. International soccer teams have totally figured this out.

FC Barcelona — with over 25 million fans on Facebook — runs quizzes that allow fans to predict when goals are scored and by whom, with prizes for winners. Manchester United, which has over 20 million fans, has a whole section of their Facebook page devoted to polls — each one regularly getting 20,000 – 40,000 votes each — creating a well of wall content that can be tapped. Real Madrid — with over 23 million fans — gets up to 100,000 comments on every post on their wall.

Major League Baseball is figuring it out too. They ran their “Home Run Derby” in 2011, with athletes tweeting from the field, generating 4,995 tweets per second#. And despite the fact that Super Bowl XLV was the second-most mentioned topic in Facebook in 2011 (after the death of Osama Bin Laden), the official 2012 Super Bowl page has no Facebook connection and no official Facebook community. What a missed opportunity for fan engagement!

What can marketers learn from these highly engaged sports fans?

Social media lets people express an important part of themselves to their friends. It’s not just sports teams that reflect a fan’s personality. It’s also the car they drive, the clothes they wear, the movies they go to, the places they travel, the recipes they love, and the list goes on. We see that fans are perfectly willing to share their love of a brand just as passionately as they do their love of a sports team — if the brand encourages them in just the right way.

After building thousands of campaigns for hundreds of leading international consumer brands, we’ve learned that socially successful brands don’t want another “me too” sweepstakes or contest. They want something unique, interesting, personal and individualized to their brand, with the context appropriate to social, and that allows fans to share their message.

So, take a page out of the sports fan playbook. Go where your fans are having fun. Engage them in what makes them passionate. Build campaigns that involve what they’re doing socially — on the sofa or on the sidewalk — with their friends. And that reflects favorably on their personalities. Let fans use your brand to “show off” their knowledge, beauty, and wit. And always, always make sure the campaign is inherently viral.

When you get a fan to tell friends about you, you’ll always win. It’s the best route to a Facebook page full of MVPs.

Roger Katz is CEO of Friend2Friend, which has hundreds of leading International consumer brands in its roster, including some iconic European soccer teams.

[Super Bowl image via Shutterstock]


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