Sports organizations ranging from the smallest community kids’ league to the biggest professional franchises all have something in common: without people engaging with their offering (whether to participate, drive kids to practice, watch, buy tickets, or cheer from the stands), they can’t continue operating. Thus, every sports organization on earth has to maintain some mechanism for marketing their “product.”
For some organizations, this might be informal or happen relatively organically. However, most sports organizations need to be intentional about marketing. This is where social media comes in.
Social media is one of the most predominant marketing channels used today across every conceivable industry. Its marketing reach is unmatched, and it has made a number of marketing strategies possible that were never an option before with more traditional media or marketing offerings. Because of this, it’s important for every sports organization to think through how social media can benefit its marketing processes or, if social media is already being used within its marketing strategy, how those efforts can be improved to drive better results.
Here are a few of the ways social media can benefit sports organizations and tips for how best to ramp up social media marketing campaigns.
Social Media Can Facilitate Personal Connections with Fanbase
Social media gives organizations an unprecedented ability to connect with a wide audience in ways that still feel personal. From being able to publicize fan shout-outs or celebrate follower birthdays to engaging with comments or questions in real time, social media has enabled organizations to make personal, individual connections with fans or members in a way never before possible.
This can change the nature of communications and organization-fan relationships from one-to-many to (at least the experience of) one-to-one. Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, and more can be highly segmented and personalized to communicate to specific sub-audiences or audience members within a fanbase. They can also facilitate engagements like comments, references, direct messages, and livestream communications between entities and their followers.
Organizations across industries have seen social media facilitate better customer service, stronger brand loyalty, huge increases in brand interaction, and even creative or crowdsourced solutions to product problems or other organizational conundrums through the use of active social media presences. Though it can sometimes take some trial and error to discover the best strategies for your particular audience, finding the sweet spot has the potential to create massive increases in reach, participation, revenue, and more.
Not Just Organizations: Athletes, Coaches, and Other Stakeholders Can Contribute to a Brand
Another aspect of social media that can harbor huge potential is the fact that it can diversify an organization’s voice to include the voices of its athletes, coaches, leadership, and other stakeholders via their own social media presences. It is becoming increasingly common for individual athletes or players to develop highly mobilized, passionate fan bases through their own social media channels.
This can benefit sports organizations in two ways. First, it can spread the work of maintaining an active and engaging social media presence amongst multiple individuals rather than relying on one person in the back office to do it all. Second, multiple faces and voices speaking about the same sports organization can often reach a wider audience and make inroads into a more diverse set of communities and markets than a single brand voice (even with an equivalent effort and time resources) might ever reach.
This diversification isn’t always an easy shift to manage. For every positive example of an athlete or individual within a sports organization using his or her social media channels to create positive press or awareness for that organization, there could potentially be found a converse example of negative social media coverage of an athlete or their incriminating activities doing damage to that brands or athlete’s reputation.
However, by providing a little bit of structure, expectations, and guidance regarding how to best present themselves or communicate with audiences interested in the organization at large, any sports organization can help its athletes, staff, and other stakeholders effectively communicate with their own audiences in ways that help the organization’s brand thrive.
Social Media Platforms Can Enable Viral Sharing of Promotional Content
A third way social media can provide nearly unprecedented power to any sports organization is its capacity to propel promotional content well beyond existing reach. “Going viral” has become a bit of a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow in the marketing industry over the past decade and is very difficult to predict. However, that possibility does exist that a piece of creative, timely, well-liked content catches a bit of momentum and, in some cases, explodes into instant notoriety.
Though it’s nice that the potential to send a piece of content viral is still available, what is more likely and attainable is of more practical value to sports organizations — organic growth via sharing. Pieces of content posted on social media have the potential to be shared by others, which exposes new individuals to your brand that are currently outside of your own organization’s reach.
The more creative, share-worthy, or relevant your content feels to your audience, the more likely they are to share that content with their own friends and networks. This organic growth potential is one of social media’s strongest and most valuable facets. There are a number of strategies available to sports organizations for optimizing for this process and for maximizing its potential, and these shift relatively rapidly with current social media trends and uses. Testing a number of different types of content on your social media accounts and paying attention to which ones garner the most shares and interaction is a great way to start learning what resonates with your particular audience.
Examples of How Social Media is Used in the Sport Industry
Sports organizations utilize social media in vastly different ways depending on the type of organization, its audience, and its desired outcomes. However, there are a few widespread elements of best practice that can help just about any sports organization. If you’re getting started or looking for new ideas, here are a few to start with:
Spreading Information and “Hype” Surrounding Season Sign-ups or Membership
If your sports organization is participatory (examples: a local community league or youth sports academy) and needs to drive sign-ups or memberships at certain times of the year (before the season start), social media can be an effective tool for alerting people to when it’s time to register or join for the next season.
Building Brand Loyalty
For professional organizations or franchises, one way of utilizing social media is to show the inner workings or behind-the-scenes of the brand or team to help people create more meaningful connections to that brand. Show videos of athletes during their off-time or at practice. Share footage or news clips about ways the franchise is making a difference in its community. Interview fans at games and share their experiences with the world.
Promoting Fitness or Health Awareness
Many sport organizations (examples: fitness centers, personal training agencies, or gyms) use social media to share valuable informational content about their specialty areas. This can be a way of generating value for followers and eventually encouraging them to take advantage of services or products down the line.
The Power of Socials: Remember That It Goes Both Ways
Social media can be a highly powerful and effective tool for a number of different endeavors. However, remember too that it can have significant effects in both positive and negative ways. If you plan to incorporate more social media activity in your sports organization, reading up on best practice and carefully planning how you will execute before launching a new campaign can be not only tremendously helpful but also help you mitigate the risks of any adverse social media activity or scenarios.
Applying the power of social media to your sports organization can very realistically change the game for your targets, participation, and overall success. Better yet, social media is free to use, infinitely scalable, and can allow for highly detailed and accurate testing to identify the strategies that work well for your organization. Start implementing social media tests today and you’ll see the benefits they can generate for your organization and for its membership or fanbase.
About the Author
Ryan Ayers is a researcher and consultant within multiple industries including information technology, blockchain and business development. Always up for a challenge, Ayers enjoys working with startups as well as Fortune 500 companies. When not at work, Ayers loves reading science fiction novels and watching the LA Clippers.