In today’s very social world, you cannot watch sports without interacting with some form of social media. Whether it’s tweets or Instagram pictures integrated into a broadcast, or engaging with others on your favorite app, social media and sports are a match made for each other and for the fans.
And that was the basic premise behind the Sports SocialTV Summit that I attended Wednesday at the Bel-Air Country Club.
Gathering some of the best and brightest, the most well-known and maybe even the hidden gems of sports-social media, the event was organized by the great people at Social TV Summit.
Disclaimer: Forgive my iPad photography/editing skills. Was concentrating more on tweeting information out than finding the right camera angle.
Our morning Keynote Speaker was FOX Sports’, Randy Freer. Focusing on the undercurrent that live is key to all, Freer shared the vision of where FOX was and continues to evolve with in terms of social media. Providing a stat, “87% of US consumers use a 2nd screen while watching television” means FOX as well as all other broadcast and social media companies cannot just be reactionary in their approaches.
As the saying goes, content is king. But, content just to have content is meaningless. TV/apps need to, as Freer put it, “cater to the audience” and “give them opportunity to engage with it how they want it”. Bingo!
Four panels were conducted during the summit. Leaders in sports marketing for teams, leagues, sports networks and social media companies provided insight, successes, challenges, goals and visions of what lies ahead. A few key thoughts from each:
1. Power of Live Sports: In sports/social media chats and conversations seen on Twitter, one of the biggest challenges facing sports businesses of all types today is infrastructure.
Social media has changed the sports landscape at lightning speed. Stadiums and arenas, however, have not kept up leaving the in-game experience lacking in this day and age. Any social media leverage (marketing) that teams/leagues can use with the new social media programs and apps being developed may be hindered. Consider it business opportunity, lost. Teams like the Dodgers, however, are beginning to make major investments to their stadiums to compensate for deficiencies.
Whether it’s the Dodgers or the NFL, many sports entities are seizing the opportunity to engage fans that aren’t at the games. Interaction via real-time highlights have been huge for many, including the Pac-12 Conference, who continues to grow and adapt quite well with the times. And judging by the number of awards Turner Sports won last night (sorry, I lost count after three), they have met and exceeded fan expectations.
*Other topic discussed: How to incorporate advertising in the sports/social media landscape. The future of measurement (which was discussed more in-depth in a later panel) will be vital, along with infrastructure for making social profitable.*
2. Sports Social TV Applications: If they aren’t already, sports apps are becoming a huge business. The #SocialTV panel represented a mix of applications working with industry partners, such as Shazam, as well as self-sustaining newer ones like TOK.tv.
Shazam worked with NBC on this past summer’s Olympic Games. By all accounts, a very successful Olympic Games. Much of the success can be attributed to their combined efforts with NBC utilizing social media. Key features to its success that were shared by Shazam’s VP of Media Partnerships, David Cohn, included polls, highlights, tweets, music and a surprise element, tagging.
Although Shazam did not have a broadcast partner in Europe, through their “tagging” of songs. As British music played a major role in the opening and closing ceremonies, Shazam saw huge spikes in engagement from Europe. Again, that’s without a broadcast partner.
TOK.tv: To be honest, TOK.tv is an app that I had not yet heard about. Let’s watch this video from 2012 telling us about it:
The very basic premise, upon watching CEO, Fabrizio Capobianco, looks promising. How many times have you called a buddy or friend and say “did you see that”? Yes, there is Twitter but how about keeping the conversation going beyond the 140 characters? And doing it vocally? That’s what TOK.tv does. Chat with your friends, look up stats while watching your favorite teams…all from the comfort of your home. Great idea.
*Other notable: Viggle CEO, Kevin Arrix, says the company has 2.6M registered users whose average activity measures out to be 9 days per month. Their “MyGuy” app has seen a rise in usage during the NBA Playoffs. “MyGuy” is a fantasy-sports based app that allows users to “be the coach”. During the NBA Playoffs, 42% of users checking in to the game used the “MyGuy” app.*
Our afternoon Keynote Speaker was schedule to be the NBA’s Senior Vice President of Marketing for the NBA, Melissa Brenner. But before she addressed the crowd, we were treated to a quick Q&A session with the Los Angeles Lakers. No, not the entire team, unfortunately, but a representative from the business side and a representative from the “court” side.
Head of New Media & Technology, Nick Kioski, was joined by Lakers’ guard, Steve Blake and his wife, Kristin. Tidbits from Mr. Kioski that I tweeted out yesterday:
–“Social media is a vital part of where we’re looking to go in marketing.”
–Social Media “allows us to reach out to fans & engage with them…speak to them how they want to be spoken to.”
–“It’s a challenge to meet the demands of fans around the world.” Quality content is also important.
He’s right. Yes, content is king but for leagues, teams and even brands, quality content trumps all.
It was funny to hear the story of Steve & Kristin Blake. Steve is not the one who started out on social media. His wife, Kristin, is the one who spurred him on. As the Twitter account was created, Kristin was originally sharing news and information on Steve. But she really wanted him to “grow his own voice” and be in control of the information out there. Whether we fans like it or not, every professional and college athlete is a brand. Pros, obviously, can capitalize on their fame but both have the “name” recognition to be a social media draw for fans. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, et al, have allowed athletes like Steve, greater control over their “name” in social media. What the Blakes have chosen to do is use Twitter and Instagram for interaction/sharing personal information whereas Steve’s Facebook page is the go-to page for important information like his basketball camp. Although Steve prefers Twitter, it’s not something he obsesses over. Now that he’s in the off-season, family takes priority over, yes, gasp, social media.
Now, back to Melissa.
The NBA has been popular on social media for quite some time. But popularity didn’t always mean engagement. Popular in terms of followers means nothing if you’re not engaging with them. And the NBA has evolved into one of the most interactive and engaging sports leagues around.
Before I get to a few points from Melissa, let me share with you my observations of the league. Over the past year I’ve had access to two social media analytics tools, Bluefin Labs and Topsy. Although the NFL is #1, the NBA is not too far behind in terms of getting people talking about them on Twitter and Facebook. The social comment numbers, particularly after the NFL was over and we geared toward the playoffs this spring, have skyrocketed. Just a glance at the trending topics on any given playoff night and chances are there will be a few NBA related terms listed.
The NBA’s “social” population, according to Brenner is 400 million fans. That spans all of their social outlets as well as 2 Chinese-based outlets. As I said, they have evolved with the times. With players in various sports getting in trouble for their social media activities over the last few years, the NBA took the governing of social media out of teams’ hands. NBA rules dictate no social media (tweeting) for two hours before a game or one hour after a game. Teams still work with players themselves but they do not have to create their own policies. Effective.
Brenner indicated that the NBA has found success using SnappyTV to show people what’s going on in a game as a way to drive someone to tune in. Kind of a ‘Hey, look at what you’re missing’. Quick game bits and highlights on YouTube have seen phenomenal engagement. Currently, they are experimenting with Twitter’s Vine App. But Brenner stressed that they’re not using technology just for technology’s sake. Above all else, she says, the NBA is about the fans. The technology is there to “give fans a platform to interact with the league”. Well said.
3. Monetization: The elephant in the room and in any conversation about sports/social media for business is the monetization factor. We all know social media huge in sports. BUT…what can teams, leagues, athletes, advertisers, etc, actually do “with it”. These are all businesses in some way, shape or form, right? How can social media help them make money? Not that money is the be-all, end-all for them. You still have to be engaging and real. But, how can monetization happen without knowing what it all means.
As I said earlier, I’ve worked within Bluefin Labs and Topsy. But there are so many other analytics tools out there that determining what is accurate is almost futile. Thankfully (I hope), that’s where Nielsen comes in. Nielsen (yes, tv ratings’ Nielsen) Sports Senior Vice President, Stephen Master provided a “date” which could be the game-changer that everyone is looking for. Nielsen and Twitter are teaming up to provide a “Nielsen Twitter TV Rating” (#NTTR).
While there were panelists from ESPN, iPowow and MLB, what intrigued me most was the ratings nuggets Master’s provided:
–In December 2012, 1.12% of all program titles were sports. But 50% of all Twitter activity was sports-related.
–Part of Nielsen’s vision is to work w/cable programmers to display top 5 trending programs on tv on bottom of screen. It’s not here yet. That’s the vision but imagine turning on the tv to see what shows are the most talked about on Twitter.
–182% YOY growth in tweets about tv.
–The #NTTR is set to debut in September.
If this works like what everyone hopes (and no it won’t be perfect) but if so, monetizing social media engagement for teams, leagues will be a thing of the here and now, quickly.
*Other notable: MLB has taken to apps like no other major sport. Their “At The Ballpark” app has some unique interactive tools that incorporate the sport’s stats-driven nature, photo sharing, social media rewards, check-in benefits, as well as the ever-popular fantasy baseball concept in their “Head-to-Head” matchups. Find out more here.*
4. BIG Events and Sports Social TV: Perhaps the most engaging panel discussion centered around big sporting events. March Madness, Super Bowl, NFL Draft and America’s Cup. It was quite the contrast. On one hand, there’s the mammoth event that is the Super Bowl contrasted with the less-popular, America’s Cup. Popular, in terms of being a minor sport in this country and perhaps in all of North America. The popularity of the America’s Cup cannot be compared with the Super Bowl but both face the same questions: How do we engage with our fans on a social level?
The America’s Cup’s Stephanie Schneider is the Digital Marketing Manager for the America’s Cup. On the surface, the America’s Cup faces the challenge of ignorance. Ignorance in that the sport only runs every three years, it lasts throughout the summer and, at least in terms of this country, the US crew won’t race until September. So how will they go about not just engaging with current fans but garnering new ones? According to Schneider, it all starts with education.
The concept is a “Sailing 101” course, if you will. The strategy will involve providing new content every day, help people to understand the sport, include ‘theme’ voting and hashtags. The America’s Cup app will provide audio feeds and live-line graphics to make fans feel what the crews and skippers are going through. Instagram has been and will be a key player to the strategy. In addition, one of the unique features of the Cup is that the previous winner decides the rules. With that, this year will be the first time the race itself will be visible from the shore.
There is work to be done, Schneider acknowledges but with the social media tools out there, she and her team have room to grow, albeit at a breakneck speed. I wish her luck.
*Other topic discussed: Super Bowl saw great success with many of the strategies adopted by CBS Sports, according to their Senior Vice President/GM of dot-com, app-dot-com & Max Preps, Jason Kint. A bit of levity was provided by Turner Sports’, Will Funk who jokingly inserted the “Blackout” into the conversation. Kint was (sort of) trying to avoid that but, everything aligned for a huge rating between the three B’s: Blackout, Beyonce and Baltimore.
The night concluded with the Sports Social TV Awards. Suffice to say they were “owned” by Turner Sports. Nothing more to add as it was a dominant performance by them.
As for the event itself, I am still trying to absorb it all. I have notes upon notes and tweets upon tweets I’ve been referring back to all day. Just like social media itself, I’m not sure I’ll get all of it. But, it certainly was a good place to start in bringing various people in the sports television/social media conversation together. There is more to be done. Maybe even a conference or summit just about sports/social media with television as the underlying component. Sports/social media is a unique animal. Social media is more than just what it brings to tv in terms of sports. It encompasses the various individual networks themselves, how each are used by athletes/teams/leagues (outside of tv) as well as mixing in the business aspect to it all.
I met some truly talented and amazing people at the summit. @Univision‘s Felix Leander, Freddy Lopez of @SportTechie, Debbie Spander of Wasserman Media Group, Joe Devon from @DWSLA, Stephanie Schneider of @AmericasCup, Liz Grow from @MassRelevance, Melinda Travis of Pro Sports Communications and @SocialTVSummit‘s Bridget Rice just to name a few.
The convergence of the sports industry with the social media industry is challenging yet rewarding at the same time. There are no experts. Some may have more knowledge and experience than others. What works for one, won’t necessarily work for another. We’re all students and teachers of this business we call sports/social media. It’s a great time to be a part of it.
Thank you to everyone involved at Social TV Summit.