How to Create a Digital Content Strategy For Sports Teams

During the 2015 NBA playoffs, as the Houston Rockets closed in on playoff victory over the Dallas Mavericks, Rockets social media manager Chad Shanks decided to push the social envelope.

Unfortunately for Shanks, in a moment of pure fanboy excitement, he pushed the envelope, and his career with the Rockets, into an erupting emoji volcano.

when sports social media goes really wrong

An entire organization launched into crisis mode because of one person’s lapse in judgement, and the lack of proper organizational checks and balances.

when sports social media goes wrongIn the arena of sports social media and digital content the tweet button is a thin veil that separates emotion, and bad humor, from brand extension.  And while athletes often claim to be hacked after going on a twitter rampage, team employees don’t have the same escape clause, instead, their moments of weakness damage a brand and leave them, like Shanks, looking for work.

But digital content doesn’t have to be a loose cannon, set to go off when you least expect it. Proper management and following established best practices can keep social on the intended path of fan engagement.

“Setting expectations is always a crucial part of being a manager, and when your team’s work is seen across public digital channels, it’s even more important,” remarks Jenna Camann, Director of Digital and Creative Services for the Boston Bruins and TD Garden.

“A well thought-out onboarding process is key for new employees, I ensure that new folks spend roughly 4 – 6 weeks getting to know the organization before they start creating anything, and then consistently work with me and other internal folks to understand our business. For current employees, and as new opportunities come up, we’ve set up processes so the right people review the content at the right time before anything goes live.”

With the Bruins and TD Garden, Camann’s team isn’t focused on in-the-moment witty tweets, or a singular Facebook post, digital content takes on a more holistic approach, working cross-functionally with sales, promotions and public relations to develop content and strategies that help the business at its core.

“My team and I take on a number of different responsibilities each and every day across our digital channels whether it’s website, social, email, app, etc. At any given time I could be creating a digital channel strategy for a new program, advising on a targeting approach for digital media, making content recommendations, pouring over our website analytics, or working with the corporate partnership team on the digital extensions of a new deal.

“Our team has more than doubled since I joined last spring, so we’re continuing to improve how we work with other internal teams to make our digital channels a better place for all of our fans and visitors.”

While it seems social media has always been a part of our normal lives, as common as cell phones and clothes, in reality, sports organizations are still in the early days of understanding its true capacity.

“My first attempt at digital marketing was in 2009 when Facebook was just taking off with sports teams. I launched a page for a NASCAR team sponsor and a few months after it launched one of their executives asked me how many door swings the Facebook posts were getting them. I told him I wasn’t sure, but that we went from less than 50 people talking about us on Facebook to over 4,000.

“I couldn’t prove they were going to the store to buy (yet), but I could prove they were talking about them.content marketing strategies for sports teams

“There were no good social tools back then so I would manually count, cross checking names so there would be no duplicates, and provided weekly reports about our fan growth, engagement and comparison with other teams. From that moment forward, I’ve been dedicated to consistent use of analytics. Fast forward to 2016 and ‘data-driven decision making’ is something you hear at least once a day – it’s exciting, but still new to many folks.”

Establishing an approach to data, is just as important as gathering it. Like advanced statistics in sports, data can be manipulated to help you validate a choice or support the opinion you want, or worse yet, result in paralysis by analysis.

Creating a process to evaluate data while still moving forward, and staying flexible enough to use new tools and new metrics, is often the fine line of digital marketing.

“We look at data weekly and monthly across all channels and I like to reiterate a few key messages when we think about a data-driven world:

“One, don’t expect data to be there for every decision you make. Sometimes, we just need to try things, and see what happens. With the rate of new platforms being created, growth of our fan base, new metrics being created and increase in content, those data-driven decisions don’t always stand the test of time and we can’t be afraid to explore new ideas.

“Two, the type of data we value can and should differ. We recently tried something new on Twitter and someone was worried that our replies and retweets decreased, but the point of the Tweet was to drive traffic to our site, and that was 3x higher than our normal link clicks. The data definitions change too. Six years ago fan growth on Facebook was the only metric people cared about – now it’s engagement, engagement, engagement. We have to be nimble when we think about what data we’re using to make decisions.

“And finally, don’t collect data just to collect data that sits on a dusty shelf. Results don’t mean much if we can’t learn from them, so sharing insights from the data we collect is a must in reports.”

Digital marketing is a tool that when used wisely changes the entire experience for fans and team alike.

Jenna Camann and her digital and creative services team with the Boston Bruins/TD Garden, take that responsibility seriously, pushing fan engagement into the future by enhancing, not damaging, the team brand.
By Brian Clapp | February 22, 2016
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