During uncertain times, it can be tricky to engage fans. It has been incredible seeing how sports organizations have been able to engage their fans despite games being on pause and league openings delayed. Curious how they’re doing it?

Following our first installment in our What's Kraken content series, we caught up with marketing professionals working at the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, the NFL's Washington Redskins, and the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers this time to learn how they’re taking an innovative approach to bring fans closer to their teams, players and brands. They're driving great results despite shifting their focus from live events to online fan experiences.

TJ Ansley is the Director of Digital Media for the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, based in Columbus, Ohio.

Q: What are some of the toughest challenges you’ve had to tackle since games have been paused, and how have you overcome them?

A: I think a lot of it is having to be creative and push things out that are valuable and engaging - I mean, you don’t want to always recycle content. We’ve tried to come up with new ways to engage fans - like getting players involved since they are in the same boat we are and aren’t going anywhere. We’ve been having our PR people reach out to our players on ideas we’ve had where they can be involved. We also understand we have to appease partners, so we have to be strategic in how we can integrate them into our digital engagements/activations. We don’t want to just plug a partner with no context or value - that might as well be a radio ad. We also don’t want to annoy our fans, so we’ve gotta find the correct way to keep them engaged, letting them know we're still here, and are going through this with everyone else. We want fans to be able to have fun with our content.

Q: Explain your proudest/most successful fan engagement campaign or strategy you’ve activated since games have been paused; what were the results?

A: We're currently building a cool engagement campaign that involves the players. In this campaign, we're having the players do play-by-play commentary on their own goals. You don’t get this kind of opportunity during the year, so kudos to our video crew who came up with this idea and ran with it. I’m looking forward to this campaign coming out and seeing how fans respond.

Q: What’s a piece of valuable advice you’ve heard from someone that you think might resonate with your sports marketing peers?

A: Take things day by day. For us, this has been harder than actually planning for the season because you don’t know what is going to be thrown at you each day. With everyone using video calling now, it’s made it easier to have our players jump on Zoom and record something that we can use - it’s a new piece of content that is maybe sponsorable. There are just new ways to do things now that we maybe weren’t comfortable doing before this - so it’s been an opportunity for us to grow.

A piece of advice I’d give is that not everything has to run through a sponsor - that’s not how I see social media. You need to be engaging and talk with fans, not at them. You don’t want anything to be forced, like “Watch this, watch this, read this” - I want to have a back and forth and it doesn’t feel that way with super sponsored content. You just need to change your mindset now in terms of how you appease sponsors while staying engaging and furthering a two-way conversation with your fans.

Check out the Columbus Blue Jackets' recent campaign: Fan Appreciation Week. Fans were able to enter daily contests for a week to win Blue Jackets prizes.

 


Ryan Davis is the Digital Media Manager of the NFL's Washington Redskins, based in Washington D.C.

Q: What are some of the toughest challenges you’ve had to tackle since games have been paused, and how have you overcome them?

A: With people stuck in the house with tons of distractions, responsibilities, and boredom, how do you keep fans engaged and interacting with your campaigns? We believe in building quality content that interacts with our fans. Our bracket challenge we built within Tradable Bits was a great example of this. Content built for social interaction during a time where March Madness simply did not exist. Timeliness with quality content.

Q: Explain your proudest/most successful fan engagement campaign or strategy you’ve activated since games have been paused; what were the results?

A: To give an easy answer, I am proud of all our games! But the Redskins Dream Team is near and dear to my heart. During this unprecedented time, we have focused on many digital campaigns that interact with fans and engage them over a sustained period of time. The Dream Team campaign delivered social interaction and access to exclusive Redskins prizes during the virtual draft. I cannot give enough praise to how much the amazing Tradable Bits teams have helped us deliver engaging campaign after campaign.

Washington Redskins Fan Campaign

Q: What’s a piece of valuable advice you’ve heard from someone that you think might resonate with your sports marketing peers?

A: I would say understanding your core audience and gaining as much insight as possible into what social, video, and digital content they are interested in. Build those insights around your campaign to interact with existing fans and capture new fans that may not be as familiar with your product. Think outside the box of traditional digital channels. Quality content breeds quality engagement.


Brian Matzat is the Director of Digital Innovation for the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers, based in Portland, Oregon.

Q: What are some of the toughest challenges you’ve had to tackle since games have been paused, and how have you overcome them?

A: Of course, we miss the live-action as much as our fans do. But the pandemic is so much bigger than basketball. And with challenge comes opportunity. We have a platform as a professional sports team to engage a large audience, impact the community, and hopefully – put a smile on people’s faces. That’s what we’re trying to do while we wait for basketball to return.

Q: Explain your proudest/most successful fan engagement campaign or strategy you’ve activated since games have been paused; what were the results?

A: We hosted a virtual Fan Appreciation Day on April 15, the same day our last regular-season home game was scheduled to be played. Our goal was to tell fans we miss them and that they still deserved to be celebrated – even if we couldn’t do it in person as we normally would. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and we were reminded that we have some of the best fans in the world.

Q: What’s a piece of valuable advice you’ve heard from someone that you think might resonate with your sports marketing peers?

A: I’ve been asked to lead with humility and positivity. It’s simple in theory, but so much more challenging in practice right now. There are a lot of people facing tragedy and impossible situations, but if you can make a difference in even one person’s life right now, you’re creating a path to healing.

Check out the Portland Trail Blazers' recent campaign: Beat the Buzzer

Fans play to win Blazers prizes in this weekly trivia game.

 

Curious about how other professional sports teams are keeping their fans engaged with immersive online fan engagement and experiences? Check out the first installment of our What's Kraken content series. Stay tuned for our next blog in this series to learn more about how organizations are tackling their fan engagement.

Contact us for a free fan-based marketing consultation.

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