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?

We caught up with professionals working for some of our sports partners at the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes, the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, and the NFL’s Tennessee Titans to learn how they’re taking an innovative approach to bring fans closer to their teams, players, and brands. They are driving impressive results by shifting their focus from live events to online interactions and experiences.

Cole Cook is the Senior Director of Business Strategy and Analytics for the NHL's Arizona Coyotes, based in Phoenix, Arizona.

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: The biggest thing is just staying relevant with our fans, not only from a social and digital standpoint but also from a community side. We don’t want to come off as tone-deaf, so we’ve shifted our social and digital strategy to be more focused on how we engage with families who may have kids at home at this time. We're also creating content we can put out that is evergreen and aligns with our fans no matter if it's offseason or the middle of the season. We also want to capitalize on some of those opportunities from our players, who have been submitting things like Workout Wednesday videos, as well as some social patterns such as Zoom Wallpaper Wednesday. The other challenge is with corporate partnerships - obviously, with home games remaining in the season, a number of partner assets weren’t able to be activated.

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’ve had to be creative to come up with campaigns to make up for the impressions corporate partners are missing out on by not being in-arena. So we’ve spun up a couple of different Tradable Bits campaigns to keep fans engaged. For example, we’re releasing a Coyotes coloring book through Tradable Bits that kids and families can participate in. We’ve also run some NHL 20 simulation games where we treat it as if it's a real game and have actual partners sponsor different parts of the games to make sure we're still delivering for our partners. We’re also taking a community approach to this. The commissioner released a study showing that 78% of consumers won’t support a brand who’s not community-driven during this time, so it’s really important for us to stay community focused.

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

A: The one thing we talk about in our Exec team meetings, which I think we stole from Harris Blitzer, is to make sure you're connecting, articulating, intellecting, and exercising during this pause. Whether it be connecting with a colleague who's in a similar situation, or someone you went to high school with who got laid off. What kind of intellectual things are you doing to keep your brain sharp? Maybe that's a puzzle or a Sudoku, or going for a walk even. I’ve also spent a lot of time with my articulating skills - like yesterday, I was sharpening up some of my sequel skills and doing things that I might not have had time to do during the regular season or offseason, but that this downtime has allowed me to do.


Lizelle Lauron is the Social Media Manager of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, based in Dallas, Texas.

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: Communication with other teams within our organization has been tough. Something that would have been easily answered by walking over to someone's desk is now a team call or semi-formal meeting. We’ve also had to switch and add a lot of digital content to meet expectations with partners on the corporate side. So it’s been on-going communication within our digital team, which has honestly made us a stronger group!

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

A: I would definitely say our Swag, Sweats & Suits campaign is one I am most proud of activating since quarantine! It was a campaign we just wanted to push to our fans with no real high expectations, we just wanted to see what would happen. We also used one of our auxiliary accounts to the Mavs, Mavs Fire Patrol, to push this campaign. This account is small, but we created it for a niche group of people that we felt would enjoy participating in this 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: Get to know your fan. Try and find out where they’re from, their demographics, interests, etc. and really use that information to best serve them content they would enjoy!

Nate Bain is the Social Media Manager of the NFL's Tennessee Titans, based in Nashville, Tennessee.

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: Communication has come with challenges and opportunities. You get used to working closely with different groups like graphics, communications, etc. and now you’ve got to set up a call to have those quick chats. It’s nice we’ve got Zoom and Skype for communication, but it probably took us a week to get used to that for sure.

Then there are also operational challenges, like recently we had to upload all of our player/team footage onto the cloud so that everyone has access to it. We’re lucky that we’re not a league that is currently in-season, so there isn’t as much adjusting on the fly, which is good, but certainly social is a huge asset and something that everyone is focused on right now. It’s been fun to be included in a lot more meetings and working with different departments with social having such a heightened importance now.

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 doing a number of things on social media to keep our fans connected and engaged. And it doesn’t have to be groundbreaking stuff. For example, we created downloadable Zoom backgrounds where I got together with our graphic designer and photography team. We came together to create some cool wallpapers for fans. My personal favorite is one we worked with you guys with - the Meme Madness Bracket. Our Reddit community is great for coming up with Titans memes. Last year we did a really basic version of this in Twitter polls where you just voted for one meme vs. another. But using your platform we were able to put all these awesome memes together into one easy to see bracket campaign where fans can vote on their favorites. It’s a great way to get fans to create some art/memes and you can house it all in one place where our average fan, who might not be in our Reddit threads, can see this unique creative content.

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

A: It’s not necessarily a piece of advice, but whether it’s third-party companies like Tradable Bits, or peers at work, it’s just been great to see people coming together and leaning on one another. We’re all stressed right now and it’s been really nice that we can depend on one another and come together. It’s not necessarily advice, but it’s just been awesome to see how collaborative and sharing-focused people have been within the sports community during this time.

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.


Hear more from Cole, Lizelle, and Nate by watching a replay of our recent webinar. Learn how to build Relevant, Attractive and Data-Driven (R.A.D.D.) fan engagement campaigns! Hear valuable insights, advice, and successful campaign examples from some of the sports industry's finest.


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