Marcos Castro held another great Hangout last week. This time around his guests were Molly Brady, a Social Media Manager, and Scott Sandalow, a Digital Media Manager at the New York Red Bulls. Before joining the Red Bulls, Molly worked as a Digital Media Coordinator at Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Sounders, while Scott was a Digital Media Lead at Chicago Fire Soccer Club. Scott also worked for CBS Radio, All Terrain, Red Frog Events, Fleishman-Hillard, and others.
These are the top 8 insights from this Hangout:
1. Build the identity of a club with fans
New York Red Bulls Soccer Club have a short history (20 years) when compared to most European clubs, some of which are over 100 years old. But they don’t see that as a disadvantage. They don’t have tradition to reflect on, but their staff has accepted the challenge of making their own history. The Red Bulls are, with the help and engagement of their fans, making history of their own. As Scott said, “in 50 or 100 years when we have history, it’s going to be built collaboratively”.
Red Bulls social and digital staff are looking at their fans, but also to the rest of the world to see what their fans are copying the most. This way they can take some ideas from major football clubs and leagues around the world, and in combination with their own ideas, create authentic history versus something plastic.
2. If you’re doing good work, the numbers come with it
Everything comes down to people liking the content you put on social. Organizations usually look at numbers, but people that look at social media content every day (fans) will not care about unique views, they want to see special and creative content. “The numbers are for my bosses, everything else is for the fans”, Scott said. He believes that the most important thing is to create interesting content that people will enjoy.
The Red Bulls social staff is looking at what industry leaders in sports and in their league are doing, and are trying to keep up with the trends. When it comes to numbers, they also have goals they want to achieve, like any other team. But they are not focusing on that. They focused their attention on creating content, and if they are doing that right, the numbers will happen naturally.
3. Good football attracts global audience
Football has grown over the past twenty years in the United States. The quality of the league and the actual games are better every year. And that is a great basis because you need to have good football to start attracting people, to have a global audience and following that you desire. And if on top of that your team wins matches, that definitelly helps the cause. “All the big names, all the stories we make and put out, if the soccer doesn’t measure up to it, it’s not going anywhere”, Molly said.
When it comes to MLS, signing of international star players also brings them international audience and fans. On the other hand, they have to market toward and provide content (in multiple languages) for international fans. These fans have to feel appreciated as well, or they won’t feel connected. In addition, MLS signed many TV deals this year, including one with Sky Sports, another in Brazil and also Italy, and this is the proof that something is being done right in the US because they are being recognized globally.
4. Revenue from tickets on social is a bonus
Ticket spokesman and ticket salesman are the ones selling tickets at any serious club. If you are able to get revenue from Facebook, Twitter, or any other platform, do it. That is amazing. It is a bonus because not that many people expect you to get revenue from social. You cannot expect to sell majority of tickets on social media, but use these platforms to give your fans special offers. Football fans are very active on social, and they will appreciate these offers as long as they are not bothering them.
5. Maximize the use of new platforms
First, you need to know who uses these new platforms. In case of Snapchat, it is mostly younger population. The Red Bulls looked at Snapchat and what they can do on this platform (and do it well), instead of trying to do everything on there. Therefore, they made the younger guys on their team use this platform to engage younger (targeted) audience. They did not use Snapchat to sell because it is, for them at least, a great channel to show behind the scene and funny everday content. So far, they have been very successful.
6. Live stream app content is priceless
The Red Bulls have used Periscope already, and it proved to be a great add-on to their digital strategy. Molly and Scott both agree that if you are able to provide fans with content you weren’t able to provide for them in the past, it’s a win-win situation. Until now we’ve had video content that has been filtered, and in some cases over-produced. And now, live streaming apps give us unproduced content. Videos from the lockerroom or the players tunnel are amazing, and when this content is live streamed, you cannot control the players reactions, pre game rituals, etc. Fans love to see this, and their reactions are priceless. This is what is fun about social media.
“It’s not about the quality of the video, it’s about the content and instant access”, Scott and Molly concluded this topic and hit the sweet spot. What they meant is that people are not engaging with high quality game highlights anymore as much as they are with lower quality special content.
7. Tradition and history aren’t everything
The New York Red Bulls, as well as Major League Soccer, have been around for only 20 years. They are making their own history and sports rivalries. What really helped them on their way are other sports such as basketball, baseball or football that have been in the US for much longer. This way they had a basis for rivalries between certain cities. As Scott mentioned, “fans from Philadelphia and New York already hated each other because of the 4 other major sports (basketball, football, baseball, hockey). These sports did a great job of setting us up for geographical rivalries”.
Also, they don’t look at lack of tradition as a negative, but as a positive. This way they get to make their own history and new rivalries that will last for years to come.
8. Be social on social
If you would like to work in this area, Scott and Molly have a few advices. You need to be passionate about what you are doing, you need to learn new things on a daily basis, and share your thoughts and questions with people on social networks. People want to talk to you about sports, you just have to be social on social!
I would like to, once again, thank Marcos Castro for holding these Hangouts. It is a great opportunity for all of us to learn new things. Also, thank you Molly and Scott for sharing your experience and insights on digital and social in sports.
PHOTO: YouTube Screenshot