RTM and Sports Sponsorship – The Next Big Thing?


oreoRTM = Real Time Marketing.

RTM has been all the talk this week, mostly in connection with social marketing surrounding the Oscars broadcast. Here’s the basics if you’re not on top of this yet… You may already know how we got here, but if you don’t – the background is essential to get to my idea.

Remember the Superbowl blackout? Well, there were more tweets and social activity about the blackout than any other part of the event. A couple of brands jumped on the “opportunity”, most notably Oreo, who tweeted this “You can dunk in the dark” on the fly.

Oreo (and its PR team) was praised for its agility and willingness to pull this off, and was prepared with designers, executive buy-in and a good sense of timing. The background here of course, was that Superbowl advertising is extremely expensive, gets previews and hype before the game and is widely regarded as the height of broadcast advertising as you well know. But here was Oreo, leveraging “free” social media, and stealing the spotlight. The shark was jumped.

So RTM became the overnight forefront of social marketing (even though the concept originated in the 90’s).

Then, along come the Oscars – the next big, wide-spread event with real-time potential. And everybody was ready to see what brands were going to trot out and attempt to capture the moment and opportunity. At the end of the event, nothing really stood out – as the marketing pieces were not really ground-breaking by any means, and unlike a Superbowl blackout – there was no real-time “opportunity” to capitalize on.

But the Oscars RTM tweets did prove one thing. RTM is now, officially, part of a brand strategy mix.

Personally, I think this is really cool – and requires some innovative corporate culture, creative ability and risk – there is a lot of risk associated with RTM, and that makes it exciting – well, at least to me, and I hope for you as well.

So – what’s the tie in with Sports Sponsorship?

Teams and sponsors are always looking for innovative ways to activate sponsors. I’ve worked with teams to help monetize and package social assets and help train corporate sales teams on selling them – and I believe there is a great opportunity here for teams and sponsors a like.

Sports events are PERFECT for RTM. There are several real-time opportunities present here for teams and brands that are looking to innovate – and deal with risk. The benefits and the rewards are potentially great here, but this is not for team and for every brand (nor was it for brands during the Oscars). RTM Sponsorship is highly customized, within a high trust relationship – and needs to be mediated with both team and sponsor involved.

I believe this is a huge opportunity – one that I am looking to spend more time looking at, and hopefully – testing out. There are great dynamic benefits here for the right situation. I think this is an exciting opportunity, and one that could provide strong value for fans/customers when done correctly.

If you want to talk about RTM Sponsorship, leave a comment or send me a message.

Social Integration vs Destination


LikeI made some predictions at the end of 2012 and stated my advice was to view social as less of a destination for the coming year.

So, what does that mean, exactly?

I’ve seen a number of brands do a great job with social media marketing – but have the “social too” focus. That gets enacted something like, “Like us on Facebook!”, or “Follow us on Twitter!”. It made sense to do this at first, as social media really took a firm grip on how to market your brand and saw rapid adoption and staggering growth.

This led to brands prioritizing their Facebook Page over any other asset. Broadcast TV ads directed consumers to Facebook Pages, not their website. I always viewed this cautiously – as Facebook is a separate entity. Facebook changes all the time, and as I have often said – it’s the fans/customers/consumers who really own social media, the brand is simply providing a structure for them to participate in. Brands don’t own their Facebook user data. Facebook is a completely separate business with its own agenda.

Now – where I’m coming from is to discontinue this practice of using Facebook as a destination. Its simply not enough to drive toward Likes and Follows – drive users towards goals and targets that are integrated into a larger marketing message. Drive them to a reason – to a focused message. Prioritize your own assets – your website, your app.

Social sites are still of huge importance – but what I’m saying is how you strategically integrate them into your mix is the real key. Remember, most Facebook users consume your content through their Newsfeed – and rarely come back to your page. When’s the last time you checked out a brand’s Twitter profile page? And increasingly – all these activities are happening via a mobile device.

So don’t just be “social too” – make social central to how you communicate. Don’t make someone else’s business the destination for yours.

Straight Talk on Social Marketing


I’ve got to say this – I’ve seen way too much fluffy language on social marketing for way too long.

Statements from very well known professionals that just ring empty for me, like the requirement for brands to “create value” through social marketing.

Other over zealous statements purporting that your “social score” (don’t get me started on Klout) is the “new credit score” are well, lets say debatable at best. I’ll take my credit score any day – which is based on real dollars, not the return on my “influence”.

What does it mean to”create value”, anyway? Just how are you supposed to do that? Well, that’s the tricky part… I used to provide sales training sessions back in the day and I’ve told countless sales people to “sell the value” of their product. This only goes so far… I approach sales in a completely different way now.

Don’t take these kinds of statements as “advice” – make your own logic. Determine your own goals. People (like me and others) can help you focus those goals and draw tools and platforms to help meet them. Taking a tactical approach is crucial here – How you get there depends on your business, your people, your market.

What I’m essentially saying here is to just keep it real. Don’t accept luke-warm ideals. Don’t set out to “create value”. Set out to achieve X. Set out to make Y. Set out to promote or build. Be specific.

You are in business. Businesses sell products or services. If you do that well enough, you’ll be able to establish a decent credit score. Take that to the bank.

Your Brand Should Follow Everyone


Give me one good reason why your brand shouldn’t follow back ALL your followers on Twitter.

I don’t mean to be confrontational – really, can you give me a reason?

There are many brands out there that have several times more followers than those that they follow, and in the case of sports brands for example, they follow media personalities, celebrities and specific individuals. But are these people more important than your customers or the rest of your potential market?

Many digital marketers will counter with statements along the lines of “If there are too many followers, I can’t make anything out of it – the stream is too busy to manage.” This kind of defense doesn’t wash for me – most any fan/customer to brand communication takes place via # these days anyways. And if you are successful with Twitter, having a lot of followers is a pretty good problem to have.

It’s really about optics. In a time when a RT carries the same weight as an autograph, and followers continually ask for RTs on their birthday or other personal events – do your audience a simple favor and follow back. Does this mean that you owe each and every one personal engagement? No – and with 6 figure followers accounts, this is pretty impossible.

Is it too much to ask to follow your customers? Don’t assign status to who your brand follows – and if you do, your customers should come first.

How “Official” is Twitter?


Over the past several weeks, there have been a few events on Twitter that merit some discussion and debate.

I’m going to review two examples from the NFL’s New York Jets and the NHL’s LA Kings as they both provide some insight into Twitter’s role in how sports teams communicate (or not).

New York Jets

This case comes out of the New Orleans’ Saints Bounty fiasco. Basically, QB Drew Brees tweeted that he couldn’t imagine that his coach, Sean Payton could be suspended for the entire 2012 season. The NYJ decided to send a reply…

@drewbrees Know you’re frustrated but if he had admitted instead of trying to cover it up, maybe Williams gets a suspended.

Not long after, another tweet came from the NYJ…

At 11:21pm on 3/21 an unauthorized tweet was sent from @nyjets. This is not the view of the New York Jets. We are looking into this matter.

I know a thing or two about sports teams and twitter, and I’m pretty certain that most teams do not “authorize” their tweets, especially at 11:21PM at night. These things happen, sometimes due to the staff/resource in charge of the Twitter account that accidentally sent a tweet that was intended for their personal account and sent it as the team account. This goes beyond sports; such was Chrysler’s experience on Twitter in which personal and brand accounts were confused and resulted in the brand tweeting out an F-bomb.

It turned out that Chrysler’s mistake actually helped increase followers – and that segues into the next example…

LA Kings

During their recent first round playoff victory over the Vancouver Canucks (the most followed NHL team on Twitter), the LA Kings sent out the following tweet after game 1:

To everyone in Canada outside of BC, you’re welcome.

The tweet referenced the fact the Canucks were viewed as one of the most disliked teams in Canada and sent legions of Canucks followers into a tizzy. The tweet also garnered several thousand RTs (over 17K, I believe – good enough for 10th most RTs in Twitter history) and went on to help drive close to 10,000 new followers by the next game 2 days later. While many were expectedly upset, others did not take it so seriously.

There was no “retraction tweet” per the NYJ, in fact, a Kings Spokesperson pumped their digital tires with a light apology, which I felt was more than adequate. Many saw the Kings’ tweet as fun, and were suprised that the Twitter account was being taken seriously.

So What Does This Mean?

From my experience, I know that different teams have different opinions and approaches to Twitter and communications. We see many players across many sports as well as many members of the media engage in light chirping and making fun of one another on Twitter – and in a way that would not be seen in any other venue.

I see this as healthy debate… I think the only correct answer is that it entirely depends on the teams’ market – whether they are a dominant presence in their market or strive for PR. There is no escaping the fact that the Twitter account still comes from the brand, but…

  • Is Twitter part of PR no matter what?
  • Is it strictly fan engagement/loyalty and Marketing?”
  • Is Twitter more valid than any “official” PR communication channel?
  • Can Twitter be “just for fun”?

This is what makes this field so interesting (and at times, challenging). Everyone is paying attention now – and like it or not, Twitter may be more valid and “official” than you think. Teams used to provide announcements via press releases on team, game or organizational operations. Now, teams “release” tweets, updates, pins and instagrams all day, every day.

Where does all this sit with you?

Get a Twitter Handle on that Jersey


I really enjoy the consulting work I do with teams.

But sometimes, I’d like to have the opportunity to “own” a brand and market it. This is one of the first things I would do…

Recently, an article hit the web about a Mexican football (soccer) team that replaced player names with their Twitter handles on the backs of their jerseys. Cool idea, I thought – but couldn’t see it happening in major league sports. But it gave me an idea…

I’d start giving away jerseys to my teams’ Twitter followers with player Twitter handles on the backs.  Same home or away jersey, use the players real number but instead of their last name on the name plate, place their Twitter handle there instead…

@Mark_Sanchez on the back of a NYJ jersey

@RealStamkos91 on the back of a TB Lightning jersey

@dfreese23 on the back of a St. Louis Cardinals jersey

Give a few of these away, and watch other tech/social savvy fans get on board… imagine how many @BizNasty2Point0 jerseys would get moved…

What do you think? Here’s your free idea of the day…

Should Your Sports Brand be on Google+?


The short and honest answer is  “Probably”.

The long answer is a set of questions/thinking designed to get you to “Yes”. Here’s how I see it:

First things first – The Brand profile (called “Entities”) for G+ has not been openly released yet so we don’t know what the Brand experience entails. It’s tough to say how much this will matter to teams in the NHL, NFL, and NBA (should there be a 2011/12 season). MLB will have the luxury of seeing how other leagues and teams tackle Google+ first.

At the very least, G+ matters because of it’s size – 3 weeks after launch, it reached 20M+ users. It took Facebook and Twitter well over 700 days to do that (more details by clicking here); therefore, your fans are already there – they are likely eager to see what kinds of things you have in store on G+ for them. I’d think the path forward would entail a pretty rapid uptake on most sports brands in terms of  “Fans, Followers or Likers”. This brings another question - is this a redundant market? Are these your same fans from Facebook? Hmm – probably a lot of them… so what does that mean?

  • Do you have resources/bandwidth available to take on the task?
  • Do you have a strong presence in other social media platforms?
  • Can you provide original content to make the experience worthwhile?
  • Can you determine what Google+ does for you that Facebook doesn’t?
  • Do you want to be viewed as “innovative” or are you really innovative?

What do you think? Is Google+ on your agenda?

It should be, even if you don’t intend to be there – you need to determine exactly what you are passing up.

P.S. Here is my G+ profile.

The Social Media Honeymoon is Over


I’ve been wanting to write this post for some time now. So here goes…

Like you, I’ve seen a number of blogs and article criticizing social media “experts”, “gurus” and the like – and they are well deserved. Social is hardly new – and though it is still new to some, that’s ok. Some people are new to driving, oysters or gardening. This hardly makes these practices and interests unimportant. We’re simply seeing the demise of the 1st wave of social media as the answer, and all the excitement and opportunity within the social space that must inevitably stare ROI right back in the eye (pun completely intended).

Some humorous examples of these criticisms here, here and here.

It didn’t help that (some of) this 1st wave of social media types took to calling themselves rock stars. It made some sense at the time – remember when Facebook had “Fans”? And with the dizzying rates of new users, various social start-ups and “game changing” events – who can blame them.

But this time is long gone now. Trending is great. Lots of Followers and Likes are fantastic. But it’s hardly enough to be remotely noteworthy any longer. Social media is a marketing channel – like any other. Its digital. It can be really cool. But it needs to factor in some ROI. Big time.

Those of you who’ve read me for a while know this – I’ve spoken on my position previously, once or twice.

I’m a little weary of brands that position social so close to the core of their digital assets – I’ve seen a number of TV ads that give a Facebook page as the digital destination. There are an increasing amount of articles featuring stories of Facebook plateaus and user rates that are dropping.

Social is hardly “done for” – but the role it plays and the impact it has, is having and can have is changing. Social is what we make it, every post, tweet or status update.

Social is a place – a dynamic place. But it’s not the only place. Use it wisely…

Drive to 13,000 and Winnipeg’s NHL Team


As you likely know, the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg’s True North S&E is still pending a vote from the NHL Board of Governors at the end of June. I was curious to see if the official announcement contained any branding, or digital resource and it did. It was clearly stated that a solid financial launch was required to cement this transaction in the form of a season ticket base of 13,000. In order to accomplish that, True North launched:

Drive to 13,000.com

@Driveto13 on Twitter

Drive to 13,000 on Facebook

I got on-board early, around the 75th follower and 50th FB “Like”. I will be interested to see how these numbers grow over the course of this drive and how these assets are tied into the strategy overall. At first blush, there’s not a lot of content there – only 2 tweets on day 1, and the only posts on FB are from fans. With a rather stark black and white logo and digital design consistency, I’m going to assume this as an attempt to not tip the hat on official team name, logo or colors. Makes sense from that perspective…

This approach is very different from the “Make it Seven” campaign a few years back regarding the Phoenix Coyotes and potential relocation to Canada. The social campaign behind that movement (pun intended) was to form a grass-roots kind of approach. Driveto13 is really about driving dollars as this sale is about as rubber stamped as it gets. With a pre sale to current Manitoba Moose season ticket holders, and a launch to the general public to follow, I’m ready to see how these digital assets will coordinate to drive towards the 13,000 target and just how fast that happens.

Thoughts on Branding

For many fans, the obvious choice is a return to the “Jets” brand – but I don’t see it playing it out like this. I have zero insight into this issue, but for what its worth, here is my 2 cents…

I would go with a new name. In fact, the name “Jets” may not even be legally available for all I know as it may in fact reside with the Coyotes franchise (a good point made to me via @kc_douglas). Going with a new name/brand makes the most solid business sense from a merchandise perspective in my opinion. Consider the potential in revenue vs. fans busting out all their old Jets gear. While many (even myself) are nostalgic for the Jets brand, there is simply too much to be gained here. In addition, if the rights are available – they can always be tweaked/updated and added to the mix. For example, you can still purchase North Stars merch from the Wild.

At the end of the day, the dollar always wins. It’s why the team left Winnipeg in the first place. But it’s also why a team came back. This is not a bad thing – it’s just the way it is.