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Peanuts, Cracker Jack, and Tweets: Does Social Media Help or Hinder Sports?

by Ted Mininni  |  
May 3, 2012

Social media is all about brand engagement. So, how can sports organizations use it to improve fan experience and not detract from it?

As a recent Media Post article stated, “The challenge of social media for major league sports is how to engage fans without disengaging them from the game by interrupting those all-important moments of play.”

The piece discussed how pro sports organizations have been trying to figure out “the social media puzzle.” How can they walk the line between wiring modern stadiums, so fans can access immediate information, send tweets to friends, and catch an important replay if they missed it in real time---without disruption during a game? How can sports organizations offer interactive social media programs that don’t distract from but heighten the fan experience?

One line in the article summed up sports fans very well: “Fan groups are by nature social.” That means they enjoy attending sports events together and sharing the experience to the hilt. Using social media before the game, during time outs and intermissions, and when it's over is terrific. Reliving “the great play” or “the play that swung the momentum” is a big part of the sports experience for all fans. And those moments are meant to be shared and savored.

When I go to a sports event, I’m there to see the game. Sure, I want to share the experience with my son and friends, both at the game or not. I’ll send photos and comments out via my iPhone... but not during the action.

For teams that want to engage fans via social media, photo ops, invites to Q&A sessions, and contests are great ideas. But can they come before and after games? How about during the pre- and post-seasons to keep fans engaged consistently without interrupting games?

Let’s leave it up to the fans to decide when and how they want to engage with friends during sporting events. That enables us all to optimize and customize our experiences.

  • What’s the role of social media where pro sports are concerned?

  • Do you think sports teams should engage fans during games?

  • When and how should pro sports organizations use social media? How about local sports groups?

Let’s hear from marketers, social media experts, and fans!

(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Baseball Crowd)

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Ted Mininni is president of Design Force, Inc. (, a leading brand-design consultancy to consumer product companies (phone: 856-810-2277). Ted is also a regular contributor to the MarketingProfs blog, the Daily Fix.

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  • by Paul Barsch Thu May 3, 2012 via blog

    Hi Ted, I think it's pretty interesting what and do with combining social media and streaming live events. They provide a platform (dashboard of sorts) for fans to engage and interact (chat during breaks and while the action is going. ESPN has a mobile app too with XGames.

  • by Ted Mininni Fri May 4, 2012 via blog

    Thanks for your comments here. There's a lot of upside potential to all of these forays into social media for sports fans, Paul. Chats during breaks are fine; but I'm not sure I want to take my eyes off the action in some instances. A regular season game when it's in hand by my team? Maybe. But not during the Stanley Cup playoffs or a divisional championship game. I'll save the social media for after the game so I can rivet my attention on the action. But some fans may feel differently. What do you think, Paul?

  • by Maranda Gibson Tue May 8, 2012 via blog

    Hi Ted - I just thought I would weigh in as a fan who is very social during games. I think the upside is to experience the group atmosphere while having to watch the game from home. As a baseball fan, I love the spirit of camaraderie that exists at the stadium. For the most part, I've found that as long as you know what you're talking about, it's okay to jump into a conversation with another group of fans, make a joke, or something of that nature. I think social media brings a lot of that same feeling right into your home or living room as you watch the game (as long as they are not opposing team fans). I've seen wonderfully active Twitter accounts from the teams official pages as games go onto the eleventh and beyond innings. I watched heartbreak play out across Twitter nation as Game Six of the World Series went down last year (go Rangers :( ) and I think in a lot of ways it was a place for fans to heal.

  • by Ted Mininni Tue May 8, 2012 via blog

    Thanks, Maranda, for sharing terrific insights on my post. You're right: social media is a great way for fans to connect when watching games at home. It does help to connect like-minded passionate sports fans and that's a great thing. I'll bet friendships emerge from what starts out as casual conversations on social media in some cases, too. Communities spring up in support of our favorite teams and that's a terrific thing for brands whether they're your beloved Rangers or my Phillies ;). As a passionate sports fan myself, I agree that major play-off losses are terrible to deal with alone; social media gives us a chance to connect with friends and fans we don't even know and commiserate together. There's a lot to be said about being able to celebrate or cry together, isn't there?

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