The New Jersey Devils launched a media hub at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., where select fans rotate on schedules to monitor social media buzz before and during games. The fans, dubbed "army generals," monitor the buzz from a high-tech room, Mission Control, on the third floor of the building.
The plan is to "become a well-oiled social media machine" that supports the New Jersey Devils and the Prudential Center, including the concerts, boxing and other events held there. Costs run $250,000 for equipment and capabilities, which Richard Krezwick, president of Devils Arena Entertainment, the operating company for the franchise and building, considers a marketing expense.
The project is about 80% complete," including two new positions that report into marketing, he says. "The plan is a living document, and we will change and adapt with it."
The project's Twitter account -- @DevilsGenerals -- and blog -- DevilsArmyBlog.com -- provide a firsthand voice from about 25 devoted fans that broadcast along with the franchise's management that began late last year. The call to action for social savvy fans who do it gratis went out in November 2010 on Facebook and Twitter.
Those already chosen had a strong presence on Twitter and Facebook. They monitor the conversation around the Devils, whether positive or negative. The tweeters and bloggers also share their own insights based on the game and players.
While none of the Devils team players use Twitter to tweet during games, NHL senior director of social media marketing Michael DiLorenzo says the league does not yet have a mandated policy regarding player tweets.
As for the Devils, the franchise looked outside the NHL for new ideas related to online social experiences. The brands Dell and Gatorade provided the inspiration for the project. Both companies use similar strategies to monitor online social media sentiment.
Jeff Vanderbeek, owner of the franchise, does not have a technology background similar to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, but he knows fans are comfortable with social media. He believes the franchise needed a dedicated resource to more closely connect with fans.
Earlier this month, the franchise made available an iPad rental program, where fans can rent the mobile devices filled with sports- and NHL-related apps. The social media efforts don't currently tie to search marketing campaigns today, but they could in the future.