Surely Second-Screener Social Success Is 'Reactive,' Not 'Real-Time'?

Just as the World Cup showed marketers the power of real-time social with second-screeners, brands are looking to Saturday's Premier League kickoff as a new chapter in involving themselves in conversations around the nation's most popular game.

I have to admit to rolling my eyes, however, every time I hear the word "real-time." Why? Because it is already being trotted out repeatedly ahead of the first ball being kicked. And for the rather more obvious reason -- it very rarely refers to "real time." Even the poster child of the "no make-up selfie" saw a cancer charity leap onto a growing phenomenon a week or so after it started to snowball.

Don't get me wrong -- it will be very exciting, not just because it's the start of a new season, but the broadcasters and the mega sponsors are going to get a run for their money. Traditionally Sky, the BBC and more recently, BT have not had a lot of competition in social media -- certainly not in, dare I say, "real-time" social. They are the ones closest to the action who can send out teasers of the action they have just shown or that is coming up, and it is they who can set polls, solicit views on the theme of the day and so on.

This season, however, there will be some new faces. Subway saturated our World Cup screens with Daniel Sturridge adverts and will be working this year with his team, Liverpool, to come up with a string of virals and content that is waiting for the right moment to be released. The same goes for Carlsberg, which has been very active around football in social throughout the World Cup and will no doubt hope to carry the momentum through to the new season.

A really interesting one to watch will be Puma. It's now the kit maker for Arsenal and so has an excellent platform from which to reach out to second screeners in -- you guessed it -- "real time." It also has a long list of well-known Premier League footballers it sponsors -- including Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Aguero, Santi Cazorla, Michael Carrick and Mikel Arteta -- which one can imagine will be used to provide real-time reactions and behind-the-scenes glimpses throughout the season. 

The sportswear brand has publicly made clear its intention to use the upcoming football season as the catalyst through which it starts to claw back market share and brand awareness from arch rivals Adidas and Nike.

My question is how "real-time" are any of these going to be, because as sure as a couple of high-profile managers will be sacked before Christmas, every successful tweet or Facebook post will be labelled "real-time."

If a brand is going to use sponsorship of a team or a football star as the basis of activity, you can assume it will be anything but "real-time" to arrange the content. Far too many permissions. Brands are already talking about having virals stored up for "real-time" campaigns -- but if they're being lined up are they not, by definition, the opposite of "real-time?"

I'd love to know how many brands are empowering a marketing executive with their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr account to live blog news, views and opinions around games. With the passions involved, surely it's just too risky.

So while some may be brave enough to ask "real-time" questions of what fans think of a game or a player's performance, surely what we're talking about here is real-time delivery of pre-arranged content? And let's face it -- you can't release anything in any other time than "real-time," can you? Everyone has to hit "post" -- and so, by definition, isn't everything real-time?

Where the season will likely be won and lost by marketers is in real-time judgements. Some may be lucky enough to have a well-known player tagging them on a post on their views of the game or agreeing to send a quote, but the vast majority of social activity will not have such a live insider's view feel to it -- certainly not content that cannot be found on their Twitter profile.

The clever brands will be arranging time with their stars so they have content ready to unleash in as near as you can get to "real-time." Maybe a Fabregas video on how he practices free kicks, which can be posted the moment he bends one over the wall into the top corner. Aguero talking about the pressure of being favourites for the title to go out the first time Manchester City loses a game? Arteta being interviewed about scoring in front of a former team as Arsenal's game against Everton begins or, should it happen, after he scores?

So for real-time should we really be talking about making a lot of previous work look effortless through real-time execution?

To be effective, and to even be possible (with all the necessary permissions), real-time marketing is surely an illusion. The only thing "real-time" about it is the timing of when you chose to unleash "real-time" content that has been planned and compiled far in advance.

Reactive marketing may sound less positive than "real-time" -- but to me, it certainly sums up the path to second-screener social success.

Just as any comedian knows, when you're called on to be spontaneous on a chat or games show, it's best to be "caught out" on the spot with a bunch of material you've been practising all week.

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1 comment about "Surely Second-Screener Social Success Is 'Reactive,' Not 'Real-Time'?".
  1. David Kissel from InStadium , August 12, 2014 at 4:27 p.m.
    Great post, Sean. As we anxiously awaiting our new football season here in the States (NFL), the marketing phenomenon you describe in the U.K. has taken hold in the U.S., too. While we can all relate to much of the marketing that is posing as "real-time," is actually pre-scheduled, what's most important is the resulting real time social activity from the audience. Fans watching in the stadium and at home are mobilized (our statistics show that 90% of live sports fans in the arenas have smart phones), so brand marketers have a huge opportunity to get people talking, sharing, and posting. That is the big opportunity; taking the unpredictable, unscripted drama of live sport, and creating relevant and intentional brand dialog in "real-time."