In parallel with this gridiron gravitation pull come the results of an interesting study that the crew at Catalyst PR and the SportsBusiness Journal released earlier this month. In the survey of hundreds of "hardcore" sports fans across MLB, NBA, NFL, College Football and College Basketball, the not-too-surprising results showed high usage of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube before, during and after sports events.
Add the overlay to this study that much of this usage is also migrating to smartphones and tablet devices and the coming football season will have a digital profile like no season before it. So how can publishers and marketers take advantage of these evolving consumer trends? Here's how each of the three social networks can position themselves as great outlets for bringing content, sponsorship and fans together.
The Catalyst-SBJ study highlighted that on average, Twitter usage was more prevalent before and during an event than compared to Facebook. Heightened demand for "real-time" entertainment coverage and news by fans makes Twitter the go-to source for tracking what's happening "right now." Publishers will do well by enabling and creating content for distribution through multiple branded handles on Twitter -- whether they be team-specific or event-specific.
Creating high quality content that allow audiences to prep for an event, and then providing real-time access to content that enhances the coverage of the event live via Twitter engages fans in a wider window for the publisher. For the sponsor this creates an expanded footprint for their brand message to connect with target audiences in the highly engaged and contextual way that really matters. Further, we can expect Twitter to continue evolving their ad products suite to bring publishers and brands together within the Twitter ecosystem.
The fan page meets the event page. Sports at its core breaks down to a never-ending list of events. From the Super Bowl to the Tuesday night Marlins vs. Mets game in mid August, events are the experience that bring the crowds together offline and online. Facebook has created the largest digital stadium in the world and every publisher who creates content related to an event -- whether it be a rights holder or media outlet -- can extend their reach via the fan page platform. Connecting readers from your own platform to these fan pages via social plug-ins allows publishers to pursue a true "everywhere" strategy that synchronizes their own destination properties with the social extension.
The interesting findings in the Catalyst-SBJ study show that Facebook tends to see its usage skew towards the post-event window. The "what happened and why" coverage and conversation phase. This is a key window for content creators in that it is here where you get to engage with the euphoric fan after a victory and the despondent fan after a loss -- in both cases a fan whose emotional state connects them to content in a meaningful way. This is also the window where sponsors can benefit by getting in front of fans in these engaging post-event conversations -- dialogues that then begin the all important upswing leading towards the next event to be played.
Video baby! Even more so than Facebook, the Catalyst-SBJ survey pegged YouTube as a go-to destination for fans post-event -- an accurate assessment in terms of consumer avidity for sports video highlights. To the extent rights holders make meaningful video content available -- or non-rights holder content publishers are able to create video analysis and opinion following events -- YouTube will remain the dominant destination fans race to after the event for video coverage.
Over time, don't be surprised to see YouTube move to become a destination for other event windows, whether through carrying and/or facilitating creation of additional pre-event window content, or even more live event coverage of sports not available on broadcast or cable. Sponsors will increasingly be able to take advantage of this huge opportunity to invest brand-advertising dollars on the social platform where publishers will be connecting video content with sports fans.
So, let's get ready for some football -- and a season where Facebook, Twitter and YouTube extend the experience for fans, publishers and marketers in an impactful way.