Sports Marketers Tap Social Media for Consumer Intel

There’s a natural intersection between spectator sports and social media: spectator sports are best enjoyed in groups, real or virtual, and team loyalties are often expressed communally. There are also the fine details of strategy, player stats, and insider gossip to be debated and rehashed at great length. All of this translates easily to online social platforms -- and also provides a wealth of information for marketers working for professional sports franchises.

With this in mind, Fizziology, which conducts social media research in areas like entertainment and politics, is bringing its expertise to the world of professional sports with a new research service called Sports Tracker. Fizziology’s Sports Tracker will monitor and analyze sentiment about specific topics on social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, determining what percentage of conversations about the topic are positive, negative, or neutral.

The new service is intended to help teams, leagues, and event marketers figure out “what matters most to fans… and generate swift changes to improve the overall fan experience,” according to Rich Calabrese, Fizziology account manager, who explained: “Instead of wondering what fans think of the venue, food, prices, players and a variety of other factors that have an impact on the bottom line, the sports industry can finally have real-time access to fan feedback from the world’s biggest focus group -- social media.”

Big sports events are increasingly embracing -- and taking control of -- social media for communicating with fans. Thus this year’s Super Bowl was outfitted with its own “social media command center,” courtesy of Raidious, an Indianapolis-based digital marketing firm which was chosen to operate an online nerve center for the big game. The task force was responsible for monitoring social media and responding to questions, complaints, and comments posted by the 150,000-strong crowd of fans.

Meanwhile the Organising Committee for the upcoming London Olympics, scheduled to take place July 27-August 12, has issued comprehensive social media guidelines for the 70,000 volunteers who will be helping manage the event. Volunteers are forbidden to disclose any information about their own personal role, their location, or any information about athletes, celebrities, or visiting dignitaries. On the plus side, they can retweet or repost official postings from the London 2012 social media team, which is supposed to provide centralized control of social media content emanating from the games.

The Cleveland Indians recently announced they will be bringing back one of their social media-friendly innovations: the “social media suite” at Progressive Field, where the biggest social media users can congregate to watch games (and post to social media) from a privileged position.

Of course social media isn’t all wine and roses for teams and athletes. At a press conference this week Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey said she is sickened by online attacks on one of her best players, Brittney Griner, who at 6’8” stands out even from other female basketball players. Mulkey was quoted in the press as saying: “I made a commitment my fourth year at Baylor that I'll never read a message board, I don't want to see any of that garbage. I don't want to hear about it, because it’s just not right. It’s not healthy… The stuff she’s had to read about, the stuff she’s had to hear, the stuff people say about her, the stuff people write about her, it's got to stop. That stuff's got to stop.”

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