Top 10 Social Media In Sports Trends

Posted: November 12, 2010 in Social Media

Jason Peck recently asked 16 sports industry thought leaders (a few of us who write here among them) to share their thoughts and predictions for sports and social media in 2010. The result was an awesome ebook full of some solid insights.

In this post I’d like to build off the foundation Jason (and the others) created and identify the top 10 trends to anticipate in 2010. My methodology was relatively simple. I read through the ebook a couple of times and took diligent notes on the reoccurring themes that emerged among the contributors’ predictions.

Here are the results:

1.) Transition to Social from Traditional – This is trend is happening everywhere, not just in sports. We’ll continue to see companies pull dollars out of traditional media and invest in growing their communities, engaging their fans, and providing unique experiences. This was never more evident than when Pepsi announced they were launching the Pepsi Refresh Project instead of buying Super Bowl spots this year.

2.) The Rise of Online Video – As Brian Gainor, the Blogs with Balls guys and others mentioned, Flip Cams are beginning to pop up everywhere. The cost of entry to getting video on the web with fancy cell phones and new technology is easier than ever and bloggers, fans, and even athletes will be taking advantage of this fact. We will be able to connect more intimately than ever before, but will the space become over saturated by novices blasting their messages? By athlete meltdowns ala Marbury?

3.) Hyper Localization – With Google, Craiglist and Yelp leading the way, and iPhone apps like Four Square emerging as power players, teams will begin experimenting with disruption models intended to inform local markets, ‘direct traffic,’ and provide on location calls-to-action. Can game day tweet-ups, and last minute discounted ticket sales entice people eating in Uptown Charlotte, or maybe working late, to walk a few blocks for the Bobcats game? (Okay. So maybe the Bobcats are a bad example.)

4.) Personal Athlete Branding – Superstars like LeBron don’t need Twitter, but aging veterans looking to increase their relevancy and offer up an additional platform or value-add for sponsors might. And what about role players? Retired athletes? Charlie Villanueva is the perfect example of a guy I might not have cared about unless he was on my fantasy team, until now. Unfortunately, like the Blogs with Balls guys mentioned in the ebook, I fear this means we’ll see an influx of smarmy “online gurus.”

5.) Increased Restrictions/Less Free-Flow of Information – And because half of these guys (see: Larry Johnson, among others) can’t figure out what they can and can’t say, or when (not during games guys) they should say it I think we’ll continue to see increased restrictions and more rules and procedures coming from the executive brass. I’m okay with that, particularly with the athletes just as long as universities don’t restrict their fans.

6.) Real-Time Interactions (Increased Fan Interactivity) – Mobile is a HUGE part of this. Steve Cobb discussed this in the ebook, but what it boils down to his convenience. Fans want to connect with athletes, they want to connect with each other and they want to do it all the second they think of it. With the increased capability of smart phones we might see relevant fan tweets popping up on jumbotrons during games within the next year. What about an app for fans of opposing teams to “square off” and shit-talk each other during games?

7.) More Best Practices – Perhaps this goes without saying, but with increased adoption across the board and more teams and brands trying different things, some of them are bound to be successful.

8.) Specific Goals & Refined Methods – Whether it is seeing others succeed or tasting it themselves, brands will realize the capabilities of the social web. With more best practices and proof of concept, teams, athletes, and smarmy “online gurus” will all start trying to “swim with a purpose,” as Russell Scibetti said in the ebook. With other teams/athletes figuring it out, others will not be able to justify playing casually in the sandbox anymore.

9.) Increased Attempts to Monetize – Part of justifying social media entails actually making money off of it. While it’s true that it’s usually inexpensive to get started, more advanced strategies involve resources like time and people that aren’t always so cheap. Showing positive cash flow as a result of your social media efforts gets the big boys to buy in and open their wallets to try new ways to continue engaging fans. And where there’s fans, there’s usually sponsorable content.

10.) Fine Tuned Measurement – No longer is throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what will stick an appropriate strategy. With clearly defined goals, it’s critical to have measurable objectives. All of these won’t necessarily equate to dollars (i.e. sentiment, traffic, subscribers, etc.) and it’s important to measure these things too (depending on what matters to your brand, obviously), but brands will become increasingly responsible for measuring ROI (yeah, as in dollars) also.

Which of these trends do you think will emerge as the MOST important in 2010? Which of these is YOUR company most concerned with in 2010? What are other significant trends that we might have missed?

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