James Royer, Director of Digital and Social for the Tampa Bay Lightning, joins the Social Pros Podcast this week to discuss social space in American sports, building rabid brand loyalty, and how to completely rebuild a “broken brand” successfully.
Read on for some of the highlights and tweetable moments, or listen to the full podcast.
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“Social media is not always about what happens digitally; it happens in real life, too.” -@jamesroyer (tweet this)
Tap into Their Passion
The Tampa Bay Lightning is a sports team that really utilized social to turn its brand around. When Jeff Vinik bought the team in 2010, he needed to make some major changes. “At that point in time, the Tampa Bay Lightning were very much a broken brand,” says James. At this home game in 2010, there were more Detroit Red Wings jerseys represented than Lightning.
Tampa Bay is not a traditional hockey market, so the Lightning have to work a little harder to get people in the building. Much of the time, the spectators are displaced fans of other teams who are either on vacation or having relocated to Tampa Bay. After a major rebranding, the Lightning became the team people love to root for until their own team comes to town. “They’ll cheer for the Lightning until their home town team comes in the building. They’ll pull that Lightning jersey off, and they’ll wear their home team’s.”
In addition to immediately pumping $50 million into renovating the building, Vinik also made sure the team jumped into the 21st century. The Lightning were the first team to add RFID tags to their jerseys for season ticket holders. The tags give the wearer a discount on merchandise and refreshments, plus it puts a whole lot of blue back in the stands.
During the building renovation, the Lightning sacrificed some corporate suites for the sake of creating social space. The areas are branded and allow people to watch the game up close while eating a hot dog, take photos with the logo, and view live Instagram and Twitter feeds about the game. Next year the video wall will include Vine, Facebook, and Instagram videos, as well.
It’s all about tapping into people’s natural excitement and the need to share. They asked themselves, “How do we tap into that passion they have for being at a sporting event?”
A promotion on Valentine’s Day last year gave a Lightning cupcake to anyone who checked in on Foursquare or Facebook. They were playing the Buffalo Sabres, and if a fan wearing a Sabres jersey asked for a cupcake, James jokingly told them they couldn’t have a cupcake unless they tweeted with the hashtag #gobolts. “They did it in a second,” he says. “They sold their team loyalty out for a cupcake.”
James thinks that creating these memorable, in-game moments is something that more sports teams will try to reproduce going forward. It’s what encourages people to get out to the game, even if they’re tired or have to battle traffic. It builds fan loyalty in a tangible way.
For today’s Holy Social, we want to draw attention to an amusing parody account of retailer Burlington Coat Factory. The nonsensical, pseudo-English tweets are capturing attention primarily because Burlington Coat Factory’s official website was directing to the parody account as its official Twitter account.
The tweets that make the least sense seem to get the most retweets, and the account constantly begs followers to use the hashtag #coats. Parody accounts are nothing new to Twitter, but it will be interesting to see if there’s a creative way for Burlington Coat Factory – the real one – to leverage this attention.
Social Media Stat of the Week: 927,500 tweets about the Emmys
According to the preliminary ratings, the Emmys had 17.6 million viewers this week, making it the most-watched Emmy show since Ellen Degeneres hosted back in 2005. At the exact same time, the season finale of Dexter and the second-to-last episode of Breaking Bad aired, the latter of which nabbed its highest ratings at 6.6 million viewers.
What’s remarkable is that Twitter stats are now a normal part of ratings reporting. “Nielsen, through acquisition, has picked up companies that are monitoring social media,” Jeff says. “Now you’re starting to see, with regularity, recording of the volume of tweets along with the big shows.”
Four Your Information
How did you get involved with social media?
He hates to admit it, but James was first active in MySpace. He worked for Jeep, which was one of the first companies to join the social sphere, and at that time MySpace was the place to be.
What do you like best about social media?
From a brand perspective, James used to struggle with basic problems like, “How do we get the message out?” But as social grows, those basics become easier, and he gets to have more fun with it.
What do you like least about social media?
The negativity in places like Twitter is especially damaging for professional athletes. “There are really some really unique personalities in the sports world who would be on Twitter if they didn’t have that.” So much of being a pro athlete is mental, and having a source of negativity is only detrimental to cultivating a good, competitive mindset.
If you could do a Skype call with any living person, who would it be?
James has gotten to meet a lot of legends during his time working in professional sports. “Coaches have better stories,” he says. He would most like to have a Twitter call with Bobby Knight.
See you next week!