According to research, 67% of sports fans choose Twitter as their ‘second screen’ when watching live sport. It appears that the 10-year-old platform is now so entwined in sporting events that many of us couldn’t imagine enjoying live sport in any other way!
The secret of Twitter’s success has been the versatility and customisation that delivers sports fans the perfect accompaniment for their favourite sporting occasion, in contrast to it’s less agile Facebook cousin. As a result, many sports sponsorship brands have been experimenting with campaigns tasked with harnessing the power of Twitter, with varying degrees of success.
The concept of ‘adding to’ a spectating experience started to hit the social media trend lists late 2013. Twitter fans began to create new innovative ways of using the platform with a realisation that Twitter was not only a powerful news aggregator ‘post event’ but a tool capable of delivering an enhanced experience around specific ‘moments’ in time like a goal or a sporting victory.
Providing ‘added value’ to sporting ‘moments’ is now so central to social media strategy for live events that Twitter have begun developing algorithms for measuring impact of specific key sporting moments. As a result, with 108 goals scored in #Euro2016 Twitter were able to tell us exactly which moment was most powerful in engaging audiences.
The results highlight the challenge of predicting the ‘key moments’ ahead of the live action. For example, according to the Twitter spike detection algorithm, Niall McGinn’s rebound to stretch Northern Ireland’s lead against Ukraine generated the highest percentage of goal-related activity during #Euro2016.
Traditionally, sponsors and communications planners would have banked all their investment on the ‘big’ ticket goals or teams commonly associated with the latter stages of the tournament. However, few could have predicted the social popularity of Wales and Iceland after their heroic performances.
The success of second screen entertainment has driven a large uplift in the sheer volume of tweets at sporting events. The highest peak to date has been the World Cup football in 2014 generating a total of 672 million tweets, a significant rise from London Olympics which stood at 150 million back in 2012 when the country was still in its infancy of getting to grips with all things social.
Behind the prized moments are the stars of the show, the athletes, the players and the teams, who are now measured in terms of their social media reach and influence, commercially. For example, Gareth Bale not only won the hearts & minds on the pitch but on Twitter, adding serious value to his sponsorship credentials by acquiring 2.3 millions followers during the event to push himself into second position behind Twitter heavyweight Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, with the potential of Social Media also comes the threat of added risk and this year’s Euros were no exception.
People were encouraged to tweet as part of the #SupportYourTeam with a chance to light up the Eiffel Tower in their Nation’s colours. On paper a great way of linking the online and offline environments, the holy grail of digital communications! However, campaign organisers got more than they bargained for with the campaign quickly turning into a PR disaster when the automation system started to RT inappropriate and offensive accounts to the public at large.
When automated tweets go wrong. UEFA … pic.twitter.com/84xc2jh50L
— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) 14 December 2015
The role of social media automation in sports events has been the topic of much debate since the terrorist attack on Stade de France. Faced with a sudden emergency, many of the 79k spectators moved onto the pitch, turning to Twitter for updates, only to see pre-planned out of hours automated tweets rather than reassuring safety updates. Some level of automation is inevitable for fans, faced with the demand for a large volume of outbound content. However, an override position needs to be quickly implemented in those times of need. On these occasions the second screen can quickly become the first as it takes on the mantle of helping people to quickly disperse to safety.
So how can event communications teams capitalise on the opportunities presented at live sporting events to ensure that they drive engagement and extract value from them?
1) Add genuine value! – It sounds obvious but it is really important to define exactly how spectators and fans will use social media to add value to their spectating experience. One of the biggest complaints spectators have is about lazy content (automated feeds), particularly the repetition of scores. If someone is watching a game live, there is no need to tell them the score! Even those who are not able to watch a game are likely to have access to official score boards which will do the job far more effectively than clogging up their timeline. Remember to keep social just that – social! Provide fans with content to help them to share key moments with their friends and connect with other likeminded fans.
2) Tell the personal stories – It’s a secret that journalists have used for decades in creating engaging news! The more we hear the back story, the more we form an emotional response and build rapport with the subject matter. Look beyond the game on the pitch to what is going on behind the scenes, the personal triumphs, successes that make that athlete, team or club a success ! Land Rover did this really well in the Rugby World Cup with their promotion of the team mascots and this is a really simple area that can be pre-planned successfully.
3) Have a creative team to hand! Sporting events have repeatedly demonstrated that the most popular content comes at times when you least expect it. A breath-taking piece of action, a random interruption or an unexpected triumph! It is really important that there is a creative team on standby to capitalise on these opportunities to react as they arise. Each event is unique from the weather to the quality of the performance so making the content reflect the actual mood of the fans in the stands is a more accurate way of conveying tension and helps in creating a ‘diary’ of the action for the diehard fans.
Much can be learnt from brands on content spontaneity. Remember the Oreo example that grabbed the attention of the Super Bowl fans when faced with a power shortage? ‘You can still dunk in the dark’ advert gained immediate brand exposure worldwide.
4) Risk assess & pre-test campaign ideas – The lightening speed of the social environment means that if and when something goes wrong, the damage can be far more wide reaching and damaging to the brand than in other communication arenas. Too often campaigns are thought through at lightening speed and rushed to expose a fundamental flaw (such as Eiffel Tower example above) so do as much testing as possible and always have a Crisis PR plan and a rigorous social media tool in place that allows you to quickly override the campaign in times of crisis. In an era of engagement, testing also helps you to identify key content trigger points so that you can plan the right kind of content to increase the success of a campaign.
5) Think security! – Increasingly the digital environment surrounding live events is becoming targeted by those who recognise the appetite of sports fans to connect with the brand and each other. Protect your fans by ensuring they quickly recognise ‘official’ sources of information (such as verified live event channels) and ensure password protocols are in place at all times to prevent intruders from gaining access to your channels. There have been multiple examples over the past year of stolen laptops and mobile phones that gave intruders direct access to the brand’s social media accounts. Ensure all password protocols are in place across all devices and that accounts are plugged into a secure penetration tested environment.
6) Increase post event content – The jury is out on the total number of tweets posted during this #Euro2016. Why? Because people are still discussing it and sharing content long after the teams have returned home. Communications teams need to spend more time planning for the outcome of events to ensure that they exploit fully the potential of the event long after the final whistle goes!
So as the opening ceremony of this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games gets underway, perhaps take a moment to consider how you will be gaining extra value from your social media and how this could relate to your own business audiences in the future.
CrowdControlHQ is the UK’s leading social media risk management and compliance platform built for enterprise. Our social media platform is used by sporting bodies and event teams. Please visit our website and watch our demo to find out how we could help!