August 4, 2016 | Emily Winsauer

How to Incorporate Game Day into Your Social Media Marketing

With college football season almost here and the Olympics underway, August is a great time for many businesses to think about incorporating sporting events into their marketing. Though, honestly, marketers should avoid the Olympics like the plague. More on that in a moment.

So, how can you incorporate game day into your social media marketing without recycling the same tired puns that customers have been seeing for their entire adult lives? (e.g. "This deal is a touchdown!" and "make your 2017 a grand slam!"). Here are 6 tips to help you use sporting events in your social campaigns without dropping the ball. (Heh. Heh.)

1. Respect copyrights—for real.

Saying "The Big Game" or "Brazil 2016" may suck, but at least it won't get you sued. This is true for all major franchises, but let me give you a more specific example. You may have noticed my subtle hints above that the Olympics are risky for marketers, but it's difficult to exaggerate how sensitive various official Olympic entities are to copyright infringement.

If you can believe it, the US Olympic Committee (USOC) has even said that "Commercial entities may not post about the Trials or Games on their corporate social media accounts. This restriction includes the use of USOC's trademarks in hashtags such as #Rio2016 or #TeamUSA." You may not post about the games! Whaaaat? They go so far as to say that you may not even re-post anything from official Olympics accounts or use any photos taken at the Games, let alone use any official copyrighted terms or materials. 

If you're thinking, "Oh, they would never sue me! I'm just a little knitting blog/butcher shop. How could I hurt their business?"—You're wrong.

The USOC went after a knitting website called Ravelry for a knitting competition called the "Ravelympics," and forced Olympic Meat Packers, owned by a Greek-American family, to change its name to Olympia Meat Packers. God help you if you actually abuse their copyright with Olympics-themed marketing.  

Serena Williams doesn't know what to think about her game day social media marketing.

I can't cover all the copyright issues here that you might come across in sports marketing, but suffice it to say that you need to do a little research about what's okay and what isn't. 

2. Don't ignore quality for quantity.

Here's the silver lining of all that litigiousness—massive events like the Olympics or the Superbowl don't actually offer the best ROI for your business. If you rely on local customers or have close ties to your community, you'll probably get more bang for your buck by focusing on a smaller, more targeted event like a high school rivalry game or a minor sport with a big event coming up (regatta, anyone?).

While there are fewer people following the game, they'll value your involvement a lot more. You'll also be competing with fewer brands for their attention, which makes your efforts not only more effective, but cheaper. 

Geotargeting is a great example. If your buyer persona includes young or tech-savvy people, you can pay ridiculously low prices for branded Snapchat geofilters that not only reach the people at the game, but all of their followers. 

Also, sponsorships of local sporting events are often fairly low-cost and can help you build loyalty and strong community ties, but you can't just toss your logo onto a banner and expect results—you have to get involved.

Sponsoring a local team or event is an opportunity to build a big social campaign around your involvement, not to mention promote your support in other ways. You can even ask for special access to players and practices to create shareable videos, images, and even fun GIFs of the team, coaching staff, facilities, and whatever else fans might like to see. Think Nike's Instagram campaign for the Unnamed International Athletic Competition, but for your local team. What fan, teammate, parent, player, or friend wouldn't want to see and share that?

3. Know what you're talking about.

Don't kid yourself—if you use a sport or event in your marketing that you don't know or care about, it will be obvious to potential customers. To earn engagement on social media, do your research. Nothing turns off a true fan more than a company bungling a team chant or misusing a sports term while trying to sell them something. 

Also, take note of what the fans love—details about their favorite athletes, underdog stories, team strategy, or historic rivalries. You don't have to turn your social accounts into SportsCenter, but knowledgeable posts will add legitimacy and authenticity, and fans will respond. 

4. Think pre- and post-game too.

At this point, pre- and post-game strategy probably seems intuitive, but it's easy to lose focus when you create content to share over a longer period of time. The key is to create strong connections among everything you produce, whether in the design, overall tone, or in the central theme or subject (e.g. through the eyes of a rookie player).  

Equally important is evolving or expanding the campaign at each stage; sharing one-note content over and over will get boring and engagement will drop off. You may have noticed the Superbowl trend of releasing trailers of commercials in advance of the game, introducing a main spot during the game, and then releasing the rest of the campaign after? Like that.

Pre- and post-game are great times for contests, too, because you can ask people to take action without distracting them from the main event. After the game is a particularly rich time for engagement if there was a historic win or other element of the event that people are excited about. Try to find ways to share in that experience and produce things they'll want to share. 

5. Be engaging, not interruptive.

At any point in your sports marketing, it's important to add something to the fan experience, not just use it as an excuse to butt in. There are lots of ways to make sure you're doing this:

  • Plan the campaign ahead, but leave room for real-time responses to what's happening and genuine conversation with fans. People really appreciate likes, comments, and retweets!
  • Customize the message to the channel so that you're giving people what they're looking for at that moment, like cool team photos on Instagram, a link to a blog post about the top 5 moments in team history on Twitter, or a behind-the-scenes look at the team on Snapchat.
  • Add meaning or value. Lots of teams and players are already affiliated with causes, so involving a charity can be a natural step. You can also dig deeper into the people involved or the context of the game; what obsessive fan wouldn't appreciate more info?

Think of it as marketing manners: if you're crashing the party, you'd better bring a bottle of wine for the hostess. It's only polite.

6. Cross-channel campaigns need a home base.

Our ability to consume content about the things we love has exploded beyond what anyone could have imagined. I can follow the personal social accounts of my favorite athletes (Snapchat: SimoneBiles), listen to fan podcasts, watch the best plays or interviews on YouTube, and search hashtags on Twitter to find postgame analysis.

If you're planning to add to this glut of information with pieces of content across multiple channels and want an actual return on your hard work, you need to tie all of your campaigns together. A landing page on your website can serve as a home base for the campaign, connecting fans to content on other platforms and introducing them to your larger brand.

This page should be clearly identified with the individual campaign, present the main point and value of the campaign really clearly, and then direct people to where, when, and how they can engage with the campaign. You can also embed social content right into the page as a preview and an enticement to follow you, and replace the link on your social profiles with this URL during the campaign so people can find more info if they're intrigued.

Why go to all this trouble? Today, fans are following their favorite teams and athletes on multiple channels throughout the day. One well-planned Instagram image may earn a like, but a campaign that promises something of interest can earn followers and customers across multiple platforms.

Alright, sports fans—if you just go out there, have a good time, and give it your all, I know you'll nail it. 

Turtle doing flips over his game day social media marketing.

Make sure your social media profiles don't look bush league!

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Emily Winsauer

Emily Winsauer

As VIEO's content director, Emily Winsauer was responsible for content strategy for VIEO and our clients for over 5 years. She recently moved to Seattle where she's still creating compelling content in her new role.

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