Sport and reactive marketing: a perfect match

arsenal running man wenger“Sport generates passion like almost nothing else in modern life – and that passion comes to life on social media,” explained Richard Ayers, CEO of sports marketing agency Seven League, at the opening of Sport and Social: Incredible Loyalty, Incredible ROI at this year’s Social Media Week.

See all coverage of Social Media Week London on Brand Republic

The event brought together a panel of speakers from a mixture of sporting organisations; Arsenal Football Club, The Jockey Club and the NBA.

During his introduction Ayers explained the influence that social media now has on sport, stating that over 40% of today’s tweets relate to sport – with sports teams and athletes having some of the largest followings across Twitter and Facebook.

As we progressed through the session one key point came up time and time again – this was the importance of being timely when using social media, especially in the world of sport.

The most striking example of this came from Xavier Bidault, NBA’s head of digital for EMEA.  He said that the NBA aims to have an instant replay of key in-game plays on Twitter within 30 seconds of the action happening on court.

Arsenal’s managing editor, Rich Clarke reinforced the importance of real time as he said the London club prefers to prioritise immediacy of content over editorial quality.

The event, which in the end, focused more on engagement and reach than ROI, also highlighted some key points about the types of content sports fans find most engaging.

Abigail Sawyer of The Jockey Club ran us through the content its fans are most reactive to. This was behind-the-scenes content and reactive content relating to events as they happen. The Jockey Club’s most engaging post of all time was a simple, in the moment, photo of a 100/1 winner captioned; ‘Ha Ha, I won’.

This backed up the earlier point made by Rich Clarke about prioritising the immediacy of content over editorial quality.  Had the ‘Ha Ha, I won’ image gone through multiple edits, checks and approval processes it definitely wouldn’t have been so timely – and probably not as compelling.

Video was also a key talking point. Both the NBA and Arsenal have successful YouTube channels. The NBA focuses on daily updates with top plays, interviews and news from across the league, while Arsenal uses YouTube to focus on content from their pre-season tours.

This summer Arsenal used YouTube to show content from the Asia tour. Its most-watched piece of content was inspired by a Vietnamese fan who ran behind the team bus for miles just to catch a glimpse of his heroes.

The ‘Running Man’ (pictured) was invited onto the bus and got to meet the Arsenal players, coaches and manager.

Arsenal’s marketing team knew this had the opportunity to capture the hearts of  fans across the globe and created a short video for YouTube telling the story. Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny narrated the video to add a personal touch, and it has now amassed 2.9m views.

This content couldn’t be planned for, and meant the Arsenal team had to react to the story as it unfolded.

Brands, and agencies alike, have a lot to learn in terms of adapting processes to fit with the ‘in the moment’ marketing model, where time is everything and content can’t always be planned in advance. We’re doing exactly that for Betfair, where we focus activity on reacting to developing news in the sports media, and ‘gold tier’, high-impact sporting events like Wimbledon.

Nowadays, brands – especially those in the sports industry – must have the ability to be flexible in order to create content that is truly responsive to what is going on in their industry, then get the message out in a timely, creative way that reflects appropriate brand and tone of voice.

Ash Read is Community Manager at TMW. Follow him on Twitter @AshRead14