The other evening I attended a stimulating lecture by Angela Seits about creating and maintaining brand communities using social media. The take away for me was the idea that you do not create a community, you connect with one. That means connecting people with your brand, and watching them connect with one another as a result. This idea got me thinking: how do professional sports teams connect with their communities?
- Sign a superstar.Case in point: the Los Angeles Clippers. When was the last time this team was even relevant? When Elton Brand made the All Star squad in 2002? With the acquisition of Blake Griffin, the Clippers have once again found themselves surrounded with a community of loyal fans. How do they connect with them? Through Blake, of course. The superstar athlete promotes
products from Subway sandwiches to AT&T phones, and graces the covers of popular sports magazines every other month. The question is, however, if His Highness decides to leave when his contract is terminated, will the Clippers community follow him? After all, many of us bandwagon Clipper fans are more a part of the Blake Griffin community than we are of Los Angeles’ second NBA team. (Yes, I am including myself in this bandwagon group. Not sorry about it.)
- Tweet, Tweet! With the popularity of Twitter surpassing other social networks, sports teams and their players have jumped on board and created “verified” accounts for themselves. This has proved to be a double-edged sword. In certain cases, it has shed light on the loud mouths of many of the players when their publicists are not monitoring them (check out my previous post about this issue). However, it also allows community members to connect during games, and to share opinions and thoughts about their favorite athletes. Twitter has also made the athletes seem more human to their fans, and many of them interact appropriately and chip in on conversations about their franchise. This also presents an opportunity for swift apologies
- Give back.This one is HUGE. The NBA practices this tactic through its global outreach program
called NBA cares. This program sends players to areas in need, be it elementary schools or hospitals, the players are able to connect with their fans on a personal level, and give back to smaller communities. The NFL also practices giving back through charity work, and each team supports different initiatives in its community. NFL Giving aims to promote philanthropy through the act of giving back with both current and former NFL athletes. By giving back to the communities that support them, professional franchises establish a deeper connection that reaches below the idolized surface of superstar athletes and allows people to see that there is more to the team at hand.
To wrap it up, a franchise cannot create a community—it needs to connect with the one that supports it.