Jeramie McPeek: What Sports Clubs Should Be Doing On Social Media

On July 5th in Brighton’s stunning AMEX stadium, Digital Sport and Sportego combine forces to produce Fan Engagement Conference Brighton or FECBrighton for short. Featuring world leaders in Fan Engagement, Sponsorship activation and Digital, it is a must attend event which offers excellent networking and learning opportunities. Tickets are limited and are selling fast so get yours now via www.digitalsport.co or www.feckk.ie.

As part of our build-up to FECBrighton, Sportego’s Head of Client Services Donnacha Brennan sat down with Jeramie McPeek, one of the fantastic speakers for what promises to be a must attend event. The former VP of Digital & Brand Strategy for the Phoenix Suns and Social Media Quarterback for the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee, @Jeramie has more than two decades of experience telling stories and achieving business objectives through traditional print, online, social and mobile channels.

Jeramie, FECBrighton will be your second Fan Engagement Conference with ourselves, having previously graced the stage in Kilkenny this past March. What do you personally enjoy about these conferences?

I loved my experience at FECKilkenny (FECKK). I thought it had a strong lineup of speakers, who I was able to learn a lot from, and bring a lot of takeaways from, back to the States… things to think about, and ideas that challenged me. But I think my favourite part of FEC is being able to meet and interact with so many other Digital-minded sportspeople from another part of the world, and to hear what their day-to-day challenges are, what their success stories looked like. To be able to share insights from my own experiences, but also to hear and learn from them. It was very interesting to see what they are doing in the digital space, in social media, with mobile apps and analytics.

To be able to compare notes, I found that to be incredibly valuable, as I am sure attendees to FECBrighton will agree. I made some good friends when I was there and have stayed in contact with many people via email and skype chats. In that way, the learning from FEC Kilkenny has continued through to today and I can’t wait for FEC Brighton to meet more people, learn from them and hopefully I will be able to share some of my knowledge and experience from my years in the digital space as well.

I find, myself, that it is that symbiotic learning & teaching phenomenon which makes our Fan Engagement Conferences so valuable for attendees, would you agree?

Absolutely, you are knocking ideas back and forth, but there are also those times carved out which are purely networking, where you can meet people over a coffee and snack and have deeper conversations following up on some of the panellists you just heard speak. It is at those times you really build those relationships which can last for years.

In many respects, North America has been the driving force in the development of social media, and also its analysis and usage by sporting organisations. Is that still the case, with European teams playing a game of “catch-up”?

I don’t feel that is nearly as much the case today as it was 3-5 years ago. Yes, most of the big social networks such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram were launched here in the US first and so sports teams over here adopted them before overseas clubs did, and so they got a head start. However, I have had the chance speak overseas on many occasions and I have found that those organisations have caught up and are coming up with their own ways to innovate and use social media. I think there is still a respect on the part of non-US teams who regard their US counterparts as the gold-standard in the use of such technology but I feel that they are probably under-selling their own effectiveness in that regard.

FC Barcelona has more followers than any sports team in the world, and a huge staff of digital producers, analysts and content producers who are producing content that teams from around the world are looking at and learning from. The Western Bulldogs, the Australian Football League champions are doing some amazing things as I found when I attended one of their games a couple of years ago. I love what they are doing, they are very creative and always coming up with new ways to interact with and inform their fans, and new ways to entertain their audience.

I think there are a lot of things people in Europe and around the world are doing, which teams in the US can learn from now.

When you are at FECBrighton, you will be speaking about things that sports clubs in the UK should be doing on social media. Can you give us a little taster of what attendees to the conference can expect, and perhaps give us your priorities when it comes to deciding on a social media strategy?

Interacting with your fans is hugely important. Yes, it can seem like basic advice but there are too many teams who are using social media as a one-way communication channel, merely to distribute their own content and message. They don’t use it to interact with their fans, and I feel that is so important. Be it to reply to their questions, like their comments and retweet or quote tweet some of their best reactions or comments. If somebody tweets you saying it is their first game in your stadium, reply to them saying thank you for coming, that you hope they had a good time and that they will come back again soon.

If someone tags you in an Instagram photograph of their new baby wearing your team’s colours, reply to that with a message of congratulations and welcome a new member to the fanbase family. Those types of interaction only take a few seconds for your social media manager to do, but they can last a lifetime for that fan. To them it is not a person in a cubicle replying to them, it is the team they have grown up supporting who are replying to them. That kind of interaction can really reinforce the connection a fan feels to your club, and make them want to attend more games or follow your team more closely.

That’s very true, it only takes a moment for a social media manager to make that effort, but the memory of that will remain with the fan forever. I recall a day when I was eight or nine years old, and the All-Blacks squad were visiting my hometown club as part of their tour. Zinzan Brooke who was one of my idols growing up passed by me in the corridor and literally touched off my shoulder as he passed. That memory has lasted my lifetime, and clubs have that ability every day on social media, to reach out and touch their fans.

Moving on, what should be the next “pillar” in a club’s social media strategy?

The next thing which teams need to focus on is video, video, video. In a recent report, Cisco predicts that by 2020, 83% of content consumed on the internet will be video. So I cannot stress enough the importance that teams look at what they are doing from a video point of view. 2020 is right around the corner and if teams are just focused on written content, tweeting photos and posting updates, and not creating natively published, original video content they are going to be missing out on a lot of engagement and impressions. I realise that teams are set up differently, and different leagues are set up differently when it comes to the type of video content they can distributed on social, but take advantage of whatever rules are in place and league governing bodies should be asked at every opportunity to loosen those rules if needed. I would use Facebook Live and Periscope wherever possible, such as to broadcast players reactions post game, or when covering a community relations event or a non-televised preseason game. I think wherever you can use those platforms, provides great content for your fans.

One thing I have noticed is that teams are trying to save their original video content for their website and only post links to that content on their social channels, because they believe that is the only place they can monetise video with pre-rolls and banner ads etc. But I think clubs need to think a little more creatively than that, by linking sponsors to that content. When looking at commercial partnerships, come up with a way to have content “Presented by” a partner, with a three second advertisement at the beginning of the video featuring their logo. Alternatively, you could have the product within the video itself, whether in the background or strategically placed elsewhere. I think that is a lot more valuable to your sponsor and will get a lot more impressions than if it is just published to the website, because sports fans are getting their updates and their content from social media today.

And of course, video is so much more sharable and more likely to grow your supporter base, than just written content which will be of interest to only a certain section of your own fanbase. I am thinking of something which England did during last summer’s European Championships where they produced a video on Mother’s Day in conjunction with their sponsor Vauxhall, where two players read out funny/embarrassing stories that their mother had written about them. Good quality content, eminently shareable and with a fun twist.

That leads into the last piece of advice I would give today perfectly, and that is to have fun. There are still too many teams who use social media in a very serious way, but social media is where fans go to unwind, laugh and have fun. So I would really encourage teams to think on ways they can really engage and have fun with it. Create your own gifs with players, get them on a green screen at the beginning of the season and have them doing a bunch of funny things which you can then use later throughout the year. Create memes, people love those especially on twitter. Use emojis… The National Basketball League in Australia does a great job using those on their social media.

Another idea could be to throw out random hashtags and challenge fans to come up with suggestions for what they mean. Also, as you said with England and Mother’s Day, there are a lot of “holidays” during the year. Have your creative team come up with graphics to celebrate those using your players or mascot. You may even be able to tie it into one of your sponsors. For example, when I was with the Phoenix Suns, we had a player holding a massive cheeseburger on National Cheeseburger Day, and had it branded by our fast food restaurant sponsor. That was hugely popular and was great for the sponsor obviously. So, yes educate your fans on social media, but if you have fun with it and be creative, your fans will appreciate that.

Jeramie is going to be one of our panellists at FECBrighton on the 5th of July, and will be joined by a host of Fan Engagement and Digital Media experts. Make sure you book your tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment as they are selling fast. Go to http://digitalsport.co/event/fecbrighton or www.feckk.ie and buy yours now!!

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