What the Premier League’s social media game can learn from the NBA and PGA Tour

This is a guest post by Jake Meister.

The Americans do it better.

The American sports social accounts have a strong influence on social media. One of the largest differences between the American sports model and the Premier League is the way fans can access content. The four major American sports, plus tennis and golf, all offer a portion of their games on “basic” (NBC, CBS, ABC) cable. Of course, some of these games are broadcasted on channels where fans will need to pay for a subscription, but many Americans get by with their basic package.

In addition to being given access to some of the games on basic TV, fans of the major American sports are given nearly perfect access to content of any match or tournament via social media. The PGA Tour and the NBA are two of the strongest accounts in the sports social media scene that give their fans content almost immediately after the event happened. This allows fans to see all of the major action for free and in real-time. A perfect example of this coverage was the constant pushing of Tiger Woods’ content over the weekend at the Valspar Championship as the 42-year-old finished tied for second in the tournament. This past weekend marked the first time where we saw Tiger look like his old self in quite some time.

Sunday night NBA icon LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers squared off against one of the league’s most coveted franchises, the Los Angeles Lakers. This is the type of match-up that can receive massive viewership simply on television but also through social content. LeBron is widely considered the face of the NBA and the Lakers have just under 7.5 million followers on Twitter, the most of any NBA team. When you put those two together, it only makes sense to punch out as much content as possible.

Change ahead?

All of this timely content created by the social teams of the NBA and the PGA Tour allows us to raise a very important question. If a portion of this content is simply available for the average American sports fan to see on TV, then why put it on social? We don’t see any real time videos from any social team in the Premiership, and fans of the league don’t have the same opportunity to watch a decent portion of the matches on the local BBC channels.

I believe that there are two answers to this strange scenario. The primary reason is geared directly towards the fact that the Premier League is not OK with fans that don’t have access to Sky Sports or BT seeing these wonderful goals that Marcus Rashford scored in the match against Liverpool. Whether that is a decision made by Premier League executives or through the actual contracts with Sky and BT remains unclear. If you don’t want to spend the money to see the best players in the world, you are granted a nice GIF created by the social team of the specific club.

The other answer relates back to the US Sports scene. Since only some of the some of the games are broadcasted on subscription based channels like ESPN or TNT, American sport social accounts don’t have a problem with their fans seeing the best highlights. They have accepted the fact that some people just don’t have the desire to pay the additional money, and would rather just see their fans show their love through engaging with their social content. This method still gives the team / league an opportunity to present their players as the best, and make the “cheap” fans happy. We are even starting to see the NFL broadcast their Thursday Night Football on Twitter, giving fans access to a game that is usually shown on subscription based NFL Network in the States.

The strategy that the PGA Tour and NBA use on their social accounts is more effective. If you are constantly pushing out videos that force fans to watch three to four times, you’ve essentially done your job. These real-time videos kill two birds with one stone. As a social media manager, you are letting the players create your own content instead of having to work in Photoshop or Premiere to create a GIF. Also, highlight videos in general perform much better in terms of likes/retweets which in turn can increase followers. The video of LeBron James’ no-look pass has 23,000 likes and 12,000 retweets. The GIF that the United social team created and was not posted in real-time had just over 9,500 likes and 6,500 retweets. The 23,000 likes is just over 8% of the NBA’s total followers, and the 9,500 likes is about 5% of Manchester United’s followers.

That may seem like a small difference, but when looking at the bigger picture it’s really quite large.

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