Straight from the Pros: Marketing tips from Chicago's sports teams

During last month’s Social Media Week in Chicago, I attended the “Straight From The Pros” panel featuring marketing and communications directors from some of Chicago’s major professional sports teams- the Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs, Fire, and White Sox. The panelists shared how each of their organizations use digital and social media to connect with their fans. As I listened to the discussion, it became clear that their industry specific tips could really be applied to your own digital marketing strategies. Here are few to keep in mind:

1. Know Your Audience – Every panelist put great emphasis on sharing content they know is important to their fans. Not only are sports teams using social media to post important game day updates or highlight videos, they are also actively responding to questions, promoting exclusive offers/contests and sharing photos or tweets from fans. Takeaway: Use digital media to cultivate conversation.

2. Utilize Offline Tie-Ins – While fan engagement is undoubtedly a major goal of sports organizations, it is also important to drive game attendance. While some teams have the benefit of being the best in the league (*cough*Chicago Blackhawks*cough*), others can’t depend much on the team’s performance to drive ticket sales (*cough*Chicago Cubs*cough*). To help increase attendance, the Cubs use social media to promote fun special events at the ballpark (example: "Zubaz Night"). Takeaway: Complement the in-store experience by using online marketing to get them there.

3. Avoid Over-Sharing – There is a balance between promoting the team and keeping fans happy with their engagement. If you try too hard, fans will see right through it. In effort to enhance the fan experience during games, the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks partnered with AT&T to improve mobile Internet coverage at the United Center so  fans can share texts and photos on the scoreboard. Takeaway: Make sure any sponsorships and promotions are aligned with the overall goals and messaging of your brand.

4. Off-Season Initiatives – During the “off season”, these professional sports teams typically use social media to continue engagement with their fan base. They’ll cover topics like draft picks, training camp, injury updates or charity work by the organization. Takeaway: Whatever your “off season” may be, marketers need to continue to promote their initiatives. This can be as simple as growing your mailing list, promoting special offers, or simply sharing relevant and engaging content.