Past The Press Box

In sports, engagement marketing is crucial

Marketing in sports has always been about buzz. It's about building a passionate fan base. Sports marketers must stir that passion, find those who are fervent when others are frustrated and spread that positive attitude. Before moving onto the cause of this of the buzz and passion, it's best to define it.

Sean Corcoran of Forrester has a great blog post on the three types of media marketers utilize. The one most relevant to this post: earned media.

"Earned media" is an old PR term that essentially meant getting your brand into free media rather than having to pay for it through advertising. However the term has evolved into the transparent and permanent word-of-mouth that is being created through social media. You need to learn how to listen and respond to both the good (positive organic) and bad (spurned) as well as consider when to try and stimulate earned media through word-of-mouth marketing.

Sure, this relates to everything from consumer electronics to travel to shoes, but nothing more than sports. Wins and losses are determined within the field of play but opinions on those outcomes, and any moves causing them, are everywhere. Newspapers, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, bars, offices and dinner tables.

Now, how does one influence that earned media?

To do some further gathering, John Cass of PR Communications says engagement marketing is key for facilitating earned media.

Engagement marketing is the marketing process where communicators understand the biggest opportunities lie in creating a word of mouth campaign with their social contacts. Here both in private communities and open communications like twitter and blogging a company develops a community management process for building relationships with their customers, evangelists and advocates and as a result of those relationships through each individuals owned media companies can get the word out about products, their brand, and services.

Engagement marketing includes all those activities of content marketing and inbound marketing but takes marketing to the next step in building a formal process for managing relations with influencers, customers and advocates.

A great chart put out by Forrester places tools that include blogging and Twitter under "owned media." Transforming this owned media into earned media isn't automatic. Obviously, it must be earned. In today's world, an athlete or team cannot broadcast via their site, Twitter feed or blog and expect to reach their full potential in terms of publicity without interacting with their fans and customers.

Social media isn't about using a new channel for old content. A team cannot force out press releases and game recaps via a blog and think the general public is going to be any more excited about it. Social media is about building relationships and interaction.

Sportswriters with insight into the thinking of the front office will be less likely to blast them for a supposedly bad trade if they understand the thought process behind it. Bloggers will be less likely to call out a player for a poor effort if he's already acknowledged via Twitter he just didn't have it that night. If a fan has been given a look inside the franchise by way of front office transparency, and understands the team is rebuilding but on the right track, they'll be more likely to argue that point when other fans bash the team for another .500 season. Now imagine this team does come back around, this individual or group will be telling everyone they know they saw this coming.

Obviously, winning has to come at some point to create the ideal fan base but utilizing engagement margeting to build a knowledgeable and passionate foundation of influencers and advocates can and should be done under any circumstances.

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John Cass - January 2, 2010 2:35 AM

Collin, thanks for referencing my post.

I was just thinking it would be good to come up with principles of engagement marketing using sporting terms.

One might be blocking, building relationships with your audience so that if problems arise you have a support network who will be on your team.

What do you think? want to write a joint post?

The American Sportswriter_