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Pro sports teams look to social video to score big with fans

Lauren Brousell | July 3, 2015
Video-upload and live-streaming apps provide unprecedented fan access to sporting events and athletes, but if professional sports organizations want to engage fan bases and build loyalty, they need to overcome a set of key challenges.

In the eyes of sports teams and leagues, fans who broadcast live events could compete and interfere with the official broadcast and network partners. Fans at the Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather boxing match in May used Periscope at the fight and raised all kinds of issues, given the steep cost and exclusivity of the pay-per-view event.

Several sports leagues already ban the use of certain social video apps at live events by the media and fans. For example, the United States Golf Association (USGA), National Hockey League (NHL), and others prohibit live streaming, and in April the PGA Tour revoked a blogger's press credentials because she used Periscope during a practice round.

The use of streaming-video apps will be hard to police, however, especially in stadiums with hundreds of thousands of fans. "They'll be able to see who's holding up a phone, but they won't know if it's a video or not," says Mark Fidelman, managing partner at social marketing consultancy, Evolve! and author of Socialized!: How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social.

Time is now to experiment with social video

Despite the potential risks, pro sports organizations need to be aware of how their fan bases use social video. Fidelman says teams should focus on providing exclusive content that fans can't find anywhere else. "[C]ontent that's being produced behind the scenes ... [is] usually pretty popular because it isn't staged, isn't scripted and it's off the ball field."

Teams may also want to dedicate resources to branded social-video channels, according to Fidelman. "You want to tell a story about your team and make them more human and more reachable," he says. "That channel should help the audience learn about the players, coaches and trainers, without having to go through a third-party media channel."

Quality, exclusive content will almost certainly engage enthusiastic fans and could also breathe new life into teams' social media marketing efforts. Periscope, Meerkat and Vine don't currently offer advertising options, and Snapchat and Instagram are just starting to experiment with ads.

eMarketer's Aho Williamson says companies interested in advertising on social video sites should explore whether they can get valuable audience data through these channels, including information on who views what content and if they engage. "For a lot of marketers it's going to come back to, 'How big are the apps? How many people are using [them], and what's the potential audience?'"


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