eMarketer- New Definition of Sports Fan: Virtually Present and Always Engaged
A N I N T E R V I E W W I T H :
Brian Cristiano is the founder and CEO of BOLD Worldwide, an ad agency specializing in athletic and performance brands. He talked to eMarketer’s Kris Oser about today’s plugged in sports fan and how marketers can best reach them.
eMarketer: How are the behavioral characteristics of today’s sports fan different from the characteristics of the sports fan a generation ago?
Brian Cristiano: Ten years ago, your involvement in the sport was watching it on TV, going to the stadium, wearing the gear of your favorite team. Today, fans can get much more involved with the sport. You can have arguments with your friends and strangers on Facebook and Twitter about who is the best and what team is better and why they are going to win. You can get involved with different applications. You can find data and information on sports teams—and you can pull that information up very quickly and easily from your smartphone.
That’s the difference: People can engage without having to physically be there. But they can feel as engaged as if they were actually at the game watching.
eMarketer: What about use of devices?
Cristiano: Fans are using simultaneous devices. They are watching the game, smartphone in hand. They are picking up their phone and tweeting, ‘Oh wow, I just saw this home run!” or “So-and-so just yelled at the third baseman” or they are on Facebook uploading photos or on Instagram uploading photos. That’s the real social engagement that I believe is starting to take place.
“People can engage without having to physically be there.”
It’s become almost expected that when you go to a game of course you are going to tweet about it to friends, you’re going to put it on Facebook, you’re going to upload a photo. Why? Because it makes you feel like you are more engaged and, hey, you’re also kind of showing off to all of your friends.
A lot of the players are also getting socially engaged. They are tweeting before and after the game. That’s where a lot of fans can get more engaged and interested because they are able to almost feel like they are talking with some of the players that they are fans of.
eMarketer: What about when they are watching a game on TV at home?
Cristiano: 200,000 people checked into the Super Bowl in 2011 on foursquare—in 50 states, 125 countries and even 13 check-ins from the Vatican.
What’s really different now is because the social engagement goes beyond the stadium, you don’t have to physically be there to feel like you are truly engaged and involved.
eMarketer: How are advertisers supposed to reach the fans?
Cristiano: It’s a delicate balance because you could slap your logo all over the place when people log in, etc., but it becomes a major turn off. Because people are socially engaged, they don’t want to feel like a corporation is shoving their message or their logo in front of them because they were using Facebook or Twitter.
The advertiser needs to be involved on the social level, they need to be the ones starting the conversation, continuing the conversation, making the conversation easier or adding something to it that wasn’t there before—whether that be a game, information, access or ease of access to data, video, radio, tidbits or whatever.
eMarketer: This doesn’t come naturally to an advertiser.
Cristiano: The No. 1 thing that makes it a problem on the advertiser’s side is to justify the resources that it takes to [become part of the conversation]. But in the long run, advertisers are becoming part of the social fabric that people are heavily involved with and they are going to respect you because of it. You are not pushing your message. [You are saying,] “Let’s talk” and I think people are more open to have those conversations and to welcome those brands in.
“200,000 people checked into the Super Bowl in 2011 on foursquare—in 50 states, 125 countries and even 13 check-ins from the Vatican.”
eMarketer: Can you give me an example of the value that an advertiser can bring to the conversation?
Cristiano: JackRabbit Sports is a running/triathlon sports retailer [in New York City], and what they wanted to do was not push sales, but get involved with the local running community. We created this campaign over the course of several months where we followed six runners that were training for a marathon. Each person had a Twitter feed, a Facebook fan page and a blog on the site where they were constantly uploading information, adding behind-the-scenes photos and details about how things were going for them. This constant social engagement wasn’t pushing the JackRabbit brand, it was really creating communication and building fans for these six runners to see who could raise the most money for their charity.
We used traditional media to get the campaign started—30-second TV spots, episodes, which we’d update every couple of weeks showing the progress of these runners. We bought regional cable around the tri-state area of New York. The spot would drive people back to the website where they could see more content, more information, and that’s where they would get socially engaged with the different runners.
It was really incredible because the conversation went from being six runners that no one had ever heard of to their having fans. The runners would do training races, and fans would show up—they’d have signs and they would be cheering the runners on.
eMarketer: What would you say the results were?
Cristiano: It was authentic. There was a brand attached to [the effort] and people appreciated that and said, “Wow, this company is trying to do something good.” And they didn’t feel like they were watching advertising, they felt they were watching a story unfold over seven months.
I think one of the simplest ways to gauge results was we finished this in September of last year and we have had hundreds of people come into the store, send us email, send the runners email saying, “When are you doing this again? We want to get involved.” So people were clearly watching and they wanted to see it succeed so bad that they wanted it to happen again.
eMarketer: Did you track through to sales?
“The No. 1 thing that makes it a problem on the advertiser’s side is to justify the resources that it takes to [become part of the conversation].”
Cristiano: We specifically did not track direct results from sales because it was very hard to, but we more than doubled JackRabbit’s Facebook following. When they started, I think they had less than 2,000 followers, now they are well over 10,000 followers. Their Twitter following went up like 600%. We didn’t drive people to YouTube—we uploaded the video to YouTube and before the campaign was over, there were over 100,000 views. And we never spent a dollar on advertising.
eMarketer: Would you recommend using multimedia advertising?
Cristiano: We have seen, if we do multiple types of media with the same message, it’s much more effective than just doing a single type of media.
eMarketer: Do you have any thoughts about that how the sports fans’ attention is fragmented and divided among screens?
Cristiano: The majority of people are using [more than one device] at the same time. They are sitting there watching a three-hour game and are also on the internet for three hours.
eMarketer: What does an advertiser do—show ads before or after the event?
Cristiano: Figuring out where your audience goes before and after the game is key. What people are doing is they are finding the most optimal screen to be engaged with. Especially if they are super fans, they are online while they are at work, checking their scores, they have their app that is giving them updates constantly on their smartphone. Then they go home and watch the game and they are pretty engaged and after the game is over, they get back on their smart phone or back onto the internet. So what’s interesting is they are constantly in front of a screen—TV or something else. The best way an advertiser can take advantage of that is before, after and during a game. If they can figure out where their fans are going, then they can follow them throughout the day.
eMarketer: Are apps taking off?
Cristiano: They are taking off, but I think there is a long way to go. If you look at the ESPN app, I think it’s great—they have score boards that are personalized so you can get updates on your favorite teams. You can get score alerts so your phone vibrates or makes a noise when someone scores or someone wins.
“Figuring out where your audience goes before and after the game is key.”
eMarketer: What makes a winning app?
Cristiano: One of the things that advertisers and developers need to be aware of in the apps market is that you need to create something that is going to give this added value—data or information that you can’t get anywhere else. At the same time, it needs to function well, otherwise people are going to get turned off and they are going to move on very quickly.
I’m a cyclist and I love the Tour de France and last year NBC had an app, NBC’s “Tour de France” app and it was fantastic, especially for a sport that isn’t based in the US, which is hard to get information on. It was really fantastic because I could watch these GPS maps and know where the riders were, and I could get little instant updates of who won on what stage.
In Europe, cycling is massive, but in the US, it’s very small. This app was perfect for the consumer like me. I was glued to that thing for hours a day.