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Big Brand Theory: Boston Celtics
Posted on November 26th 2013
Social media tactics and strategies that work for one industry often don't work in others. In one, a focus on customer service can be effective, while in another, a focus on content marketing, influencers, or community might work best.
Brands that attract fanatical devotion - what you might call "love brands" - often play by yet another set of rules. This was emphasized recently when Peter Stringer, head of the Boston Celtics' social media, shared some of the team's social media tactics at SMX Social. I was able to catch up with Stringer prior to his keynote, as well as hear his conversation onstage with Matt McGee.
The first thing that was emphasized is that basketball fans aren't your average customers. While they love the brand, they can get pretty passionate when the team fails to deliver the goods. Even though the Celtics brought home 17 NBA championships, they sometimes lose. When that happens, you can see tweets taking the team to task.
Stringer said, "Anything I put out there on Twitter or social media is akin to a public statement. I'm not going to get into a dialogue with an individual fan because they're upset we lost a game."
With over seven million Facebook likes and over 1.2 million followers on Twitter, the franchise generates quite a bit of buzz on social media. The general flow of content goes like this: the Celtics social media team posts content and then the fans share it. While those fans often address their sentiments to the Celtics, Stringer said, "We almost never reply to our fans."
At four people, the Celtics social media team is not large. While you might think that one of the most popular sports teams in basketball would call for more social media effort, Springer quipped that while the brand is a large global brand, the company is actually quite small. He added, "We spend millions of dollars on athletes, but not on marketing."
The Celtics seem to have the best results in social media when the social media team generates great content that fans can then share with their own networks. While quite a few fans share Celtics imagery on Pinterest, the official account has been focused on promotion of merchandise.
At nearly 9,000 Pinterest followers, Stringer doesn't feel that the team's performance on that platform is exciting. It's possible the self-promotional content is less apt to be shared. The Dallas Cowboy's have Pinterest boards that are more general interest - the type of content that you would think would be more shareable - yet that organization has fewer than half as many followers as the Celtics.
The Synergy of Sports and Social Media
When you look closely at how the fans of large sports teams share and respond to content on social media, you can sympathize with Stringer when he said of sports and social media, "the synergy there is probably different than any other industry."
It seems like it's a natural extension of the whole ethos of sports and the aura of celebrity surrounding sports. In closing, Stringer shared some true wisdom: "I see other teams being snarky with each other on Twitter, being sarcastic, taking shots with their with their opponents. That's not what we do, not what we're about. If we wouldn't do it in the arena, we aren't going to do it on Twitter."
The Big Brand Theory is an exclusive column for Social Media Today written by Ric Dragon that explores the social media strategies of big brands, both B2B and B2C. Look for the next installment next week. Logos by Jesse Wells.