It’s not difficult to find examples of sports teams using social media. From the player (Gilbert Arenas’ landmark blogging in 2006) to the team (the Red Sox using Twitter to give away free tickets during a rain delay) to the league (the NHL’s tweetups), social media has gone from being an innovative marketing tactic to a must-have component of any marketing strategy. League and individual team marketing functions are hard at work thinking up all kinds of new ways to use social media to increase fan loyalty, buy tickets, buy merchandise, and watch/listen to the games via myriad devices. Here’s the rub – in any one league, this brainstorming is happening, sometimes 30 times over, in the league office and in each of the team’s front offices because there’s no single platform where team and league staff are sharing this information.
Disappointingly, a search for examples where teams, leagues, or college conferences are using social media to communicate and collaborate internally yields a much shorter, less relevant list. For all of the media attention that’s heaped on these leagues and teams for their use (or lack thereof) of social media to communicate with fans and the media, internal collaboration amongst league and team front office staff is still ruled by phone calls, shared drives, and emails. The personal relationships established among front office staff at games and league functions have become the de facto collaboration mechanism for the PR, customer service, ticket sales, media relations, broadcasting, and other front office staff. Despite all the gains in using social media for marketing, the sports industry, by and large, has failed to capitalize on the opportunities social media can bring them internally.
As I mentioned in a previous post, there are actually a lot of similarities between the sports industry and the government when it comes to using social media. While the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps all maintain fierce loyalty to their respective service branch, they also realize they are all ultimately fighting for the same cause, for the same team, and it’s up to the Department of Defense (DoD) to bring all of these individuals together under one mission. Similarly, the Penguins, Flyers, Bruins and Capitals are rivals on the ice, yet they all realize that when push comes to shove, they all play in the same league and all need to work together to grow the game. Unfortunately, while the DoD is using wikis to conduct intelligence analysis and social networking to get new employees up to speed more quickly, professional sports leagues continue to rely on tools that are inaccessible, unsearchable, and unorganized to collaborate with one another. By relying on personal relationships instead of using open platforms that connect teams and leagues together, professional sports leagues are missing a golden opportunity to reduce duplication, cut costs, increase morale, and increase employee performance.
What if leagues and conferences were able to create a common platform where all of their teams could collaborate with one another, sharing best practices and lessons learned?
Wouldn’t that be better than relying on phone calls and emails to share this information?
What if each league had an idea generation platform a la Manor Labs where staff could submit ideas that would be discussed and voted upon by their colleagues across the league?
Wouldn’t that be better than sending around “what do you think of this?” emails?
What if each league had one shared platform accessible to all of the communications staff from each of the teams where things like marketing campaigns, communications templates, and results could be uploaded and shared?
Woudn’t that work better than digging through old emails and shared drive files?
What if the league stopped mandating policies and technical platforms on their teams and instead co-created these policies and collaborated on the best technical platforms?
Wouldn’t it be better to be seen as a partner instead of an adversary?
Competition on the field and collaboration in the office isn’t a new idea. This idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts has permeated the sports landscape this year. From revenue sharing across all teams in the NFL’s latest collective bargaining agreement (the teams that bring in more money share revenue with the small market clubs) to the new conference realignments happening in college (Florida and Georgia may be rivals, but you can bet their rooting for each other if they’re both playing teams from the Big Ten), leagues and teams have realized that a healthy league makes for healthy teams. It’s hard for the average fan to understand, but just because Terrell Suggs and Hines Ward may not be the best of friends doesn’t mean that the Steelers communications staff and Ravens communications staff are necessarily at each other throats too.
What if the sports leagues and teams took advantage of these Enterprise 2.0 technologies, learned from what’s been done in other similar organizations and used technology to enable this collaboration to take place not just at the collective bargaining level, but at the day-to-day level?
Perhaps the more important question is…what happens if they don’t?
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