The Social Media Championships: Valuable Lessons Your Brand Can Learn From Sport

Here’s a mind-tickling mystery: have you ever wondered why sports fans send messages to each other during a big game – on their mobiles or social networks? Shouldn’t they be concentrating 100%, instead of taking their eyes away from the game to type comments?

The answer is that it’s not really the game that attracts us. It’s the social interaction. Think about it: would you enjoy watching your favorite team (Barcelona, Manchester City or whatever), if they’re playing in an empty stadium? Of course not. But why not, since the players are exactly the same? Because you want to feel part of the crowd. That’s why social media crowds are so successful: because humans are very social species. It’s the reason why a newborn baby stops crying when you touch its hand: human interaction is an instinct from birth.

In fact, social media has grown so powerful that many sports teams have banned their players from using Twitter or Facebook just before big games, fearing that they might give away team secrets. Top players are fined US$25,000 or more – but you can’t silence them because as humans we need our voices to be heard.

So how can your brand capitalize on this to become a heavyweight? Firstly, link your users’ experience to your product. For instance, the wrestling brand WWE wanted to expand its social media fan-base. Rather than simply asking people to follow them, they asked themselves: “What excites a wrestling fan?” The answer is aggressive competition. So they created a spirit of aggressive competition among fans by asking supporters of different wrestlers to ‘wrestle’ against each other to see which wrestlers would attract the highest fans.

This completely reversed the dynamic: instead of fans cheering on their wrestlers, it was now the wrestlers cheering on their fans, to recruit more and more friends. Fans got the same adrenalin rush and thrill as if they were actually in the wrestling ring itself.

Taking personal interaction to another level, the President of UFC – the martial arts championships – actually chats to fans during matches! He personally answers their questions; and even if they have different opinions, it makes the chats more entertaining. Now if the president of a massive corporation can do it, so can you.

But what about the millions of ‘traditional’ customers who don’t social media? Remember the first time you sent an email? It seemed incredibly complicated; similarly some people see social media as something for the technology-savvy. So show them that “it’s easier done than said”. For example CNN legend Larry King, who’s now 80 years old, challenged young Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher to a Twitter battle: to see who could reach one million followers first. Many people decided that if an 80 year old grandpa could do use Twitter, so could they.

This year for the first time ever, the world’s biggest advertising showcase – the Super Bowl – was streamed live. This illustrates the growing convergence between social media and TV.

But just as you can’t be a fan of every sport, you also shouldn’t try to be on every social network. Choose those that give you the greatest exposure. Otherwise your fans will be juggled from one fan page to another, without any satisfying experiences.
With 43 million users in the Middle East, it would be financially irresponsible to ignore social media. Only with your fans’ support can your brand become a true champion.