How to Engage Fans During the Biggest Events of the Year

Professional league drafts bring excitement, anticipation, and hope. With new players come new opportunities, and teams that didn’t fair so well in the previous season have a good chance of picking up majorly hyped players, and as a result creating a lot of fan engagement. Last year, when it became clear their team was going to have one of the lowest records in the league, Buffalo fans started a petition and actually started booing the Sabres when they did well because they wanted Conner McDavid, the top draft pick, so badly.

Spring and early summer are when all the draft anticipation comes to a head for many professional leagues: the NFL and MLB each held their drafts recently, the NBA draft will begin on June 23rd, and the NHL draft will start June 24th. The draft is the first official event of the season, and social media and marketing teams have a big job: capitalizing on the naturally high levels of fan engagement and getting content to fans as quickly as possible. But live events, like a draft, present their own challenges too. Spredfast’s Jared Kinsler spoke with Kara Hutchinson, Director of Marketing for the Celtics, and Jenna Camann, Director of Digital and Creative Services for the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. They talked about how they each prep for their respective drafts to ensure they’re putting out the best content on their channels in order to achieve high levels of fan engagement with their team–you can watch the entire interview on Spredfast’s Facebook page. While both Kara and Jenna offer advice that is sports-specific, social media managers and marketing teams from all types of companies can find great takeaways for prepping and managing their own live, high-profile events throughout the year.

Planning for the unpredictable live event

Kara explained that the Celtics went into the draft lottery thinking they could get anywhere from the first pick to the sixth, so they had to have plans for a variety of situations. Kara’s team prepped their social channels, their website, and their PR coverage for each possibility with videos, images, and potential content. Their plan for the draft day is similar: they have images, video, and other materials for their social channels for several players ready to go, and what goes live depends on which players they take. Jenna explained that her team’s goal is to be the first source of information about the Bruins during the draft, so the team on site has to be prepared to enter and load details and content to promote the players they end up getting on draft day. The Bruins also want to understand and respond to what the fans are saying. They use Spredfast Intelligence to understand what people are talking about and where they’re talking about it. They are then able to tweak their content, playing up certain aspects to meet their fans’ needs.

Tip 1: Prep for a variety of likely situations ahead of time so you can react quickly and be the first to post relevant content during live events.

Creating tons of content in a variety of mediums

Kara explains that her marketing team prepares outlines for a variety of different scenarios, and their live-event plan is more of a timeline: For draft day, they will plan how many posts they’ll have on each social channel, and when they get the content—which players the Celtics pick up—the social media team is ready to go, filling in details and getting posts live. Kara said the most important part of the day-of is that her team communicates beforehand and remains on the same page: the social media team, the communications team, and the digital team all have to work together. Kara’s goal is to make fans outside the draft-day event feel as though they have the same access as people who attend the event, so speed is important. Jenna adds that for live events like draft day, and even game days, fans are looking for content on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, so the Bruins’ marketing team aims to create an all-access experience for people who aren’t actually at the draft or the game. They use video, GIFs, and imagery they prepare ahead of time, then they add quotes and other relevant details to engage with fans as quickly as possible.

Tip 2: Outline your live-event game plan: know ahead of time how many times you plan to post to each social platform so when the content arrives, you have a plan for presenting it.

With live events–especially those that have unpredictable outcomes, like drafts–marketing and social media teams must have plenty of content prepared ahead of time, and they must have a clearly communicated plan for culling and posting such content at the appropriate times. Delivering content and information fans want in the moment they want it is what keeps engagement numbers high, and Spredfast’s platforms can help your team surface relevant details and quickly act on them for a fun, fast-paced, informative live event.

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Julia Eddington

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Julia Eddington is a freelance tech and personal finance writer and editor living in New York City.