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December 05, 2012

Tweet Wars – A Twitter Concept for Engaging Sports Fans, Brands, and Social Causes

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There are legendary fan rivalries in the world of sports and on the field – UCLA vs. USC (college), Dodgers vs. Giants (baseball), Leeds vs. Manchester United or Argentina vs. Brazil (soccer), Ford vs. Holden (auto racing), India vs. Pakistan (cricket).  But today, with networks like Twitter, fan rivalries can create competition online that can rival the intensity and passion of that on the field or on the court.  So why not harness that energy to create better content for all, in a way where social causes can benefit, that provides brands with new genuine ways to engage with fans in both the real-time digital and physical worlds?

So what is the content competition that we can create online around the fans and “nations” that already gather? How do we value “Twitter actions” and track the score in cyberspace while the game is on the field?  What’s the opportunity to link fan action and the online “win” with social cause support in alignment with athletic competition beyond what we see today?

Background 

Fans and athletes already create and share content on Twitter during games – from simple team support and virtual cheers to trash talking; from tweets that stand alone to those with media attached such as photos and video from the event and behind-the-scenes, or deeper online article links shared form those at home. 

The 2012 London Olympics saw the creation of an aggregation page from Twitter – a one-stop shop for tweets and media from athletes, mainstream media, and fans. Many media sites have found great (and often unexpected levels of) success via deep fan engagement, commenting and content creation (Bleacher Report).

Notable consumer and media brands (ESPN, Nike, Gatorade, P&G) have a long creative history with sport leagues and major events, as well as more recently with innovative social causes (Pepsi).

Twitter has continually proven its value in the world of live TV – from entertainment to sports – as a voting and media creation/engagement mechanism.  Nielsen has taken note of this value in strategy and acquisitions to rethink ratings. Twitter is also experimenting in the world of direct customer (fan) surveys.

Tweet Wars: The Idea and Its Elements

The Idea: Engage fans of competing teams in real-time during the game in valuable content creation that has distribution in both digital and physical worlds, provides a new relevant brand platform for sponsorship, and results in the distribution of dollars to social causes or scholarships in a way that has meaning and value to fans.

 

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The concept of “Tweet Wars” in sports is about building on the trends that we already see (from above), and evolving and integrating those experiences by:

  • coalescing fans and rivalries in online competition around the creation of high-value content during games;
  • setting the stage for a “winner” in the digital world that may be different from the winner on the field, by creating a “Tweet War Counter” that  tracks a running tally of tweet volume (adjusted by new tweet value rules) between the two teams and their fans;
  • offering new brand-sponsored opportunities on Twitter for “Tweet Wars" and the “Counter” that integrate with, but go beyond today’s offerings of promoted tweets, trends and accounts
  • attaching the award of dollars at the end of the game, in a “Tweet War” winner-take-all mode, to a social cause (or in the case of college sports – alternatively to a scholarship fund) selected by the team, the school, the conference, or the league – with which fans will have an  affinity. (Those dollars to come from a part of the brand sponsorship/ad sale package with Twitter).

 

The Elements

(1) Content Creation: For Tweet Wars to have value to brands and fans, both the level and volume of Twitter content have to grow beyond current levels, with a focus on unique content that brings additional information, insider perspectives and enjoyment to the game. Hashtags would exist for each team to enable automating the identification, filtering, curation and counting of Twitter delivered content for each team (eg #Go49ers vs. #GoRams, or #GoStanford vs. #GoUCLA).

(2) Content Value and Scoring: Not all tweets would be equal in Tweet Wars.  More points would be assigned to tweets with higher value content, and perhaps even the source (decisions here vs egalitarian nature of Twitter and people wanting to “hear” from celebs and athletes). No points would be awarded to spammy tweets or tweets with nothing but the #hashtag. Minimizing the opportunity to jerry–rig the system would be critical.

Tweets might have different point values depending on the content they carry, such as:

  • With photo from the event or relevant archive shot
  • With link to historic background information or profile
  • With link to a card with data visualization
  • With live insider information from the sidelines
  • From an athlete or verified account or account with a sizable number of followers
  • For tweets that are favorited and retweeted

(3) Content Output and Distribution: Twitter content spurred by Tweet Wars would find distribution in both digital and physical spaces. Digital distribution might evolve from the work at the 2012 Olympics with both human editorially curated and data-driven (MassRelevance applied here) rollup of content on Twitter via a single page that would show side-by-side competing team content, as well as the Tweet War Counter. Scoreboards and Jumbotrons at games provide the screen for periodic display of the “Tweet War Counter Tally” and encourage game attendees to get more involved in the digital outcome. 

(4) Sponsorship/Ad Sale Opportunity for Twitter to Brands: The Counter, side by side team/fan tweet page, as well as surveys and insider content in the tweet stream is a natural brand sponsorship/ad sale opportunity online – that can be packaged with the display in the physical world on the scoreboard of the intermittent Tweet Counter. Sale can be to a consumer brand, media brand, or even to league or conference.

(5) Social Causes: Tweet Wars, like the game on the field, is a winner take all proposition, with the social cause of the team/fans that wins in digital space having the biggest number on the Counter – as the recipient of a set sum of money that is a part of the brand sponsorship package. (Remember that the winner on the field and the winner in digital/Twitter may not be the same – Those results are completely separate. One is about athletes.  The other is about fans.)  This can be thought of as an evolution of or adjunct to some of the “fund your cause” voting campaigns we have seen from brands such as Pepsi (Refresh campaign) and Chase (Community Giving campaign) in recent years.

Time to Experiment?

So is it time for a Tweet Wars experiment in sports that links fan enthusiasm and content; tweet value assignment, curation and a scoreboard; brand sponsorship; and social causes?  Pick a single major event such as SuperBowl,  a series such as the NBA Playoffs, or even a whole season with MLB to see how it might work. 

“Sport is where an entire life can be compressed into a few hours, where the emotions of a lifetime can be felt on an acre or two of ground, where a person can suffer and die and rise again on six miles of trails through a New York City park. Sport is a theater where sinner can turn saint and a common man become an uncommon hero, where the past and the future can fuse with the present. Sport is singularly able to give us peak experiences where we feel completely one with the world and transcend all conflicts as we finally become our own potential.”  - George A. Sheehan

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Liz Gebhardt


  • © Amanda Jones
    Digital and traditional (live & broadcast) media/ marketing strategist and producer living at the intersection of Web meets (live) World. More than two decades of experience in building media and technology businesses, content programming and distribution, brand stories and integrated communications campaigns.

    Believes that strategy is all talk unless it can be executed in a way that delivers on both the creative and business promises. Embraces the role of navigator of the uncharted path vs. passenger along the known road.