A Look at UNC’s Successful Social Media Night

StudentSectionBridging the gap between the online world and the offline world is powerful at events. When you have fans’ attention in-venue, it’s the perfect opportunity to enlist brand ambassadors and bring new ones into your community. Social and digital initiatives are also a great way to entertain fans during lull periods. And, there are many ways to bridge the gap between the online world and the offline world. From hashtag campaigns to contests and full-blown social media nights, the opportunities are endless.

Just last week UNC held a robust Social Media Night that is a great example of how to plan and execute one. According to Lynnea Phillips, the social media coordinator at UNC, their goal was to drive awareness, action and engagement. Here’s a look at all the moving pieces:


Coke Zero Fan Cam

The Coke Zero FanCam was a 20,000 megapixel interactive image that allowed fans to zoom in and explore every inch of Dean Smith Center in face-level detail. After the game, fans visited www.cokezero.fancam.com to zoom, tag and share. They had the opportunity to prove that they were there and enter a sweepstakes for a chance to win great prizes.



Fan Play-By-Play

Carolina turned @GoHeels over to the fans. They were encouraged to use the men’s basketball game day hashtags (#GoHeels and #UNCBBall) to live tweet play-by-play. The best tweets were retweeted from the @GoHeels Twitter account. GIFs, photo edits & emojis were encouraged.


Photo Booth

Attendees had the opportunity to use selfie sticks (& props) to capture their game day photos. After the game, pictures were uploaded to a photo album on the official UNC Athletics Facebook page.



Song Requests

Fans were able to request songs prior to the game by using #TarHeelTunes.


Twitter Quote Graphics

Fans that used the game day hashtags (#GoHeels & #UNCBBall) had the chance to have their tweets made into graphics that were released from the @GoHeels Twitter account during the game.



400 Student Section T-shirts

Shirts were given to the student section as a reward for being one of our most engaged and receptive audiences.



Emoji Fatheads

Cutouts were given to the student section to tie in the social media theme in the arena.



Served as a video board piece, used to tie in the social media theme in the arena and to entertain during a scheduled media timeout.

While selfie sticks and emoji fatheads may not be for everyone, the initiatives were the perfect fit for UNC’s target audience.

“The majority of our in-arena promotions revolved around the younger audience,” explained Phillips. “We did that intentionally because we wanted to reward students for being one of our most involved audiences.”

With any social media initiative, understanding your audience is a huge key. And, it was UNC Athletics’ understanding of audience that helped make the event so successful. The @GoHeels account saw an increase of nearly 1,500 followers and an uptick in favorites, link click and replies; the selfie sticks and emoji fatheads were a big hit with 250 pictures taken. A win-win for both fans and the athletic department!

For those interested in hosting a social media night, Lynnea has some solid advice: Promote, promote, promote! If you can spread the word, rally your troops and plan initiatives that resonate with your audience, you’ll be sure to have a winning social media night.




A big thanks to Lynnea Phillips for taking the time to offer insight into UNC’s Social Media Night. Be sure to give her a follow on Twitter @LynneaPhillips along with the @GoHeels. 

Thanks for reading!

How MLS Is Ramping Up for the Season the Right Way

As the MLS season kicks into gear, the league is ramping up efforts to rally their fans around the teams, sport and league. And, they are doing a stellar job of leveraging social media and content to drum up excitement for the 20th MLS season:

One of the big keys to the MLS’ social media success is the work they do to understand their audience and how their fans connect with the league/teams. They want to make sure what they create and execute resonates. Here’s a little insight into their strategy:

MLS’ understanding of their fans shines through in their work. The season has not even begun and they are already on a winning streak. Here are three things worth noting from their approach:

They have a strong content foundation.

Take a look through mlssoccer.com. It’s filled with news and recaps like any major league site, but it’s also filled with a lot of thoughtful and quality content. From day in the life features to more in-depth reporting, they constantly churn out quality content for their fans. This content is a goldmine for their social media team; it provides value to their audience.

In addition to stellar content, the MLS social media team does a really good job of repurposing their digital content to fit social media platforms. They don’t just tweet out the headline. Instead, they find a way to make it resonate by creating compelling graphics, including a videos/Vines, adding clever copy, etc.

I’m a big believer that a good social media strategy starts with a content strategy. The MLS is a great example of taking the time to create content that resonates and repurposing it for each platform. It’s hard work, but it’s work that is worth it.


They are getting players involved.

MLS is doing a fantastic job of putting their players at the forefront of their social media strategy and giving fans a behind-the-scenes look at their life. They are doing this through two main initiatives (so far at least): Snapchat and Tumblr takeovers. Here’s a look at some of the content on both platforms:

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 11.01.02 PM

As you can see, the result is a very intimate and personal look at what it’s like to be a MLS player. The content is fantastics and exclusive. We need more of this in sports. Players are a huge asset to any team or league. People connect with players in a more emotional way; they help humanize the team way beyond the jersey and scoreboard. And, players are full of stories. Find a way to give your audience access to them like MLS has.

And of course, they are leveraging their fans.

In addition to getting their players involved, MLS is also including their fans in their efforts. MLS just launched a contest for fans to design original Snapchat geofilters (special overlays) that will be used in four different markets (LA, Orlando, Kansas City and Seattle) for opening weekend. To enter, fans have to post their original artwork on Twitter using the hashtag #MLSsnapchat. I’ve already seen a some good pieces:

Fans are creative and passionate. I’m a big believer in leveraging them to help you create content. Whether it’s a contest like this or user-generated photos, let them help you tell your story.


So remember these takeaways from the MLS: Create a strong foundation with content, access to players always wins and don’t be afraid to leverage your fans.



What stands out to you about MLS’ approach to social media? Be sure to share your thoughts below!

Thanks for reading! 

Capitalizing on History in Social Media + Sports

Every team and league has history: Legacies, fond memories and moments of greatness tucked away in history vaults. And this history is a goldmine of content. People love nostalgia. Science proves it. So, are you capitalizing on it?

The other day the US Olympic social media team proved that the opportunities to unleash history are endless with a little creativity. In honor of the 35th anniversary of the Miracle On Ice, the @USOlympic account live tweeted the game as if Twitter existed 35 years ago. The event had color commentary, photos, score updates and more. Here’s a snippet of the coverage:

The results were stellar. @USOlympic tweeted 70 times, garnering more than 13,600 retweets (please note these numbers were compiled manually). The initiative is a great reminder that a little creativity and planning can go a long way in mixing up your content and coverage.

March Madness also did something similar this year to drum up excitement for the start of basketball season: They hosted #MMVault Watch Parties featuring classic title games. Fans could relive the magic on NCAA.com and follow @MarchMadness for game-action tweets. The Twitter coverage included video clips, photos, color commentary and more:

Unlike @USOlympic, @MarchMadness was not celebrating an anniversary; they were using content to drum up excitement for the season. It’s a good example of how content that focuses on history does not always have to take the “on this day” theme.

Both of these are a great example of how to leverage the stories in the history vault to create excitement and buzz. And, it got me thinking. How else can history be leveraged in social media + sports? Here are just a few ideas:

Photo Essays
Photo essays are a great way to recount the past. Focus on the story, letting pictures and strong copy tell it. Whether you use exposure.co or create a Facebook photo album that fans can flip through in sequence, a photo essay is a great way to tell the history of your team/league.

Radio Clips
Many teams have had golden “voices” over the years. And, hearing those voices again can evoke a strong sense of nostalgia for fans. How you can incorporate old radio clips into your content? Whether it’s the sound byte all by itself or mixed with photos, videos, etc., incorporating radio clips into your content strategy could be a powerful play.

Podcast Interviews
Celebrating the anniversary of title win or big milestone? Produce one or two podcasts featuring key team members from that team to recount the memories. Think about it as a fireside chat. Podcasts are all the rage right now, so I’m sure you’ll earn some extra points.

Want to make the content a little more engaging? Take your facts and turn them into a quiz or trivia piece for fans to learn more. Below is a good example from the @NCAA.



Hosts a Contest
Take the engagement level up a notch and host a contest where fans can vote for their favorite all-time game, play, etc. This type of initiative would need a large digital presence where fans could replay video and read about the history, but the voting mechanism can be social. Just make sure you give fans a reason to engage!

Recreate the Moment
Photo recreations from 20+ years ago are so much fun. If you ever have a notable team together for a reunion, find a way to recreate an iconic team photo. Yes, something like this:


I hope these examples give you a few ideas on how to unlock history. As we saw with @USOlympic and @MarchMadness, it can be a powerful piece of your content strategy when done right. Take the time to figure out how you can leverage it creatively and strategically.




Have you seen any creative ways that teams/leagues have taken fans down memory lane? Share any examples you have below! 

Thanks for reading! 

3 Winning Trends From the @Dodgers on Instagram

There are many reasons to pay close attention to Instagram. As one of the fastest growing social networks, Instagram boasts 300 million monthly active users (via Instagram). An average of 70 million photos are shared each day on the app (Instagram), and the engagement is 15x that of Facebook’s (Fast Company). It’s hard to ignore the platform with numbers like that.

While most teams and leagues have a presence on Instagram, many take their content from Facebook and Twitter and slap it on Instagram too. It’s time to stop sharing the same content on all platforms, forcing links on Instagram and pushing gimmicky promos there. It’s time to start thinking about Instagram as a community; it’s time to take a strategic look at how to activate on the platform.

One of the teams that has caught my eye on Instagram lately is the @Dodgers. Their content is sharp and compelling. Here are three things that stand out to me:


No. 1- Images are stunning.

If you scroll through the Dodgers recent content, you’ll probably see some images that make you stop scrolling. The photos are a little more artsy than what we typically see in sports, but they work so well on the platform. They have an eye for the extraordinary in the ordinary. Take a look:

Hurry up, baseball.

A photo posted by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

The Winter Development Program continues this morning at Dodger Stadium.

A photo posted by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

Another #LADSunset means we're another day closer to Opening Day.

A photo posted by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

Instagram is one of the simplest platforms. It’s a visually inspired community that craves sharp, beautiful images. It’s not about pushing links and promos. Focus on why the consumer is there: To see stunning and engaging photos. If the @Dodgers are any indication, this approach works.


N0. 2- They leverage user-generated content.

The @Dodgers have realized something smart: There is a whole community of ambassadors out there creating compelling content about their brand. So, they’re leveraging this content in creative ways. From a “We Love LA” campaign to #TopDeckThursday, they have found a way to empower their fans to help to their story.

#TopDeckThursday by @johndoukas.

A photo posted by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

#TopDeckThursday by @b0ugie23.

A photo posted by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

A different type of #LADSunset. #WeLoveLA (via @gilbrtortiz)

A photo posted by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

I’m a big fan of user-generated content
: It gives you more content (while being cost effective), shows a different perspective and and connects fans even more to the community. Start leveraging it now.


N0. 3- Copy is short and sweet.

The Dodgers tend to keep their copy short and sweet. And, this is a great best practice. Instagram users aren’t going to the platform to read a book; they are going there to consume content quickly and easily. Remember to keep your copy short and sweet.

Pregame ritual. Hurry up, baseball. (via @1seventytwo)

A photo posted by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

We have a tarp?! Go figure.

A photo posted by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

Straight chillin'. #TopDeckThursday by @nan_cy21.

A photo posted by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on


Instead of treating Instagram like every other platform, take a step and think about how you can cultivate a community the right way. As the Dodgers prove, there’s value in using compelling images, leveraging user-generated content and keeping it simple.



What are some of your favorite sports-related Instagram accounts? Be sure to share them below!

Thanks for reading! 

Marketing Lessons from @Nike and Jordan’s NBA All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk

When it comes to marketing (and especially social/digital), Nike is a company that doesn’t just do it. They get it. Years ago Nike saw potential in the digital landscape. They saw it as an opportunity to tell their story and connect with consumers like never before. So, they invested in the online world.

The investment is paying off. Today Nike is leveraging social media, owned channels and the physical space to connect with consumers in unique ways. And, their Pearl Pavilion activation during the NBA All-Star Weekend is a perfect example of how they’re merging all their assets together to create the ultimate experience.

Jordan’s Pearl Pavilion celebrated the brand’s most iconic moments and allowed consumers to celebrate “the Michael Jordan in them”. The exhibit celebrated the brand’s athletes, explored the history of the brand and MJ’s career, created custom content for each consumer and allowed people to recreate some of Michael Jordan’s greatest game-winning shots. You can read the full release from Nike about it here.

Pearl Pavilion was a stunning and beautiful consumer experience that generated buzz and excitement. And while we might not all have the budget to create something of its magnitude, there are still takeaways for us all. Here are four key ones:


No. 1- Storytelling is Key

Nike is a pro at storytelling, so it comes as no surprise that storytelling was woven into the entire Pearl Pavilion experience. The idea was simple: To celebrate the Michael Jordan in everyone. To execute the story, consumers were first guided through the rich history of the iconic brand and Michael Jordan himself. Once inspired by the greatness, consumers stepped into MJ’s shoes and created one of his greatest moments. You’ll see from their video how the experience told a complete and powerful story for the consumer:

Takeaway: Storytelling is a powerful way to connect the dots with your consumer, whether the experience is online or offline. Storytelling makes whatever you are trying to convey more consumable and meaningful. People connect with and remember stories, so tell them.


No. 2- Simple is Best

Even though Pearl Pavilion had a “wow” factor to it, the idea was a simple one at its core. Everything laddered back to the “story” and big idea that there’s MJ in everyone. I could walk you through the entire concept and activation in two minutes simply from reading about it online. That’s powerful.

Takeaway: If you are trying to convey a message or feeling to your consumer, don’t try to overcomplicate things. You want your message/idea to be easy to grasp and remember, otherwise your message will get lost in translation. The Pearl Pavilion experience is a great reminder that simple ideas are often the best ideas. It’s how you execute and bring that idea to life that is key.


No. 3- Empower Consumers to Tell Your Story

Throughout the Pearl Pavilion experience, consumers were presented several opportunities to create shareable content, ranging from a photo booth picture to a video of their epic court skills. The content created was inline with the content the Jordan brand shared socially. It was hip, sleek and extremely shareable. Here’s a look at some of the content created for the consumers:

Takeaway: If you take a close look at Nike’s platforms across categories you’ll see that they don’t push a lot of content on their channels compared to some other brands. They understand that consumers can tell a powerful story for them. They focus their energy on creating quality content (not quantity), engaging with their consumers and empowering them to talk about their brand (like these examples above). Word of mouth is still the most powerful marketing tool, so figure out how you can empower your consumers to tell your story.


No. 4- Personalize

When consumers entered Pearl Pavilion, they received RFID bracelets to unlock personalized images and videos (as seen above) on their phone. From what I can tell in my search, their were different types of cuts for consumers, providing a fun and personal experience. This personalized content is a great way to thank consumers, while also empowering them to share.

Takeaway: Technology and social media enable us to make consumers feel special and valued. And, I believe that consumers are more likely to share and remember personal content. It’s worth taking the extra time to create a personal experience for your consumer. It will make the content more memorable, shareable and buzz-worthy.


While we may not be able to create a Pearl Pavilion with our budgets, we can take away a thing or two from this consumer experience. Remember these powerful lessons from this awesome Jordan brand activation: Tell a story, personalize the content, keep things simple and empower your consumers. If you do, you’ll be on your way to a powerful marketing campaign.



What stood out to you with the Pearl Pavilion consumer experience? Share your thoughts below!

Thanks for reading!