Social Media in Sport Can Be A Labyrinth With No Map

The Digital Café is originally published by iSportconnect and takes a regular look at what’s happening, what’s relevant and what’s entertaining in the digital and social world of sport. In this edition, we take a keen look at how data is utilised in the world of content.

Taking time to drop in was Brad Rees, CEO of data translators Mediacells. He talked to us about measuring content success and what clubs should be aiming for with their content, with the numbers to back it all up.

Brad Rees of MediaCells

Social media can be a labyrinth with no map but conversely, can also provide the opportunity to change the dynamic between team and fan. It can (will) consume enormous amounts of time, energy and budget and yet still be difficult to quantify in terms of return on investment.

MediaCells specialise in ensuring data is used effectively in sports marketing and by influencers is monitoring and measuring that return. It’s tracking, week by week engagement of top soccer clubs on social — and it doesn’t always mirror their on-pitch performance.

Since the start of the 2020/21 EPL season the company, which lists global and European football federations and premiership clubs as long term clients, produces a weekly top ten social engagement league.

But who’s getting it right? They measured engagement across the week with Twitter posts and came up with an alternate football league: which clubs were most successful on social.

Social media can be a labyrinth with no map but conversely, can also provide the opportunity to change the dynamic between team and fan.

Club Social is a weather report for how effectively you as a club are getting your message across to your fans in the competitive context of your rivals. But your rivals are not who you think they are. For example, the Paris St Germain merchandise brand is not competing with Olympique de Marseille or Arsenal’s new 2020–21 kit is not competing for fan attention with Spurs, that would be preposterous,” said Rees.

So your rivals might not (actually) be other clubs: “In this context, the competitor landscape shifts to Apparel brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Zara, Chanel, Hermes. Club Social not only enables marketers to benchmark themselves against rival clubs’ fan engagement levels but also to jockey for walletshare against the fashion brand giants and generate more income for the club.

“If the club wins on the pitch, fans want to buy from the store and if the club is intelligently informed on what social content is hot and what is not, they can maximise, optimise purchase opportunities.”

And it threw up some interesting trends and anomalies. Leeds United’s return to the premier league and the manner in which they did it was impressive on the pitch, but also has seen positive sentiment towards them and an engagement rise to give them a position on the Mediacells Club Social chart higher than their actual league position. and while Wolverhampton Wanderers have constantly improved since their promotion, their social influence was assisted, not by performance by their artist in residence. And in the first week of the season, Manchester United remained relevant on social even when they weren’t actually playing.

Successful posts tend to be personality-driven, team celebration posts? Not so much.

Mediacells takes the data available to teams and federations and asks the questions to bring a deeper understanding of what is driving business and bringing fans closer to clubs.

So, for Brad, what — statistically — makes for great engagement? Which trends in social which he can see working well?

“Successful posts tend to be personality-driven, team celebration posts? Not so much. The ‘How It Started … How It’s Going,’ meme-theme is powerfully deployed in the football experience. The basic concept is to showcase the passage of time with an inspiring or surprising current status as the bookend.

Official channels are sometimes the most authentic and emotional.

“Southampton were innovative in adopting the trendy meme when Gareth Bale returned to Spurs. To be a Saints fan this return from Real resonates because of the debut career the young Bale enjoyed at St Mary’s Stadium AND leaving to Tottenham Hotspur the first time around.

“For me, the above shows how complex and enmeshed true fan engagement has to be and how official channels are sometimes the most authentic and emotional.” You can find the MediaCells Club Social tables from this season, along with some pointers as to what’s working on their blog.

The Digital Cafe is written by David Granger, former Global Head of Editorial Content at Red Bull Media House and current Head of Global Content at PMI.

I’ve worked in digital and social content marketing in sport and music for (amongst others) Red Bull Media House and GoPro. I’m a columnist for iSportconnect

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