The Nashville sports scene has been buzzing this spring.
From hosting the 2019 NFL Draft in front of a record 600,000 fans and the NHL’s Nashville Predators’ playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to welcoming a former NBA star player as the new head men’s basketball coach at Vanderbilt University, big sports moments are happening in Nashville.
For sports programs, there is a challenge in taking these memorable moments and turning them into social media victories.
Senior account executives Sandy Weaver and Brandon Barca each spent more than a decade specializing in sports marketing and communications before joining the MP&F team in 2018.
Weaver spent 10 years with the Predators, where she held numerous marketing and social media responsibilities. During those years, Weaver experienced everything from a league-wide lockout to reaching Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. During that time, she also found opportunities to showcase the organization’s personality in creative ways, turning negative responses on their head, while capitalizing on game action to build excitement and having a little fun with some naysayers.
More on Barca in a later post.
In this two-part blog, Weaver explains the importance of letting the creative process play out while negative commentary flows in, and turning it on its head to change the narrative. In next week’s post, Barca will offer his strategy for preparing a game-winning social media plan to get you ready for when that big moment arrives.
Always Be Prepared To Adjust the Narrative
By Sandy Weaver
My experience with the Preds taught me a lot about every aspect of social media – mainly that the basics can, and should, be used by everyone striving to share their message.
Going With the Flow
There are a few things you could bring up around Bridgestone Arena that would garner an immediate reaction, and “banners” might top that list. On opening night of the 2018–19 season, the Nashville Predators raised a set of banners to the rafters. One of those banners referenced a “Regular Season” championship – a polarizing banner choice (most banners are reserved for division, conference or Stanley Cup championships). The consensus view was negative. So negative, in fact, that fans began using Photoshop to digitally update the banners. While the negative articles and comments streamed in, our marketing team had an idea to completely change the narrative. We asked the team’s talented graphic designers to create a banner image that leaned into the conversation, instead of fighting it. When we posted this image with the simple tweet of “we raised more banners,” the conversation changed immediately. Articles and social media posts were now about how the team embraced the moment, while giving props for going with the flow. It ended up being one of our most engaged posts.
Capitalize on the Moment
“You can sleep when the playoffs are over.” This saying was adopted in-house and by the Preds fans due to the late start times for playoff games, both home and away. However, this term took on a whole new meaning during a triple OT home game that didn’t end until 1:30 a.m. The slogan became a bit of a running joke with both staff and fans and something fun we were able to carry through the entire series, even placing it on shirts for later games. The triple OT game was also a great example of capitalizing on a situation by creating a quick highlight video (and also a GIF that will live forever) that went up on social feeds the next day, showing people what they would miss if they weren’t at the next game.
“Sweep” will forever conjure up fond memories, especially since it was against the rival Chicago Blackhawks. I recall how antsy I was to get this tweet out, because it was a play dig against some notable sports broadcasters, who unanimously picked the other team to win the series. This is another example of living in the moment and following those gut instincts. Your graphics don’t always need to be pretty or perfect; they just have to be real. Remember that people connect to what they can relate to, and being real is the No. 1 path to that connection.
Listen to Your Gut
There is just no better way to increase your engagement than by having a winning team that makes it to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. However, you need to quickly utilize this newfound attention in a creative and impactful way to help the brand. With each win in the 2016–17 Stanley Cup Playoffs, more eyes turned to Nashville and, with it, more pressure to perform, both on and off the ice. For the Preds’ front office, that meant taking care of the passionate fan base. The saying “you never know who you’ll see in Smashville” is synonymous with Preds hockey, and it was no different in 2017. Countless articles covered the superstar anthem singers, legendary band stage guests and famous faces in the crowd. Everyone bought in, and it was a sight to behold.
Outside the walls of Bridgestone Arena took it to another level as fans flooded every street in downtown Nashville. Once again, articles praised how a nontraditional town like Nashville took the fandom to unforeseen heights. Everything we touched turned to gold (pun intended) until it ultimately ended. It’s safe to say that we were learning and reacting as we went, and that was very apparent in Game 6 when the Preds ultimately lost the Cup. As the person in charge of making that series-ending and season-ending tweet, I didn’t know what to say. I could overthink the moment and say something that felt disingenuous or go with my gut. I decided on the latter, and a situation that had every chance of facing backlash was greeted with understanding, because we all went through it together.
I hope you enjoyed this post. I learned a lot from experiences and thought I should share for others. Be sure to look out for and read Brandon’s post next week.