Aug 31, 2012

Communicating With Sport Audiences Featuring Nick Stover (Part I)

Obviously, the topic of "sport" is a year round conversation. However, never is the noise louder than the start of football season state-side! We've reached out to Nick Stover, Director of Social Media and Engagement at the University of Louisville, to help LEAP discuss the benefits and pitfalls of communicating with sport audiences. 

With fan bases and followers in the multi-millions, sports teams have a huge captive audience to communicate to and engage with online. However, is this audience receptive to receiving information through this medium? Males account for 80% of the total sport-viewing audience, but fall short in the social world. Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg says the social world is led by women. Is social media still an important communication tool in the sports arena, and if so, how can a brand best manage it?


NS: Sports and social media are two of the most engaging topics in the world today. Both attempt to achieve a response from a wide range of extremely diverse publics. The success of either comes down to the level of engagement and the ROI they provide.

Sport communication in general seeks to manage the sending and receiving of verbal and nonverbal messages between the sport organization and the sport consumer. Social media is an extremely powerful tool for both large and small sport organizations because it provides a more direct link to the consumer than many traditional forms of communication. While more females may be using social media than males, social media transcends gender, race, ethnicity, SES and all other demographic qualifiers. Brands can easily connect with males and females by capitalizing on the social media channels they utilize most. 

Standard textbooks on public relations often talk about the importance of two-way communication and third party references. Building off of this, successful social media managers refer to their craft as a means for starting a conversation and achieving bidirectional referencing. If properly managed, sport organizations can introduce their products to new or returning fans in a conversational manner that continues on a viral level, causing further investment of more resources.

I must consider ROI for my time and resources with each social media campaign and new post. There are many new creative things that could be done through social media, but unless the ROI can be justified there is not necessarily a reason to spend time or even money on such pursuits. I am the first to admit, there is not always an easily identifiable direct relationship between a Facebook post and ROI. The important thing to remember is there are seemingly infinite updates and social media applications available. It is easy, and often times detrimental to a program, to become overwhelmed with the amount of possible content options. Essentially, social media is extremely important to the sports arena but only if it is part of a well-managed plan.

Managing social media is similar to managing any aspect of an organization. When I began as Director of Social Media for UofL Athletics it was important to clarify the overall goal(s) of the program. This might be different for every brand but should include aspects related to increased growth, increased financial return, increased traffic, or other quantifiable objectives.

The model I created for UofL could be easily applied to any brand using social media. It begins by considering the social media channels that should be created or utilized around a particular brand. Years of trial and error have shown us a pretty clear picture of where fans are currently residing in the social media landscape but this can change quickly and deserves daily monitoring. Next, we must integrate the social media with the other online and offline platforms being used by the organization. There are so many amazing programs and stories at the University of Louisville. However, few of them are effectively highlighted, supported, or event mentioned on social media. Many people think that more creative programs need to be added to make social media successful. In reality, it might be more effective to simply do a better job talking about current programs rather than adding more. Following this, it is important to give people a reason to use a brand’s social media. Just because someone follows a Facebook or Twitter page does not mean they check it on a regular basis. This can become one of the most challenging steps to accomplish on a consistent basis and a lot of brands stop, or get stuck, at this phase. Last of all brands should pay particular attention to the resources being acquired through social media. Unless you are dealing with a non-profit, this might be the most critical aspect to include in your social media program. However, many non-profits are now looking at social media as a means for acquiring growth as well.


Who will come out the victor at the rival UofL/ UK game? And what's your prediction on the final score?


NS: I am not able to comment on this question BUT I am hosting a premier online event the Thursday and Friday before Sunday’s big game. We are going to provide Louisville Cardinals fans with the first digital pep rally in college sports from 3:30-4:30 on both days. During this time I will be posting unique videos from Louisville fans, student athletes, and coaches to wish good luck to all the Cardinal sport teams competing this fall. We are also asking Louisville fans to send in pictures and videos showing their support for UofL to me on Twitter @ULFlyingCard. I will repost the top videos and photos to the main Louisville Athletics Facebook page. We hope to provide an hour of concentrated, positive, content on both days and really help kick off the fall sports season while showing support for the Louisville Football team heading in to Sunday’s game. Everyone should also follow me @ULFlyingCard on Sunday as I post behind the scenes photos, videos, and updates throughout the day!



University of Louisville – 32-24.