Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Social Media Changing the Nature of Sports

This is my fourth trip out on the road to watch the Predators, and this trip has been the most unique. Normally when I get into an NHL city, I interact with fans at the game that, upon seeing my Predators jersey, want to talk about Nashville and the Predators. The conversations are usually polite and short, with some locals surprised that Nashville fans are out on the road with the team.

My first stop on this trip was in Long Island, and I had the opportunity to meet with many of the Long Islands "tweeps", fans of the Islanders that are on Twitter. The time I spent visiting with them was exceptional, not only for the hospitality that was shown to me but also because of the hockey conversations that we had. The folks in Long Island were very knowledgeable of what was happening with the Predators as well as some of the off ice issues the team has faced. I fielded some great questions from real hockey fans in a market that has no connection to Nashville save for our hockey teams.

In turn, I was able to talk about the on going efforts to build a new arena for the Islanders. Because I was familiar with the issues and some of the struggles the team has faced, I could ask reasonable questions and get a better understanding of what was happening with their team.

There was a bond that existed even before I personally met someof the great people on the Island, and that bond was formed because we had gotten to know each other through our communications on Twitter. This relatively new form of social media had brought fans from disparate markets together because of their love of hockey and for their respective team.

"Tweetups"are a social phenomenon were folks that have communicated electronically on Twitter meet up in a face to face gathering. NHL Tweetups now occur globally, bringing fans that love the sport together united in the common bond of the devotion to their local team and love of the game. The driving force behind these events is a bundle of energy named Dani Muccio that goes under the Twitter name dani3boyz. Dani is passionate about bringing fans of the sport together to promote not only hockey but the interaction of fans that love the game. And she has been extremely successful in this endeavor, with tweetups conducted in every NHL market and also in foreign countries.

This new electronic medium has been embraced by the NHL, and props to them for doing so. NHL fans, according to most marketing surveys I have seen, are very tech savvy, moreso than in other professional sports. To use this medium successfully as the League has done puts them ahead of other professional sports in engaging their existing fans and attracting new devotees. And kudos to Dani for her efforts in making this work, because stumbling out of the gate with this new effort would have squandered an amazing opportunity.

Because of Twitter, I am able to meet with fans of the other teams we play on this trip, and I have been genuinely welcomed by the ones I met on the Island. This has not happened in the past trips that I have made. Engaging real hockey fans in different markets has put a new and positive perspective on this road trip.

As social networking continues to evolve, I expect the NHL to be in the vanguard of promoting the game via this medium. Solidifying the existing fan base and attracting new fans to this beautiful game are vital components to the survival and growth of the game we all love.

Thanks to all the Long Island tweeps that made me feel welcome. And thanks to Twitter that made this possible.

1 comment:

  1. Great post MW!! I've enjoyed the same phenomenon in all the cities I've visited, including NYC! It's fantastic to be able to pick up the conversation instead of starting over from square one. And the NHL should definitely pick up their Twitter presence more than they have already... there is definitely a chance to involve the fans more.