Paralympic Games Assisting Service Members, Trending On Social Media.

Before the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, the Paralympic Games were viewed as more of an afterthought to its bigger brother.

No consistent traditional media coverage had hurt the Paralympics in the past. Before the introduction of social media, the Paralympics didn’t have the exposure and reach to showcase the inspirational stories and determination of its nearly 5,000 athletes spanning both the Summer and Winter Games.

paralympics

Here’s some quick info on the Paralympic Games:

The Paralympic Games is a muti-sport event held after the Olympic Games involving athletes with physical disabilities that span six different categories: Amputee, Cerebral palsy, Visual impairment, Spinal cord injuries, Intellectual disablity, and “Les autres” (athletes that do not fit in the other five categories). 

The first Paralympics were held in 1960 in Rome, Italy and its governing body, the International Paralympic Committee, was founded in 1989 in Bonn, Germany to “enable Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world.”

Paralympians are able to compete in many of the same sports that able-bodied Olympians are able to compete in. The events are just modified for certain disabilities. Here are a few examples of Paralympic events:

  • Cross country skiing
  • Biathlon
  • Judo
  • Sailing
  • Cycling

The Paralympics are giving hope and athletic opportunities to all athletes with impairments and disabilities from beginner to elite levels.

Athletes such as 27 year-old injured service member Sean Halsted reported Ben Shpigel of the New York Times. Halsted was paralyzed from the waist down after a 40-foot fall from a helicopter during a training drill. After feeling like he wasn’t going to be able to do much much besides staying indoors because of his impairment, Halsted thrived after being introduced to Paralympic sports.

photo by Pam Doyle

Halsted

Halsted picked up cross-country skiing and biathlon and by 2007 he was a national-level athlete. This winter he competed for the United States Paralympic Team at the Sochi Winter Games.

The Paralympics is becoming an incredible outlet for injured service members returning from combat.  This year in Sochi, former service members competed in all six Paralympic events, and the U.S.O.C. is focusing on helping these soldiers to better be able to compete.

“For me, if there wasn’t a Paralympic movement that existed, I just don’t know what I’d be doing right now,” said said active-duty Navy Seal Dan Cnossen, who lost his legs after stepping on an explosive device.

The U.S.O.C. is working to provide disabled citizens such as Cnossen a chance to compete at from the local recreations level all the way up to Paralympic competition. By providing outreach to parks and recreation groups and Paralympic clubs throughout the country, injured service members and other disabled people are now better aware of the options for competition and training.

dan cnossen

Halsted with his son, Ethan.

Halsted with his son, Ethan.

The Paralympics is bringing in incredible athletes with stories that can truly connect with fans, but it would be a shame if people couldn’t see or hear these stories because of lack of television coverage.

Now the mainstream media can hear the amazing stories of Paralympians through the adoption of social media and digital technology.

The International Paralympic Committee had four main goals for its social media campaign for the 2012 Summer Games,via Sprout Social’s Anna Washenko:

  • To promote opportunities for audiences to watch the Paralympic Games
  • To raise awareness about event and sports
  • To position the Paralympics as a major international sporting competition
  • To engage with new audiences.

Its goals for the 2012 Games were more than reached. The Paralympic website shows that in 2012,  the top trending topic on Twitter in the United Kingdom for a sporting event was #Paralympics. The Paralympic Twitter account, @Paralympic, grew by more than 1,000 percent during the event.

The Paralympics on Twitter beat these topics on Twitter in the UK:

  • #LFC (Liverpool Football Club)
  • #Olympics
  • #MUFC (Manchester United Football Club)
  • #Arsenal

One big reason for their success of Paralympic’s communications goals was the strategies used for getting fans to connect with athletes.  The Paralympics encouraged its athletes to post video blogs of behind the scene footage with mobile devices provided by Samsung. It was all part of the Samsung Bloggers project, that was meant to help the athletes embrace social media and to help 2012 Games to have the most inside footage of any previous sporting event. It was a better way of getting an inside look of the achievements, struggles and personal moments of thousands of Paralympians.

Here’ s a look at a video captured by British Paralympic Sprinter John McFall:

The Paralympics will have continued success into the future by continuing to provide opportunities to potential athletes and by reaching out to fans via social media. The Paralympics will continue to prove that, just like its athletes, nothing will hold it back.

Advertisements

Ditching Your Phone During the Game is Essential.

No I won’t spill your over-priced $8 Miller Lite, but when Chris Davis is up to bat and I see you tweeting, I may knock the cell phone out of your hand.

In my last post I discussed how the San Francisco Giants are exceptional at creating effective fan engagement and connection through digital technology, but where is the line really drawn for fans when it comes to using social media?

phone on twitter

My professor shared a video with our class last week about how people (millennials especially) think they can mutlitask successfully. The students interviewed in the video thought this technique worked, but in reality the multitasking approach was shown to actually decrease the quality of the different tasks performed.

The students’ thoughts were scattered and disconnected, and they were not locked into a central idea that was the most meaningful.

This phenomenon is exactly what happens at the ballpark when fans try to watch the game and use social media simultaneously. They don’t get the same valuable experience of being focused on the game if they’re juggling not only watching the game and eating a hotdog, but also trying to tweet or upload a video.

I’m not campaigning to try to eliminate all social media use during game time, because I too use my phone during games to capture images and share interesting content. The problem arises when fans substitute the organic game experience with using technology.

Fans are missing the crackling home run shots coming off of Chris Davis’s Louisville Slugger because they’re too busy checking Twitter.

davis home run

Baltimore’s Chris Davis.

They missed Nick Markakis’s sliding catch in the seventh inning to rob David Ortiz of RBI single because they tried to post a picture to Instagram.

Being glued to the phone is becoming an epidemic at all sporting events, concerts, and social gatherings. And it needs to be addressed.

CBSSports.com’s Kyle Porter wrote about how this epidemic of fans directing their attention more on digital technology, rather than watching the game itself, and how it’s changing the viewing experience.

During Monday’s Men’s National Championship game between the #7 Connecticut Huskies and the #8 Kentucky Wildcats, Porter explained how the game paled in comparison to the other events that happened off court for fans. And this game wasn’t like the 43-8 blowout this year in Super Bowl XLVIII, it was a close fought game with stellar play from UConn’s Shabazz Napier, that UConn went on to win 60-54.

Porter said that fans were more interested in a father and son dancing to Pharell’s “Happy” shown on the huge screen at AT&T Stadium (which I agree is really awesome). Or when Presidents Bill Clinton and G.W. Bush, and Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo and Jason Witten were shown together in Jerry Jones’s box.

bill

But hey!

There was a really interesting play that proved to be just on the same level as those two happenings. Kentucky’s Alex Poythress had a nasty put-back dunk during the first half. There was a just one problem. Instead of soaking in the greatness of the dunk, many fans instantly took to their phones to try to upload their own angle of the dunk via social media.

poythress

However, watching games at home is a different story. There’s a completely different dynamic between sitting behind home plate (or even in the nosebleed section at the Final Four) and watching the game on the couch. If I’m not at the ballpark, I really wish I was. But even though I’m at home, baseball can really lend itself to social media use because of the time between pitches and commercial breaks.

Social media really helps to make me feel like I’m actually there watching pregame batting practice or watching Adam Jones and Chris Davis goof off behind the batting cage. It allows for that extra dimension to a ballgame that traditional  television coverage doesn’t allow.

Mashable’s Dasha Battelle discusses how Major League baseball took this into consideration with the adoption of Snapchat for the 2014 season. Just like how the Association of Surfing Professional used Snapchat to connect with fans, the MLB is using the platform to create personal, “in-the-moment” messages to fans. It’s not trying to speed up delivery of breaking content, but is working on delivering “laid back” messages such as players dancing and high-fiving.

snapchat

By not focusing on in-game coverage or breaking news, it allows the social media platform to supplement the fan experience when there is an appropriate time to view the content (i.e. commercial breaks, pre/post game). When you’re not there to see Adam Jones hit Jonathan Schoop in the face with a shaving cream pie after the game, it might be available on Snapchat.

Social media can really enhance a game experience (especially at home), but remember to use the power of mobile technology sparingly. There’s no way to be able to scroll through a Twitter feed while watching a potential Gold Glove play at the same time.

Enjoy the moment, because the people viewing your content online would really like to be at the ballpark watching the game.

First class in digital innovation, fan engagement, and kayaking. The San Francisco Giants are thriving on technology and togetherness in the Bay Area.

In September of 2010, the San Francisco Giants fought their way into first place of the NL West behind the inspired play of a longhaired “Freak”, a power-hitting “Kung Fu Panda”, and a bearded flame-throwing closer.

After failing to reach the playoffs since 2003, the Giants did the impossible in 2010 by not only reaching the playoffs, but also winning the first ever World Series championship in the city’s history.

Image

The Giants continued to show excellence on the field by winning the World Series again in 2012. While simaltaneoulsy proving to be one of MLB’s leaders when it comes to social media, fan engagement, and loyalty.

The Giants are not only winning games, but also selling them out regularly (Opening Day will be the 247th consecutive sellout), while the organization is accomplishing the major goal of a corporate communications strategy.

 

The Giants organization is connecting their communications objectives with one of their biggest business objectives: bringing the team and fans closer together.

Image

The team’s new communications campaign for the 2014 season is called “All Together, Stronger Together” and is focused on connecting to its fans’ eclectic and passionate personalities. Fans have not only have helped sell out AT&T Park 247 times in a row, but some dress up like pandas in honor of their big-boned third-baseman Pablo Sandoval, or watch the game in kayaks in San Francisco’s McCovey Cove while grilling hotdogs. There’s no doubt that the fans in San Francisco love their team and they want to feel like they are included and involved with everything the team does.

Image

Did I mention that many Giants fans that don’t have a ticket like to take a kayak in McCovey Cove, which sits right behind the right field wall at AT&T Park? The sight of the dozens to hundreds of kayaks in McCovey Cove is pretty spectacular.

Watercraft in McCovey Cove for 2010 World Series Game 1.


Part of the “All Together, Stronger Together” campaign focuses on Major League Baseball’s first ever Social Media Café, located behind the center field fence of AT&T Park.

Forbe’s Darren Heitner wrote how the Social Media Café was created to be the command center of the Giant’s organization for social media and fan engagement.

Image

Think of the Café as the brain or train junction of social media for AT&T Park, where you can see everything said and created about the Giants in real-time.

Fans are able to view both their own user-generated content and content from other fans on six 55-inch screens, while also charging their mobile devices, grabbing coffee, and watching the ball game. The Giants’ communications and public relations employees can then use this information from social media, as well as through face-to-face communication from inside the Café to respond to fans.

Image

The idea of the Social Media Café and the technology that accompanies it are not meant to take place of watching the baseball game, but only to enhance the game experience. Just like how social media isn’t supposed to take the place of face-to-face interaction, only to supplement it.

Successful organizations such as the Giants are listening to what their consumers want through channels such as social media and changing their strategies to these needs.

The Social Customer Relationship Management (CRM) model discussed by Jacob Morgan of SocialMediaExaminer.com illustrates this.

Organizations are now making the customer the focal point of their operations, while listening and communicating to them via two-way communication channels like social media.

“They want to know the personalities, if you will, of the teams they are supporting. Pictures, videos, in addition to maybe some ‘tidbits’ about the team, players, or coaches,” says ESPN social media researcher and reporter Sunny Cadwallader.

san fran

The fans in San Francisco love their team. The players thrive off the energy of the fans. This passion and connection between fan and players is reaching new levels because of the excellent social media strategies of the San Francisco Giants.

Fieldhouse Media: Educating student-athletes for success.

March Madness is a time of the year that really showcases some of the best student-athletes in the country. The national stage and tremendous publicity of the NCAA basketball tournament can really propel college athletes such as UConn’s Shabazz Napier, or Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, into household names.

But unlike on the basketball court, student-athletes are in the spotlight every day on social media. They can choose to use social media as a positive tool for their personal brand, or they can use it poorly with the chance of big repercussions.

There have been examples of bad conduct throughout the year, namely from athletes such as Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel posting party pictures online, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart shoving a fan during a game at Texas Tech, and a University of Oregon football player tweeting that the Sandy Hook shootings were a government conspiracy.

marcus-smart-ttu

Marcus Smart

Inappropriate behavior by athletes doesn’t just harm the reputation and life of college athletes, but also the colleges and universities that they represent. An athlete can post a message, picture, or video that could damage a reputation instantly and that reputation is extremely hard to get back.

Pete Warner from BangorDailyNews reported the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body for the 1,281 institutions in collegiate athletics, has fairly loose rules for its athletes on social media because of state laws and issues with free speech. The NCAA does have rules for coaches when it comes to when they can interact with recruits via social media, but doesn’t monitor athletes. It expects the institutions to properly monitor their student athletes by being proactive with education (more on this in bit).

This uncertainty surrounding athletes’ uses of social media is leading to many schools to crack down with policies that may not even allow athletes to have social media accounts. Some large institutions such as the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky use expensive monitoring software to track what their players are saying.

For example, whenever an athlete posts something with a flagged keyword such as “beer bong” or “doobie”, the software will immediately notify that player’s coach. Some colleges are hoping these “Big Brother” scare tactics will help control their athletes on social media. But what if these organizations take a different route?

What if they educated their athletes on the right ways to use to social media when they step on campus, gave their athletes the tools and knowledge to create content that will positively promote both their school and themselves, and confidently set them free to use social media without restrictions?

Enter Fieldhouse Media.

Image

Fieldhouse Media is an Oklahoma City based firm founded by Kevin DeShazo that helps educate student athletes on how to use social media to promote both the university’s athletic program and themselves.

Fieldhouse stresses that social media doesn’t have to be something feared, but something that can really help earn free, positive PR for schools.

DeShazo’s team travels to universities such as Wichita State and the University of Oregon to promote the value that social media technology offers. Fieldhouse works to help students create a strong, positive identity online, and gives them the knowledge to preserve that image so it can benefit them in the future.

DeShazo wrote how a student-athlete emailed him after graduating from one of the schools Fieldhouse Media consults for and thanked him for helping him to create the online presence that led to his hiring. The skills and knowledge that the Fieldhouse team provided helped the student not just pass a social media screening by an employer, but enhanced his chance of him getting the job.

The services they provide for young adults who may have no idea how to use social media technology properly are invaluable.

Schools such as the University of Washington have bought into the firm’s system just like the Spurs with Gregg Popovich, and even praise their student athletes who are social media correctly via their official athletics handle @UWAthletics. It’s another great example of a Fieldhouse Media success story.

Social media doesn’t have to be scary for athletes and colleges and Fieldhouse Media is making sure of that.

Hey sports fans! Haven’t heard of Paul Rabil? Social media may change that.

If you live on planet Earth, then you’ve probably heard of Lebron James. The two-time NBA champion, four-time MVP, and consensus best all-around basketball player on the planet.

But even if you’re a fairly knowledgeable fan of professional sports, you probably haven’t even heard of Paul Rabil.

Image

He’s a 6 foot-3, 220-pound midfielder for the Philadelphia Wings and Boston Cannons who claimed two NCAA Division I titles while playing at Johns Hopkins University. The long-haired three-time All-American can hurl a ball 109 miles-per-hour right through an opponent’s goalkeeper.

And yes, he’s a professional lacrosse player.

He’s being hailed as the “Lebron James” of lacrosse – and just like James – could be the best and most marketable player in his sport.

James has 12 million Twitter followers and 17 million Facebook fans. Rabil has 44,000 and 69,000 respectively, but is gathering popularity at a rapid pace.

Unlike James, Rabil is succeeding in a sport that receives only a small share of media coverage, and one that provides only a fraction of the compensation for players compared to the big American sports.

However Rabil is using the powers of social media and personal branding to become a millionaire in the world of professional lacrosse. And he’s not slowing down report’s Mashable’s Sam Laird.

“My brand is nowhere near what I want it to be,” says Rabil.

This is coming from a player who earns a professional salary of only $65,000 annually. Rabil is using social media and his personal website to build his brand and engage with the passionate and (wealthy) fans of lacrosse. It’s proving to be the best way for Rabil to reach out to fans because lacrosse doesn’t get the mainstream coverage on television that other sports do. It’s also giving him the publicity and marketability to gain big endorsement deals from Red Bull energy drinks, New Balance, and Nooka watches .

Nooka_Paul_rabil

It’s allowing a star in small sport to flourish when he probably wouldn’t have been able to just a few years ago. And it’s not just the usual use of Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Rabil has a service on his website called the “Paul Rabil Experience” that is scheduled to release in the fall of 2014. The service highlights Paul’s training, techniques, drills, nutrition, workout plans, and lifestyle to further help fans connect with him.

If that wasn’t enough, Rabil also started the Paul Rabil Foundation to help children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia. Paul grew up with learning disabilities and wanted to reach out and help those struggling with them. He created a passionate cause that helps people engage and connect with him.

Rabil’s use of social media is very similar to what a lot of small businesses are using to connect with consumers and differentiate themselves from the large corporations.

Image

Robert Klara wrote in MediaWeek about how these small, upstart companies are using the power of social media to compete in the business world. “It gives my brand greater reach, it extends the boundaries of small business,” said Javier Alfonzo, CEO of OddFit, a custom t-shirt producing company based out of Rhode Island.

Someecards, a small greeting card producing company, only employs five full-time staff members compared to the 14,000 employed by greeting card giant, Hallmark. However, Hallmark only has 24,000 Twitter followers while Someecards has earned over 2 million followers through the use of relatable and valuable content on social media. They are able to connect by using cool and “snarky” brief messages that are full of personality and “swagger” according to Klara.

Rabil brings the same insightful, entrepreneurial smarts and attitude to the table that these businesses use. He’s got the looks, charisma, and the game to be the most marketable athlete professional lacrosse has ever seen. And he’s only getting better by continuing to provide valuable and relatable content to his fans.

Maybe in the near future we’ll see professional lacrosse players on Sportscenter just like basketball or football players. If we do, it’ll be because of a hard-working “lax bro” named Paul Rabil.


If you’re a lacrosse fan I would love to learn more about what teams and athletes are doing with social media! Please comment below, I’d love to hear!

MLB’s Fan Cave is helping to make baseball relevant again.

It’s hard to believe it’s only been a little less than four months since those wild and bearded guys from Boston won their eighth World Series title. It’s even harder to believe it’s almost a month until the official start of spring (March 20th) after this especially cold winter.

orioles-spring-training

However spring brings so many great things; new love, tax season, the NCAA basketball tournament, the Easter Bunny, and most importantly the return of Major League Baseball.

But with spring, comes the on-going challenge for MLB to become relevant again.

Baseball is struggling. In recent years, the MLB has been losing its existing viewership, while failing to attract younger fans.

The NFL and NBA have had a lot of success reaching out to the younger demographic (18-34). With trying to attract this younger audience, it’s all about fan immersion and media engagement.  Fans want to be involved with everything about their favorite leagues, teams, and athletes. They want to have something interesting to talk about with their friends outside of the just what happened during the course of the actual game.

For example, the NFL brought it fans directly into the media spotlight by encouraging them to submit their own personal pictures and videos for its “Together We Make Football” campaign. The top five winners received trips to the Super Bowl, while the NFL gained a lot of positive communications material while creating and distributing unique and authentic content.

Adweek’s David Gianatasio reported that the average age of an MLB fan is 44 years old and viewership has dropped off significantly over the past 5 years. The MLB is desperately fighting to regain these viewers and it’s doing something radical.

In 2011 the MLB launched the MLB Fan Cave, a social media and cultural control center in New York City’s NoHo neighborhood. The idea was based around  fans called “Cave Dwellers” who would watch every game played during the season while simultaneously promoting the game on social media.

MLB's Fan Cave

MLB’s Fan Cave

Other organizations have picked up on this idea, and if you’re a fan of college football you have probably heard of the University of Oregon’s “Quack Cave”.

The Quack Cave is a digital media-monitoring center located in an old storage room near Oregon’s Autzen stadium and operated by UO students. It was created to monitor everything that’s said about Ducks Athletics, as well as to create and send out creative digital content to its technologically savvy fan base.

UO's Quack Cave

Oregon’s Quack Cave

It was the first of its kind in college athletics. If a cutting edge university athletics program like Oregon is copying your idea, you must have a good thing going, right?

The MLB Fan Cave is taking it even further. It’s inviting players such as MVP winner Miguel Cabrera to come and create original content around “Miggy” as a telenovela star. It’s going out and filming superstars such as “Big Papi”, the Red Sox’s David Ortiz, running around NYC looking for hugs from reluctant Yankee fans.

It’s inviting popular music acts such as Avicii and Afrojack to play concerts in the venue.

The MLB is starting to do what has made other sports leagues such as the NBA and NFL so popular. Engage and integrate with mainstream culture. The Fan Cave is a concept that the MLB hopes will help bring them back into the conversation.

Here’s the video of Big Papi’s escapades around NYC. He may public enemy number one when he comes to Baltimore, but he’s such a likable guy!

Surfing finds the perfect wave with Snapchat.

From soccer “across the pond”, to catching swells back in the States. My second post comes from the other end of the professional sporting spectrum, in the organized sport of professional surfing. Surfing has evolved a lot from buddies driving around in a Woodie looking for girls and tubular waves. Surfing is an official organized sport with rules, sponsorships, and prize money.

Kelly Slater

Snapchat is a new form of social media where users can send pictures or videos to friends through their mobile phones, but the pictures or videos vanish after being opened for 10 seconds. One might use Snapchat to send ridiculous selfies to a best friend, or immediately give buddies a close look the concert they’re attending downtown. Snapchat is establishing a new way of saying “we’re buds” because sending an extremely goofy picture isn’t as bad when it vanishes forever after a few seconds.

The governing body for professional surfing, the Association of Surfing Professionals, or ASP, is using this to their advantage to create deeper and more personal connections with its young fan base.

It’s almost like Snapchat and professional surfing were made for each other. If they both had a match.com profile, surfing would be Snapchat’s top match for a potential suitor. Jefferson Graham’s article in USA Today reports that Snapchat originated in the Golden State of California, where surfing has been popular since the early 20th century. That’s such a coincidence, because it seems that all upstart technology companies come out of Silicon Valley, right? What if I told you that Snapchat’s headquarters is big blue beach house on the boardwalk of Venice Beach. Snapchat can step outside and whistle at its surfing neighbors paddling out in the breakers.

Snapchat HQ

The ASP just launched their Snapchat account two months ago and now has as many as 9,000 followers and they’re having great success by really stressing immediate and consistent interaction with followers on a daily basis. Snapchat works incredibly well for surfing because pictures and videos last for only seconds before disappearing, creating what the ASP refers to as an “immediate, organic and, exclusive” connection with this young audience looking for something more meaningful than a typical text message.

The ASP facilitates this interaction with fans through Snapchat by :

  1. Adding fans immediately to help create a sense of connection by recognition.
  2. Listening to the fans and using this feedback to plan and create communications strategies.
  3. Solidifying this connection by replying back to fans with snaps of their own

The ASP’s 2013 Rookie of the Year Nat Young’s recent Snapchat autograph session was an excellent example of this model. Fans would send Nate a Snapchat, and he would replying back with one of his own to each fan. What’s really cool is that he not only replied by taking a selfie and sending it back to his fans, but he also used the old school form of fan interaction, the autograph, to personalize the message even further.

Mashable

Nat’s personalized Snapchats

With this new technology that connects sports organizations, athletes, and fans on a much more personal level, look for the ASP continue to use Snapchat even further to help promote their brand and professional surfing into the future.