Facebook Places for Sports Brands

Consumer sports brands have traditionally been at the forefront of media innovation, especially in online channels. But their marketing counterparts in leading sports teams and clubs side both sides of the Atlantic have been remarkably hesitant in making use of the potential of social media, including Facebook Boutiques. And most recently, geo-tagging.

Yes, this month, Facebook have lifted the wind out of successful geolocation social network Foursquare with the introduction of Facebook Places – a means of sharing and bookmarking users locations. Predictably, it has sent brand marketers into a frenzy to find the “big idea” to harness geo-location to commercial gain. But what does this means for sports?

Japanese a-la-mode footwear brand Onitsuka Tiger recently produced a Facebook Places campaign to leverage their sponsorship of the curious Australian Annual Bicycle Film Festival, in its 10th year this year. Here’s the vid: Onitsuka Tiger present the 10th Annual Bicycle Film Festival Facebook Places Campaign.

I thought I’d use this opportunity to explore how sports clubs and teams can take advantage of Facebook’s arrival onto the geo-tagging scene.

1. Teams will now be able to target fans geographically as well as demographically. This is massive – geographic targetting has typically been uncommercially time and resource intensive. Sports brands huge and niche will be able to identify attendence patterns, follow fans viewing and buying behaviour to offer more powerful, relevant offers through hyper-local marketing.

2. Teams can use Facebook’s Places as a way to reward attendance at games. Gone are the days of swiping a “fan loyalty” card. Now it is simple to push a button on your phone and “check-in” at the game. Fan attendance can be rewarded with team merchandise, tickets, and other prizes.

3. Sponsors can encourage and reward bookmarking and sharing at key sponsor and partner locations in exchange for specific promotions which lead to increased click through online or floor traffic.

4. Players can dramatically enhance their following and commercial range through more powerful promotion of shirt signings, book launches, media events and all manner of opportunities where it is key to interact with fans. The early days of Twitter saw numerous high profile signings in the US and UK mainstream sports leagues introduce geolocation tagging to huge success, and there is a renewed opportunity with Facebook right here, right now.

5. Clubs can adopt Places as one in a growing number of tools in a social communications suite to drive traffic through Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Flickr to online revenue generating functions including merchandising. If of the average Premier League weekend turnout of 35,055 some 20% use Facebook Places to share match happenings and some 5% share specific match day promotions to 100 friends each we’re talking some 701,000 brand mentions and 175,000+ impressions potentially for specific promotions – and these are conservative figures. The club and media benefits are obvious.

What are your thoughts?

John Bevan is Creative Director at Jobe London, a specialist sports and B2B communications agency