Monumental Sports & Entertainment | Washington Wizards Social Media Case Study

Company Background

Jacob Raim is the Director of Digital Media at Monumental Sports & Entertainment. Located in Washington, D.C., Monumental Sports & Entertainment owns and operates four professional sports teams: the NBA’s Washington Wizards, NHL’s Washington Capitals, WNBA’s Washington Mystics and an as yet unnamed AFL team to debut in 2017.

The Challenge

In sports marketing, you have to be reactive to whatever happens on the court. Win or lose, you have to create content, tell your team’s story, and keep fans motivated for that next game or next season. It’s much easier to market when you’re winning — just look at the engagement that the Warriors and the Cavaliers got throughout the NBA finals — but when the season doesn’t match expectations, it can be a challenge.

This was my first season running the digital media department for the Washington Wizards, and yes, it was a challenging one. But despite missing the playoffs this year after two consecutive appearances, we kept our social channels among the top 10 in the NBA in terms of relative engagement, or average interactions per 1,000 followers. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at some of the strategies that helped us build our brand engagement throughout the season.

TrackMaven allows us to know how our messaging and strategy is resonating with our fans. While we’re happy with our growth and our overall strategy, there is always room to improve it. With this platform, we’re able to find out where we are statistically while still being able to have easy access to content across the NBA to gain inspiration and direction from.

Jacob Raim, Director of Digital Media at Monumental Sports & Entertainment Jacob Raim, Director of Digital Media at Monumental Sports & Entertainment

The Approach

Be a second screen (not a second scoreboard)
Before the start of this season, we decided to change our tone on social. We wanted to have more fun with our social content and inspire our fans to have fun with us. We completely overhauled the visual aspect of our social presence to make our content more dynamic. That included a lot more GIFs, Vine videos, and looped highlight reels. We created new graphics and infographics that told stories, rather than just serving as a second scoreboard.

 

As a result, our Twitter and Instagram accounts were up big in engagement this year. In a season where our performance on the court fell short of fan expectations, what we did worked.

We plan to build on the interactivity of our digital strategy over this next season, and hopefully we’ll have a winning season on the court to help us reach an even higher level.

Deliver game night excitement directly to fans
On game nights, we have three people working: one team member handles live tweeting, another cuts video highlights and creates GIFs and graphics, and we have another staffer exclusive to home games who physically moves throughout the stadium to capture live moments for Instagram, Vine, and Snapchat. The energy in the arena on a game night doesn’t always translate to TV — but new social channels are making it much easier to capture and share the excitement of being in the building for live sports.

What a shot! John Wall with the LEFT to beat the third-quarter buzzer! #NBAVote #WizMagic

A video posted by @washwizards on

 


As a team, we’re always open to testing out new channels and media formats. Three and a half years ago, we were one of the very first NBA teams to join Snapchat. Back then, the New Orleans Saints were one of the only major American sports teams on Snapchat. Since then, Snapchat has become core to our strategy (and to sports marketing at large). We don’t have the same level of analytics with Snapchat, so our “successes” are harder to judge from a hard ROI perspective. Still, on game nights, our Snapchat stories average 150,000 views.

Post consistently (even when your team isn’t playing)
There are lots of ups and downs throughout the NBA season. But we realized that our core fans don’t tune in opportunistically. Our fans are our fans, 24/7. A huge focus for us this season was to implement a content strategy to engage fans even on non-game days. We decided to approach off-days as an opportunity to provide fans with more content beyond just the games played on the court. We celebrate players’ and alumni players’ birthdays, post fun facts from our history, share community events and stories from the road.

Today in 2010, we drafted this guy at No. 1! ☝️

A photo posted by @washwizards on

 

 

It’s unlikely that we’ll ever match our game day engagement levels on off days. But by giving fans a reason to follow us day in and day out, we saw consistent growth in our online engagement across the season.

Respect the diehard fan (but think beyond them, too)
For the Wizards and many other sports teams, there are a few different buckets of people to reach through digital. First and foremost, you have to respect the die‑hard fan. But beyond die-hard fans, there is always an audience of potential fans, people you can win over. Maybe they don’t live in Washington, D.C., and they’re never going to make it a game — but if you can get them to start following you on social media, and then they start tuning into the games… there’s major growth potential for the franchise.

There are also people that may never be a Wizards fan, but who hopefully just enjoy us on social media. That’s a really important group for us as they aren’t following us just because they’re a fan of the team, but rather because they really enjoy the story we are telling.

Learn from your peers
Our team has a unique voice on social media. That said, we learn a lot from tracking the social strategies of our peers in the NBA. I really admire the Portland Trail Blazers, the Atlanta Hawks, the Sacramento Kings, and the Los Angeles Clippers, just to name a few. We can quickly see what they’re doing in the TrackMaven platform, and decide if there’s an opportunity to try what they’re doing and make it ours.

 

DC Trifecta! 👍 @washingtoncaps 👍 @Redskins #dcRising

A photo posted by @washwizards on

The Results

Metrics aside, my ultimate goal is to look back at our social story and be able to say that we told something compelling. Telling a really good story goes hand in hand with engagement and raising our follower count. We want our audience and our content engagement to be growing in tandem.

To track that, we benchmark ourselves against the entire NBA using the metric interactions per post per 1,000 followers in TrackMaven. This metric lets us see how engaged our brand really is compared to the rest of the NBA by normalizing for audience size and posting frequency. When we looked at that metric for 2015-16, we were right up there in the top 10 most-engaged teams across the season, despite missing the playoffs this year.

Conclusion

TrackMaven allows us to know how our messaging and strategy is resonating with our fans. While we’re happy with our growth and our overall strategy, there is always room to improve it. With this platform, we’re able to find out where we are statistically while still being able to have easy access to content across the NBA to gain inspiration and direction from.

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