Dspite having the worst record in the Canadian Football League last season (2 wins and 16 losses), the Ottawa Redblacks were arguably the league’s most successful team. Every one of their home games was played to a sold-out crowd. How exactly did they manage to do that? It didn’t hurt that the team returned to the city after several years, but much of the credit has to be given to the team’s social media marketing efforts.
It’s clear the Redblacks organization understands the make-up of their audience. Jeff Hunt, long-time owner of the successful Ottawa 67’s hockey team, used the same marketing approach to promote the Redblacks in his role as president of the overarching company, OSEG (Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group). What the team does on the field is important, but there’s more to the product than just the game. Consumers want to be entertained, first and foremost. And entertainment can come in many varieties.
The Redblacks are selling their customers an ‘experience’. This includes live music, eating, drinking, and pre- and post-game parties. A positive and fun atmosphere will keep people going to the games. Not unlike the Ottawa Bluesfest or other festivals, people want to be around others while having a good time at an event. They want to feel like they’re part of a community.
The social media strategy is simply an extension of that overarching strategy. Their Facebook and Twitter accounts have a strong following, and they’re doing all the right things. They are engaging with their audience, showing that they are listening to them. They prove this by quickly responding to questions or complaints and providing real solutions. They have proven this by addressing customer complaints about such things as parking, concession stands and the washrooms. And they’ve gone further than that — to prove that they’re listening, all season long they were proactive by providing updates on parking and possible traffic problems. They were using their large social community to help ease traffic problems for the games.
They are also very good at building their brand. They promote the many community events attended by their players, sharing pictures and videos. They are continually retweeting messages from fans who are sending pictures of themselves and others having a great time at the games. Planned and impromptu parties that occur before and after games are organized through their social media community — the games have become known as a fun place to spend a summer night.
The team uses standard social media practices such as posting pictures and video of exciting action from games, and offering special opportunities for their followers — game tickets and paraphernalia at discounted prices, and free ticket giveaways. But they also get their customers engaged through fun games on twitter such as ‘Caption this photo’, and stirring up the rivalry that exists between the North- and South-side stands. Almost all their tweets include a photo or video.
Their approach seems to be working as they have had a steady increase in the number of followers on both Facebook and Twitter, which only helps to spread the positive commentary and promotion of their products.