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Inside the LPGA’s Social Media Strategy and Execution

The LPGA uses a variety of social tools to tell its players’ stories to the world.

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*Team Infographics is a proud partner of Front Office Sports

The LPGA showcases the best female golfers in the world with nearly 40 events per year all over the globe. The stories of these golfers and their triumphs are then told to over 1.5 million people every day through the organization’s social media outlets.  

Leading the charge in telling these stories is Tina Barnes-Budd, the organization’s senior director of social media marketing/communications.

Barnes-Budd worked in marketing and promotions for the tour in the early ‘90s and had various stops at marketing agencies for 10 years before returning to the LPGA as the director of marketing in 2004. In 2008, at the dawn of the social media, Barnes-Budd quickly embraced its benefits. That being said, that process was an uphill battle at times.

SEE MORE: Why the LPGA is Investing in a Social Media Tool to Help Golfers Build Their Digital Brands

“In those days, five to 10 percent of my day was dedicated to social. The rest was dedicated to the traditional marketing needs to promote the LPGA,” Barnes-Budd recalls. “As years went on, more and more of my day was being taken by social.  Some thought social media was a fad and wouldn’t last, but I saw it as a great opportunity to push out our great stories.”

Barnes-Budd quickly realized that information and interesting stories about their players could be pushed out to the public without solely having to rely on traditional media to tell their stories for them. Soon after, Barnes-Budd and the LPGA saw how social could be a valuable tool for their athletes to build personal brands. As a result, the LPGA quickly began hosting education workshops on the subject for the players.

SEE MORE: LPGA Helps Golfers Build Brand Muscle on Tour

“In 2009, we had a player meeting, with a segment on social media,” Barnes-Budd stated. “I asked the players how many of them used Twitter, and about a handful of them raised their hands. One of them was Christina Kim. I asked her how she found Twitter beneficial, and she said that it’s a great way to converse with fans, but also a great way to give props to her sponsors. At that point, I think a light bulb went off with a lot of the players. Following that meeting, a ton of players signed up for Twitter and started utilizing it in that manner.”

Following the social media rise with LPGA players and beyond, plus a change in corporate philosophy that came with Mike Whan becoming LPGA commissioner in 2010, social media quickly became a much bigger part of Barnes-Budd’s role.

“At first, Mike Whan admitted that he didn’t understand the power of social media, but what he did understand was that I thought it was a good way to share the LPGA love. I moved from marketing into communications as we felt that it was important to share one voice. That system has seemed to work well.”  

Commissioner Whan has now been on Twitter since 2013 and clearly understands the benefits it can bring to the LPGA. 

This new emphasis on social also led to smaller changes that have had a big impact on the LPGA’s digital efforts. For one, you’ll see things like caddies wearing their player’s Twitter handle on their bibs, thus giving more exposure to the players’ profiles.

SEE MORE: Executive Buy-In Helps Propel Dallas Stars’ Digital Strategy

Plus, the LPGA goes the extra mile with educating players once again through weekly sponsor information that helps players identify correct hashtags and sponsor handles when posting about tournaments. The information also includes the companies’ goals and objectives to help guide the content of the players’ posts. What’s more, nearly every sponsorship that the LPGA has sold recently has contained some element of social media inclusion.

“For most official marketing partners, we have some type of social component. For example, with Kia, we produced 12 ‘Kia Clubhouse Ride’ features where we interviewed players while they were driving a Kia Sarento. We placed four GoPros in the car and conducted a rapid-fire Q and A with each player.  These features are a win-win for both Kia and the LPGA. Kia receives product exposure while we continue to personalize the player’s brand. We typically meet with the sponsor where we learn their objectives and then develop the social ideas. We develop those ideas and then create it, post it, and analyze it for the sponsors. It’s a three-step process.”

From a distance, it may seem like handling all of this, along with covering events, is something that demands a significant amount of manpower. However, the LPGA has just two staffers handling its social presence. One social team member is on site at every domestic event, as well as all majors. 

“We get on site Monday afternoon; Tuesday we hit the ground running with pre-tournament press conferences and special events going on Wednesdays, and then Thursday play starts and continues through the weekend. We cover it to the very end.”

Making the most of a small team is where using certain tools and services come in handy. Notably, the LPGA has partnered with Team Infographics to help streamline part of its content creation process.

“Team Infographics has been absolutely wonderful to work with. What I like about their team is that they really listen to us and what we were looking for. Throughout the years, we’ve created our look for the Tour or specific events and they’re able to take those elements and guidelines and create motion graphics for us that continue our brand look through social. They strive to make it easy for us when we’ve got a thousand other things going on during our tournament coverage. They build a program that’s really user-friendly and quick to use to make a great content.”

They’ve also added the software opendorse to help distribute player content. Opendorse allows Barnes-Budd and the LPGA to deliver rich content to players that they can quickly read, edit and push out to their personal social channels. Content includes video, LPGA.com features, motion graphics and more.

“By using opendorse, we’re able to send players their round highlights, infographics, video features and more.”

This is just one other way that fans will find the players at the heart of the LPGA’s social strategy and, really, at the heart of nearly everything that they do.

*Team Infographics is a proud partner of Front Office Sports

For more examples of the LPGA’s work, follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

Joe is currently a freelance marketing professional, writer, and podcaster. His work can also be found on the SB Nation network. Joe earned his bachelor's degree in communications from the University of Louisville in 2014 and a master's degree in sport administration from Seattle University in 2017. He can be reached via email at joe@frntofficesport.com.

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NBA, Instagram and New Era Deliver Shoppable Championship Moment

As Instagram expands into e-commerce, it’s teaming up with the NBA and New Era to offer fans the opportunity to buy officially licensed championship gear.

Michael McCarthy

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Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Sports fans are most likely to open their wallets and make an impulse purchase after their team wins a championship. As Instagram expands into e-commerce, it’s teaming up with the NBA and New Era to offer either Golden State Warriors or Toronto Raptors fans the opportunity to buy officially licensed championship gear as they’re popping champagne.

Here’s how the digital “tap to shop” promotion will work: The minute the buzzer sounds ending the 2019 NBA Finals, Instagram will instantly offer a $50 cap/t-shirt bundle for the winning team via New Era. The combo will be exclusively available on Instagram for 24 hours after the game’s conclusion. After that, the gear may go on sale at NewEraCap.com.

The 37.7 million followers of Instagram’s NBA account just have to tap on the post for details, then tap again to buy. Instead of being sent elsewhere they can handle the entire purchase within the app.

As the “authentic cap” of the NBA, New Era is currently selling Warriors/Raptors hats emblazoned with the gold “2019 NBA Finals” logo. The NBA, Instagram and Fanatics offered a similar “shoppable moment” after the Warriors won the Western Conference Finals.

“As the Authentic Cap of the NBA, we’re excited to honor the championship team with the official New Era Authentics: Championship Series Cap and Team Celebratory Tee Bundle exclusively available through the NBA’s Instagram,” says John Connors, New Era’s director of basketball. “This partnership gives us an opportunity to reach fans and provide them with product that helps them celebrate their team’s NBA championship.”

Paige Cohen, a spokeswoman for Instagram’s tech communications, notes fans “want to be part of” the winning team’s celebration. “They shop the gear, they get all decked out,” Cohen says. 

Cohen has a point, according to sports retail expert Mike May. Capitalizing on the thrill of victory can create a “financial windfall for those who have the right product at the right time.”

It can even inspire couch potatoes to put down the clicker and play the sport they’re watching on TV.

“When (fans) emotions are high there’s often a disconnect between common sense and spending — and spending just takes over,” says May, who consults for PHIT America. “It’s an interesting day and age that we live in. It gets faster. The immediacy of Instagram just adds to the festivities — and the spending.”

READ MORE: Canadian Craze Carrying NBA Finals Viewership

Instagram and New Era previously partnered with the NFL to offer a digital shopping experience during the 2019 Draft in Nashville.

The ceremonial act of young college football stars putting on the cap of their new NFL teams has become part of the NFL Draft day ritual. A photographer shot photos of the players in their New Era caps. The photos were shared to the NFL’s Instagram account, complete with shopping tags, driving fans to NFLShop.com. The caps sold for $30 to $38.

The NBA can tap into a huge pool of hoops fans on social media. The NBA’s Instagram account boasts the most followers of any pro league account. The account has drawn 11.8 billion views, and 1.3 billion engagements, this season alone. And Instagram’s new role as a digital mall keeps growing.

In March, the social media giant launched a “Checkout on Instagram” button that enables users to shop and buy products without leaving the app. Users enter their name, email, billing information and shipping address.

Over 1 billion people use Instagram every month, according to Hootsuite, with 500 million on the platform every day. Roughly 60% utilize Instagram to discover new products.

READ MORE: NBA and Twitter Team Up to Bring “Virtual Sports Bar” to Life

Sam Farber, the NBA’s vice president of digital media, said the Finals offer the league an opportunity to “test innovative initiatives” during its biggest event of the year.

With the Raptors leading the Warriors 3-2 in the NBA Finals, the series returns to Oakland for Game 6 Thursday night. If the Warriors survive, the Finals moves to Toronto for Game 7 Sunday night.

“We’re excited to partner with both Instagram and New Era to bring exclusive merchandise to fans in a new way.”

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Stanley Pup Correspondent Fetches New Fans for NBC Sports & NHL

According to NBC Sports, the Stanley Pup campaign has had more than 18 million impressions this postseason.

Ian Thomas

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Photo Credit: NHL

The multiple-month grueling road to the Stanley Cup Final annually catches the attention of the sports world. This year, one of the most dogged chroniclers of that journey has helped the league gain even more traction – Sunny, the Stanley Pup correspondent.

The idea for a Stanley Pup correspondent was the brainchild of Matt Ziance, manager of consumer engagement at NBC Sports. After seeing the way that Sunny, a labrador and guide dog in training, had captivated audiences as the official Today Show puppy, the idea of having a dog being a continued part of the network’s coverage of the NHL playoffs was spawned.

“Each year during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we’re always searching for new, organic ways to stand out in our overall marketing messaging,” Ziance said. “While looking at successful campaigns across our properties, we saw a strong connection between our fan base and utilizing puppies in our campaigns.”

That led NBC Sports to incorporate the Stanley Pup across its broadcasts and social posts on a weekly basis. Across the playoffs, Sunny traveled more than 10,000 miles across the country while attending games in Boston, Denver, San Jose and St. Louis, as well as appearing at the network’s studios in Stamford, Connecticut – creating unique content while also finalizing his guide dog training by working in high-volume areas and new surroundings.

That content has been a boon for NBC Sports, the NHL and the reach of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. According to NBC Sports, the Stanley Pup campaign has had more than 18 million impressions this postseason across collaborations with The TODAY Show, the NHL, the We Rate Dogs Twitter account and the Guide Dog Foundation – an audience that includes many who are connecting to the Stanley Cup and the NHL in a new way.

Dan Palla, director of consumer engagement marketing at NBC Sports, said the network spends significant time in the build up to the launch of the playoffs each year thinking of “every single way we can make the Stanley Cup Playoffs bigger than it has been before.”

“The tagline we use is ‘there is nothing like playoff hockey’ – there is an inherent truth to that and every hockey fan knows that,” Palla said. “It’s also about growing the game and making the Stanley Cup Playoffs resonate off the ice, and thinking of new ways to draw people into the compelling games and the culture.”

Palla said when he first heard of the idea of bringing Sunny onto the hockey team, he said “it’s hard not to smile when you think of a Stanley Pup correspondent – we knew it was an opportunity to bring hockey to audiences in a different way that felt like a shot worth taking.”

The NBC Sports team worked with the Today Show staff to understand what worked well with Sunny in terms of content, as well as with the Guide Dog Foundation to ensure that the experience would also be beneficial to Sunny’s training.

READ MORE: Like Novak Djokovic’s Outfit? NBCUniversal Wants To Help You Buy It

The ability to capture hockey-related content with Sunny has allowed the two NBCUniversal programs to have cross-company promotion on-air as well as on social media, while also having hockey content reach new audiences. For example, the Stanley Pup correspondent was featured on the popular We Rate Dogs Twitter account, which has more than eight million followers. That also helped spark user-generated content coming from hockey fans and dog lovers alike on how their own ‘Stanley Pups’ were enjoying the playoffs.

Palla said NBC Sports has made it “mission critical” to help raise awareness of the sport and the NHL outside of the traditional ways of marketing hockey, something that he thinks has helped viewership. The NHL 2018-2019 regular season averaged 424,000 viewers across NBC Sports’ TV and digital platforms, up 2% from the previous year.

Both Palla and Ziance said the network has been thrilled with Sunny’s contribution to this year’s playoffs. While Sunny is now leaving the NBCUniversal family to become a full-time guide dog, Ziance said the idea of another future Stanley Pup Correspondent is something the network will consider not only for the 2020 playoffs, but potentially for the regular season as well.

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Twitter Doesn’t Want Sports Rights

Front Office Sports

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*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

You can count out at least one social media company from the TV sports rights game. 

According to Max Mason of The Australian Financial Review, the company is not interested in battling for major sports rights, but wants to partner with rights holders, such as TV broadcasters, to extend their audiences and bring in more money.

Friend, not foe…

While Twitter does have deals to broadcast games on its platform with leagues like the WNBA, NWHL and more, the goal for the platform is not to be a linear TV broadcaster.

“The way that we’re approaching our business and our partnerships in the space is not to compete with rights holders. I don’t want to be a linear television broadcaster.” – Kay Madati, Twitter’s vice-president and global head of content partnerships

Bigger together…

Instead of competing with one another, Madati and Twitter want to serve as a way for traditional linear broadcasters to be able to amplify their content and drive new revenue.

“We’re here to make those events bigger by marrying the conversation that happens on our platform around those things. We’re here to actually come to them and say ‘we can make your event, your investment in this property that much bigger and that much better’.” – Kay Madati

More video is good for Twitter…

According to Mason, video has become the dominant source of revenue for Twitter, comprising 50% of money coming in.

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