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Marathon Managers: Social Teams Reflect on 18-Inning World Series Game

Sue Jo of the Dodgers and Kelsey Doherty of the Red Sox had a lot on their plates in Game 3 of the World Series, which lasted nearly seven and a half hours.

Bailey Knecht

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Game 3 of the 2018 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers lasted a record-breaking 18 innings. Among those who witnessed that epic game in person were the teams’ heads of social media, tweeting through all seven hours and 20 minutes of it.

“You know that everyone stayed up really late — it was 2 a.m. on the East Coast for our fans,” said Kelsey Doherty, digital media manager for the Red Sox. “I tried to acknowledge our fans for staying up late with thank-you tweets, like, ‘We appreciate you,’ and acknowledge that our fans are warriors.”

“I try to keep it fun — you never want fans to log off from social because it’s not fun,” added Sue Jo, the Dodgers’ social media coordinator. “I get that it’s a long game. Nine innings is long, but 18 is a lot longer.”

SEE MORE: Chicago Bulls Strive to Digitally Innovate While Honoring Their Past

Jo — who is in her third season with the team but just her first season running the show — knew she wanted to maintain the social strategy she had leaned on all season.

“We kind of used the strategy we’ve built since I started, which is ‘make you feel like you’re watching with us,’” she said. “The whole point of social is to enjoy everything together, and that’s what my goal was. When we’re doing really well, I tweet a lot of things and post a lot of content. The fanbase gets very excited when something good happens, so I like to be there with them, like a fan, like they are.”

Doherty, who has been with the Red Sox for nearly seven years, said she focuses on a variety of components, both throughout the regular season and the playoffs.

“Our strategy is to provide four things,” she explained. “There’s the sales component — we want to fill seats. There’s the news component — we know we’re not really going to break news regarding trades or signings, but we want to be the official word on that stuff and give score updates. There’s the customer service piece, responding to fans. Finally, the last piece is just an overarching representation of the brand.”

With those strategies in mind, Jo and Doherty provided coverage for Game 3 as they normally would, having no idea that the game would last more than double the time of an average baseball game.

“For me, it was a very long day,” Doherty said with a laugh. “We were all very excited to be on the West Coast and go grab dinner at In-N-Out, but then it was like, ‘Oh, nevermind.’ I had been dreading extras. I was nervous of having to live-tweet extra innings because every pitch matters.”

SEE MORE: How the Seattle Storm Social Team Pulled at Community Heartstrings

Of course, the game did go into extra innings, and according to Jo, not all extra-inning games should be treated the same.

“We were set to win that game, and [the Red Sox] ended up tying it up, so the mood shifted,” she said. “It’s tricky going into extras. If we score to tie it or they tied it up, I try to read the room. If we tied to force extras, the content is different, like rallying the troops. If the other team tied it, I step back a little, let fans cool off and take in what happened.”

Once the game gets into double-digit innings, it’s time to mix things up, Jo explained.

“In the 11th, 12th, 13th innings, it hits weird baseball time, so I was just using GIFs and keeping it fun,” she said. “Hitting the 13th, 14th, 15th innings, at that point it’s really a more intimate way to talk to fans — you’re part of history. It’s not like a regular-season game.”

“I like to ask them questions, like, ‘Hey, are you still with us?’” she added. “Those get the most engagement. I posted on Instagram after the 15th inning, saying, ‘Are you still with us?’ and within 15 to 20 minutes, there were, like, 3,300 comments.”

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16th inning. You still with us?

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Beyond the fact that the game lasted more than seven hours, there were also 14 scoreless innings and only five total runs.

“I used a lot of reaction GIFs,” said Doherty. “It’s one of those things in late innings where it’s kind of fun to have an ‘anything goes’ approach.”

“Fans get frustrated, so it was mostly just rallying the fans, saying, ‘Next inning, we got this,’” Jo said of the scoreless innings. “I got the Rally Ruler GIF out. It was about getting them excited… Really, my main thing with social is talking to the fans and engaging as a friend watching with them. At the end of the day, it’s about putting out the freshest content and great photos and GIFs and video clips, and letting them enjoy that.”

SEE MORE: FanSided Turns to Emojis to Help Differentiate NBA Coverage 

In the extra innings, the game had the chance to end at any moment, so Doherty and Jo had to be ready for anything to happen.

“When we took lead in the 13th, I went down to the tunnel because a certain number of us are allowed on the field afterwards, but I couldn’t see the game, so I had everyone texting me letting know what was going on,” Doherty said. “I was hearing crowd reactions, and realized something wasn’t right, that the Dodgers had tied it up, so I went back to the booth with my tail between my legs, and the game continued.”

Jo also tried to be prepared without actually being able to see the action.

“I would sit down in the photo workroom in the top of the inning and watch the game from there, then head back to the stairwell for the bottom of the inning,” she said. “You don’t know what’s happening, and you just hear the audience based on cheers, but you don’t know what they’re for. At that point, my phone was dying with 10 percent left and I was trying to find someone with chargers and charging in hallways. After I had charged it, I happened to hear the walk-off and everyone cheering.”

Because she couldn’t be watching all of the action, Jo added that she wasn’t even aware that Max Muncy was the player who hit the game-winning homer when she went onto the field to catch the celebration.

“For me, I don’t know who hit it, if it was a base hit or a homer,” she said. “Once I got out there, I had to watch who was hugging who and feel out who hit it. At that point, it’s funny because I just go out and I don’t know what they had done at that play, so I see after when I’m posting highlights. I had just started running onto the field, capturing content.

Live-tweeting from 5 p.m. until 2:30 a.m. isn’t an easy task, but Jo said the excitement of the moment kept her going through all 18 innings.

“It’s great, the adrenaline, and it’s almost second nature to me now,” she said.

Doherty agreed and also mentioned that caffeine played a big role in her night.

“I was just hitting ‘send’ on things at some points,” she said. “The entire postseason is like that. We’re up until 4 or 5 a.m., with hours of posting and team travel. We’re running on pure adrenaline, and you don’t even realize that until after.”

Although the Dodgers won that Game 3, the Red Sox went on the win the World Series. The work wasn’t done for either Jo or Doherty yet, though.

For the Dodgers, there was no celebration at the end of the series, but cordiality was still important on social.

“When we congratulated the Red Sox on social, those are things the Dodgers believe in as an organization and that we stand by,” Jo said. “It was a great series, and we like to congratulate teams. There were negative comments on that, but there were a lot of the positive comments too.”

“This season, we had our backs against the wall a lot, and we grinded it out,” she added. “You see that with fans and letting it unfold on social, those come-from-behind wins. It was awesome to see all of that, and the fans really enjoyed it as much as I did, seeing how far we came this season and that fight in the team.”

For the newly-crowned champions, the opportunities for content were endless.

“It’s finally, this week, slowly dying down,” Doherty said. “I stayed up almost all night after the World Series posting and responding. There was so much content and incredible photos from on the field to the champagne to video clips and highlights and interviews with guys tearing up who love their teammates.”

Once back in Boston, the Red Sox celebrated with a championship parade through the city. Even during the post-win madness, Doherty made it a point for her staff to appreciate the big moment.

“The parade was a beast, but I wanted to make sure we could all enjoy the parade and take it in,” she said. “When else will you have thousands of people cheering at you?”

Bailey Knecht is a Northeastern University graduate and has worked for New Balance, the Boston Bruins and the Northeastern and UMass Lowell athletic departments. She covers media and marketing for Front Office Sports, with an emphasis on women's sports and basketball. She can be contacted at bailey@frntofficesport.com.

Media

NBA, Instagram and New Era to 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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