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More New Media Marketing Ideas

Over the past few days I’ve explored some ideas about using new media technologies to help accelerate the WNBA’s growth, specifically "fan journalism" and webcasting.

As I wrote about those topics, I came across a few additional ideas about using the new media technologies. It seems that some of the best ideas might come from Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), which will launch next year featuring members of the U.S. women’s soccer team who just won gold in Beijing.

Of course WPS has the benefit of hindsight – they have taken the lessons learned from the Women’s United Soccer Association, Major League Soccer, and the WNBA into account. But just a look at their websites – an official site and a fan site – demonstrates that they are positioning themselves as one of the most tech-savvy professional sports leagues.

So on top of increasing coverage of the league with "fan journalism" and webcasting in order to increase fan commitment, I also think that the WNBA could help fans better identify with specific WNBA teams by using new media technologies more effectively. I’ve written about this previously, but here are a few very easy concrete ideas that I’ve put together.

Using social networking sites

One thing that struck me about the WPS homepage in comparison to other professional sports sites is that links to their Facebook, Myspace, and YouTube profiles are posted prominently on their homepage. The obvious benefit of social networking sites to a sports team – especially a team in a growing league – is that it gives fans the chance to build community around their favorite teams.

However, these social networking sites are only valuable if people are aware they exist. For example, I know the WNBA already has a YouTube channel set up where they post game highlights. And certain teams also have YouTube channels where they post behind the scenes videos, like the Chicago Sky’s hilarious Armintie Price clips. But these are only as valuable as they are visible – and right now, the WNBA has not made their social networking opportunities visible on the home page the way WPS has.

WPS also has its own dedicated fan community, which is a relatively recent trend among professional sports teams. One group named KickApps seems to be leading the way in this trend.
The KickApps hosted platform powers sports-oriented websites with a wide range of integrated social networking applications, where fans establish their identities by creating their own profile pages, friend other fans and send public and private video and text messages to each other. KickApps also enables rich media sharing capabilities where fans can upload videos, photos, audio clips and blogs that express their passion for the teams. Members of the online communities can leave comments, rate, share, and 'snag' content as widgets and place them on other social networks, such as Facebook and MySpace, as well as on their own blogs or other fan websites. These widgets create virtual gateways back to the team's website, sending traffic from across the Internet.
(For a few examples, see KnicksNet and

It seems to me that the closest example of this in the WNBA has been the Atlanta Dream’s Dream Diary, which provides links to its social networking sites.

However, given the development costs likely associated with building the type of sites KickApps creates, these type of sites might be outside the scope of the WNBA right now. But sticking social networking badges on the sidebar is cheap and could help teams to build their fan communities at very little cost.

The question is whether social networking actually has any impact on the bottom line for sports franchises, especially the more expensive high-end sites. KickApps does claim an impact on revenue, but I have yet to find any tangible evidence of that.
"Social media has proven to grow and reinforce the fan community, strengthen team and brand affinities, and create new revenue opportunities through merchandising, sponsorships and online advertising," said Alex Blum, CEO of KickApps. "As leading brands in professional basketball, football and hockey, these teams are paving the way in their industries by defining new channels for fan interaction and engagement, and revenue."
It will be interesting to see what future marketing research shows about the value of social networking for professional sports.

Making video available for fan use

We have yet to see how WPS will use YouTube once games begin, but right now the WNBA only uses it for game highlights. However, one of the benefits of new media is interactivity – the ability for fan users to actually manipulate the media for their own use. The WNBA provides significantly less player video on YouTube for people to make the type of player montages that are available for even average NBA players.

Again, it’s difficult to demonstrate tangible benefits of making more video available, but the NBA has done it on with their NBA highlight mixer, which allows fans to mix their own videos. The result is that fans get to make an imprint on the way the game is presented on the site.

The NBA highlight mixer is a win for the league and fans – the league doesn’t have to worry about copyright infringements that may occur on YouTube and fans have the opportunity to share their favorite moments with other fans and friends. And it’s the sharing feature that seems to have the most value to a league like the WNBA – it is like grassroots new media marketing.

Letting fans leave an imprint

Overall, implementing a few of these basic social networking features has the potential to enable fan interaction with the league. The more advanced features allow fans to actually shape the way the league is presented to the public.

One thing that a number of the social media sites do, including the WPS fan site, is allow fans to post their own video "testimonials" about the league (or in the WPS case, soccer in general). It adds some vitality to the website and establishes a sense of community, even though the league itself has not even started. And that seems to be valuable in expanding a league’s fan base.

Pt commented on yesterday’s post about webcasting that the WNBA should be like a testing ground for technological innovations. However, in terms of new media, it appears as though the NBA is ahead of the WNBA. Whether that is for financial reasons or just a matter of branding creativity, the WNBA isn’t quite there yet.

But what I find interesting is that at least two NBA cities are actively engaged in the use of social media innovations and the site seems ahead in terms of video, while the WNBA does not appear to be in the same place. Development costs don’t entirely explain the discrepancy because some things seem relatively simple (e.g. adding a Facebook/YouTube badge).

Could some of these new media innovations help WNBA fans build a stronger identity with the league? Are there other smaller steps the league could take that have not yet been used by other professional leagues?

It will be interesting to see if the WNBA "catches up" with some of these newer developments over the off-season.

Relevant Links:

The WNBA’s Growth: The Difference Between Quantity and Quality