THE EXHIBITION GAME
As part of Dr. Karen Freberg's Social Media class, I worked as a Creative & Content Lead with the Homerun Heroes, a team of student professionals, to create a social media campaign for the Louisville Bats for their Exhibition Game.
The objective of the campaign was to strengthen their brand voice on all social media platforms by focusing on increasing fan engagement, a key area of growth for the Bats. By analyzing industry standards, reexamining best practices and unifying the Bats' brand identity, our team shaped a social media plan that focused on one thing: engaging with their audience to create life-long fans.
The Louisville Bats are a minor league professional baseball club in Louisville, Kentucky. The team is a Triple-A Affiliate to the Cincinnati Reds, a Major League Baseball team based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. As of May 2017, their social media team consisted of Tony Brown, Director of Digital Marketing and Design, and Ryan Ritchie, Director of Media and Public Relations.
There are two target audiences that the Bats hope to reach through their social media postings:
- Those who are attending Bats’ games primarily for entertainment
- Those who are fans of the sport, specifically Cincinnati Reds fans: the ideal target for the Bats’ upcoming season
- Communicates information about events and promotions or ticket sales for upcoming games through their Facebook account; overall sentiment is 81% positive among followers, according to Sysomos
- Their Instagram includes frequent posts and quality images with a focus on baseball and the game experience; fans engage with the team through likes and comments, while additionally using #LouBats or tagging the account to share their experiences
- On Twitter, the Bats post regularly and give fans an opportunity to follow a play-by-play of each game, participating in popular hashtags when appropriate and engaging with local influencers
- Fan engagement on the Bats’ Facebook is limited and their audience is growing slowly, with few recent likes, compared to over 300 new followers on Instagram during the same time frame. Facebook presents an opportunity to feature fan photos or experience and promote a positive, fun atmosphere, but the Bats often miss the mark.
- On Instagram, the fans are frequently engaging with the photos, but the official Bats account rarely responds. Liking and commenting on fan images more often could increase the emotional connection with the fans.
- While Twitter does allow fans to connect with the Bats, the frequent updates on game day, including play-by-play and score announcements, do not receive interaction from fans. Additionally, most of their content is text only, though most of their best performing posts include images.
- Prior to the Exhibition Game, the Bats’ Snapchat was private, which means very few fans connected with the Bats via Snapchat or had access to their content. This is significant because it means the Bats’ had limited reach on Snapchat because their content wasn't easily accessible.
- Facebook videos and Facebook Live videos allows for real-time content creation and player engagement.
- User-created Facebook Live Polls allow another chance for fans to engage with other fans and the Bats, while allowing the Bats to receive data.
- Instagram Stories have grown in popularity recently, as they allow fans a unique, behind the scenes look at the team.
- Instagram’s recently introduced Albums make it simple to post up to ten photos at a time, accessible with a swipe of a finger. Utilizing these new features could increase follower interaction on Instagram.
- Twitter is crucial for statistics and game information, but including more images and videos will increase follower engagement.
- The regular usage of Snapchat would create more fan interaction with the younger demographic. It will also provide more content to create buzz among followers.
- Implementing geofilters will also promote the Bats’ brand among Snapchat users.
- Content on Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat is more likely to increase engagement with younger demographics.
Many other minor league teams are much more active on social media than the Bats. These organizations create a threat to the Bats because fans could easily choose to attend on of their games rather than a Bats’ game; a positive increase in fan interactions on the Bats’ social media could create the necessary sentiment to prevent this from occurring. Surrounding minor league teams created fan features on their social media and made sure to include information/support for events happening around their city.
In order to understand the effect of the Bats' existing social media strategy, we used data acquired from Sysomos, “a unified, insights-driven analytics program” that can be used to search and analyze trends across a limited set of social media platforms. We determined that the Bats had:
- A growth rate of 10 followers per month
- An authority rating of 9/10, meaning they can be considered highly influential locally
- Three common hashtags (#LouisvilleBats, #LouBats and #Reds) that are not thoroughly incorporated in their content across platforms
The first was an online form sent out via email by the Louisville Bats, which targeted their core audience of ticket holders. We determined that:
- 61% of respondents were male respondents with an average age of 40 years old
- Facebook is the most used platform (95% of respondents), while Snapchat is the least used (28% of respondents)
- 93% follow the Louisville Bats Facebook page, while only 2% follow their Snapchat profile
- 65% access their respective platforms between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. and 49% are active on social media between 7 p.m. and 2 p.m.
- Unique responses wanted more sponsor offers, merchandise offers and giveaways via the Bats' social media
The second survey was intended to reach an audience that was different from the standard Louisville Bats’ ticket holder, mainly college-aged students. We determined that:
- 50% of responses came from students with “some college, but no degree” and 57% of respondents were female
- 46% said they did not follow the Bats on any of their social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat)
- 75% said they had been to a Bats game at some point in the past, showing interest in the “atmosphere” or the environment of the games
- 57% had not previously heard about the Exhibition Game, which is likely why 64% said they were not planning on attending that game
Our objectives for this campaign were as follows:
- To increase awareness of the Exhibition Game.
- To increase engagement with social media platforms, measured by likes, shares and social analytics tools.
- To educate internally about the opportunities for improvement and the potential impact of social media usage on promoting ticket and merchandise sales.
- To influence positive perceptions of the Bats throughout the Louisville area.
- To increase ticket sales for the Exhibition Game by 10% prior to the event.
Strategy & Tactics
Nowhere will you see an environment quite like a baseball game-- where people of all ages, genders, and races are welcome, where comfort food is an arm’s length away, and where fans and families alike can come together for an evening of fun. This is the message of the Louisville Bats: they are a team that cares about their fans and about their community. Throughout the campaign, we sought to emphasize the accessibility of Bats games for the community at large.
- Avoid images of crying kids, intoxicated or belligerent people and fighting fans
- Post content without reviewing content, images or videos
- Incite negative dialogue with fans
- Respond to trolling by muting or blocking an account
- Reflect an atmosphere of fun and love for the game
- Show young families, serious fans and millennials having a good night out
- Engage and share fan content with positive sentiment
- Provide an upbeat response to every question or an apologetic offer to help to any complaint
Posting daily ticket sales reminders will allow new fans or those who don’t frequently access social media to see ticket purchasing information with ease. Additionally, a general post including ticket information could also be pinned on the Bats' page.
Facebook Live provides an opportunity to actively engage with fans using behind the scenes content they do not normally have access to, while often receiving higher rates of engagement. On game day, live video allows fans to experience the game, even when they cannot attend in-person. Content of this kind can build brand loyalty for the Bats and create interest in attending upcoming games, thus increasing ticket sales.
Another opportunity to use Facebook Live would be including Facebook Live Polls, which promote fan interaction by allowing fans to share their opinions. We planned three Facebook Live Polls for the week leading up to the Exhibition Game conducted at various times over several days, allowing a larger fanbase to participate.
Facebook Live broadcasts will share all the important pre-pitch events including the National Anthem and First Pitch. Once the game has started, Live will showcase the Carousel and other activities.
Exhibition Game countdown posts will contain a new photo each day, consisting of a player wearing the jersey with the number of days left until the game, edited and color-corrected with an Exhibition Game watermark.
The week prior to the event, the Bats should make fan engagement their top priority. Fans that comment or ask questions should receive responses within a few hours. Responses might include liking or reacting to their comment, replying to their question or concern, or sharing a post.
Photos of merchandise on Instagram will include purchasing instructions, including reference to a website or link in the bio. These images should be high-resolution images of apparel and team branded merchandise, featuring both new arrivals to the store and fan favorite items.
Cross posted images should include daily countdown images and boomerangs of the Adam Duvall bobble heads, including a reminder that the first 5000 guests will a sponsored bobble head from Texas Roadhouse.
During the game, Instagram stories will be used to showcase game day activities, including pre-game practices, bobble heads, and food. The use of Stories targets the younger demographic, who are more likely to use this feature. The primary demographic will continue to receive content relevant to the game on the main feed.
The Bats’ will host a Fan Chat during the week, using the hashtag #FanChat to encourage fans to ask questions, which will receive a response from the official Louisville Bats Twitter account or the personal account of a Bats’ player; to increase responses when participation slows, the team can also pose open-ended questions. #BatsTrivia is another opportunity for fan engagement throughout the week leading up to the Exhibition Game. This chat will consist of 3 to 5 questions that are relevant to Louisville Bats or Slugger Field, providing an entertaining way for fans to engage with the team and display their trivia knowledge.
Twitter has become synonymous with the ability to air grievances, ask questions, and seek help. As such, Twitter will be monitored with increased frequency, quickly addressing any fan comments or concerns and promoting brand voice by ensuring the Bats control the conversation - and not the audience. Also any positive or on message posts should be retweeted, liked, or replied to.
Tweets that have been cross-posted will consist primarily of information on ticket purchasing and promotional material for contests and merchandise. During the Exhibition Game, the Bats will continue to provide play-by-play coverage (a standard component of their social media during games), while our team focuses on engaging with fans through retweeting and liking posts that are message-appropriate.
The Exhibition Game will have it's own Snapchat geofilter, a first for the Louisville Bats. The design was inspired by the game's program and will run from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., geofenced around the stadium.
Content should be posted on Snapchat that showcases a variety of activities and events taking place throughout the stadium, beginning with warm-ups. This content will feature key components of a Bats game, including Buddy the Bat, the Cookie Lady, concessions and more.
A portion of content will be captured using Snapchat Spectacles, camera-embedded sunglasses which provide a real-time first-person perspective. Using Spectacles to provide diverse content, from players to food items, will increase fan engagement and followers on Snapchat.
For the Exhibition Game, our allocated budget was $500. The only purchase made was a Snapchat geofilter; the filter cost $174.71 for a four-hour period during the game, restricted to the perimeters of the Louisville Slugger Stadium at the Bats’ request.
Using data available through Facebook Insights, the Louisville Bats gained 321 followers on Facebook during the week leading up to the Exhibition Game. During the Exhibition Game itself, the Facebook page received 2,645 user engagements, reached 41,450 users and saw a total of 143,191 impressions.
As part of the pre-game plan, ticket purchasing links, game promotions, giveaways, and Exhibition Game Countdown posts were regularly posted on Facebook. On game day, images and Live videos were part of the client requested shot list, in addition to sharing information about interactive events on game day. Additionally, pictures of fans getting autographs, eating stadium food, and dancing to the music were shared throughout the night.
On Instagram, engagement increased over 200% through the use of Instagram stories and pre/post-game Instagram posts. These posts promoted merchandise, giving details on where to purchase them and using the hashtag #BatsSwag, which also encouraged fans to share pictures their Bats apparel. Posts also included game-specific hashtags like #BatsVsReds and #LouBats.
Boomerangs were used in Instagram Stories and Instagram posts to show live action movement. We used Boomerangs to show Buddy the Bat throwing a baseball and the catcher warming up; this content was meant to show fans an inside view of what it’s like to be on the field during pregame. Consistency was key to the success of these Stories and we sought to maintain a balance of interesting, engaging content that didn't overwhelm our audience.
On Twitter, engagement increased over 350% on Twitter and posts reached an estimated 76,000 users beyond the 10,000 in attendance. Our team worked to engage with fans through liking, retweeting and sharing positive fan content from not only local influencers, but also from fans who tagged or mentioned @LouisvilleBats, #BatsvsReds or #LouBats. This allowed for fan interaction and an opportunity to monitor the mood of the community, while allowing the team to monitor negative comments or respond to them before they became problems.
However, Twitter did not perform as well as other social media platforms, due change in plans the night of the Exhibition Game. Play-by-play tweets were to be implemented by the Bats' team, but a miscommunication resulted in the play-by-play being abandoned. Additionally, we were unable to do #FanChat and #BatsTrivia; this came at the request of the Bats, who felt that there wasn’t enough time to set these up before the game day.
On Snapchat, our plan focused on spreading the brand name and image of the Louisville Bats, as well as capturing the staples of a Bats game experience: Buddy the Bat, the Cookie Lady, concessions and the carousel. Incorporating the “Spectacles” from Snapchat gave the fans a chance to interact with the Bats' content, as we shared a post telling fans to "look for the bright yellow glasses" to be featured on their story. The Spectacles also helped capture exclusive pre-game content in a first person point of view, showing viewers what it feels like to be behind the scenes at a game.
Bearing in mind that this is the Louisville Bat’s first Snapchat geofilter, our design achieved 784 impressions, 535 conversions and 24,383 views. In fact, this design directly resulted in the Bats taking advantage of a Minor League Baseball program that allows them to partner with Snapchat, providing them with the resources to create and maintain frequent geofilters.
Due to our insistent focus on growing the Bats' presence on Snapchat, the Bats shifted their Snapchat account from private to public and incorporated aspects of our strategy into their longterm plan. Since then, the Bats have seen an 800% growth on Snapchat.