I flew to Toronto this week to represent MLS on the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) Social Media Panel as part of their 2011 Sponsorship Marketing Summit. MLSE hosted the event at the Air Canada Center – which is where the Maple Leafs play of course. Being in a hardcore hockey town, in their beloved hockey stadium, right on the hockey ice was simply Canada-tastic!
Prior to our panel discussion, MLSE had coaches from their various franchises give a look at the upcoming/ongoing seasons from the team perspective. Cliff Fletcher, Hockey Operations for the Toronto Maple Leafs, talked about the team’s young talent and how excited they are about the future of the program. Dwane Casey, the Head Coach of the Toronto Raptors, shared a crowd-pleasing story about how hockey playoff videos inspired his Dallas Mavericks to victory. Paul Mariner, the Director of Player Development for Toronto FC, shared his excitement for TFC’s new training facility. And Patti-Anne Tarlton, VP and GM of Live Nation, gave us a rundown of the concert performers she anticipated would come through Toronto in the near future. That panel was good fun.
Then we were on. It was an honor to be on stage with Melissa Brenner, VP of Marketing at the NBA and Eric Vieira, Associate Social Media Director at Rocket XL, the agency that manages NHL’s social media. Jonathan Sinden, the Social Producer at MLSE moderated the panel and did a tremendous job. He introduced me as, “This is Amanda Vandervort, and she knows soccer.” I don’t think there’s a bigger compliment he could have given!
The conversation was really focused on best practices for sponsors when engaging with a sports league or team in social media. Here are some of the key takeaways.
- Provide value. Or, as Melissa Brenner says, C.O.G. where C = Contests, O = Offers, G = Games. Fans don’t want marketing messages, but instead they want to get something in return for liking your brand.
- Try new things. Social media is constantly changing and evolving and it’s okay to test new products and ideas. Listen to what fans are saying and use that information to determine the success of your tactics.
- Create a culture. Implementing social programming into your company shouldn’t be thought of as an add-on, but instead part of each employee’s day-to-day thinking.
I thought we each did a pretty good job of playing off each other’s comments, citing both general social media philosophies as well as specific examples. I saw the attendees scribbling a ton of notes so that was definitely solid sign.
After lunch, I took a cab over to the MLSE‘s Digital Headquarters where I met Asif Hossain, the Producer and Digital Content Manager for Toronto FC. He and his coworkers from the other Maple Leaf properties gave me the low down on how it is working for such a big (and growing) company while also remaining focused on their specific teams.
This was my first trip to Canada since I was young and my first time ever to Toronto, so I have to say that I never realized just how incredibly big MLSE is. From sports teams to restaurant groups, they’ve got the entertainment industry on lock down in Toronto, and it’s pretty awesome. It was particularly insightful to see the support for the soccer team within the organization. Humble props to the entire organization for their vision and initiative.
Thanks to Asif for being such an awesome host, and to Miguel and Stephanie at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment for inviting MLS to be part of this awesome day.