Scoring With Fans – Location Based Sports Marketing

January 18th, 2011 by Asif Leave a reply »

The world of location-based marketing is evolving rapidly and one of the industries at the forefront is professional sport.  Check-in technologies like Foursquare and Gowalla simply make sense for sports teams because they solve a key problem – Identification and connection with their fanbase.

You see, in many major markets, tickets are bought and sold numerous times before someone actual ends up with their butt in the seat.  So how do you know who is actually there?  How do you determine demographics of your audience like age and gender?  And what about all those fans in other cities that can’t get to the game?

Check-in services not only help with this identification, but present opportunities for personalized marketing and promotion.

Let’s take a look at the use of LBS services across the four primary leagues here in North America (NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB) in 2010


Location-based services are especially relevant for sporting events, says Michael DiLorenzo, senior director of social media marketing and strategy for the National Hockey League. “The in-home viewing experience has gotten so good for fans that you have to add value to the on-site experience.”

Since the NHL launched its official Foursquare partnership back in October, the league has seen its number of fans on Foursquare grow from 100 to more than 10,000

“Once you’ve achieved a critical mass on the major social platforms like Facebook, though the work may not be finished, you have to look where the fish are congregating next,” he says.

NHL fans that attended NHL Face-Off (opening night event) used their mobile devices to check-in on Foursquare. Tips and clues on the Foursquare mobile application then provided insider information to fans, pointing them to secret locations.

With the NHL’s global fan base and international player roster, mobile makes a lot of sense. In an effort to bolster its mobile media strategy, the organization has launched a new three-tier app aimed at reaching fans whether they’re at a game, in front of a TV or their laptop

The NHL has also been very active on Twitter – holding Tweetups (physical gatherings of fans on Twitter)

It found, he said, that out of 150 people who attended one NHL tweetup in New York City, 100 of them had Twitter personas that could be analyzed.


Not satisfied to sit on the sidelines of checkin games, the NBA released – NBA Turnstile, a mobile checkin service that lives inside NBA Game Time.

NBA Turnstile is a combo service that allows users to check into physical locations, a la Foursquare and Gowalla (the app integrates with these two services for its place database, and users can optionally check in to one or both), and into virtual locations, like televised games.

Digital checkins enable fans to check into nationally televised games on ABC, ESPN, TNT and NBA TV. NBA fans can also check into Turnstile through Fanvibe sports-centric checkin service.

The basic premise is that NBA fans can use Turnstile to check in to any game they watch, whether it be at the arena, a sports bar or from the comfort of their couch. The app, of course, also supports integration with Twitter and Facebook so users can share “shoutouts” to those social networks.

Turnstile replicates the game mechanics we’ve seen in other checkin apps, including points, badges — awarded for weekly, monthly and season-long checkins — and a leaderboard. Turnstile is both a national and regional effort; NBA Digital is working with each team to create official badges for their specific locations. Teams can also create their own badges and checkin promotions.

“We see location based services as just the tip of the iceberg,” says Bryan Perez, senior vice president and general manager of NBA Digital. “The more we can integrate people’s location information at games, the more opportunities there are for things like sponsorships,” he says, adding there are no sponsorships for Turnstile in place currently.


Last July, the New England Patriots announced the launch of an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) designed to give Pats fans a new way to connect with the team using technology developed by Boston-based startup SCVNGR. The ARG is called Help Vince!

The game lead Patriots fans on a New England-wide SCVNGR trek to find Patriot’s defensive lineman Vince Wilfork’s “missing Super Bowl ring.” Of course, Wilfork had’t really lost his ring — the team was simply experimenting with transparency a little bit by deploying a hot new form of marketing known as an ARG.

Marketing ARGs are games that encourage participants to engage with brands by following a series of clues to learn more about the brand and solve problems in pursuit of an end-goal revelation.

“This is clearly one of the coolest things that has ever been built on SCVNGR,” said Seth Priebatsch, CEO and “Chief Ninja” of SCVNGR. “The Patriots have built awesome challenges all across New England. Literally millions of people can help Vince find his ring by doing these quick, fun challenges at the places near them. And win cool stuff. Oh and it only takes six seconds to do a challenge. So grab the app and get going!”

While SCVNGR has been pursuing the NFL market pretty hard, they may now have a competitor in Gowalla who recently announced 32 new stamps – one for each NFL team that fans/users can get just by checking in at their stadium of choice.


No stranger to social media, Major League Baseball added checkins via its MLB At Bat iPhone application (iTunes link).

Here’s what you get with the new feature:

* It works with Twitter and Facebook.

* It creates a sort-of chat room, where you and other people at the game can talk about the action.

* You get a map of the stadium so you can find bathrooms, concessions, and other information.

* And you’ll eventually gain access to highlights in the app. If there’s a great play, you’ll be able to watch it again on your phone.

This is a pretty neat feature for MLB to bake into its products. It’s a good way to corral people talking about the same game.

Another example of this is the collaboration between Facebook Places, Red Bull and the San Francisco Giants.

Similar to the NFL example, the Giants organized a scavenger hunt with 11 autographed Tin Lincecum baseballs (one for each strikeout).  A picture was uploaded to their site of the various locations and the first fan to get their and check in on Facebook Places won the ball.

Whether SCVNGR, Facebook, Foursquare or Turnstile, location-based marketing is a great way for the leagues and their teams to connect with sponsors and fans.


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