While the Detroit Red Wings hope to win their 12th Stanley Cup title at season’s end, the club’s social marketing staffers have already raised a celebratory banner after picking up Facebook “like” No. 500,000 last week. To commemorate the achievement, the Red Wings are giving away playoff game tickets via Facebook in a partnership with their communications sponsor AT&T.
The National Hockey League franchise is using the social site in a manner that’s akin to a call-in tactic employed by radio broadcast stations for decades. For last Wednesday and Saturday’s playoff games, a team rep appeared at an AT&T store in Detroit. While there, the Red Wings posted a Facebook message stating that the first five people who arrive at the store and mention the post will get a pair of tickets to the next playoff game.
Rob Croll, director of corporate sponsorships and advertising for the Red Wings, told ClickZ that if his team advances to the NHL Playoffs’ second round, it will use Facebook again to comp five pairs of tickets for two more home games. That development appears likely, as Detroit leads 3-0 over its first-round opponent, Phoenix Coyotes, in the seven-game series.
Croll said the two events held so far resulted in the tickets being given away in under 15 minutes. More than anything, this example underscores how Facebook’s large user base creates opportunities for brands to “broadcast” promotions to specific audiences. Croll said he believes that Facebook is helping his team reach a new, younger demographic.
“People responding to this promotion are high school and college aged,” he said. “In one instance, a mother came in because her daughter at home saw the promotion on our Facebook page. She called her mom who was out running errands…and asked her to stop by the store.”
Croll described AT&T’s hand in the promotion. “Sports marketing is really moving from traditional sponsorship elements like signage to a social and online world,” he said. “As we’ve seen this kind of shift, we’ve worked with our marketing team to create these types of opportunities.”
Rob Mattina, director of marketing for the Red Wings, said his team has been able to increase its “likes” (or “fans,” in the former parlance) by 440,000 in two years without paid media. Mattina said the team’s public address announcer mentions Facebook.com/DetroitRedWings before each home game. Also, the DetroitRedWings.com masthead lets viewers click to visit the team’s Facebook page.
“Our growth on Facebook has been about delivering relevant content,” he explained. “This entails promotions, contests, and information that our core consumers cannot get anywhere else. It’s also important to entertain them with videos and other content.”
The Detroit hockey team posted more than a dozen messages during last weekend. One of them included a :30 video (see below), where four players thanked fans on the social site for helping the team eclipse the 500,000 “likes” mark.
Mattina said getting the players involved is extremely important for his team’s social media efforts. “The younger generation wants to have more control and get more insider information… behind-the-scenes types of things,” he said. “They really love to see the human element of the players and their personalities.”
The Red Wings have 53,600 followers on Twitter and regularly integrate Facebook efforts into the micro-blogging site. “But sometimes you’ll find out they are different audiences,” Mattina said.
Additionally, the team has set up a microsite to commemorate an on-the-ice achievement – the Red Wings have remarkably made the Stanley Cup playoffs every year since 1990. At TwentyStraight.com, Detroit fans can watch video clips and read items that are specific to each of the team’s last 20 seasons.