When it comes to innovative and progressive movements within the sports world, the National Hockey League will not top any lists. Yet, with one long stride in social media marketing, the New Jersey Devils are changing the way the marketing game is played within sports teams.
And it all has to do with one simple idea — relentless customer engagement.
In mid-February of 2011, the small-market Devils took a chance with a social media idea that confused many, including the people implementing it. The plan, called ‘Mission Control’ was to develop a fan group into a community relations army, swarming platforms and cultivating conversation during every Devils game and even on off-days.
It was a grassroots effort to grow their online popularity and visibility through consistent and overwhelming fan engagement.
The group was handed a righteous name — the Devils Army Generals — and was granted a room labeled the command center. There, the 25-person team would closely follow social media activity, blog, arrange Tweet-ups or viewing parties for fans and simply answer fan questions. The team gained the Devils over 70,000 Facebook ‘Likes’ in less than a month and gain nearly 1,000 Twitter followers a week.
Best of all — the team is all volunteers, super fans that just want to be a part of something they love, at the simple cost of the hardware needed.
The story gets even better for the Devils, who are an organization that has struggled to find a hockey foothold in Newark, N.J., despite on-ice success. One year after launching their inventive process, the Devils have monetized Mission Control and have made $500,000 in revenue from marketing partnerships according to the Sports Business Journal.
“Mission Control has been our lead in sales meetings, not just a throw-in,” president of Devils Media Entertainment Rich Krezwick told the Sports Business Journal. “I think we can do $2 million in our second year.”
The partnerships are woven into the social media plan, such as sponsoring online fantasy games and running contests through the team’s more mainstream and populated platforms. They do not post sponsored Tweets or posts of any sort, shielding their fans from a marketing onslaught. It’s pure, it’s thoughtful and most of all — it works.
“When we launched this we made a cultural investment in social media,” said Krezwick. “It’s coming to fruition now.”
And with the Devils’ ability to monetize through strong fan and community engagement, it’s just a matter of time before that game plan goes viral across the sports landscape.