Football Clubs and Blogger Outreach. Where is it?

Football Social Media has come a long way in the past 18 months in terms of fan engagement, player policy and stadium social media. However, one area of social media forgotten about by football clubs is blogger outreach.

Blogger outreach is a tactic used by brands on social media to identify key bloggers who are influential around a certain subjects. Brands aim to build a relationship with them over time with the end product usual being a piece of content generation that shows the brand in a positive light.

What is blogger outreach?

For example, imagine you own a restaurant and want to generate some social media coverage in order to build awareness. What you might do is identify bloggers who have shown interest and expertise in the food industry. Ideally, you would want a blogger who you know to be active, influential and happy to cover the event. You also would want an individual whose blog is well read so you can increase the chances of people learning about your restaurant. Once you’ve identified a number of bloggers (because more is better) then you “reach out” to them and invite them to the launch event. The blogger gets a free meal or access to something they may never have got in exchange for agreeing to write some social media content up afterwards. But be warned, if the event/service isn’t up to their expectations – they won’t always write just nice things. Blogger outreach isn’t a bribe, it’s a chance to impress and make your mark on the social media world.

Where does football fit in?

It strikes me that football clubs have loads of “events” in which bloggers would be interested in covering:

  • - Training sessions
  • - Match days
  • - Hospitality suites
  • - Non-match day events such as club functions or transfer deadline days
  • - Press conferences
  • - AGMs

Football clubs want to use social media to engage with their fans and give them access to areas that they not traditionally see. Football clubs want to promote their services and “experience” as a form of entertainment so that fans will buy tickets. Football clubs want to be seen to be caring about their fan base in order to keep morale up.

So why don’t they use blogger outreach? The costs and effort in inviting key bloggers to visit the stadium, cover a matchday experience or see the behind-the-scenes nature of a club are likely to be minimal. Providing the club plans the experience so it’s successful, then they could potentially have a fantastically engaging piece of content that will resonate with fans and improve their reputation.

Brands do it, so why not football clubs? The growth of football social media shows that there are bloggers and content generators out there, so why not use them? Fan generated content is likely to be more engaging and authentic.

PS. It isn’t missed on me that I am a blogger and that this is a shameless plug for some club to send me some free match tickets! Wait, didn’t I say it wasn’t bribery!?

Written by

Founder of Digital-Football.com and leading Football Social Media expert. Yorkshire lad with mongrel accent. 25.

7 Comments to “Football Clubs and Blogger Outreach. Where is it?”

  1. Couldn’t agree more. We’re seeing more and more teams here in the States create “social sections” at their live-games. The Cleveland Indians were the first to do it in Baseball and they picked up a lot of press and a LOT more social followers as a result. The NFL and NBA are starting to do it as well. Why not bring bloggers in to a match to get a fan’s honest perspective on a live event. Albeit a great response or a not-so-great response. Either way, the interaction is happening on a broader scale than with just the players.

    • Sean Walsh says:

      Hi Jason,

      Thanks for the comment.

      Completely agree – the US sports franchise model is the way to go. Build up brand advocates/fan liaisons/social fan/bloggers to provide more fan generated content and you’re likely to receive higher levels of trust and engagement imo.

      Sure, it might not always be good but transparency is required and I think you’re always going to get negativity anyway – that’s a part of sport. At least if you host a fan night or a social section you can be seen as a club to be doing something about it – and not cowering away as so many do.

      The long term effects of better fan engagement are higher merch sales, better ticket sales and more engagement with club content.

      S

      • Chris Dobens says:

        As a football blogger and marketing communications professional, I feel compelled to chime in.

        Not long ago I helped coordinate a blogger event for a major brand that flew in influential bloggers from around the country to meet with a famous professional athlete who was endorsing their product. Ten years ago you would have never even suggested such a tactic. Only the top mainstream media (print and broadcast) would receive that kind of invitation.

        That being said, it is increasingly difficult for public relations professionals to assess the value or influence of bloggers. The leading media directory in the US, Cision, lists bloggers by topic in its database. And when I’ve included them on my list for announcements and events, I must admit that it’s a royal pain to click on each link to see what they are all about. But you have to, because at least a third of them haven’t posted anything in months. You also find a lot of them simply repost news they find elsewhere, and plenty who just post comments so brief that they would be better suited to micro-blogging platforms like Facebook and Twitter (and, let’s face it, everyone in the stands at a sporting event can be considered a micro-blogger).

        I’ll share another story from a colleague whose client was an international beer brand. She was having an event and invited a select group of influential bloggers. Naturally, some of them posted about it in advance, which resulted in throngs of people showing up – many claiming that they were also bloggers. It put her in a difficult situation because the event space had a limited capacity, but turning away bloggers – whether or not they were legitimate professionals – could result in a wave of negative publicity for the brand.

        My point is that, while I agree that clubs must learn to embrace and engage the most influential bloggers, they can’t necessarily include everyone who fancies themselves a blogger. And bloggers to need to know this, and accept it. There are a number of metrics that can be used to gauge influence and determine credibility. And though I suspect that Sean was half-joking about his appeal for tickets, not every blogger merits an invitation to the press section. Perhaps it should be limited to those who blog for a living, making them professional new media journalists.

        While I would certainly welcome complimentary tickets to a match, and would present myself as a blogger/journalist rather than just another beer-swilling fan, the marketing me understands why the blogger me has yet to receive such an invitation. Even though I am probably among the Top 10 (definitely Top 25) soccer bloggers in New York City, I am reluctant to request press credentials (free tickets and a spot in the media section) to my local club, the New York Red Bulls, simply because I’m not a full-time journalist. I feel those spots should be reserved for people who do this professionally.

        Of course, the sad part is that I can’t even get the Red Bulls to add me to their press list. I have written that they don’t seem nearly as interested in New York City as they are in New Jersey (the club is based in northern New Jersey, where they live, train, and play just across the river from New York City…which, for many New Yorkers, is like having a London club based in Normandy). But rather than embracing me and engaging me, providing with press materials and invitations to events in New York City that would alter my opinion, apparently they have opted to just ignore me. That might work if they were the only soccer story in town, but I’m coming up on the two-year anniversary of my blog and the organic growth of my audience remains staggering (at least to me).

        By the way, I’m delighted to hear that MLB, NHL, and NBA teams are starting to embrace and engage bloggers as an influential audience. And I can report that Major League Soccer is moving in that direction. I now work with a public relations person who is dedicated to dealing with bloggers, and several clubs have been quick to work with local bloggers as well. Unfortunately, my local club is not one of them.

        • Sean Walsh says:

          Hi Chris,

          Thanks for the comment! Almost deserves a blog article of it’s own!

          I completely agree with all your points entirely.

          There’s huge value in outreach – but only if it’s done properly. As you quite rightly say, just because you are a blogger doesn’t mean you’re influential! Clubs need to spend time researching the right people, have clear objectives and have a proper strategy in place. For brevity’s sake I’ve suggested that it is easy as pie – and it can be no doubt, and cost effective…. but like ALL social activity – it needs a strategic plan to work properly.

          I think the key problem most clubs face is that they still view it as solely PR/Marketing and in a way they think bloggers are journalists so they expect the same quality and processes. Whilst many journos are becoming bloggers, its not the same thing. Journos are in the hunt for a story – so they can paid – so they require a level of attention ofcourse. But bloggers, they are doing this for free – they are more renegade. They report on the experience as a whole – they are more emotive and more prone to write what they want – so you need to invest more effort into understanding them socially (Hence, why research is so important!). That being said, if you can get it right then the rewards can be tremendous!

          Should also note that clubs shouldn’t just do blogger outreach for fans. Medical bloggers will be interested in the physio side of things, marketing bods the social dept, landscapers the pitch, fashionistas the club merch and kit design, business bloggers for well… the business side of running a club! It doesn’t always have to solely about the football itself…. but it helps if they are fans of course.

          S

  2. Hi Sean

    Good article as always.

    As a Hibs fan, I suggested to one of the club’s directors at a fans’ forum nearly two years ago that they needed to embrace social media and bring fans/advocates closer to the club – one activity would be to look at bloggers outreach, but also creating more interaction with fans on Facebook, Twitter.

    The response I got was fairly typical – not enough resources (human, time) to man social media, we need to retain control of content, opportunities for trolls to post abuse, how does it meet our commercial targets, etc, etc.

    Hibs have moved into social media over the last year but, as with a number of clubs accross the UK, it has just become another broadcast medium – I can’t interact by posting comments on their YouTube videos nor do I see any interaction on their Twitter feed between club and fans – just scrolls of match updates and links to club news stories or announcements.

    Ironically, their distrust of social media comes at a time when more and more Hibs’ fans are feeling completely disillusioned about the club and there is a wide chasm between club and the supporters.

    Rod Petrie appeared on the club’s YouTube yesterday with a impassioned plea for supporters to buy Season Tickets and the club have extended the early bird deadline – Petrie is the man most maligned amongst the support currently – but imagine if they had fans advocating and helping to foster engagement?

    I won’t hold my breath…….

    Keep up the good work

    Stuart

    • Sean Walsh says:

      Hi Stuart,

      Appreciate the comment. I’m not surprised to be honest – those reasons are fairly typical of most clubs but above all they just tell me that its fear. Fear is quite common for most businesses – especially stuff they don’t understand. Social has the potential to be a very powerful revenue generator and as you quite rightly state – Social is hugely important during times of disillusionment. The fact that Petrie used YouTube to say what he wants to say does shwo they have resources and capacity to do Social Media… but only when it suits them apparently.

      Imagine if Hibs had been using Social effectively for the past few months – they could’ve rightly accepted that performances were below par but they could also engage and listen to fans, at the very least show sympathy for those who spend their paycheck on following their team – despite the performances often being disastrous. Had they done this beforehand then maybe something like a YouTube plea would be more accepted and effective. Instead, fans will view it with disdain – “ohhh, NOW you want to use Social Media…just to get more money”.

      That isn’t the way modern communications works these days. A lot of Social Media brand advocacy is about putting in the work beforehand, so when you do get a rainy day or tough times, you have built up some credibility and affinity amongst your fans that hopefully you can call on them for help.

      The biggest lesson clubs need to learn is that Social Media is not exclusively about marketing or sales – it’s about engaging with fans. Build better relationships with them to improve your brand reputation.

      Football fans are an odd breed – if you treat us just as customers and devalue our support then we simply will act like a customer. If we don’t like the product, we won’t buy it. If we don’t like the direction the club is going – we will boycott buying your merchandise.

      Cheers

      S

  3. Marc Roseblade says:

    The problem is that the clubs have to care about their fans. My own club have a severe dislike of their fans and therefore do not wish to share any news with the supporters so are unwilling to offer opportunites to bloggers to help share their news or even to interact with them.
    With my clubs Facebook posts, it isn’t even someone that works at the club that runs the page and despite many, many, many supporters asking questions constantly through this medium, none ever get answered.
    I actually work under the all encompassing dome of the club so find it frustrating that the powers within the club are so short sighted they cannot see the benefits of this form of ‘future’ media.

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