When it comes to sports fandom, cheering is nearly as important as the game itself. Whether donning team colors or shouting to the point of hoarseness or spontaneously hugging strangers, people take the art of team support very seriously. While the holy grail of in-stadium cheering is getting on the Jumbotron, there’s a much larger world of likeminded supporters with whom to share your fist-pumpingest, towel-wavingest and nail-bitingest moments–and during the 2015 playoffs the NHL made it its goal to connect those fans over social media.
The NHL and Toronto agency Camp Jefferson created #MyPlayoffsMoment, a social platform for fans of any team in the playoffs to share their birds-eye view of the game, whether it was rink-side, from the bar, or from the couch. The reward for sharing game moments with the hashtag–aside from online glory and social solidarity, that is–was a chance to have clips featured in daily highlight reels compiled by the NHL and broadcast on TV and official NHL social channels.
The clips show the highs and lows of various games. There are the requisite POVs of erupting stadiums and cute kids being trained in the ways of home team, and then there are the solitary moments of disbelief when the wrong team won. In all, fans submitted around 120,000 pieces of content using the hashtag, which garnered 815 million impressions on Twitter alone. The NHL then produced 71 videos through four rounds of hockey from that content, and GoPro was brought on as a sponsor. The entire campaign was promoted through TV and online.
Here, Ian Barr, VP of social media & innovation at Camp Jefferson tells Co.Create how tapping into serious fandom resulted in one of the most successful NHL social campaigns ever.
The NHL wanted to “socialize the Playoffs” to get more fans engaged and exposed to the excitement of the game when interest is at its peak. “Social media is where people debate and discuss the game, the players and the highlights but it’s also where the unscripted drama comes to life that a traditional broadcast doesn’t always capture,” says Barr. “As part of our discovery phase, we uncovered a handful of fans filming themselves with video cameras while watching the game at home and uploading it online. In the right scenario we figured we could harness and channel this behavior on a massive scale across different viewing environments like a bar, during the game or at viewing parties. We wanted to give hockey fans a role to play so we could channel their passion to capture the human side of the Playoffs.” Essentially, he says, the project promoted fans from observers to documentarians using their smartphones.
Using a combination of social media content, digital advertising and in-game broadcast support, the NHL asked fans to capture their fan experience and share it online using #MyPlayoffsMoment.
On a nightly basis the team’s content strategists worked from 7 p.m. until 3 a.m. alongside NHL’s in house production and social media team to monitor in-game storylines and cross reference them with the live content submitted online. “Each night we scoured thousands of clips in real-time and collectively tried to determine which fan generated content matched up to the most powerful storyline we could tell,” says Barr. “For example, during the entire Playoffs the NHL produced 71 videos through four rounds of hockey.”
As games were played, thousands of pieces of content poured in per team that was legally approved and produced by the NHL by 7 a.m. the following day. “In some instances they were released the night of to capitalize on the immediacy of a moment to maximize impact. By noon the following day, fans would discover whether or not their clip was selected.”
Fans are actively participating in sports and even their favorite shows online. What’s often missing in the equation is that brands aren’t quite sure how to harness the behavior. “This idea resonated with fans because we gave them a role to play during the Playoffs and the immediate payoff of seeing themselves daily in NHL content which is the ‘holy grail’ for fans and encourages repeat behavior,” says Barr “By showing some of the unique rituals, rivalries and highs and lows of their experience, we were able to connect the on-ice action to what they were feeling off the ice, essentially ‘Fan Casting’ the Playoffs.”