Mike Maleski explains the Cleveland Cavaliers' use of social and digital media
The NBA has long been dedicated to making the league, its teams and fans at the heart of an online conversation through social platforms and a dedication to digital from the top down of one of the world's largest sporting organisations has ensured that the NBA has led the way in terms of inventive use of social platforms. This dedication, and an encouragement of all those with a vested interest in the league to take to digital space to engage with the NBA as well as a collaboration between franchises, has handed the NBA the lead in terms of all-encompassing social sport.
By providing a wide-ranging variety of content across a number of social platforms, fans are given access to the sport like never before. This is true with most sports and where the NBA differs is in the manner in which the league has encouraged franchises and players to reach out to fans and provide them not only with exciting content through social channels but also promotional opportunities through unique offers marketed online.
Social media has had such an impact on the NBA that the Sacramento Kings recently announced the creation of a new courtside social media hub while the Indiana Pacers reacted mid-game to improve one fan's seating. The ability to listen to your fans and act in a timely manner to positive and negative comments gives the club kudos as well as the opportunity to truly enhance fans' enjoyment of their favourite sport.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are no exception and owner Dan Gilbert recently started running online Twitter competitions for fans to win #danseats and watch the Cavs in style. We spoke to Mike Maleski, Cavaliers vice president of digital marketing, sales and operations, about the Cavs' digital approach and why the NBA is so successful when it comes to digital space.
"Social media is of the highest importance to us. Sure, we’re proud of having a large audience. But what’s more important to us is providing value to our audience for the follow or like they’ve rewarded us with. How do we provide value? We do everything to make sure that the content we post is highly relevant to the fan. We look to provide them with chances to win experiential opportunities…chances to show off their fandom…and unique ways to stay close to the team and the events at Quicken Loans Arena. In my opinion we have an owner that’s very connected to this city and the fans. Quite simply the fan is first and I’ve never seen him waiver from that. It has everything to do with customer service but sometimes it has to do with rewarding fans for the investment of time, energy and money that they’ve made in the Cavaliers. What do we hope to gain? A fan for life. It is that simple.
"I think success in the digital, mobile, and social space starts at the top. When an organization has a commitment to innovation and technology from its leadership it has a great chance to succeed. The NBA is a very collaborative league. Sure, everyone likes to have an innovative idea, and believe me we do everything we can to be forward thinking. But at the end of the day, we are open to sharing what we’ve learned in the digital space with other teams in the league and we hope to activate some of the best practices from around the league and from within sports in general into our own mix. We are all about original team content. It is extremely important. Our organization has a team of dedicated writers and content producers who look for unique angles and platforms to showcase the latest and greatest surrounding Cavaliers basketball," said Maleski who also noted the importance of a large digital team, all willing to get their fingertips dirty to deliver the best content they can.
"There’s a nine person digital team here at the Cavaliers. Whether a person’s main responsibility is email, or web design, or digital sales, each has an active role in our social media planning. We also have representatives from throughout the company that weigh in and participate in social media outreach and policy. Social media now touches every part of our business and it allows us to have a pulse on fan sentiment. It keeps us connected and listening to our fans 24/7. It even drives new promotions and business opportunities.
"We use social channels to reach out to our fans. We typically don’t release news directly in the social sphere. We might post a headline or tease a feature story throughout social channels with the ultimate goal of driving fans back to our main website – cavs.com. We see cavs.com as a site that can verify news and offer a detailed inside look at a news event from the organization’s perspective. The team enlists communications professionals to work directly with the players. The players follow league policy when it comes to the social media space," Maleski added.
The Cavaliers are also another American franchise able to reach out even further to their fans and provide a platform for supporters to consume content across their various digital channels through the CavFanatic social platform. Chelsea have recently announced that they will be the first Premier League club to boast their very own 12th man social platform and Maleski believes that this is the most exciting aspect of the Cavs' digital work.
"CavFanatic is one of my favourite subjects to talk about. We founded the site back in 2008. Since that time our focus has been to build a platform that allows for fans to express their passion for the team online and offline. We have CavFanatic Nights at The Q which allow for the online community to gather offline and meet each other face to face. We’ve played in and showcased CavFanatic uniforms three of the last four years. These are special event uniforms approved by the league and roundly endorsed by our CavFanatics. It is all about online to offline activation and then offline to online activation.
"One other item that I’d like to mention here is our work with Upto.com a social media tool built around the future tense. This is a Dan Gilbert affiliated company. Cavalier fans can integrate the team schedule, promotions, and other activities into their own personal calendar and inform their friends and followers what they’ll be doing in the future," concluded Maleski.