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Media Masters Podcast – Episode 1 – Dan Harbison, Caesars Entertainment (Part 1)

I’m taking up a new hobby in 2014 and launching a podcast. The idea is simple; I’m going to talk to some of the leaders in digital, social and traditional media who I’ve gotten the chance to know (and a few I’ve never met) to learn more about their work and share it with people who may find it interesting and relevant.

My first call was to Dan Harbison (@darbison), who’s currently the Global Head of New Media at Caesars Entertainment Corporation in Las Vegas, NV. I’ve known Dan since about 2005 from his days as the Sr. Director of Digital Marketing and Media at the Portland Trail Blazers, and he’s a guy who I respect tremendously. We talked for over an hour, and probably could have gone on for another hour. We split the conversation into two parts.

The first episode (just over 40 minutes) covers Dan’s outlook on database marketing, the differences between working in the NBA and the gaming/casino industry, what makes a great hashtag, and whose marketing during the Super Bowl actually worked. I really enjoyed our conversation and hopefully a few digital marketing/social media geeks out there will as well.

More from Media Masters
Media Masters on iTunes | Media Masters on SoundCloud

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Brian Solis Interview

I recently did an email Q&A with digital marketing guru Brian Solis about how the Boston Celtics tackle digital marketing and social media. The interview got plenty of circulation via Twitter, which speaks to the large audience and influence Mr. Solis has developed over the last few years, as well as the general interest in how a major sports property approaches the space.

I thought the piece turned out very well, and believe it’s worth a read for sports and digital marketing professionals alike.

Inside Look: How The Boston Celtics Win in Social Media and Digital

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Boston Herald: Twitter Helps Celtics Generate Own Buzz

The Boston Herald wrote a quick piece about how the Celtics use Twitter to upgrade fans at the game, and the rest of our other efforts to promote the team via social media.

They captured a unique ticket upgrade at a recent game when we took fans from the balcony and brought them down to sit in Wyc Grousbeck’s courtside seats — talk about a game-changing experience.

Watch the video below, or check out the article on the Boston Herald’s website: Twitter Helps Celtics Generate Own Buzz

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Bill Russell Interview

It’s always neat to get to talk to an NBA legend. It’s one of the perks of working for the 17-Time World Champions!

In this interview, I talked to 11-time NBA Champion Bill Russell about having a statue in his honor in the city of Boston, and why mentoring is so important to him.

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Q&A on Sports and Social Media

The following Q&A was conducted by Paul M. Banks (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) for ChicagoNow.com and was published on October 26, 2011.

Congrats on keeping the Celtics site within the top 5 most trafficked (among NBA sites), what’s the key to that success?

Stringer: When I first joined the Celtics in 2005, our team was not a championship caliber squad on the court, yet Celtics.com was typically ranked in the top 10 NBA websites. Having a brand with 60 years of history, and now 17 championships, means that fan interest will always be strong.

That said, when I took the job, I made the decision to change our emphasis to content and started covering the team myself, something Celtics.com wasn’t doing at the time. Most teams weren’t doing it either. But I think that decision paid off and gave fans a reason to come to us for regular content about the team.

In ’05-’06, we really started delivering content, news and information to our website as soon as we could post it, and we were routinely beating the local papers with team information. It forced them to adjust, and they initially weren’t happy about it. Six years later, Twitter has taken that 10 steps further. Sports journalism has evolved drastically since I started with the team.

So true. Sports media has changed so much in even the past 2-3 years, the last 5 even more so. How has the 2008 NBA championship provided long term benefits for your organization’s: online presence, social media presence, ability to market offline, size of fanbase? What percentages of growth have you seen?

Stringer: There’s no question that winning the NBA title in 2008 gave us a huge boost in terms of fan interest. We had our biggest season ever on Celtics.com in terms of traffic in 2010-11, and yet we only went two rounds deep in the NBA Playoffs. That said, before last year, traffic was trending downward, yet our social media audience was exploding. The reality is, fans are spending less time seeking out team websites and spend more time following your team via social media. So we need to be constantly providing news and information to fans on Facebook and Twitter because that’s where they’re spending and increasing amount of their time online.

Beyond Twitter and Facebook, what are your most useful/favorite social media sites. What do you find to be the best/worst aspects of: Digg, Stumble Upon, Delicious, Reddit

Stringer: I use Twitter as my own content curator to find things I’m interested in, and almost never use any of those other sites you mentioned here. Twitter always turns up great content for me, and I rarely go to ESPN.com or other websites anymore. I go to Twitter to seek out content from my peers and industry leaders, and I make an effort to share content that I think my own personal followers will find compelling. That’s why Twitter is so important to me. It’s completely reinvented how most of us are consuming information.

Couldn’t agree more, Twitter is really the only one I use, and I check it like 10-12 times a day.

What’s your best advice to the web entrepreneur that seeks to use social media mostly to build traffic, not to build online relationships? Just posting links to the site isn’t an advisable practice is it?

Stringer: You can’t expect social media to deliver huge traffic numbers to a website, and if your economic model is based around page views, it’s time to rethink it. People want headlines first and foremost, and rarely want to click and read. Unless you’re the first to provide some exciting breaking news or unique content, you’re not going to see click-throughs beyond 2-3% on a regular basis. We’re in the age of skimming right now; attention spans are getting shorter all the time.

I still enjoy reading and find plenty of great content on Twitter, but social media is not going to instantly deliver traffic to your website. You have to develop a pattern of delivering quality content on a regular basis, and should be working on creating ways to monetize your growing social audience because your website traffic will almost certainly drop if isn’t already.

You do a lot of public speaking, what are some of the hottest topics of NBA discussion right now?

Stringer: Every time I speak about the Celtics’ social media efforts, I always get asked about generating ROI in social media. It’s the number one question on people’s mind. It’s something I spend a lot of time working on as well.

What are the basic requirements for any web company’s Social Media Strategy and Social Media Marketing plan?

Stringer: First things first: Have a strategy. Far too many companies are doing social but can’t articulate a basic strategy. And second, I’d say you need to be constantly reading and learning about it, because this business is quickly evolving. Companies like Facebook are changing the rules constantly. What was true in social media last week may not be true next week. It’s your responsibility to stay current, and I spend a lot of time keeping up with the industry.

What would you change/add to that answer in regards to Sports Marketing and Sports Brand Management?

Stringer: I’d say that sports marketing and branding is increasingly becoming a technology issue. We reach millions more fans in the digital arena than we’ll ever reach in the physical arena. So teams need to invest a lot more time, energy and strategy in digital as they look to market their team to fans all over the globe for the long term.

Tell us what SES attendees should expect during your panel session ”Social Media and Sports” with Scott Reifert, Bryan Srabian and Jamie Trecker.

Stringer: I’m looking forward to the panel. I met Bryan a few months back in San Francisco when I was in town, and I’m looking forward to connecting with Scott and Jamie as well. While I’m sure we won’t agree on everything, it’s always great to exchange ideas about this stuff, and it should be a great discussion. We’ve all had unique experiences with large sports brands in great sports cities, so we’ll all be bringing informed perspectives to the table.

Finally, athletes tweeting: pros and cons?

Stringer: What did Spiderman’s uncle say? “With great power comes great responsibility.” Athletes have a unique opportunity to connect with fans on their own time and in their own way with social media, but the pitfalls are dangerous and they’re inevitably going to make mistakes.

At this point, you’d think they’d realize that anything they tweet is fair game, but it seems like every week athletes are re-learning this lesson. We live in a new age of transparency, and the walls that used to separate the star athlete from a common fan are quickly falling down. Used correctly, social media can be a great tool for athletes. But it’s very easy for them to make a damaging mistake if they don’t take it seriously.