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Devils Mission Control Launches Tremendous Online Growth

June 1 2011 | Volume 10, Issue 1

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Dear Faithful Readers,

You probably have been hiding under a rock if I'm the one to tell you that social networking has become a focal point in marketing strategy over the last 24 months, especially in sports. Social media is becoming essential for teams as they try to develop another medium to connect with their rabid fans and enhance their experience. We have seen it here at the Forum as well...with each of our Social Media Breakout Sessions overflowing with attendees that want to learn: How do I use it? How can it be affective for my franchise? And most importantly, how will it make me money? This is why the Devils' drive in this area is fascinating and setting the benchmark for the entire industry. They have identified the shift towards virtual marketing, embraced it, and developed a strategy that has produced some truly substantial results.

Enjoy the Feature,

Joe Shapero
joe@sports-forum.com


Devils "Mission Control" Launches Tremendous Online Growth

New Jersey Hockey Fans Experience New Wave of Fan Interaction.


CONTACT

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Michael Williams
CMO/SVP, Ticket Sales and Marketing
New Jersey Devils
Phone: 973-757-6105
Email: mwilliams@newjerseydevils.com

ORGANIZATION

New Jersey Devils

 

PROGRAM TITLE

New Jersey Devils Mission Control

 

OBJECTIVES

In the ever evolving world of social media, the visibility and communication between an organization and its fan base has become increasingly important. Monitoring and responding to the fans conversation on social media networks has become vital to an organization's goal to enhance the fan experience. The New Jersey Devils wanted to be more aware of the conversations that were surrounding the team while also having the ability to interact appropriately and efficiently to questions, concerns or any ideas that their fans might have. The team is also approaching their 30th anniversary in New Jersey and is looking for a creative way to reward their loyal fan base. "The NHL, as a league, is out in front of the social media initiative, and certainly we've recognized that," Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek said. "[Our aim] is to give fans greater access to what we're thinking."

 

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

In order to grow their presence in the digital world, the New Jersey Devils launched Mission Control, an in-arena social media hub that has brought fans closer to the team more than ever. Mission Control is strategically outfitted with nine flat screen computers, two wall-mounted TV screens, and ten Apple iPads skinned in Devils red and black. Devils PR Manager, Anne Sciaino, described the real message the program, "Mission Control is about the Devils Army. It is about giving our fans the opportunity to be a part of the Devils family, have a direct line into the Devils organization and have an opportunity to be heard by the team."

This technological wonderland is all controlled by the self-proclaimed "Devils Army Generals", a team of 25 of the most passionate and digitally savvy Devils fans who were nominated via Facebook and Twitter. Once selected, the Army Generals were trained via a curriculum developed by the team's social media consultant, Jim Delaney. Additionally, every morning at 10 am, the Devils hand out a briefing to all the staff and Army Generals with information on key topics to cover on the social media platforms. This is followed by a live 20-minute phone call during which staff and Army Generals learn more about what is expected of them that day.

During each and every home game, you can find the Army Generals manning their in-arena battle stations. The Army Generals, usually decked out in Devils team jerseys and hats, work throughout the day for multi-hour shifts answering questions on Twitter or creating game-related polls to increase fan interaction. "Mission Control will allow our team to connect directly with our fan base, expand the Devils' presence throughout social media platforms, and ultimately give our fans the opportunity to be a part of the Devils family," said Vanderbeek.

The Devils even incorporated music into the online communities. The March 2nd game was the first home game during which the team played a fan-suggested song, proposed from their Twitter platform, into the in-game mix. Throughout the day, fans posted their ideas for the "song of the day" via Twitter, tagging them with the #NJDSONG hash tag. The winner among hundreds of suggestions was Van Halen's "Runnin' with the Devil," a fitting song for the teams name.


A look at the Devils Army Generals inside Mission Control.

 

MEDIA

Mission Control went through a beta and soft launch before publically launching this last February. Mission Control's official launch was streamed live via a virtual press conference on the team's website, and was hosted by Devils Radio announcer Matt Loughlin. The live-stream also featured a tour through Mission Control as well as interviews with select Devils Generals and Jeff Vanderbeek.

Links to "Join the Devils Army" can be found within the fan zone of the team's webpage, along with a photo gallery highlighting all the elements in Mission Control. The launch was also picked up by multiple online news sources. ESPN's Page 2 covered the essence of Mission control at the start of May while The Huffington Post published an article on February 18th discussing the programs potential. Furthermore, the Sports Business Daily ran multiple pieces covering both the launch and the results that Mission Control generated.

 

PARTNERS

Mission Control does not currently have a direct corporate partner, however has been able to provide exciting opportunities to many friends they have made over their social media networks that want to interact with the team and its fans. The Devils and Newark's Mayor Corey Booker formed a fantastic partnership immediately after the launch of Mission Control, announcing that for every new follower the Devils and the Devils Generals received on Twitter, $1 worth of hockey tickets would be donated to Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Newark. Over 100 tickets were donated to Big Brothers, Big Sisters through this social media promotion. Additionally, Mission Control is a service for the Prudential Center, home of the Devils. A number of artists and shows that come through the building are mentioned through the Devils Mission Control, thus advertised to fans. Tours are able to see their shows promoted directly on the growing social media group and see the immediate reaction via comments from fans.

 

RESULTS

After its launch, Mission Control has been a remarkable success for the Devils online community. The two weeks after the Mission Control launched, the Devils saw a spike in growth of 6,099 Facebook fans; nearly double the NHL average of 3,423 over that time period. The teams Facebook page started the season at 50,100 fans and has since grown to 174,435 (a growth of nearly 250%). The Devils also moved from the 18th most liked Facebook team page in the NHL to the 14th most liked team. Moreover, the teams Twitter is averaging 600 to 700 new followers a week and is quickly approaching a total of 25,000. Furthermore, the Devils can account $17,776 dollars in direct ticket sales due to online promotions through their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Mission Control also helped the Devils with a fan desired promotional give away, receiving suggestions from their Twitter followers on a promotional item they would like to receive at a home game. The Devils corporate partnership team was able to find a sponsor for that item, produce it, and then distribute it to fans before the end of the season. Additionally, Mission Control has taken the lead on organizing three "Tweet Up's", gatherings advertised via Twitter, to watch away games when the Devils were on the road. Each event averaged over forty fans in attendance. "We're still in our early stages of [Mission Control] and learning [about] ourselves every day, but it's exceeded our expectations," said Vanderbeek.

See the Devils virtual press conference!
Click Here to view the Devils virtual press conference that featured a live-look into Mission Control.

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Mission Control is a year round program, and will continue to be a key part of the facility and the Devils organization. According to team marketing director Will Carafello, "One of the things that we take the biggest pride in is that we're the benchmark, we've set it. The good part is that we've done it. But it also gives us a lot of responsibility in that now we have to come up with the next thing."

 

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