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Embracing creativity drives Red Wings’ social media profitability

The Detroit Red Wings are best known by sports fans for their 11 Stanley Cup championships. While the team’s 2012 season ended in less than spectacular fashion, the team is the NHL champion when it comes to social media innovation.

Not only are they the most popular NHL team on social media, they have figured out how to make money on social media.

The hockey club is the NHL leader in social media fans, as it approaches 1.5 million fans across its social media channels (mostly on Facebook with 1.27 million and Twitter with t 170,000). That’s a healthy increase from the 300,000 fans it had in 2010.

Running the club’s foray into new media is Jake Duhaime, social media manager of the Detroit Red Wings.  A broadcast journalism graduate who joined the team in 2010 after working as a writer, Duhaime has become a passionate believer in social media’s ability to reach new hockey fans.

Duhaime points out the Red Wings were the first NHL team to introduce the “Fan of the Day” concept during the 2010-11 season. Since its inception, the program has seen submissions from all 50 states and 20 countries. The Fan of the Day has also been used as a wedding proposal and a prom proposal.

“The NHL is far and away the league most with it when it comes to embracing social media,” Duhaime said.  “After lockout, the league didn’t have ESPN, so teams had to think outside of the box on how to reach their fans.”

NHL has done some smart things that other professional leagues have not done. The league has embraced YouTube and not zealously shut down hockey content on YouTube. They also have embraced bloggers, which Duhaime calls “the most passionate form of media that they have – and the most creative.”

Embracing that creativity has allowed the Red Wings to come up with some unique ways to marry advertisers and social media.  And along the way, make a little money.  The Red Wings have seen a 700% growth in sponsorship on social media.

Duhaime, who works within the team’s marketing department, has focused his social media campaigns on the younger fans. “Our social media fans skew younger and are more likely to be single-ticket game buyers,” Duhaime said.

Leveraging this knowledge, he came up with a Valentine’s Day promotion to target singles. Amway paid for 100 tickets and the Red Wings created a “Who’s Your Wingman” campaign. Single fans were selected based on short essays and their social media savvy. They all used the hashtag #amwaywingman to communicate before, during and after the event.

“It was a chance to do something fun for the singles,” Duhaime said. “And it was the first time we targeted a specific consumer group – instead of just giving away tickets.”

Because teams can learn so much about the makeup of their Facebook fans – thanks to Facebook’s robust analytics – it makes sense they can pair sponsors with specific demographics.

“What we are seeing from a lot of our clients is they are looking for something very specific, like women, 25-34,” Duhaime said. “Social media allows you to do this.”

As teams grow their social media fan base, more teams will follow the Red Wings’ lead. Social media can deliver the highly sought after younger demographics.  The key will be to create contests and giveaways the fans are interested in and not just another advertising vehicle.

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