Posts Tagged ‘NFL’

Sport-Tweet Udpate: SEC Caves, NFL Going Crazy… Why?

Just as the SEC reversed course on its unrealistic ban of all social media by fans at SEC games, the NFL continues to take more steps toward restricting the use of Twitter and other tools to share content they want to “protect” for themselves.  Still sounds so much like the Napster scenario now being played out in the world of sports entertainment content rather than music.

As Adam Ostrow reported last month on Mashable, the SEC ultimately changed, or clarified, its policy to allow personal messages and posting.  But they are very clear about any video or footage intended to be used for commercial purposes as being outlaw.

“No Bearer may produce or disseminate in any form a “real-time” description or transmission of the Event (i) for commercial or business use, or (ii) in any manner that constitutes, or is intended to provide or is promoted or marketed as, a substitute for radio, television or video coverage of such Event. Personal messages and updates of scores or other brief descriptions of the competition throughout the Event are acceptable. If the SEC deems that a Bearer is producing a commercial or real-time description of the Event, the SEC reserves the right to pursue all available remedies against the Bearer.

Absent the prior written permission of the Southeastern Conference, game action videos of the Event may not be taken by Bearer. Photos of the Event may be taken by Bearer and distributed solely for personal use (and such photographs shall not be licensed, used, or sold commercially, or used for any commercial or business purpose).”

But the NFL took the opposite approach.  Some talk has been that in an effort to prevent Chad OchoCinco from flying in a fan to tweet during the game on his behalf, the NFL has officially banned social media starting 90 minutes before and during all NFL games.  According to Steve Raquel on the Bleacher Report, the restrictions put in place include:

  • Twittering during a game by either the player themselves or someone on their behalf.
  • Any social media activity within 90 minutes before and after the game.
  • Restriction applies to not only players, but coaches, team personnel, and officials.
  • Restrictions on play-by-play descriptions of NFL games (e.g. Twittering) to only authorized media.

Ok, so the idea of a player Tweeting in the end zone or on the sideline is a distraction and I get it, I guess.  But isn’t this about entertainment.  Doesn’t Twitter suddenly make the fanatic follower of a team feel he knows exactly what Chad OchoCinco is thinking at that very moment.  Doesn’t that make same said fanatic follower even more fanatic about following that team?

I love Adam Ostrow’s quote reported by Jennifer Van Grove, also in Mashable, in her very well written summary of the issue:

“Sure, these days someone could theoretically live stream a game from their camera phone. But a shaky, low resolution video from the upper deck of Yankee Stadium isn’t exactly the same as watching FOX’s telecast on your big screen TV. Social media should be viewed as a fantastic compliment to sports that is good for both fans and the TV networks, but at the moment, it seems that’s anything but how it’s being perceived.

That’s the point.  Hello.  Just like the blackouts that force their content to not be shown in local markets if the stadium isn’t sold out… the NFL needs to think about the people who feed their empire.  Sure, so many of us love football to the point we watch even with this silliness… but how much more would we do if more efforts were made to connect with the fan.

I think a bigger issue is the concern the focus in on the player and not the team.  If Chad OchoCinco tweets on the field, it’s not helping the Bengals, perhaps, as much as it is Chad OchoCinco.  They can’t allow individual player brands to be established, shared, and extended.

But, teams can do the same thing, and in an even more powerful way because they have the content people want or need to be fanatics.

Consider what the NY Jets have done (all since losing Brett Favre, of course!).  In August they held a contest to give away tickets to games to followers of them on Twitter (@NY_Jets).  They now have 4,500+ followers on their official Twitter ID.  The contest was put on by the Jets, not by their fans… an important difference, and an indication of an organization trying to reach out.

But the Jets seem to get it.  Again this week they launched a promotion partnership with JetBlue with discount fares for games in Buffalo and Florida — all promoted, shared, and extended via social media connections as well.

The Jets efforts very well may be attributed to blogger, Twitterer, wine connoisseur and social-networking guru Gary Vaynerchuk.  Apparently, he has launched Vaynermedia and lists the NY Jets as one of his clients.

Compare this with the Dallas Cowboys.  I couldn’t find an “official” Twitter feed, but there are 20+ fan-created follower groups of “America’s Team”.  The most popular, @Cowboys, has 13,000+ followers.  Imagine what the team could do with an official feed offering content, access, and connections to fans.

Another argument against the use of Twitter at sports is sharing confidential information, like the recent ban by the US Open to restrict players using it.  Andy Roddick called it right in my view when he explained you’d have to be a moron to share “insider information” that would call into question the integrity of the game.

Ian Paul reported on other decisions by teams in the NFL regarding social media during training camps and in the preseason, apparently to protect their trade secrets (avoid the infamous video taping of signals fiasco):

The Dolphins allow the media to tweet as much as they like for the first 20 minutes or so of practice, but once team drills begin all electronic equipment including computers, cameras, and cell phones has to be turned off, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Dolphins fans, on the other hand, are forbidden to blog, tweet or even send SMS messages while watching their team practice. The Dolphins aren’t the only NFL team wary of new forms of communication either.

Teams like the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Denver Broncos, and Detroit Lions all have similar restrictions, while the Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers are running tweet-friendly training camps.

I suggest, rather than being so focused on protecting trade secrets or trying to ban players from branding themselves or try to keep fans from distributing content that they own, the NFL, and other sports entertainment brands, should look to how these tools can enhance the relationship with their most important assets: their customer base.

Bring some fan on Twitter who keeps up with what’s going on to the primo seat for free, in exchange for his or her building, promoting, and living the essence of that team. Conduct press conferences for exclusive content that only goes to your followers on Twitter first.  Incentivize your players to get a following, create venues for them to get together with these people who love what they do.

Have a relationship.  Don’t try to enforce or create an “arranged marriage”… those don’t work so well in our world today.


09 2009

Hurry… Ban Twitter! No… Don’t Try to Control, Find Relevance.

In my last post I tossed out the question regarding etiquette for using Twitter to broadcast private conversations you happen to overhear. Good fun, or even good material for stand-up comedy, or just inappropriate?

This is the craze all over the professional world right now.  The NFL, the military, the scientific community, the theater/acting world, and college football are just some of those struggling with “… to Tweet, or not to Tweet.”

But the SEC (football conference, not the regulatory body) recent action takes the prize for crazed reaction without considering the consequences. I can just imagine the conversation: “I know, let’s just make it illegal for anyone to send anything about our games. That’ll work.”

Seriously, the SEC is expected to release today it’s formal ban on all social media during SEC games. Their ban extends to the average fan reporting on the game via Twitter.  It reads:

Ticketed fans can’t ‘produce or disseminate (or aid in producing or disseminating) any material or information about the Event, including, but not limited to, any account, description, picture, video, audio, reproduction or other information concerning the Event.’

Why?  The SEC has a $3 billion deal with CBS for coverage rights of the games. Apparently, they think they should be the only ones to give access to what happens at football, basketball, and other events. And, what’s more, they believe they can keep anyone else from sharing anything to anyone else.

I couldn’t agree more with Adam Ostrow on Mashable:

For the moment, these policies seem a lot more grounded in fear than reality. Sure, these days someone could theoretically live stream a game from their camera phone. But a shaky, low resolution video from the upper deck of Yankee Stadium isn’t exactly the same as watching FOX’s telecast on your big screen TV. Social media should be viewed a fantastic compliment to sports that is good for both fans and the TV networks, but at the moment, it seems that’s anything but how it’s being perceived.

There are real issues for sure. The contract with CBS is huge, and its how people make a living. But their fear is driving them to a policy that will have much greater negative impact on that contract, and their bottom line, than had they done nothing.

Don’t try to control the world of social media. Find relevance. When you do, you add value to your enterprise. When you don’t, you hurt yourself more than you hurt.

Two weeks ago, the NFL started clamping down hard requiring its players to not text information and not to use Twitter as reported by the NY Times.

In that story, however, I loved comment in the NY Times by nose tackle Jason Ferguson. He’s weighing when it’s worth the fine. Hilarious.

I don’t have an account (Twitter). I was thinking about getting one until I got the information. O.K., won’t get it now. Can’t do it. I don’t want to get fined, not yet.

Consider the broad action by the NFL and some teams (like the Green Bay Packers) in contrast with what the NY Jets are doing.  It was reported today the NY Jets are actually encouraging their players to use Twitter.

We really made a conscious decision that we were going to embrace social networking because it’s an outgrowth of our motto that we talk about internally:  Remove the barriers.  Football, more than other sports, probably has more barriers that you have to overcome. With the helmet, you don’t really get to see players’ faces or expressions. twitter enables you to communicate with players directly, one-on-one.  Matt Higgins, EVP of business operations for the Jets

In my view, that is finding relevance.

It’s ironic to read ESPN’s reporting of the NY Jets actions given their own stated position acted on earlier this month.  ESPN has implemented a policy for all of its employees that amounts to only using Twitter if it benefits ESPN. You can see coverage here on for latest and reactions.  The deal is their currency is news and information, so ESPN is grasping at whatever control it believes it has to require its employees to not use Twitter for anything related to sports.  The full memo is very strong in its constraints — you can see it here on Mediaite with the full memo at the bottom of the post.

Again, why not find relevance over asserting control in this way? ESPN’s personalities have a huge following on Twitter, and it is because of who they are, how they talk, and what they share. Trying to assert editing control over that audience of fans is directly contrary to why they follow in the first place:  unvetted access to the people they trust, like, or enjoy listening to.

There’s got to be a way to find relevance and drive greater loyalty to ESPN.

In some cases, Twitter’s open access has more obvious reasons to be shut off, or at least re-direct. I previously wrote about the banning of Twitter at certain scientific conferences in which confidentiality of material being presented is paramount to intellectual property rights issues at play (pick up more of that story here if interested).

The military is starting to do the same thing.  About the same time as the NFL made its announcement, the Marines declared a total ban on social media networks, including Twitter.  The Marines’ ban is said to last for one year while the military makes a full determination what to do.  They cite security concerns, of course.

But, even with the military, it’s interesting to note that Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has a Twitter account and over 5,800 followers.  So, it’s about finding relevance and not trying to assert total control, even in high-level security situations like these two. Cut and dry bans are just crazy and short-sighted in my view.

Finally, here is yet another interesting example to consider. Is it appropriate, or not, for a casting director to live-Tweet information and thoughts about the actors auditioning in a closed, private casting call?  The acting industry is now facing this very issue.

A story in the NY Times covers a recent controversy involving casting director Daryl Eisenberg and her comments shared about what she was seeing/hearing during a recent audition.  Eisenberg shared a few tweets like these:

If we wanted to hear it a different way, don’t worry, we’ll ask

If you are going to sing about getting on your knees, might as well do it and crawl towards us … right?

Eisenberg defended herself even before people got up in arms citing the “there is no rule” defense:

There is NO rule/guideline against Twitter/Facebook/MySpace/Friendster. Freedom of speech. Ever heard of it?

But, the Actors Guild, Actors’ Equity Association, and others got involved and she has since agreed to not use Twitter in the audition room.  The main argument made by the union folks is:

“It’s a very long road for an actor to get from seeing the casting notice to getting that audition. To have it mocked is unfair to the actors and to the other people who are working on the particular project. It’s very simply that there is an expected level of respect and professionalism, and these values were violated.”  Maria Somma of Actors’ Equity Association

Part of that defense strikes me as a bit too sensitive–I mean, these people are seeking a career that is very public, get some thicker skin than that. But, it points out the absolute need we have in these various dimensions of public and private life to define what is appropriate and what is not when it comes to using technology such as Twitter.

Personally, I don’t believe the answer is hurry up and ban Twitter–that’ll fix it!  Actually, it won’t. It will just cause bigger and different problems, long-term.