The NightWatch are coming: A social media strategy proposal for the Nashville NightWatch

About the Nashville NightWatch

 

The Nashville NightWatch are a professional ultimate disc team competing in the American Ultimate Disc League’s (AUDL) South Division. In 2017, the NightWatch will begin their 3rd season of existence and the team runs on very slim margins, needing to bring in just over $50,000 in order to break even. The AUDL is in its 7th season of existence and is made up of 24 teams across the United States and in parts of Canada. The AUDL season begins the first week of April and runs through the end of July, when a championship tournament takes place. The teams each play 14 games during the season, 7 at home and 7 on the road. The South Division, which comprises all of Nashville’s regular season schedule, consists of the Raleigh Flyers, Jacksonville Cannons, Atlanta Hustle, Austin Sol, and the defending AUDL champion Dallas Roughnecks. Atlanta is the nearest geographical competitor, while the 2nd nearest franchise would be in Indianapolis. (The AUDL, n.d.) Ultimate disc is a sport paring teams of 7 against each other and is rapidly growing in popularity, given that it was recognized by the Internation Olympic Committee in 2015. (Booker, 2015) In fact, it is estimated that more discs– the term ‘frisbee’ cannot be used as it is still a trademark of Wham-O—are sold on a yearly basis more than footballs, basketballs, and baseballs combined. (Business Insider, 2011)

The NightWatch are a small organization based in Nashville. The organization consists of 2 owners and a single regular employee, with the players and day-of-game staff employed on a contractual, game-to-game basis. According to Bell et al (2007), small businesses are dependent on 3 factors: development of a marketing strategy, the organization’s ability to implement this strategy, and the monitoring/analysis of this strategy’s success/failure for the purpose of improving the strategy. Nashville’s 2 owners split the work evenly between financial operations and production, with the sole employee focusing on their marketing efforts. Given the financial restrictions on the team, the NightWatch must employ a very specific, efficient marketing strategy. Thus, a social media campaign, with the medium’s ability to target with specificity, the flexibility of ad spend, the ability to run primarily during– and leading up to– the season and the options for organic efforts, fits ideally into the marketing strategy Nashville can employ to maximize success and optimize profits.

The NightWatch’s Digital Presence:

The Nashville NightWatch control their own website, nashvillenightwatch.com, which they run through Squarespace. The page looks up-to-date, with a scrolling banner announcing the latest team headlines. The content, however, appears lacking, a blog that posts about 2 times per month in the season. The NightWatch sell tickets and merchandise ranging from hooded sweatshirts to replica jerseys to game discs from this website as well. One can utilize Pixel Helper to determine that the NightWatch use the Facebook Pixel in tracking visitors to their website. The website, while user-friendly, ultimately falls short from a content standpoint.

The NightWatch’s social media presence consists profiles across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. The NightWatch Twitter account has at present 1,602 followers. This platform boasts the most up-to-date information about the NightWatch games, upcoming events, and other tidbits from around the ultimate community. The NightWatch post multiple times throughout the day during the season and have long breaks between tweets when the season is no longer active, August through March. By comparison, the Atlanta Hustle, Nashville’s primary geographic rival and a well-thought of ultimate community have 1,933 follows and a similar tweet pattern. The primary difference between accounts is Atlanta’s pervasive use of high definition imagery and video, which the NightWatch do not have.

On Facebook, the NightWatch have 2,478 fans, yet lack a description of the team in the about section. The NightWatch post 2-3 times per week from this platform. On Instagram, the NightWatch have 1,143 followers and have posted 142 times since its creation in 2015. This averages out to about 5.5 posts per month.

Nashville NightWatch Goals:

            As an organization in its infancy and with small financial capabilities, the NightWatch are defined on their ability to bring in and retain customers. The primary need of the organization is to become profitable, which it does so through attendance to games, merchandise sales and sponsorships. As such, the goals of the social media campaign are recommended to be similarly aligned, promoting the following:

 

Targeted Audiences:

The ultimate community within the city of Nashville is going to be a key primary audience, while the city and surrounding areas provide a huge opportunity for growth. Nashville is a city of 654,610 people, a population which swells to just over 1 million when considering Greater Nashville, which includes the city’s primary suburbs and neighboring cities of Murfreesboro, Clarksville, and Franklin. (US Census Bureau, n.d.) The average median household income within the Nashville city limits is $47,621. The city is also home to corporations such as Bridgestone and Nissan, as well as 2 major professional sports teams, the Nashville Predators (hockey) and the Tennessee Titans (football), and 1 minor league team, the Nashville Sounds (baseball). Nashville is also home to the Music City Bowl, a college football bowl game, and has an organization which facilitates and provides for sports-related events around the city in the Nashville Sports Council. There are 6 high schools in the Greater Nashville area that sport recognized ultimate disc teams recognized by the sport’s primary governing body, the United States Association of Ultimate (USAU). (USA Ultimate, ,n.d.) By comparison, the greater Atlanta area contains 18 such high school teams.

Given that the NightWatch season primarily falls outside of the Predators and Titans seasons, these fan bases are proven sports-interested individuals that would be a key audience for the team. The sport was invented in 1961, so the audience tends to skew younger as well. This means exclusion of ages 50 and up would be ideal given the organization’s limited financial means for ad budget. There are 2 more interests that would be important to examine and split-test with regards to audience targeting, feminism/social justice and fitness. The former would be particularly relevant as the NightWatch currently roster the only woman playing professional sports in the AUDL and the 1st woman to ever score in an AUDL game or start the season on the team. The latter would line up with the understanding that ultimate is a great way to get in shape and barrier for entry into an ultimate game is low (there are games throughout the city on a weekly basis).

Another huge audience to target would be small businesses in the area, particularly those bars and restaurants that are competing heavily within the Nashville nightlife scene. These businesses would be best suited for sponsorship given their propensity for self-promotion and the absence of another major league professional sport running at the same time.

In order to summarize, the audience targeting sectors would be as follows:

  1. Fans of the Nashville Predators and Tennessee Titans within Greater Nashville (age 15-50)
  2. Small business owners in downtown Nashville, Green Hills, and Franklin
  3. Interest split-test
    1. Feminism/Social justice
    2. Fitness

Social Media Recommendations:

Upon examination of the Nashville NightWatch’s digital media presence, it is clear that there are improvements that could be made to aid the growth of the organization. It is also clear that there are limitations that could impede the implementation of this. The content created and shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is a start, but could be expanded upon greatly. As such, the following set of recommendations will indicate an ideal scenario of suggestions improvement by platform, with the less important functionalities highlighted in red as potential budget cut targets:

Table 1.1

Platform Plan of Action (in season) Plan of Action (offseason) Time of Placement Content
Facebook (organic) 1 post per day during weekdays; 2-3 posts Friday, Saturday 1 post per 1.5 weeks 8 AM Central during weekdays; 6 PM night before game; 7:30 AM, noon game days Game reminders, photos (action, venue, logo), links to content on website
Facebook (paid) Paid ads running 30 days before the season (April 2) to end of season on July 15 None Ads would run in the Newsfeed ONLY; no time segment Photo split-test: player, game action, fans- CTA link to the website to buy tickets
Twitter 3-4 daily posts taking on a playful tone with other AUDL teams and larger ultimate entities (see BamaSecs), informative tone regarding ultimate news and NightWatch updates 2-3 posts per month For informative posts, tweets take place during important announcements and for games, 1 day before, 6 hours before the game, and 2-3 hours post game

For banter, tweets will be reactionary and timing will be based on major entities followed by NightWatch

Informative ultimate posts, team/player news/scores, engagement with the fans; recap of game link to website
Instagram 2-3 posts per week, player profiles at-a-glance, 2-3 posts day of game 1-2 posts per month 12:30 PM Central during scheduled weekday releases (Monday, Wednesday)

4 hours prior to games

2-3 hours post game

Regular player profiles highlighted by a player of the week; recap of game link to website
YouTube 1 video per week 1 video per quarter Thursday evenings 6:30 PM Interviews with players/coaches; highlight reels from games and practices

There are two primary keys to creating a successful strategy on social media, the ability to target specific audiences and the ability to measure the success of various campaigns. Table 1.2 shows how these factors will be examined within each platform that will be utilized.

Table 1.2

Platform Purpose Measurement(s) of Success Audience Cost ($)
Facebook (organic) Increase organic reach; stay top of mind with fans; build trust with organization Increase in Facebook fans, increase in organic reach, increase in number of shares of content (targeting not allowing for organic posting) $0
Facebook (paid) Outreach to discovery audiences, increase in brand awareness, drive more traffic to ticket sales page on website Increase in ticket sales, increase in online merchandise purchases, increase in web traffic 1, 3a/3b $274 minimum ($137 per audience, per day running)
Twitter To inform on the NightWatch games, maintain a trustworthy presence for fans/followers, promote to potential sponsors Increase in Twitter followers, increase in Tweet engagement, increase in Tweet impressions, increase in sponsorships 1, 2, 3a/3b $98 (if using Follow Liker)
Instagram Expand reach of organization on the highly visual platform through expansion of online visual media Increase in web traffic, increase in Instagram followers 1, 3a/3b $98 (if using Follow Liker)
YouTube To expand organizational profile to another highly utilized platform Increase in search traffic, increase in web traffic 1, 2, 3a/3b $0

The NightWatch have such a small market share of the Nashville market that the across the board increase of content and posts to the 3 primary platforms of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram will likely swiftly grow the organization’s following. Regularity of posting will also be important in growing organizational trust which is so key to new businesses.

Furthermore, the addition of a paid Facebook marketing strategy will allow the organization to further penetrate the Nashville market so as to increase brand awareness and drive web traffic. The ad budget set forth, $274, allows for a potential daily reach of 350-430 people in the targeted audiences, giving the NightWatch significantly increased outreach into a very qualified cohort. With Instagram and Twitter, it is suggested that Nashville employ a Follow Liker, a company which grows followers based on similar interests on each of these platforms. This program comes with the annual price tag of $98 per platform.

One of the most important things tying all of these platforms together is the increase of content generated to the website on a regular basis. With content scheduled to post to the site 4 times regularly per week, the NightWatch could then utilize social media as a way to draw in potential consumers and meaningful content on The Lantern-the NightWatch blog- as the hook to stay on site. The NightWatch have already posted several times in this blog, though its updates are sporadic and infrequent.

Finally, utilizing YouTube as a sports platform is almost a no-brainer. The NightWatch likely already film their players during practice and must provide footage to the league of each game, so the next logical step would be to cut and edit clips from these to post to YouTube. Additionally, a regular Thursday night interview with an important member of the NightWatch (player or coach) would serve well to give the organization both depth and another source of content for YouTube.

The Tools for Success:

The indicators for success for the NightWatch need to line up with the goals set forth in the beginning of this analysis. An increase in the total number of customers can be tracked through the NightWatch POS, Squarespace matched with the brick-and-mortar POS. Sponsorship increases can be measured in a straightforward manner as well. An increase in brand awareness can be analyzed using social media analytics available and Google Analytics for web traffic.

Brand awareness is tracked by the number of followers across each of the social media platforms and the level of growth within each platform. This provides some insight into which platforms are having success in growing NightWatch brand awareness and which might not, by comparing the rate of growth. Engagement is another key indicator of brand awareness success, particularly with regards to cost per engagement and CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions). These key performance indicators (KPIs) can be cross-referenced with platform means to determine interest in the NightWatch brand.

It is also recommended that the NightWatch employ 2 outside sources so as provide greater depth and circumspection to the organization’s social media efforts. The 1st, competitive intelligence analysis (CIA), would allow the NightWatch to compare acquisition strategies and consumer behaviors among similar businesses. The NightWatch’s data would be next to meaningless when examined via CIA, as the reporting becomes more accurate once monthly traffic reaches 50,000 and more. But, the behavioral aspect of consumers online for other Nashville sports teams, such as the Predators and Titans would give meaningful insight into sports consumers’ online tendencies and give the NightWatch some opportunity to emulate others’ social media marketing best practices. A platform such as the one provided on Brandwatch.com would be both ideal and watch-appropriate. (Kaushik, 2015)

Another useful tool the NightWatch could employ would be the Klout Score, which ranks an entity’s influence across various social medias. This influence is determined from multiple factors, but ultimately represents an organization’s ability to drive action via influence. (Klout, n.d.) The key here would be to analyze the NightWatch’s Klout Score prior to implementation of the aforementioned social media strategy and then compare the Klout Score change month-over-month throughout the AUDL season. This will give some nice context to the overall success of the social media strategy’s as well as provide data for year-over-year comparison down the line.

With these benchmarks for measurement in place, the NightWatch would be well-positioned to analyze year-over-year sales and sponsorship, examine social media influence both before and after the beginning of the social media campaigns, and gauge any increase in brand awareness through a variety of online and social media analytic tools.

Expected Outcomes:

            With the increase in organic posting, addition of YouTube channels and paid Facebook advertising, and ability to track the increase in organizational influence through Klout, the expectation is that the NightWatch will see substantial growth in its 3 primary goals: increase in ticket/merchandise sales, increase in sponsorship activity, and increase in brand awareness. The ability to track which aspects of this strategy are more or less successful than others will be huge for a small organization that needs to maximize the efficiency of time and financial investments. If an increase in web traffic and social media followers occurs, as is expected, the onus then falls to the NightWatch organization itself to convert interested parties into actual consumers. A robust, reliant, and circumspect social media strategy could certainly do a significant amount to drive intrigue in the NightWatch.

References

The AUDL Teams. Retrieved from http://theaudl.com/teams

Bell, J., Parker, R. and Hendon, J. (2007). Entreprenurial application of marketing communication in small business: Survey results of small business owners. The Entrepreneurial Executive, 12, 1-12.

Booker, B. (2015, August 3). Ultimate Frisbee recognized by Olympic Committee. NPR, retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2015/08/03/429065101/ultimate-frisbee-recognized-by-olympic-committee

Business Insider. (2011). 12 thing you didn’t know about ultimate Frisbee. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/ultimate-frisbee-facts-2011#there-have-been-more-frisbees-sold-than-footballs-basketballs-and-baseballs-combined-12

Kaushik, A. (2015). The complete digital analytics ecosystem: How to win big. Occam’s Razor, retrieved from https://www.kaushik.net/avinash/complete-digital-analytics-ecosystem-how-to-win-big/

USA Ultimate Youth. Retrieved from http://www.usaultimate.org/youth/default.aspx#teams

United States Census Bureau. Quick-Facts Nashville-Davidson. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045216/4752006,47

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