It may have been April 1, but the Red Sox were no fools. With the reigning World Series champs in Washington, D.C. for a White House ceremony honoring their 2013 title, the club ultimately won international headlines across sports and news outlets alike on a day when the Affordable Care Act numbers were to be announced just hours after the ceremony.
Thanks to a consistent and integrated approach to their digital efforts over the course of the day – along with a little help from Big Papi’s now-notorious selfie – the Sox exemplified how sports teams and other organizations can make the most of positive PR opportunities. Given that a world championship and subsequent personal invitation to the White House are so rare (as a Cubs fan, I know this all too well), it is imperative that teams take advantage of such opportunities, especially when they transcend sports and can result in coverage across a wider range of news media.
As a political and sports junkie, events like the team’s trip to the White House are a perfect intersection of my two passions. After following the Sox’s efforts closely on April 1 and now reflecting back on them a week later, it is clear that the club had a great deal of success in utilizing its owned media to engage fans. Its internal efforts helped one of sports’ most popular franchises leverage the elevated stage on which the event took place and gain extensive coverage from international outlets ranging from ESPN to The Guardian.
The Sox used several key platforms to showcase the events of the day:
The Sox leveraged Twitter to offer their 754,000 followers an inside look at the team’s time in the nation’s capital. After teasing the trip with a tweet the night before, the Sox started tweeting early and often the following morning. To help preview the ceremony, the club tweeted plenty of pictures of the team en route to the White House (e.g., landmarks), posing beneath grandiose portraits upon arriving, the setup on the South Lawn and even a few photos of the players’ “unique” getups.
Calls to action were regularly interspersed throughout the morning to inform followers of the various ways they could tune into live coverage of the ceremony. Players’ Twitter handles were mentioned whenever possible, which led to retweets from them and further sharing by their followers.
During the ceremony itself, the Sox tweeted photos of the proceedings along with quotes from President Obama. The former was highlighted by a tweet capturing David Ortiz’s unprecedented selfie with the President, which has since become a source of national debate on social media.
Following the events on the South Lawn, the Sox tweeted coverage of the team’s visit to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center before closing the day with an In Case You Missed It (ICYMI) tweet linking to the most widely discussed moment of the day – Big Papi’s presidential selfie.
In more closely examining the Sox’s Twitter activity, the club engaged its followers throughout thanks to copious visuals and an informal, often humorous voice. It also consistently utilized two designated and relevant hashtags – #WorldChamps and #SoxAndStripes – in addition to capitalizing on the use of #selfie. Equally as important was the team’s consistency in providing updates leading up to and during the ceremony.
In comparison to Twitter, the Sox exercised a more limited approach to engaging their 4.4 million Facebook Fans. The team opened the morning by posting details about where its Fans could find coverage of the day’s events that included the widely recognized photo of catcher David Ross hoisting an exuberant Koji Uehara after clinching the 2013 title.
Given the extended reach often granted to users who post photos versus text-only Facebook statuses, the Sox continued leveraging visuals in posting Ortiz’s selfie and another final photo of Ortiz and the President with a link to a video showcasing how Big Papi won the Internet that day.
Taken as a whole, the Sox successfully used Facebook by including noteworthy photos with their posts and only several high-impact updates so as not to clutter its Timeline and users’ News Feeds.
The Sox used Instagram in much the same way as Facebook, selecting three photos to visually convey the team’s experiences to its nearly 300,000 followers over the course of the day. Similar to its Facebook strategy, this helped paint a picture of the day’s events while not cluttering followers’ feeds.
After previewing the ceremony with content about where to catch live coverage, the Sox posted an article on their official website recapping the various events of the day. The recap focused on highlights like Ortiz’s selfie, and included quotes from the President, Manager John Farrell, and several players. Also featured on the site were the text of President Obama’s full address and an article detailing the team’s afternoon visit with injured veterans at Walter Reed.
The club would post three video recaps on its Red Sox Video platform as well. Given sports fans’ ever-increasing demand for online video content, supplementing their written content with such was a must. Furthermore, with ardent fans like myself often visiting their teams’ official websites on a daily basis, the Sox were wise to offer their fans a timely recap that afternoon shortly following the ceremony itself.
Through these tactics, the Red Sox were able to make the most of a very positive and large-scale PR opportunity. Their efforts resulted in tens of thousands of retweets, shares, and likes that then helped bolster the earned media gained by the day’s events.
Teams and other groups can learn a lot from the Sox. In today’s digital-centric world, organizations must strive to take advantage of the many new media tools available to them and how to most effectively use these resources over the course of the days leading up to, during and after an event. It is also important to maintain consistency in your approach across platforms and to concentrate on timing and frequency with each respectively. From my own professional experience in sports communications, I would also recommend that everyone involved with your digital initiatives be on the same page about the strategies surrounding your events.
While most of us will not be visiting the White House anytime soon (my Cubs certainly included), be thinking about how you can help your organization knock an event big or small out of the park to achieve the positive PR you desire and that your group deserves.