Balls, Strikes, and Tweets Highlight BlueClaws Baseball
By John Rice
At a recent weekday game, a group of fans of the Lakewood (NJ) BlueClaws, single-A minor-league baseball team enjoyed the hospitality of the field’s Party Deck featuring free food and drinks. What made this particular group unique was that most had never met before. What they had in common was that all were Facebook fans and/or Twitter followers of the team.
The BlueClaws Facebook/Twitter night is just one example of how the team is using social media to build a strong loyalty with fans and attract new people to their games.
The Lakewood BlueClaws are an affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, playing in the South Atlantic League.
“We started [Facebook and Twitter] very casually about two years ago,” explains Media and Public Relations Manager Greg Giombarrese. “We really ramped it up this year leading into the 2009 season.” The Twitter page was launched in mid March, three weeks before the season opened.
During the current season, the Twitter page has been used to give weather updates, provide fans with media notes, highlight in-game news and on-going updates, and give followers special offers and opportunities available only via Twitter.
For one game, fans could get a free hat by bringing their phone to a concession stand. On another occasion, a printout of a page garnered a free “all-you-can-eat” bracelet for a Thursday-night game. “We had 25 or 30 people respond to that,” says Giombarrese.
The team’s Twitter and Facebook presence, he says, is “an opportunity to build loyalty amongst your most die-hard fans. But it’s also a great way to reach out to people you’ve never had the opportunity to come in contact with before.”
To date, the team’s Twitter site more than 850 “followers,” a number that has been growing consistently throughout the season.
Giombarrese thinks the success of the effort has been in part because of the special offers and surprises. “If you just put stuff up there, ‘sales-y’ stuff, people are going to tune it out. You gotta be different than that. You have to give them a reason to go back.”
For the BlueClaws, the use of these social-media channels is an ever-changing endeavor. They recently gave the team mascot, Buster, his own Twitter page. “For him, we’re going to put up pictures from his appearances. We’re going to put up where he’s going throughout the summer.”
And fans may have good reason to know Buster’s whereabouts, based on an idea that Giombarrese says they got from Shaquille O’Neal’s tweeting. “He put up, ‘I’ll be at the so-and-so bus stop. Find me and mention the Twitter page, and I’ll give you two tickets to a game.’” Buster will likely be making similar tweets throughout the summer.
“We’re by the beach,” explains Giombarrese. “We’ll send [Buster] to the beach, to the boardwalk, out into the community. We’ll try that.” He also admits, “I don’t know what the next step will be, but there will be a next step.
“We will get to ‘in-game’ promos soon,” he adds. “We’ll put on Twitter, bring your phone to the concession stand, and get a free hot dog. Maybe we’ll get 50, maybe none.” But he adds that there is value in reaching those fans who are not attending the game who may read the tweet as well.
The BlueClaws’ activities are getting noticed by other teams, who have called Giombarrese. And the South Atlantic League president is preparing a report on social-media activities to be shared among the league members. “He’s going to include a lot of what we do [in that report],” says Giombarrese.
While he can’t say exactly what the team will try as the season progresses, Giombarrese believes that social media provides a ripe opportunity for teams like his. “It’s another way to reach your fans. It’s a changing world. You have to take advantage of these things while they’re hot. Will they stay hot forever? Probably not. But they’re hot right now, so we’re going to do what we can to use them to benefit us as best as possible.”