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App Marketing Conversations: How Major League Soccer is Using Tablets to Connect with Fans

Robi Ganguly  //  September 3, 2013  //  6 min read

Do you think that tablets can make better fans?  

In this installment of App Marketing Conversations we dug in on a conversation from the MoDev Tablet Conference, where the MLS talked about how they’re using technology and tablets to deepen the fan experience and really enable another level of engagement. We dug into what it’s like to really create an adoring fan base and covered specifics like:

  • How can you enable the “stats geek”?
  • What can we learn from sports to apply to other areas of industry?
  • Why the tablet is a perfect device for augmenting the fan experience

Be sure to check out the Gamehouse segment from this week’s App Marketing Conversations, Candy Crush’s amazing success in the free to play space.

The Transcript:

Robi: Good morning. Welcome to another App Marketing Conversations. I’m
here, as always, with Ian Sefferman, of MobileDevHQ, and Ryan
Morrel, of Gamehouse. I’m Robi Ganguly, from Apptentive.

I want to take a few minutes this week to talk about an
interesting conference that happened here in Seattle last week;
it was called MoDev Tablet, put on by MoDev. This was their
first real conference on the west coast, and it was very tablet-
focused on a lot of really interesting content, in particular 3
different organizations were talking about they’re engaging with
consumers, particularly around tablets. Nordstrom was there,
Major League Soccer was there, USA Today was there. All of them
had different takes, but they were all really seeing a lot of
interesting use cases. I wanted to talk about that a bit and
what it means for marketers.

I’ll start with I think a lot of people were surprised at first
when I said that they were there, but then they got it. The MLS,
Major League Soccer, has in the past couple years, really built
out a digital presence to engage with fans who are, as content
consumers go, rabid. In a previous segment, we were talking
about fantasy football. Sports fans consume everything about
their sport, and Major League Soccer has really capitalized on
this by creating lots of digital content, lots of technology to
watch stuff. What they were talking about being able to do on
the tablet was really let the consumption of the sport happen;
you can see lots of different clips from different angles, but
have the ability to go deeper, more personal. You, if you’re a
stats geek, can use their tablet experience, and some of this is
web-based and some of this is app-based, in order to go deeper
on stats. An example of that is you can see the different shots
on goal that a player makes, and then their percentage of
success with those different shots on goals. As a stats geek you
can get into it.

I want to push this out to you. Have you seen yourself as sports
fans, a change in the way you consume sports with mobile
devices, with tablets?

Ian: I am not a big MLS fan. There’s no team in Detroit, so why would I
be? I’m a huge college sports fan. ESPN3, or whatever they call
it, Watch ESPN now, and March Madness, completely changed my
life. Being able to see multiple games at once, being able to
see all of the stats online; all of that stuff has totally been
a massive shift. It’s been a time shifter; I can watch the games
whenever I want, especially on ESPN3. I can play Shift; I can
watch it while I’m at the office, I can watch it at home, I can
watch it on the bus, whatever, and it’s allowed me to go deeper.
As a sports fan, tablets are an incredibly useful venue for
consuming the information.

The other interesting thing is, I saw this yesterday, that ESPN
is now in talks with some of the IBTV folks, the InternetTV
folks, to get all of their content directly onto that stuff.

Robi: Interesting.

Ian: Which will, I’m sure, send shivers down many cable network CEOs.

Robi: Just all across the country, they just went . . .

Ian: Exactly.

Ryan: As you were saying this, all I was thinking was, ‘The content wants
to be free. Let it go.’ When you think back maybe 7 years ago,
and you go home and go watch March Madness, it’s like, “Let’s go
to the bar down the street for March Madness.” Then it was like,
“CBS has this thing; you can watch 1 or 2 games online, but it’s
still video over the web and it’s crappy sometimes.” Now it’s,
“We can go watch these 3 or 4 games all at once on different
screens. That’s fantastic,” Then you run into some content
distribution ownership rights and all this crap, and you’re
like, “What is going on here?”

Ultimately, I think it just gets better from here. Now there’s
opportunities, especially with sports and things that people are
really passionate about; you can almost consider them niches, to
create really deep, engaging experiences. I think that’s just
going to grow as . . . these people that own these content
distribution rights are going to have to start letting them go.
Comcast, we all know their big fear is being a dumb pipe, and
that’s why they bought NBC. They’re still going to be a dumb
pipe.

Ian: They’re going to be dumb pipe with NBC.

Ryan: Yeah, exactly.

Robi: I think this is interesting as we talk about everything, one of the
things that came up over and over again at this tablet
conference was the way in which you could go much deeper to
engage customers and engage your fans. The way that MLS was
thinking about it was very forward thinking, like ‘We’re
building this league. We’re building this brand presence, and
this allows us to get those fans even deeper.’ There’s this
constant overwhelming theme of ‘mobile helps you get deeper into
a customer’s life’. You can’t necessarily do that for everybody,
but if you have 20 million loyal fans, you can let those people
just do everything they want to do with your content. Freeing it
actually helps you get that relationship much more cinched.

Ian: I think on top of that is mobile allows you to give, and especially
tablets; you have a massively-connected social experience in the
tablet, as well. One of the things, I think March Madness did
this, CBS did this, was integration with Twitter for people
talking about a specific game. When I first saw it, I was like,
“This is stupid. This is just a gimmick.” By the end of March
Madness, especially because Michigan went to the finals, by the
end of March Madness, I was so in on that. I was like, “Look at
all these people. Look at these idiots from Louisville.” I was
so in on it. It was, first of all, I had this personal
connection with the tablet, because for whatever reason, I feel
more personally connected when I’m using a tablet. I don’t know
if that’s just because I’m literally holding it in my hand, and
then it has the direct integration with social. All of a sudden
I’m like, “I should participate in this,” and I’m going way
deeper than I would have ever gone if I was just laying on my
coach clicking buttons.

Robi: Wow. That’s pretty awesome, if I think about. What’s an experience
where you went overboard?

Ryan: I don’t know that . . . unfortunately, I used to be extremely over-
the-top sports fan. Since I’ve had kids, I’ve gotten a little
bit older; I’m just not so much anymore. It was also just like
this guy, “Look at all these Louisville.” All right, man,
whatever. I think ultimately this is . . . we’ve talked about
this funnel over and over again, and how you can use apps to get
into this lower section of your really good consumers. Those are
the people you want to inundate with content and options to
engage with you, because the more you let them choose the path
they’re on, the more they’re going to do so, and the more likely
they’re going to be to come back. Apps are a . . . it’s a
choice. They made, they declared their intent to engage with
you.

Robi: At first, I think I was a little bit ambitious in wanting to talk
about these 3 different companies. I think that I’m going to
have to break this up. We’re going to have to come back to some
of those [inaudible: 07:54] from USA Today and Nordstrom, but
just the MLS experience for marketers, I think the real lesson
is when you have fans, doing everything you can to go deeper and
deeper and draw them in, especially on this device that makes
you feel more personally engaged, is a huge opportunity. Think
about how you can do that.

Ian: One amazing customer is better than 100 customers who don’t care.

Robi: Exactly. That’s absolutely right. With that, I’m going to wrap this
up and say please share this, Like it on YouTube, and then check
out the other segments this week where Ian and Ryan drop some
knowledge. Thanks.

Ian: Thanks.

Ryan: Thank you.

About Robi Ganguly

Robi Ganguly is the Co-founder and CEO at Apptentive. He is passionate about giving customers a voice via mobile. Follow Robi on Twitter @rganguly.
View all posts by Robi Ganguly >

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