In the world of sports, social media has allowed fans to engage and connect with their favourite sports stars much more than they would have in the past. Especially if you look at the use of Twitter with some sports players making a concerted effort to reply to fans and engage in conversation.
While the majority have been slow off the mark, some clubs are now making the effort to use social media to promote their brand, recognising the unique opportunities that it brings.
One such club who have embraced this is MLB side, The Atlanta Braves who held their inaugural #BravesBash on Sunday 14th August, which had more than 20,000 fans across the US taking part. The official blurb was "Go inside the Atlanta clubhouse and get an interactive look as players and coaches chat live with fansâ€ and that's exactly what they did through an innovative combination of live webcast, twitter, Skype chats with fans, live auctions and call ins.
The event kicked off on Facebook and Twitter which directed people to their live webcast which consisted of interviews with players and coaching staff as well as training tips and insights into a MLB locker room. Alongside this, a flurry of activity was taking place simultaneously with fans having the chance to talk one on one or to several of the Braves players via Skype. The players' Skype IDs were posted on the Braves Facebook page for that evening with an open invitation to call.
Numerous Facebook polls were created asking fans questions such as â€˜Which Braves player would throw the best bash?' and â€˜Which auction piece would you most want to win from BravesBash?' Meanwhile on Twitter, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez took over the team's Twitter page, @Braves, for a period of time where he answeredfans questions. He was then followed by General Manager Frank Wren who fielded fans questions.
Another feature of the #BravesBash was â€˜The Side Session' which was an informal couch Q&A session hosted by Braves player Peter Moylan in front of a small audience made up of fans. He chatted with his team-mates around a host of informal topics and included another of his team mates putting fans' questions from Twitter to his team mates on the couch.
What is great about this integrated activity is that the players, the manager and the GM all took time out after a game to sit down and chat with fans. Doing live events like this can leave them wide open to criticism and to the odd crank which takes players out of their comfort zone.
Although getting through to the players on Skype was a complete lottery, it was an event that the fans genuinely seemed delighted about and it makes a refreshing change from the closed off millionaires of the Barclays Premier League who seem to become more separated from their fan base with every passing season.
Post #BraveBash updates were posted on the Facebook page asking what fans enjoyed the most and the entire event can still be viewed here for those fans who missed it the first time around. The Braves have set the benchmark for other sporting clubs to follow and will have a job trying to figure out how to improve an already comprehensive event for next year.