A growing theme amongst all sports properties these days is the importance placed on the casual fan. Teams are focusing more of their attention on this market, believing if they can capture the casual fans interest and dollar they will increase their financial success. Makes sense if you think about it…your hardcore fans should be with you through thick and thin. It’s the causal fans attention/wallet that you have to work to capture. The NJ Nets CEO Brett Yormark has gone so far as to say the causal fan is their target market.

So how does a team capture a casual fan? For as long as there have been professional sports there have been gimmicks – sorry, promotions – to try and put people in the seats. $1 hot dog night, bobble head night and of course the infamous nickel beer night for example. But gimmicks (promotions) seem to be growing tiresome and be honest, how many more ‘never done before’ promotions can still be created?

Most recently, sports properties have been trying to create a festival like atmosphere around each game with live music and activities taking place before and after the game. The idea is to create a big event with lots of entertainment so the casual fan will be drawn to it. However, the reality is that for most teams to create a festival atmosphere for 41 or 82 home games (depending on the sport) is simply impossible.

Instead of searching for a never ending draw (midgets dancing on pogo sticks at half time) I believe social media will, if it has not already has, become the new driving factor in attracting the casual fan and most importantly turning them into a hardcore fan.

With millions participating, the reach of social media is real and I doubt anyone will dispute this. Now think of the dynamic, creative content sports properties can create and distribute through social media; behind the scene videos, pictures, insight from players, etc. I argue this kind of content is much more interesting than something that can be created for mainstream media. An ad notifying me of “Two for One Hot Dog Night” is just not as interesting nor will it grab the casual fans attention like an interesting storyline created through tweets, video, pictures and Facebook.

Of course if you have a hot dog loving market than a “Two for One Hot Dog Night” maybe very successful in drawing people to your event BUT is that really the person you want to capture? A fan who’s main reason for attending the game is to eat cheap hot dogs? Sports properties need to use new mediums to better engage and interact with the casual fan…getting them hooked on the core product and not two for one hot dogs.

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