US Speedskating Launches Social Media Campaign

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Flint Group helps premier winter Olympic sport engage fans, capitalize on Olympic fever and attract much-needed sponsors.

US Speedskating is taking a leadership position by embracing opportunities to connect with fans on social networks

America’s most successful Olympic winter sport is using social media to connect with fans, capitalize on global excitement about the games and build on publicity generated by the recent high-profile sponsorship of comedian Stephen Colbert and The Colbert Nation.

“US Speedskating is taking a leadership position by embracing opportunities to connect with fans on social networks,” said Libby Issendorf, a social media strategist with the Flint Group, a Midwest-based communications agency that has been working with the team since early January to create and implement the campaign. “This is really the first winter Olympics held since social media has been so widely adopted,” she added. “Individual athletes have typically used these media more extensively than entire teams.”

US Speedskating is using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to tell stories, showcase athletes, promote the sport and grow and engage its online fan base.

The team also has a has a more immediate and pressing objective: finding a title sponsor to replace Dutch bank DSB, which went bankrupt just months before the opening ceremonies of the 2010 games, leaving the program strapped for cash. While Colbert stepped in temporarily to fill the gap, raising some $300,000, the team needs a gold-level sponsor to commit $300,000 a year for the next four years.

“In addition to creating a fan community, social media has turned out to be a unique way to help the team with fundraising,” said Debbie Morrison, who serves as agency team lead. Along with Issendorf, she’ll be in Vancouver as part of the official US Speedskating team’s delegation and will be posting and twittering throughout the Games to bring an up-close and personal Olympic experience to skating fans everywhere. “While we’re there,” she added, “we’ll be working closely with the digital team at Comedy Central to keep Stephen Colbert’s fundraising efforts in high gear.”

Engaged and integrated
Facebook, which is more interactive and easier to update than the US Speedskating website, serves as the campaign’s home base, with some three to four posts per day, many of them photos or videos. The Facebook page also includes a tab highlighting featured bloggers who follow the team. Well-known social media strategy consultant Jay Baer, who also works with the Flint Group and whose blog is listed #30 on the AdAge Power 150 and #10 on Social Media Examiner, helped spread the word by blogging about the speedskating campaign to his followers.

Fans are engaged in a variety of ways that cross channels and achieve multiple objectives. One example: they were asked to take photos of themselves wearing their Colbert caps, purchased from The Colbert Nation, with 70% of the proceeds going to US Speedskating. The social media team also implemented a Twitter twice-weekly trivia quiz (here’s one: Who is Stephen Colbert’s skating teacher?). Followers have three hours to answer the question until all correct answers are entered in a drawing for prizes such as US Speedskating mugs and t-shirts.

Videos are regularly posted to YouTube containing intriguing stories, original interviews, behind-the-scenes content and insight into everything from the anatomy of speedskates to what the Olympic skaters think of brussel sprouts.

Live from Vancouver
Working within IOC regulations, Morrison and Issendorf will provide live updates from Vancouver on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, as well as blog postings. The two also will spend time with the athletes and the athletes’ families and post photos and videos in accordance with IOC guidelines.

“Speedskating is a sport that flies under the radar most of the time,” said Issendorf. “It gets a moment in the spotlight every four years. Connecting with fans through social media gives us the opportunity to attract more of them and keep them engaged after the Olympics are over.”

Speedskating has a compelling story to tell, adds Morrison, pointing out that the sport is on track to continue its record of leading the winter Olympic medal count. US Speedskating has earned 35% of the medals received by the U.S. delegations over the past five winter games (42% of the gold medals, 23% of the silver medals and 42% of the bronze medals).

Strong performances in World Cup competition – historically a proven predictor of Olympic success – indicate the 2010 Olympics will bring even more glory to the team. If the pattern continues, US speedskaters are poised for another record Olympic medal haul. And their online community will be there to cheer them on.

Follow US Speedskating:
Twitter: http://twitter.com/usspeedskating
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/USSpeedskating
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/usspeedskating

About US Speedskating
US Speedskating is a non-profit organization recognized by the United States Olympic Committee and the International Skating Union as the governing body for the sport of speedskating in the United States. Its mission is to be one of the premier speedskating organizations in the world through excellence in leadership, development and performance. To date, US Speedskating has won 75 Olympic medals, making it the most successful winter sport in the United States. In addition to its elite programs, US Speedskating is responsible for the grassroots development of speedskating. With more than 100 clubs and associations in the United States and a growing fan base of all ages, US Speedskating enjoys a geographic reach across the country.

About the Flint Group
A network of full-service communications agencies and partners specializing in marketing, advertising, interactive, public relations and growth strategy, the Flint Group includes Flint Communications, Fargo, N.D., HatlingFlint, St. Cloud, Minn., SimmonsFlint, Grand Forks, N.D., WestmorelandFlint, Duluth, Minn., AadlandFlint, Anchorage, Alaska, and Flint Interactive, with staff in all locations. Other interests include: AdFarm, an agency dedicated to agricultural communications, with offices in Fargo, N.D., Kansas City, Mo., Calgary, Alberta, and Guelph, Ontario; Media Productions, a Fargo-based, full-service audio, video, film, photography and live-event company, and Praxis Strategy Group, a nationally recognized research and economic strategy company, with locations in Fargo, Grand Forks and Duluth.

Contact:
RaeAnn McLean
Phone: 701.237.4850, Cell: 701.361.0719
raeann.mclean(at)flintcom(dot)com

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RaeAnn McLean