Jazzing Up Online Loyalty

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Tell us a little bit about the Utah Jazz online.

Being a franchise, the Utah Jazz is required to have an online presence, with some requirements from the NBA on what to have on the site. Before Jazzbots.com, the Jazz had a Web site that was focused on news, ticket sales, and sponsorship -- the traditional ways that you would connect with the fan base to deliver a message.

What compelled you to develop a social media site?

One of the challenges in professional sports is that there's an offseason. There's one magical day where there are no more tickets to sell and everything gets quiet. With social media, the conversation could continue around the brand, year-'round. An equally important reason was that, now more than ever, the fan wants to be involved. The fans own this team, and when you lose sight of that you're in trouble. So the Jazz decided to make a commitment that this season they were going to be pioneers. They were going to step forward and launch a new way to bring their fans closer and to rally their fans around the brand.

What made you decide on MyLifeBrand as a platform for this effort?

No one else has the capability of doing what MyLifeBrand does: This is a social networking platform that serves as an aggregator for all other social networking sites you might be involved in. For instance, if one of our fans has a MySpace page with 100 friends, has a Facebook account with 200 friends, and maybe even a Match.com account, they can easily and free of charge sign up to be a part of the Jazz community. They can import all of their friends from all of their social sites and they can manage their online life from our special Jazz-branded community. What that does for the fans is they can take their favorite team along wherever they go. Another thing that comes with MyLifeBrand is called the revenue share. There is advertising served in MyLifeBrand and that revenue is split with the community. With other platforms, we couldn't get everything we needed and we couldn't generate revenue.

What was the outcome of this effort?

We have created a new experience for fans online by extending the online presense of the Utah Jazz in the form of a fan portal called Jazzbots.com. We've increased our awareness online. We've built and cobranded with new partnerships -- Yahoo!, Mybloglog, and Flickr -- and we've gained valuable relationships with these organizations. We've planted some new flags in the ground and claimed some places online that hadn't been claimed before by any other pro sports team. We've also empowered our fan base to carry our brand with them wherever they go online. In terms of revenue and relationships, ticket sales are up. We also have two new revenue streams: One is through advertising on the blog, one is through advertising on MyLifeBrand.com. We also sell sponsorship of an interactive widget that people can download to their desktops that delivers real-time news about the Jazz.

We were recognized at the annual NBA league meeting for having the best practice online for the NBA, as a benchmark for what everyone should be doing as far as connecting with the fans online. The fan response has been tremendous. In a short few months, our community has already grown to 30,000 users. We have a long way to go, because we have millions of fans, but awareness builds every day.

What are your future plans for the Jazzbots.com platform?

We see our reach using social media as a major component for everything we do online from here on out. Right now, fans can submit videos they've created to express loyalty to the team. We're holding video contests. We're building offline, real-world events. We're preparing to take this anywhere the fan wants us to go.

Age of the initiative?
We launched in September 2007 after five months of planning and development.
Who was involved?
The vice president of marketing for the Jazz and its Web site worked with designers from Italy, Canada, Colombia, and the United States for some of the complicated design requirements. We also partnered with Yahoo! and MyLifeBrand, each bringing robust dimensions of interactivity to our fans.
Best idea?
Creating an online mascot--the Jazzbot. This helps signal that we are serious about our online fan base.
Biggest surprise?
That we were so far ahead of the curve, the first in pro sports to embrace social media in this way. We fully expected quicker reflexes from other cities, franchises, and leagues.
Biggest CRM mistake made?
I don't have an answer for this...yet. It's an evolution--at some point we may discover something we wish we had implemented from the start.

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