Written by Emma Vetriano • Published 25th April 2013

Last week, Saracens Rugby Club launched Wi-Fi throughout the entirety of Allianz Park. Reportedly the first sports club in Europe to attempt to encourage real-time user-generated content (UGC) that could add value to the match-day experience.

The clubs goal was to communicate that they now have a permanent home in London, whilst also creating a fan-based social media buzz around the game. Saracens promoted a selection of hashtags throughout the match-day programme, across their own social media channels (Twitter and Facebook) and featured them on 2 display screens.

They had recognised that one of the biggest requirements to improve the match day experience was information, such as; player statistics, team statistics, etc. To try and combat this, the live game commentary was fed through Twitter along with all major incidences and occasional sports stats. The real-time trial received tremendously positive feedback, the clubs twitter reach increased by 45%, in-game messaging increased by 20%, and picture-based content soared to a staggering 67%.

Times are changing. As sport becomes more tightly integrated with technologies more pressure is put on clubs to find more innovative ways to engage fans and enhance live sporting experiences. Edward Griffiths, CEO of Saracens commented on the new initiative, “not every rugby supporter will appreciate ‘second screen’ activity, but we are pushing the boundaries… and our fans are having fun.” For Saracens this is only the beginning, they will be further looking to drive additional revenue to the bars and restaurants through effective community management.

With the future of social media in sport in mind, here are 5 trends to watch out for:

BRAND MARKETING – Currently most clubs use social media for brand marketing, for example; tickets, merchandise and adverts. Similar to Saracens, most clubs will start focusing on the match-day experience – the statistics, the atmosphere, the music, the pre-match rituals, etc. Instead of telling the fans what they should aspire to want, marketers will start absorbing the emotions and stories fans experience throughout the game.

SOCIAL MEDIA HUBS – European clubs will start taking note of this brilliant invention on the other side of the pond. Social media hubs are allocated areas within the stadium on match-day where pre-selected fans (social media savvy and influential in the digital space) can take control of the clubs social media presence. Simple yet effective, as who knows what the fans want better than the fans themselves?

TWITTER PARTIES – American clubs recognise how powerful and influential their socially active fans can be and one way of rewarding them is a “Fan Night” in which fans are invited to go to the stadium to meet their fellow tweeters and put faces to twitter handles. An excellent way to bring clubs most influential tweeters, Instagrammers and followers closer.

FAN-BASED CONTENT – Some Clubs have already started to include fans in their official content but we predict this to rise. Whether it is getting a fan to write a match report that features in the programme or create a YouTube interview with a player. Fan-based content is a whole lot more engaging.

PINTEREST – Pinterest seems to have been neglected at current but it is an obvious tool for clubs to use to promote their online shops. But boards can also be used as a platform for fans to share their favourite moments, quotes, etc.

Here in the PHA Digital team, we are excited to see the evolution of Social Media in Sport and how effective UK Sports Clubs are at utilizing their own Social Media Marketing Strategies.