It's been a good ride for the New York Giants and their CMO Mike Stevens since he joined the franchise in 2006, after spending nearly four years with the divisional foe Washington Redskins. During his tenure, the team has won two Super Bowl championships -- both dramatic victories over the New England Patriots, and has built a new stadium that will host the 2014 Super Bowl.
During the past few years, Mr. Stevens has helped the Giants revamp their content offerings, building out a mini-media business that aims to intimately connect fans with the team's players in a way that mainstream media outlets often can't do. Under Mr. Stevens' leadership, the franchise has aggressively pursued social-media initiatives, integrating fan tweets into the telecast of preseason games and onto the big screen inside the stadium during home games. And the team also threw a social-media night before the Super Bowl, in which a few players hosted Google+ hangouts with some lucky fans and streamed a Twitter Q&A session on their website. More than 260,000 people now follow the team on Twitter, and the franchise has nearly 2 million fans on Facebook.
Ad Age recently spoke to Mr. Stevens about what social platforms have meant for fan engagement and how a championship sports team keeps the feeling alive after the Big Game.
Ad Age : What do you do in the years you don't win a championship to prepare to capitalize on a moment like this?
Mike Stevens: Over a two-year period, we redid all distribution agreements with TV and radio partners and took things in-house. We built a full HD studio right here in our training facility and now use all our assets . . . to cross-promote with our social and digital channels.
Ad Age : How have these social and digital strategies helped the business evolve in recent years?
Mr. Stevens: We now have true two-way communication that allows fans to touch the Giants brand in ways they were never able to do before. People are seeking out ways to get more involved with us and we are trying to give them that , which is a great thing.
Around Halloween, we had a contest where fans could choose which Halloween costume the rookies were going to wear to a children's hospital that day. We've been going for years to the hospital and hardly anyone knew about it. So this year, we videoed the players being taken to our business partner Party City, picking out costumes, the whole thing. The fan reaction on our Facebook page was fantastic. We also got the message out of where we were headed, which reaffirmed that children's hospitals need help and funding. It worked all around.
We also felt during the lockout that the fans weren't getting enough attention. So we decided to recognize fans in a way that 's never been done before. We realized that we've never placed images on game tickets other than those of players. So we wanted to change it up and recognize that we're an 87-year-old franchise with multigenerational ticket holders. We wanted to unearth all of these family fan stories. So we promoted a contest where fans had 100 words to explain why they deserved to be on the ticket. We got a few thousand responses and they were all amazing. We narrowed the field down and then did an exclusive vote on Facebook. The number of votes was fantastic and the commentary in social media from other fans was incredible. It connected fans in a way we never imagined. The tentacles running off of that campaign go way beyond the sheer number of votes.
Ad Age : Do you now have new, prospective sponsors knocking down your door?
Mr. Stevens: We have a lot of people calling right now, but it's more people wanting to sell us stuff than working with us. But the interest is consistent. We've had a very good run of sustained successes and are one of the oldest franchises in the league.
Ad Age : How do you extend the momentum the franchise has into the off-season?
Mr. Stevens: It gets back to social. We've been in the Super Bowl a few times, but this is our first ever social-media Super Bowl. We now have the tools and resources in place to carry the momentum into the spring. For example, in years past we would have saved events around the championship-ring unveiling and things like that for a TV special a few weeks before the next season starts. We'll still do the TV special, but we'll also stream out related content on our website and social channels at points throughout the off-season. We also have behind-the-scenes content that we were able to gather over the celebrations and everything else that happened after the game that we can distribute throughout the spring. We can just roll these things out at key points in the off-season to keep the feeling alive in ways we haven't been able to do in the past. We have so much rich content from our own group that 's producing, and cutting and editing footage.
Ad Age : How do the players feel about all the behind-the-scenes footage?
Mr. Stevens: More of them love it than not. The fact is , we try to be true to who they really are and promote them in a positive way, seeking out the most positive stories. Today's players are so savvy on this stuff that I think they see us as a real benefit.