How Social TV Helped Save a Fox Sports Marketing Campaign

A Few Emailed Complaints About the Fox Sports Girls Detroit Had Made Execs Nervous

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Social TV seems to be all anybody in broadcast can talk about these days. But what is it good for? In a Q&A posted earlier today, USA Network's VP-Digital Jesse Redness offered some thoughts from a programming perspective. Now we're presenting a marketing point of view, courtesy of our editorial partner Bluefin Labs, the social-TV analytics company, and Fox Sports -- which used social-TV data to gauge a marketing initiative with the Fox Sports Detroit Girls.

Some notes and context:

  • The Fox Sports Detroit Girls -- they go by their first names, Lauren and Allison -- are meant to serve as "goodwill ambassadors to the fans," says Chris Hannan, senior VP at Fox Sports. The concept debuted in Motor City in April 2011. But Hannan confesses that "in that first month we received a handful of email complaints" about the campaign -- having to do with the perception that Fox Sports was just using a couple of lovely young ladies as mere mannequins. That was before Lauren and Allison really started doing actual fan outreach via social media and in-person appearances, and before they became local celebrities, but the Fox Sports team was still nervous about their fan-ambassador concept being taken the wrong way. "Such complaints are taken to heart," says Hannan, especially since it wasn't clear yet how the Fox Sports Girls would be received as they became better known.
  • Working with Bluefin Labs, which specializes in analyzing social-media commentary about not only programming but TV ads, Fox Sports started to get a broader picture of public sentiment in Detroit about the Girls. Bluefin analyzed a batch of nearly 6,000 social-media comments (primarily on Twitter and in public Facebook updates) and found that among the predominant themes surrounding Lauren and Allison were mentions of sightings (16%), having conversations with them on Twitter (53%) and flat-out loving them (13%). But even when fans weren't taking to social media specifically to express their fandom, Bluefin data showed overwhelmingly favorable sentiment for the gals -- 73% positive, 26% neutral and just 1% negative.
  • "What the data showed us," says Hannan, "was that while we received a handful of complaints, it was clear the positive sentiments and connectivity to the fans was building the brand we hoped to accomplish when we launched the campaign. Without social media and our ability to accurately understand the fan sentiment through Bluefin, it's very likely we would have been swayed by the early negative comments -- abandoning the concept before it could truly take shape." In fact, Fox Sports is so happy with how the concept has been received that it's been rolled out to eight markets -- with two female hometown ambassadors in each of those markets -- with plans for further expansion.

Stay tuned to for more data from Bluefin Labs. For more about Bluefin, visit their website.

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. Follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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