In August 2018 A-League club Adelaide United took the step of openly telling fans and the public how they have they changed their voice and strategy on social media.
The club published an article talking about the reasons behind the surge in interactions and engagement on their social media content was down to their changing voice and content across their channels.
An interesting acknowledgement that aligns nicely with their fan focussed communications strategy.
The Reds have embraced the social and casual aspects of their various channels. Being visual and putting in fun ideas for their player transfer reveals and match day content such as their goal and yellow card gifs.
The A-League has a strong online fan culture of banter and shitposting so for a club to embrace that means there isn’t a disconnect between club and fan.
The shift was admittedly far more gradual instead of the big snap decision overnight and we talked widely about all of this with the club’s Digital & Marketing Coordinator Tim Baker.
Does the internal media team share in the communications?
Tim Baker: “Yeah, my role is Digital Marketing Coordinator and Jordan (Trombetta) is Media & Communications Coordinator so he handles a lot of media and PR stuff.
“I do the lion’s share of the posting but there is a bit of crossover, and we’re always sharing ideas internally.
“I’ll throw the ideas out and work with the team to see what works, what’s worthy and vice-versa. So it’s a very collaborative approach.”
Sydney has been Sky Blue for the past 14 years, tho.
— Adelaide United (@AdelaideUnited) January 9, 2019
Even though it’s collaborative, how do you ensure the club’s voice remains consistent? Is it difficult keeping it consistent across each platform and each team, A-League, W-League, National Youth League.
TB: “Yes it can be, luckily we’ve been working together for a while and it has been a fairly gradual shift. It’s been more noticed now but we’ve been building it slowly over time and we’ve gotten to the point where we’re fairly in tune with each other and we’ve built a good chemistry.
“When I first came into the club in December 2016, we were coming off a title winning season but the results that season weren’t that great. There was a few times that I went out with a couple little things because I did want to change the perception and our voice from being a bit of a stodgy football club to something a bit more fun, interesting and in general being more engaging.
“So I threw a few things out there that was maybe a bit off-brand at the time, whether it was a Simpsons thing. One time I did this ‘On this Day’ thing where it was a Super Mario football game and I put it out and people were wondering ‘what does this have to do with Adelaide United?’ If we did that now it’ll be fine but at the time it probably wasn’t right.
“Then into the next season we started to be a little bit more fun and throw a few more things out there, results were up and down but as results improved it gave us some more freedom to manoeuvre and be a bit more off-kilter. It wasn’t often but slowly and surely we started to incorporate more fun stuff. Then towards the back end of last season we really started to step it up and it wasn’t something we discussed, we just went for it. We describe it as ‘we got loose.’ There was a change in ownership which may have changed some of the perception out there with fans, so that gave us a bit more room to move.”
As your club’s voice changed internally, do you feel it’s a reflection of the changing voice in the wider sports club landscape?
TB: “Oh yeah I definitely think so. It’s interesting now to see other clubs start to do things like us but it’s not like we wrote the blueprint because we’re heavily influenced by clubs like AS Roma, Bayer Leverkusen some of the big European clubs, as well as other sports, I have a particular interest in the NHL and follow what American teams do.
“The Adelaide 36ers have started doing it, they did something where their team was playing football at training and said to us, ‘are we doing it right?’ We took a mini basketball hoop to training and the guys were doing crazy dunks and we put that up, and of course look out for the stuff Port Adelaide and Adelaide Crows do next season.
— Adelaide 36ers (@Adelaide36ers) November 27, 2018
“We’re not necessarily at the forefront because we’re influenced by others but it seems to be we’ve started doing that, then we’re noticing other clubs doing it too and being influenced by the same people.”
You’re also responding to fans, joining in on more banter gets you a bit more cut-through, rather than being a bit distant or staid.
TB: “That’s it and that was something I’ve always wanted to do. One of the first things was responding to private messages on our Facebook page. If you’re quick and consistent, people can see that.
“Improving that service and responding to messages quicker on Twitter and Instagram. I’m now on top of all of the private messages on Instagram whereas before we had so many coming through and it was hard to keep up. It’s doing that and that extends into comments, questions, banter, random stuff. Rather than scanning past it we’ll on occasion join in be it a funny gif or a comment.”
How do you keep the tone and voice on-brand as your platforms have so many competing needs – community messages, club messages, live in-game messages?
TB: “It’s difficult because there’s a lot of different messages but maybe the way you format a tweet or post. It all depends on what the content is.
“People want to hear about community but for others it could be a bit dry as they just want goals, highlights and results. So to try and make it stick out, to make the posts a bit more interesting I’ll throw in a few emoji’s or funnier lines. People savage us for our puns and they’re deliberately bad sometimes.”
It’s still your voice.
TB: “It’s social, so make it social, light and conversational. I do try and bring that to whatever post it is, whether it’s a corporate message or a LinkedIn post. I would still write LinkedIn posts in a fun way because why does it have to be so stodgy. We’re not going to banter on there but we’ll at least try and make the post interesting so people will actually read it and not scroll by.
“It’s that conversational style that is consistent that we try to bring to every post regardless of the platform or whatever the content is.”
How do you keep online friendships going with other clubs? We’re looking at some of the stuff between Adelaide United and AS Roma.
TB: “That’s an interesting one and that came about because through Sean Callanan (and SportsGeek), we struck up a bit of relationship and friendship via email and social media and so through him he linked people together and he knew Paul (Rogers) who was at AS Roma. I reached out to Paul, and the club, and said, ‘hey, we saw that you did something for an Italian player signing for an Irish club, how would you feel about maybe going out and announcing our new signing and we get around it,’ and they thought ‘it was a little too random even for them.’ But at the time Roma were doing the bad Photoshops as player reveals, their graphic designer was on leave so they sent us a bad Photoshop and we just put our design over the top and then we said something like ‘are we doing this right?’ Roma said they’ll get around it and it just went from there.
— Adelaide United (@AdelaideUnited) July 6, 2018
OMG! Is it Christmas Day already?!
— Adelaide United (@AdelaideUnited) December 23, 2018
“Seeing the success of that and in the back end what people don’t see is the amount of private communications and checking in on each other. It got to the point they publicly wished our club luck for the FFA Cup Final, and acknowledging each other’s work showing mutual respect.”
Again, you’re plugging into the conversation. Getting around clubs, what fans are saying, what memes are getting made. You’re being a part of A-League fan culture as it happens.
TB: “You look at something like A-League Memes, that’s just blown up.
“Once or twice we jumped in on their comments on Facebook and bantered back with them as Adelaide United. That’s another thing I’ll do, as Adelaide United I’ll go and like and comment on things because people may not expect that.
“With A-League memes we did that a few times and earned a bit of street cred because they were impressed that we weren’t ignoring them but got involved and perpetuated the joke.”
Well if you’re going against your fans or your meme and content creators you’re making the league less fun. You’re joining in a colourful aspect of the clubs and league.
TB: “Whether it’s banter or shitposting, it’s such a huge thing and we can get involved with that, and people like the joke and if they see that you’ve got a sense of humour they’re going to get around that.
“In an indirect way, and it’s happened organically, we’re promoting the club and A-League. Whether that leads to someone following us, maybe someone buys a ticket to a game, some merchandise or up to a membership.”
Still your channels are cultivating a fan base and you want people attending games. That’s still one of the end results of each channel.
TB: “Absolutely. Ultimately while it’s fun and you’re not completely focussed on that being the end goal because you don’t want that to then influence everything you do as it becomes stale and another sales pitch. If you can help fans on their journey where ultimately they come to the stadium that’s great but if not you’re having fun on the way and building a fan base.”