Sure, pre-planning of the annual White Sox fan convention, SoxFest, included press conferences, media-only events, seminars stocked with current and former players, autograph sessions and thousands of square feet of White Sox merchandise, but it also involved something new.
New on the agenda? To make SoxFest 2010 the most interactive and virtual experience to-date. Intentions were two fold. Adding and making content virtual was one-part keeping out-of-state and international connected, and one part about unifying attendees as not just fans who share a mutual affinity for the same team, but as a tightly connected community.
And virtual it was. Full disclosure, VP of Communications for the White Sox, Scott Reifert, published a detailed list of initiatives that the White Sox had planned with Digital Royalty on his blog a week prior to the event–complete with two namesakes of the Digital Royalty brand: “Hide & Tweet” and “Twitter Tag.” Other specifics included videos of Digital Royalty’s Amy Martin interviewing player Mark Teahan about social media, fan videos, event photos, quotes from seminars, Q&A opportunities, mascot olympics, a Twitter/Facebook booth serving as the social media home base, and day-by-day video recaps–all of which would take place online or be housed on whitesox.com/soxfest. MLB White Sox-branded Flip cameras, iPhone’s and Twitter fingers were all ready to go.
In the two weeks leading up to the event, Reifert and White Sox staff hid SoxFest passes around Chicago and tweeted hints of their wherabouts prior to their location — “Hide & Tweet”. If winners weren’t already waiting for the tickets based on clues, they would arrive just five minutes after the location was divulged. In one case, a fan waited outside in chilly Chicago since 4:00 a.m. to snag tickets that wouldn’t be available via Twitter Tag until 6:00 a.m. The local NBC affiliate even joined the Twitter games and highlighted the activation live throughout the broadcast as their main anchor tweeted in attempt of winning the tickets.
When SoxFest had become sold out, the interactive aspect of SoxFest served a new purpose: to offer value to fans although they weren’t able to attend the event.
In turn, positive results were generated. Official White Sox accounts experienced across-the-board growth in follower counts, as well as interaction rates. Large crowds gathered to watch Chicago mascots (NFL Chicago Bear Staley and NHL’s Tommy Blackhawk to name a few) compete at mini Olympics. And, fans were given social media-exclusive opportunities to win autographed baseballs, t-shirts and bobble heads throughout the weekend.
Rewarding was the amount of conversation and gratitude that was shown throughout the three-day ordeal by fans. Countless tweets and comments such as “I love what you’re doing interactively, 4,000 miles away suddenly doesn’t seem so far.”