Case Study

How can a major sports league engage fans throughout playoffs season?

Key results

The opportunity

The National Hockey League () wanted to engage fans throughout the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“The more people see how exciting it is to watch hockey, the more they’ll want to watch it, whether at the game, at the bar, at home, or across social media,” says Sean Dennison, a senior social media manager at the . “We wanted to enrich the fan experience, and get people to act as advocates for the NHL.”

The strategy

The decided to launch a Twitter campaign centered around the hashtag . The league began by encouraging fans to share videos on Twitter featuring their favorite moments from each Stanley Cup Playoffs game. Then, the aggregated and curated this user content into highlights videos, which it Tweeted on a daily basis within hours of each game.

Steps to success

1. Unite fans around a hashtag.

The invited fans to Tweet with the hashtag to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs conversation easy to follow and join. Having fans use this hashtag also made it simple for the team to quickly find the best user-generated video content after each game.

2. Encourage fans to participate in real time.

The ran social media and TV ads to encourage hockey fans to tune in to the Stanley Cup Playoffs games and Tweet videos of exciting moments.

“We know that people use Twitter while they watch live sports,” says Dennison. “We wanted to harness that activity and get fans even more engaged.”

3. Share big moments.

Every night during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the content team worked from 7pm to 3am to find the best user video clips and curate them into a highlights video. “We wanted to tell the story of big moments through the eyes of our fans as quickly as possible after the games,” Dennison explains. “There was definitely a sense of urgency, because we wanted to make the most of all the emotion and chatter.”

The shared the curated videos using Twitter Promoted Video. To make sure the content reached an interested audience, the league used interest, keyword, , and TV conversation targeting.

The success

As the Stanley Cup Playoffs progressed, the noticed a significant uptick in hashtag usage, user video clip submissions, and submission quality.

There were 708,455 mentions of the , and the average Tweet engagement rate was 8.5%. Overall, the campaign generated 38 million impressions, and the gained 600,000 new followers.

“Of all our social platforms, we saw the biggest jump in year-over-year Stanley Cup Playoffs usage on Twitter,” Dennison says. “Twitter users shared 47% more content in 2015 than 2014.”

He also noted that even as teams were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, user engagement on Twitter kept increasing. “That showed us that the campaign really gained traction and was reaching the right people,” he said. “When a big hockey fan shares his experience, and then sees the NHL feature his Tweet — that really goes a long way and makes a difference in how he experiences the game.”

“Twitter’s in-the-moment, interactive nature meant that we could give our fans more of a stake in the games, and engage them continuously throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Promoted Video is also efficient and easy to use. With Twitter, we can be agile and optimize in real time, which makes us confident about our investment.”

Sean Dennison, Senior Social Media Manager, @NHL

Solutions used

Creative canvas

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Audience targeting

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