Engaging Sourcing

Case Study: Rockies Challenge Reds to a Snowball Fight, Win Twitter

Rockies Challenge Reds to a Twitter Snowball Fight, Win Twitter

A Crazy Idea

“In my drafts for Twitter, I always have crazy ideas,” says Julian Valentin, Assistant Director of Digital Media and Publication for the Colorado Rockies.

During a recent snow storm, one of those crazy ideas created a sensation on Twitter for baseball fans across the country.

Sitting in Julian’s drafts was a photo of Rockies pitcher Mike Dunn holding a snowball with the caption, “Snowball fight anyone?”

“Initially it was going to be sort of a rhetorical question for our fans,” says Julian.

But when he noticed the snow was coming down in Cincinnati, as well, he asked his counterparts at the Reds if they’d be interested in making things a little more interesting. The Reds accepted the challenge of a Twitter snowball fight right off the bat.

“I love doing this stuff in general,” says Reds Digital Content Coordinator Chad Fischer. “Any time you can interact with another club on Twitter, the fans love it, it gets a lot of media attention, and I get to be funny.”

Julian says he didn’t want the fight to be scripted – he just needed a few key ingredients and then the snowball fight could evolve organically. Early that morning, Rockies photographer Matt Dirksen had taken photos of the snow-covered stadium and dropped them into the team’s cloud-based Libris library so Julian could access them from home.

He had photos for ammo and a partner for improv, and he was ready to go.

“We had a very brief short front-end conversation and then we let our imaginations go from there,” he explains.

The Snowball Fight

A few minutes after the Rockies tweeted that first photo, the Reds responded with a shot of their snow-covered field with the caption, “Looks like we have plenty of ammo. Count us in.”

Next up, the Rockies shared their own stadium photo with a caption to set up the rules of the game.

From there, the teams hurled a series of snowy photos, funny gifs and clever captions back and forth.

“Once we really got into the groove, it was all reacting,” says Julian.

Snow Day Fever

Fans in both markets, who had all woken up to a snow day, were delighted to see their teams doing something that was so relatable and entertaining. They followed along, liking, retweeting and throwing out a few shots of their own.

Chad says fans love to see teams interacting on Twitter, because it offers them a new perspective.

“You don’t see that when you watch a game on TV or when you come to the ballpark or you listen to the game on the radio. You might see the players shake hands during batting practice but other than that, there really is no interaction between the teams outside the lines,” he explains. “Seeing the official voices of the clubs, whether it’s in good fun, or if they’re dead serious, that’s pretty entertaining.”

But the fans weren’t the only ones – other MLB teams joined in on the fun, as well.

“As the saying goes, the more the merrier,” says Chad. “That provides us the opportunity to get a few more zingers in there and entertain the fans.”

One of Chad’s favorite zingers came as a result to a tweet from the Milwaukee Brewers. The team shared a photo of their dry stadium, which is covered with a roof, with the caption, “We will have to sit this one out. #ThatRoofTho.” Chad responded with a gif of a player faking out the crowd with the caption, “Here, you can have this one snowball from us… Nah just kidding.”

So what made this snowball fight a winner, and how can you create your own Twitter sensation to delight your followers? Let’s break down the keys to its success.

Why It Worked

The Right Moment

As a social media manager, you have to be able to spot opportunities to grab your fans’ attention.

“Being able to identify those situations is the biggest thing,” says Julian, who handles not only social media but also publications and other types of content for the Rockies. “Being able to see those opportunities and being able to jump on it quickly I think is really important.”

Julian adds that you shouldn’t always try to jump in on a trending conversation – don’t force it. Pick and choose the opportunities that are a fit for your brand.

In this case, the moment was perfect for both teams.

“We both had snow that day and it really worked well in both markets because of the circumstances,” says Julian. “It was all about having a unique and fun opportunity to connect with our fans with something they can relate to.”

A Fit for the Brand Voice

If your brand’s voice on social media isn’t fun and playful, a Twitter snowball fight probably isn’t the right fit. But for the Rockies, it was the perfect way to reach their fans.

“We have a very fun voice on Twitter,” says Julian. “We’re very fan-friendly, we love to have a great time at the ballpark and showcase our players in a positive light.”

Make sure that any project you take on fits seamlessly with your brand’s personality.

“You just have to have the right voice, knowing and understanding who you are and how you communicate with your fans,” says Julian.

Easy Access to Visual Content

If you want to catch your fans attention on social media, you have to use visual content.

“On social media, Twitter especially, we never put out something without some kind of visual content attached to it,” says Julian.

Because the Rockies and the Reds both use Libris by PhotoShelter to make all of their photos available in the cloud, team members always have access to the images they need, wherever they are.

“Just being able to access our photography on our phone or if we’re traveling and things like that – it’s just nice to always be able to have access to the photo visuals that we need and that we want for telling the story of our club, however that may be,” says Julian.

Whether you’re using photos, videos, gifs or a mix of all of the above, visuals are the best way to engage your followers. If you can easily find the content you need, you can use it to stand out when something newsworthy (like a snow storm) happens.

“We try to create as many opportunities as possible for our fans to connect with our brand in a visual way and PhotoShelter has been a huge part of that,” says Julian. “Social and digital is all about being able to get people’s attention. Everybody follows hundreds of thousands of people on their feeds so how can we stand out, what visuals can we use to grab somebody’s attention in a cluttered digital space?”

A Sense of Timing

Not only do you have to know when to start a campaign, you also have to know when to end it.

Julian wanted the snowball fight to be quick and snappy. He knew when to wrap up the fun and shared a handful of snowy photos to bookend the exchange.

“It was two and a half hours, and it kept everybody’s attention before it got stale,” he explains.

A Talented Dance Partner

For a back and forth exchange like this to work, you have to have the right “dance partner,” as Julian calls it.

The Reds have a Twitter feed that’s packed with visual content and humor, and a social media manager who was excited to play along. Pair all of that with the snow and you’ve got the perfect partner.

“It’s a good way to get noticed by your fans but also by other team’s fans, as well,” says Chad. “It’s fun to have that interaction with other teams’ fans and to make fun of each other in a lighthearted way.”

Plus, remember Julian’s tip from above. Once you find the right partner, don’t overscript it! Improvise and let your creativity flow.

Check out the full Twitter snowball fight here to get inspired!

Cover photo by Matt Dirksen for the Colorado Rockies.

See Also: Video Case Study: How Super Bowl XLVII Made the Baltimore Ravens’ Visual Storytelling Workflow More Efficient

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