Social Media in Sports: An Interview with Imogen Gaunt, Harlequins R.F.C.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Over the coming months, Zeta will be getting to grips with the best in social media practice from sports teams from around the world; interviewing social media coordinators from the Aviva Premiership, Barclays Premier League, NFL and Sky Bet Championship.  Our aim is to create an informative and valuable resource for those interested in fan engagement and sports promotion through digital channels, as well as giving the digital community something a little different to sink their teeth into.

To kick things off (pun intended), we have an interview with Imogen Gaunt, Media & PR Manager for Aviva Premiership rugby team Harlequins.

Imogen Gaunt’s wealth of experience across a range of different sports cultures really puts her in the know when it comes to social media management in sports. After gaining valuable communications experience with London Broncos Rugby League, Worcestershire County Cricket Club, and the Lawn Tennis Association, Imogen has taken control of the Communications helm at Harlequins R.F.C.

1. How important are social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook for engaging with the Harlequins fans?

Social Media platforms are an essential tool for Harlequins to engage with our supporters. On a home match day we predominantly use Twitter to communicate the live scores and this understandably proves one of the busiest days of the week. Over the past year we have added more emphasis onto our social channels and really integrated them into our overarching strategy as a reflection of the extra importance we do attach to them. We have even incorporated a # into our Big Game 6 logo this year, a first for a sporting event, which demonstrates our desire to continue to be innovative and embrace social media.

2. Which social network gets the most engagement for Harlequins?

Currently it’s Twitter, but we are looking to expand into Instagram and develop our YouTube channel which we hope will drive further engagement in the future.

3. What do the Harlequins mainly use Social Media for? Listening, Word of mouth, Testing, Qualitative research?

We use social media for a bit of everything – as a news channel for our supporters to give them the latest news as soon as it is available. We listen to our supporters through the channels and we also use it as a customer experience tool. We also use social media to understand what our supporters want from us as a club – we issued a document earlier this year which stated what our supporters could expect from us on our channels which was well received.

4. Do you have a preference for a specific social media platform? And if so why?

I think each platform has its own unique idiosyncrasies so I couldn’t single one out – they are each good for delivering different things.

5. A lot of the players are very active in Twitter, for example Danny Care (scrum-Half and England International) has well over 70,000 followers. How far does Harlequins go in monitoring these accounts to protect the Harlequins brand?

We do monitor all of our players’ twitter accounts very closely – to protect them as well as the brand.

6. Social media mediums are rapidly evolving with video taking prominence through the likes of Snapchat, Vine and now Instagram. Have Harlequins planned on utilising these platforms?

We don’t use them at this stage as we have limited resources and we don’t want to spread ourselves too thinly. We have taken a definite decision not to use these and focus instead on really establishing the Club on Youtube. Having said that we did do a few Vine videos when it was first launched, but the focus at this stage is definitely Youtube.

7. Social Media can be integrated offline and online, how do you combine these two? do you promote strategies offline?

We do. All of our campaigns are integrated, so offline activity always compliments online activity and vice-versa. We cross-promote across all strategies. Our social media channels are all promoted across our marketing collateral, in stadia branding and also on our match day tickets.

8. Outside from producing online content for committed fans, how do you use social media and the digital world to encourage new interest in the sport and bring in new supporters?

We tend to cross-promote across other businesses, so we work with other sports and industries to help drive interest. Last year we did some work with Delicious Magazine which we promoted extensively across ours and their digital channels. We also work with other sports to drive engagement with rugby as well as our partners such as BT Sport and Sky Sports News.

9. Whats the most challenging or exciting aspect of running the Harlequins social Media campaigns?

The most challenging aspect is ensuring you’re across it all the time. Social Media really is 24/7 and most stories have a shelf life of a few hours or a day at the most, so being reactive at the right times can sometimes provide a challenge as social is only an aspect of our roles and not 100% of our focus.

10. So thoughts for the season – will we see Harlequins in the Premiership final? And who’s your favourite player?

Of course. I don’t have a favourite!

Next on our list of interviewees is Adam Hulme, Multi Media Officer for Queens Park Rangers who will give us the low down on player monitoring and footballs position in the sports social media sweepstakes. Follow @ZetaAgency for updates and the latest digital insight.