WS aids Detroit Pistons' digital outreach effort

AUBURN HILLS, MI: The Detroit Pistons NBA franchise, with an assist from Weber Shandwick, is increasing its digital outreach to fans by launching numerous online outreach initiatives.

AUBURN HILLS, MI: The Detroit Pistons NBA franchise, with an assist from Weber Shandwick, is increasing its digital outreach to fans by launching numerous online outreach initiatives.

The franchise launched a news aggregation Web site on December 16, compiling news, blogs, video, Facebook updates, and Twitter feeds about the team. The Pistons created an official Twitter account earlier this month and a niche social networking site, called Posting Up, and a YouTube channel in November, said David Wieme, director of strategic communications for Palace Sports and Entertainment, owner of the Pistons.

The team has also employed a beat writer and blogger for its Web sites, he added.

At a time when the automotive industry – the core of Detroit's industrial and commercial base – is lobbying the federal government for a bailout, the digital campaigns help the Pistons notify fans about discounts and special promotions, Wieme added.

“The economy and the auto industry affects us greatly, and we have to be very, very cognizant of what's going on because you can't ask a guy who just got laid off to spend hundreds of dollars to take his family to a game,” he said. “What the social networks allow us to do is to get the word out about some of the great deals to come out to the game.”

The effort, which has a target audience skewing toward men in their teens and 20s, is helping the team remain a topic of conversation among young adults, Wieme added.

“You're always going to have a core base of fans who remain loyal, and we found that in 2004, when we won the NBA championship, we were the cool thing in town,” he said. “You can't always win the championship… you can do things to remain cool.”

The team, which relies mostly on its internal staff for communications efforts, does not have an AOR, but employs agencies on a project basis. The team hired WS for between $70,000 and $90,000 in mid-October for the year-long effort after seeing the agency's digital initiatives for General Motors, Wieme said.

Sports teams and leagues are a natural fit for social networking Web sites because of the interest they generate among their fan bases, said Tom Shea, digital AE at WS and point person on the account.

“I think that sports and sports teams resonate so well in social networking – better than most brands,” he said. “There is a lot of passion in people [about sports] and people have a lot to say and they want that two-way engagement.”

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