Quickly shooting up the social media pyramid, image sharing network Pinterest has gained a reputation for largely being a repository for photos of wedding dresses and floral arrangements, due to its huge female user base.
But a budding trend shows that sports teams are hopping aboard the Pinterest bandwagon. Many marketing managers say the network offers new ways to connect with and reward fans and provide different social opportunities. And they insist that Pinterest is not just a flash in the sports marketing pan.
Like most teams, the Celtics are very new to Pinterest, joining just in the past few weeks. A handful of other NBA teams have joined, too, along with some NFL and NHL franchises and a few college and women’s sports teams. More than 20 Major League Baseball teams have joined, although only a couple have active accounts. The Celtics have the largest follower count so far, with over 1,000.
Teams use Pinterest to showcase content from fans, display merchandise, create boards of photos from the past and present, and reflect team-associated culture and lifestyle trends. However, each team we spoke with is still considering the site’s female-centric audience.
“What intrigued us initially was that the platform seemed to be dominated by women. We certainly thought it was a great way to engage with that demographic and offer a different type of content than can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+,” wrote Nilay Shah, director of digital media for the New York Giants, in an email.
Several teams feature boards solely to display women’s apparel or team-themed recipes, but Shah and others said they see Pinterest as more than just a tool for reaching female fans. “We’re looking at it as if it’s predominantly for women, but we’re not treating it as if it’s only for women,” says Stringer.
The Giants have a section dedicated to their supporters’ hearty tailgating culture. The Portland Trail Blazers have boards that collect team-themed wallpapers and photos of pets in Blazers gear. Most teams have boards displaying memorabilia and clothing for sale elsewhere online.
Because Pinterest isn’t a dialogue-heavy network and allows users to follow either a brand as a whole or just specific boards, teams are able to focus on particular niches of fandom. They’re also able to share things that wouldn’t be as feasible on Facebook or Twitter.
Melissa Marchionna, new media coordinator for the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, said constantly tweeting or sharing fan artwork on Facebook would likely become annoying to users. But a Pinterest board dedicated to Pens-inspired paintings and drawings, she said, “is a great opportunity to give back to our passionate, talented fans and showcase their work.”
In college sports, the University of Washington uses Pinterest to flaunt what it offers prospective student athletes. Boards called “Best 4 Years of Your Life” and “Seatown Swag” show off student culture and the university’s prime location. Assistant athletic director Carter Henderson said the school created those boards in part because they noticed that collections themed around travel destinations were already popular on the network.
Expect Pinterest’s influence to continue growing. Multiple team representatives say they plan to promote their boards more on official websites and other networks as soon as this weekend. A Golden State Warriors representative says that the franchise is investigating Pinterest strategies in anticipation of joining. Similar scenes are likely playing out in the marketing offices of several different leagues.
Dan Harbison, who directs interactive media and marketing for the Trail Blazers says he’s reminded of a different social network that is now ubiquitous in the sports world. “In ’07 we were the first team to get on Twitter, and this feels similar to that,” he says. “Success on Twitter didn’t happen for about two years — follower counts weren’t in the tens of thousands at all until then. We’re stil in the very baby stages of Pinterest, but I definitely see it being a different network than can gain some pretty good steam in sports.”