Mobile Marketer has re-launched! Click here to learn more!

Carolina Panthers leap into mobile with SMS program to drive fan engagement

NFL's Carolina Panthers team is upping its mobile game with a new program leveraging SMS to drive interactions with fans when they are in the stadium, as well as once they have left.

A key component of the new mobile marketing program will be in-stadium promotions to help engage fans and build a mobile database of Carolina Panther?s fans. The program will launch during an upcoming game.

?People that have mobile phones, whether it?s a smartphone or feature phone, everybody reads their text messages within minutes of receiving them,? said Michael Falato, senior vice president of sales and business development for Mobivity, Chandler AZ. ?The read rate is incredible ? close to 99 percent.

?For most of the teams that we work with, the marketing department wants to drive one-to-one communication using SMS so they can figure out who their fans are and how to interact with them,? he said.

?The sales team is looking for ways to activate sponsors. There are a lot of partnerships going on with teams and they have to figure out ways to help them engage with fans and consumers. Our campaigns tie into that well.?

The Carolina Panthers team has signed a three-year contract Mobivity Holdings Corp., formerly txtstation, to provide mobile marketing technologies and solutions.

Real-time interaction
Key elements of the program will include in-stadium graphics for live polling, text-to-win campaigns and engagement during sporting events.

The Carolina Panthers will use Mobivity?s display technology allowing the team to display graphics in the stadium such as lists, charts and other content that can be updated in real-time as fans send text messages and pictures to respond to in-stadium mobile calls-to-action.

For example, a fan in the stadium can text in their pick for the game?s most valuable player and see the vote reflected in real-time on the screen.

?Our system is a lot different ? if you text a response, it will light up a selection on the video board in real-time,? Mr. Falato said.

The program joins the team?s other mobile efforts which include a mobile site and an application for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices.

Driving loyalty
The team will also give fans the ability to opt-in to receive SMS alerts and notifications once they leave the stadium with the goal of increasing brand awareness and loyalty. This will provide the team with a way to keep fans informed about what is happening with the team when they are not at a game.

The program may include information about tickets, traffic, merchandise, score alerts and injury alerts.

From its experience with other NFL teams, Mobivity has learned that it is important to give fans the opportunity to choose what kind of information they want to opt-in to receive as this will help manage opt-out rates.

?With text alerts, it is important to give fans what they want, when they want and how they want it,? Mr. Falato said.

One of the Carolina Panther?s goals is to activate its AT&T sponsorship via mobile marketing by branding certain elements of the in-stadium program.

Fans will also be able to interact with the team via Facebook and Twitter while in the stadium and see these responses reflected on the video board as well.

?There is a lot of social consumption happening on mobile and teams want to use mobile to help drive social sign ups and to use social to drive mobile sign ups,? Mr. Falato said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York