Professional sports create opportunities for companies to step up to the plate and interact with consumers, often on short notice. The social aspect of high-profile events like the World Series or Super Bowl further increases viewership beyond the sport’s typical demographic.
Joining the MLB in 1962, the Houston Astros overcame a 55-season drought to tally their first World Series title at a time when Houston really needed a win, especially after Hurricane Harvey dropped more rainfall (51.8 inches) on Houston than any other storm ever in the U.S.
Embracing the mantra #HoustonStrong, the city rallied around its hometown heroes, who even stitched the slogan on their jerseys. The energy and pride pulsing throughout the city was tangible. The conversation across town wasn’t if you watched the game, but where you watched the game. This event captivated an audience significantly beyond the everyday sports fan, and many brands hit home runs in customer engagement.
As the official wireless sponsor of the MLB, T-Mobile created its interactive Home Runs for Hurricane Recovery campaign, which allowed fans to participate in the action and benefit hurricane relief. Noting that Texas, Puerto Rico and Florida are home to hurricane victims and a large baseball target audience, T-Mobile donated $10,000 for every post-season home run and an additional $2 for every #HR4HR tweet by the public. The result was $2.5 million for hurricane relief – 104 home runs and 650,000 tweets.
Earning national media attention from outlets like the New York Times and CBS Sports, Houston’s local legend Mattress Mack stepped up to the plate during the World Series. Mattress Mack, whose real name is Jim McIngvale, owns Houston-based Gallery Furniture. In May, this sports-loving philanthropist launched “Win it all, get it all,” offering customers who spent at least $3,000 a full refund if the Astros won the World Series. Not only did he dish out $10 million in refunds, he chartered a jet and gave away tickets and hotel rooms to first responders, military personnel and civilians who showed up at his store during designated times. Over the years, McIngvale has sheltered hurricane victims, placed bets on topics ranging from sports to politics and built enough brand loyalty within Houston that more than 200,000 people have signed a Change.org petition to officially declare Aug. 26 as Mattress Mack Day in his honor.
Houston and Los Angeles Convention Visitors Bureaus wasted no time getting in the World Series social media game. After the Astros defeated the Yankees to secure their place in the World Series, Discover Los Angeles promptly challenged Visit Houston to a friendly wager: the winning city would earn a 24-hour social media takeover of the loser’s accounts. On Nov. 3, Visit Houston hijacked the Discover Los Angeles Twitter and shared content relevant to both markets, including top BBQ joints and travel deals. Discover Los Angeles ended the battle with a playful post about Beyonce, a Houston native, that highlighted her trip to L.A. Both cities were great sports and Visit Houston shared how large-scale events like the World Series can positively impact multiple cities.
Mastercard targeted socially conscious consumers with an augmented reality message during game four. In the stadium, fans used the MLB.com Ballpark app to view a message from Astros player Carlos Correa, who thanked fans for helping Mastercard raise $4 million for cancer research. After unifying fans from both teams towards a shared ideal, Mastercard asked fans to support Stand Up 2 Cancer by raising placards located at their seats during the bottom of the fifth inning.
Taco Bell took a different approach to reach consumers asking, “What’s in it for me?” With its sixth annual Steal a Base, Steal a Taco campaign, the fast food chain gave everyone a reason to cheer. If any player stole a base during the World Series, everyone in America could get a free Doritos Loco Taco on Nov. 1 from 2 – 6 p.m. Astros player Cameron Maybin was crowned Taco Hero in game two and shared his glory using the hash tag #StealABaseStealATaco, which earned more than 3 million impressions.
Understanding how to effectively use social media to drive consumer engagement is crucial to building customer loyalty. There were many brand winners throughout the 2017 World Series but only one Commissioner’s Trophy. Congratulations to the 2017 world champions, the Houston Astros!
– Megan O’Malley, Houston office