Saturday, May 22, 2010

Student Internship: Developing a Social Media Marketing Platform for the Mercury Insurance Open

By Victoria Hoe (SMBA '11)

Many sports organizations today are struggling to find ways to harness the power of social media to grow and promote their brands. As a lifelong follower of the sport of tennis and regular consumer of social media, I believe that digital marketing should play a large role in promoting tennis events, as well as the players themselves. As an intern with the Mercury Insurance Open this summer, I've been tasked with creating a social media platform for the tournament and using it to drive ticket sales. (The Mercury Insurance Open is a Premier 700 tournament on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and makes up an important stop on the US Open Series summer hard court schedule. The tournament takes place July 31 - August 7, 2010 at the La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, CA).

With a history in San Diego dating back over 25 years, the tournament faces an interesting challenge this year of having to reintroduce itself to fans after a 2-year hiatus. Known then as the Acura Classic, the event was privately owned and operated in San Diego from 1984 to 2007 until it was purchased by the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG). AEG moved the tournament to Los Angeles, where it was held at the Home Depot Center in Carson from 2008 - 2009. Disappointed by poor ticket sales and the absence of a title sponsor in its final year, AEG sold the event to Octagon in September of 2009. Octagon purchased the tournament with the intention of moving it back to San Diego where, hopefully, it will reside for many years to come.

The challenges of utilizing social media to promote an event are multifaceted: First, you have to find your potential customers where they are (Facebook, Twitter) and then provide them with enough content that interests them to the point where they'll want to "follow" you and be open what you have to say. I frequently see companies start up social media accounts only to promote their products non-stop with little regard to the 2-way conversation that social media provides. Earlier this year I attended a lecture on utilizing social media in business at the SDSU Entrepreneurial Management Center (EMC) in which Kevin Popovic, the Founder of IdeaHaus (a communications consulting company), said that Facebook and Twitter represented the "cheapest focus groups in business." I agree completely with Kevin and I hope to use social media as a way to connect with customers of our tournament and find out what they're experiencing on the ground at the event in real time and what they want to see from us. The second part of my strategy is to provide timely, relevant tennis news/updates in the lead up to the tournament this summer such that tennis fans will view the Mercury Insurance Open Facebook and Twitter accounts as their insight into the latest happenings in the sport. It will be a great challenge and I am very much looking forward to taking it on.

Please click here to follow the Mercury Insurace Open on Facebook and Twitter.

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