Fan-first content, The Online Rule Live, and the latest social media news and updates

How are clubs putting the spotlight on their match going fans? And why should more clubs be looking to do the same? Plus, exciting news about The Online Rule Live.

Fan-first content, The Online Rule Live, and the latest social media news and updates
Image from the Durham Women FC website
Welcome to Between The Lines, a regular round-up of what you might have missed in the world of sports marketing, as well as a deeper look into some of the topics from social media. Got a story or tip to submit? Send it to or via DM on social media.

A focus on the fans

If the pandemic taught us anything, it's that live sport is nothing without fans. I'm sure nobody wants to go back to a time when games were taking place in empty stadia.

So how can we celebrate the people that turn up in their numbers week in, week out?

I wanted to highlight a few examples of what I'm calling "fan-first content". This is content that is all about your team's supporters, whether that's on a matchday or otherwise. I want to look at how teams are doing it, and explore the reasons more should be thinking about adding it to their regular rotations.

Two good examples jumped out at me this week.

The first was Durham Women FC. Following their most recent home game they published a gallery of fans who had attended. They publicised this with a carousel card on X before linking through to a bigger gallery on their website.

Click the image to go to the post on X
Click the image to go the website

The other example is from Mansfield Town. They've published a four minute video of their fans at the weekend's game, showing people arriving and then their reactions throughout the match itself.

Click the post to view it on X

Going back a little bit, an additional example from last summer comes courtesy of Manchester United. During their tour of Ireland they spoke to fans before one of the games to get their predictions.

Click the image to view the post and video on X

Going back even further into my archives, here's Arsenal doing this before a Champions League game in 2014.

Click the image to view the post on X

These are all great for a number of reasons.

  1. We're drawn to photos of other people. There's a reason why content featuring people tends to outperform all other types.
  2. Bonus points if everyone looks happy (I know you can't always control this). Happy faces have a "strong motivational power", according to one study from 2019. This makes people looking at the photos more likely to think that what they're seeing a great occasion, and they want to get involved themselves.
  3. Proving people were at an event is a great way of encouraging others to want to attend. We look to others to make decisions, and if we see lots of people doing something we're more likely to want to do it ourselves (it's to do with herding).
  4. They've spent a lot of time, effort, and money being there so should be rewarded for doing so. There's no science behind that one, sorry.

And if you want another good example of a club getting a fan involved, here's a young Lincoln fan fronting a video tour of the family-friendly facilities at the LNER Stadium.

The takeaway? Use these are starting points and see how you can make fans more front and centre in your marketing, especially around matchdays. It's a great way of showing your appreciation for their attendance and it could even improve attendances.

The Online Rule Live?

If you've followed me on social media, you'll know that I've been keen to get an actual proper in-person event to happen at some point. Last year's online event was great, and I'm keen to do more, smaller, versions of those, but a one in the real world would be even better.

The good news is that it looks very likely to be happening. However I do need some input before planning goes any further.

The event will be free to attend, and will likely happen in late May or early June in London. I'm not planning on making it a big thing - you've got to start somewhere - but it would be great to know what you'd find useful and whether you would be able to make it. I'll start planning from there.

It's a very short survey, but it'll help me get an idea for numbers.

The Online Rule Live 2024
Thanks for your interest. The Online Rule Live will hopefully be coming to London this summer. To gauge interest, to help with venue size and format, it would be great if you could complete the short survey below. Your details will only be used for the purposes of planning this event so I can keep you informed about its progress. This isn’t anything legal - I can’t force you to come - it’s just so I can properly plan things. Your details won’t be shared with anyone or used for any other promotional purposes. I also promise to not manually sign you up to the newsletter if you aren’t already subscribed, or judge you for it. The event will be free and in a central London location. But other than that I’m keen to make it work for as many people as possible. I’m leaning towards a 40ish person evening event I’m assuming that be completing this survey that you’re interested in attending and will be around in late May/early June 2024 (specific dates TBC).

The State of Football Social Media

Speaking of surveys, this year's State of Football Social Media is nearly over. If you work in football marketing, this is the last week to get involved. Join 95 other professionals from around the world and leave your thoughts below. The results will be published in this newsletter later this month.

The State Of Football Social Media 2024
Each year I gather the thoughts and priorities of social media professionals working in football. The survey is open to anyone working in football social media, at any level, in any country, providing you look after the accounts for one of the following: * Domestic teams * International teams * Football leagues * Football

What's going on in the world of social media?

There are a few updates to social channels that might be of interest.

  • Firstly, Bluesky is now available to all. You don't need an invite any more. Why might this be of interest? You might want to get your team's handle shortly before someone else does. There are already four fairly convincing looking 'official' profiles for Manchester United, for example. Bluesky state they have "more than 3 million people" on the platform, so you're probably not going to be moving all your resources there just yet.
  • Some X accounts now have an "articles" tab on their profiles on mobile (I'm one of them). This is likely hinting at the introduction of longer-form articles on the platform.
  • For fans of LinkedIn, they're removing the creator mode option from profiles and just turning it on for everyone soon. That's a good thing, as you get a lot more insights from it than you do from a standard account.
  • Instagram is testing an option to preview how your feed will look before you send a post. Staff at Meta have always said that the grid isn't worth focusing on, so it's an interesting shift.
  • Threads is up to around 130m users, and saw a lot more downloads in December now it's available in the EU. Engagement levels still don't look as high as other platforms though (anecdotally).
  • TikTok is encouraging some creators to post videos in landscape. Maybe hinting at a feature that may roll out a bit wider over time.