Trailblazers launch social net

The Portland Trailblazers have launched a social net called “I am a Trailblazers fan“. Interestingly, the community was intitally dubbed, “the fast break club,” but the name got changed. I suspect the Blazers realized the this community should be about the fans, not the team, and it lead them to change the name. Good move.

While I haven’t studied it in any detail, there are several things (aside from the name) I like about this site.

1. Potential player involvement

I say “potential” because it’s not clear from these player profile pages whether the players are actually involved. More likely, Blazers marketers gathered survey info from each player and built some pages. They look too neat and clean to have been created by the players themselves. Plus, there are too many of them (available right off the bat), which makes me think it’s part of the Blazers marketing plan.

Still, it’s smart. Fans want to connect with the players, but players don’t always want to connect with fans. It’s not that players don’t LIKE fans. It’s just messy business and you never know what you’re going to get. Allowing fans the ability to link to a player as a “friend” and post comments on his page will give fans a feeling of closeness they might not otherwise have a chance to get.

Additionally, players rarely have great Websites. Offering to the players the option to build and maintain a profile page on the team social net might make it easier for players to participate, and for the team to police.

2. Charity / community relations is featured

The Blazers are clearly tuned into the fact that citizens want to be of service to their community, and they’ve featured “Hands on Portland” prominently on the fan site. When fans volunteer to pick up trash in a local park, for example, they’ll meet other fans (and players and team employees) who share similar convictions. Making connections with other Blazer fans who care about the community will cement the bond these fans have for the team, and it will help the City of Portland at the same time.

Colts fans have strong volunteer spirit too . We will follow a similar strategy with our social networking site. In fact, we expect our fans’ volunteer efforts will extend well beyond Indy. As sub-groups of Colts fans form around the state, we are working with local media partners to help promote localized charity endeavors.

Additionally, our sponsors are more than ever looking to associate themselves with healthy, community oriented activities. The charitable activities of our social network (on line and off) will become valuable “inventory” for the sponsorship sales team.

3. Contests and tickets are featured

The Blazers need ROI on this platform, so it’s no surprise to see ticket sales and promotional contests featured inside the community. Makes sense. They’re building a lot of community activity around the game itself, which I suspect will increase the feeling among fans that they NEED to be AT the game in order to really connect with the Blazers.

No question that filling up our stadium is priority number one, but our fan base (especially on line) goes well beyond our home state. In fact 75% of our site visitors come from outside Indiana. And 50% of avid NFL fans will never attend a game in their lives. So we are very concious of not making our social net too local JUST to Indy. This may not be as big a factor for the Blazers. I’d be interested to learn where their fans come from.

4. Built in message boards

Most pro sports teams already have thriving forums / message boards on their sites. The Blazers are smart to embed their existing message board inside the new social net. This will increase the likelihood of further adoption of the social net functionality.

I suspect the Blazers took the time to give the message board users an easy way to register into the fan site. That is, allow them to keep their user names and passwords from their message boards and use them for the social net.

Overall, our goal at the Colts is to build a database of fans. We want to learn their identities, preferences and activities. We want to understand the value that specific fans bring to the team and the content they like to consume. The fan network will give us a chance to do a lot more of this work. I suspect the Blazers are thinking the same things.