User generated content – videos, images and stories that are produced by consumers and used by organisations in a variety of beneficial ways – can be an excellent tool for fan engagement and raising awareness. It is a strategy that, says GlobalSportsJobs CEO Will Lloyd, can foster "a deep affinity" between fan and brand. When devising UGC strategies however, caution and due diligence, as well innovation, are essential.
User-generated content is a bridge for organisations, teams and sponsors to build for communicating and connecting with their audience.
Encouraging fans to participate in content creation is a sign of building trust and authenticity with fans, who will enjoy the buzz of their own videos, pictures or stories being used and displayed to a wide audience, as well as the opportunity to provide their own personal perspective on events on the field of play.
Users are also an organisation's best possible advocates. Studies have shown that Millennials trust user-generated content more than other types of media, with 53% stating that UGC influences their purchase decisions, compared to 44% for traditional media and 23% for banner ads.
Hudl, by its very nature, is the perfect vehicle for generating and exploiting user-generated content. It's a video recording app for athletes, teams and coaches, allowing them to review, edit, analyse and share high-quality in-game performance footage. It can automatically create clips of an individual player's highlights or the best match highlights and annotations such as circles, arrows and symbols can be overlaid for coaching or tactical purposes.
Footage is often spectacular, tactically insightful and sometimes even valuable as a scouting and talent identification tool. Hudl harness this wealth of content highly effectively to engage with existing and potential new customers.
On the Hudl website they have created a popular YouTube-style 'community' section where clips are searchable by sport, with 'trending' and 'most popular' sections. Users are encouraged to update and boost their team profiles to increase engagement with their clubs and help recruit new talent.
Hudl's Twitter and Facebook feeds are almost entirely made up of the best user-generated video footage which intrinsically show off the platform's capabilities. Graphics and special effects can be overlaid on footage (to circle a particular player to keep an eye on, for example) and many videos showcase Hudl's highlights capabilities with round-ups of key moments or a certain player's best contributions.
Encouraging user content in this way is an incredibly compulsive marketing technique for Hudl's product, as its customers are its best possible advocates. Careful aggregation of its users' video content hooks them into an immersive hub where athletes' and teams' achievements are celebrated.
This subtle control, ordering and shaping of UGC to fit with a marketing message is important, as – when handled injudiciously – this type of fan engagement can backfire.
An infamous recent example of this was the recent Walkers Crisps #WalkersWave campaign on Twitter, in which the public were invited to attach a selfie for the chance to win UEFA Champions League final tickets.
'Selfies' were then displayed on Walkers Crisps' official Twitter feed being held by brand ambassador Gary Lineker. Fans hijacked the competition by attaching images of disgraced celebrities and criminals, such as the serial killer Harold Shipman. The automation of these tweets proved to be the key element in the project's downfall. Similarly disastrous examples include the #AskJackWilshere Twitter Q&A and the 2015 Facebook Football Awards, which were taken over by Arsenal fans voting (successfully) for their own players to win every award category.
Whilst it's clear that organisations need to clearly think through the potential pitfalls of utilising user-generated content in their campaigns, the potential benefits make it a worthwhile and low-cost opportunity to forge a strong and sustainable bond with fans.