Sports teams add social media to roster

The Boston Celtics basketball team recently began distributing exclusive locker room footage on YouTube, and launched “3-Point Play,” an interactive stats prediction game for fans on the Celtics’ Facebook page. The Celtics are also sending Twitter messages, according to The Boston Globe newspaper, including quotes from press conferences and team events, to 21,000 followers and using the social networking site to offer seating upgrades at games.

Sports marketers say it makes sense for a team to capitalize on the fan frenzy on and off the court. Other professional teams in the region, including the Bruins and Red Sox, also have a presence on social networking Web sites. The New England Patriots, on Twitter for the first time this season, have nearly 30,000 followers who receive injury updates, game notes and photos.

For the Celtics, all of these efforts are in addition to GameTime Live, an application available at the team Web site, which features real time scores, tweets and blogging with supporters throughout the world. The team beta-tested GameTime Live during the 2009 postseason, and more than 50,000 unique visitors checked it out during the triple-overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls in Game 6 of the first round.

Rich Gotham, the team’s president, said the new social media efforts are designed to address fans who can't get into the Celtics’ sold-out home games. “We want to keep them interested and keep them loyal,” he said.

Basketball buffs are demanding deeper interaction, or a “second-screen” experience, as Gotham calls it. While fans watch the game on television, many are also tweeting and surfing the Internet; traffic on the Celtics’ Web site spikes 100 percent during games. The NBA is rolling out a centralized version of the Celtics’ GameTime Live as a way for other teams to connect with supporters online.

The Celtics, with 445,000 fans, are the second most popular NBA team on Facebook, behind the Los Angeles Lakers. In coming weeks, the Celtics are planning to launch Club Green Kids, a children’s club that will rely largely on e-mail and online efforts to communicate with members.

Making as a destination also helps the team’s bottom line. Sponsors are increasingly looking for ways to connect digitally with fans, and they are willing to pay more money to partner with the Celtics if millions of supporters are visiting the team’s Web site, and the Celtics can e-mail or tweet promotions to fans worldwide.

The team also plans to stream games live by early next year and create unique mobile applications.