What do Pinterest, Super Bowl, Beckham and Madonna have in common?

Posted February 14th, 2012 by Pat Coyle   •   No Comments   

Don’t worry. This is not (another) a post about Super Bowl and social Media, and it’s NOT a post about Madonna, or David Beckham for that matter. I only mention these key words (to get the google juice and) because they relate to the primary subject of my post: Pinterest.

Actually, Pinterest isn’t really the main thing I want to talk about either. Female sports fans are. But in order to work my way round to talking about women, I need to start where my train of thought first leaves the station, and that’s with Pinterest.

Pinterest is HOT. No doubt about it.
The big news from comScore is that Pinterest became the fastest independent site to hit 10 million monthly uniques in the U.S. Even here in Indianapolis, home of Super Bowl 46, Pinterest has been making a lot of headlines lately. In fact, the top three headline stories in my LinkedIn feed yesterday were all about the photo sharing phenomenon.

Amidst all the hype, I’ve notice several sports teams have jumped on the Pinterest train lately. This got my attention.

Personally, I not interested in using Pinterest. Scrolling through page after page of photos is not my cup of tea (especially since the site seems to be having some trouble supporting all the traffic it’s getting). But when sports teams take time out of their busy schedules to create Pinterest boards, it makes me curious. So I took a look around, and as I browsed through the boards and read the articles, looking for some explanation why Pinterest is gaining so much momentum, it hit me:

Pinterest is for chicks!

Women are powering the rise of Pinterest. 18-34 year old upper income WOMEN from the American heartland. This explains why I’m not into Pinterest even though it seems the whole online world is enamored with it. So it’s not just me. I’m not a freak for not appreciating the Pinterest experience. It’s not because I’m too old. It’s because…

I’m a GUY!

So if Pinterest is for chicks, and sports are for men, then why are sports teams pinning photos on Pinterest? And why is Pinterest important for sports marketers? Here are just a few reasons:

1. A lot of women are very interested in sports
2. Women love to post and view photos
3. Women make 85% of all brand purchasing decisions
4. Women share more than men, and are social influencers

I believe that female sports fans are an under-served, under-appreciated market segment with tons of upside potential in sports. If we can understand why women like products like Pinterest, we might be able to use this insight to tailor our digital experiences toward female sports fans. And if we can do that, we could unlock new revenue potential from sponsors.

But before you go running off to build a Pinterest page, ask yourself: am I really planning to use Pinterest to engage female fans in a meaningful and profitable way? Or am I simply getting caught up in the hype with no real strategy or intention of caring and feeding for the Pinterest initiative once it’s up? Let’s hold these important questions for the end and keep digging into the opportunity around women in sports.

Did you know that 1/3 of all AVID sports fans are female?

Back when I worked for the Colts we used to have access to ESPN Sports Poll data. If I remember correctly, that research revealed that approximately 30% of all sports fans are AVID (as opposed to casual), meaning they are VERY INTERESTED in the sport. According to TNS Research, Avid fans are far more valuable than casual fans. Avid fans are more likely to do engage with sports teams (and their sponsors) in almost every measurable way.

Note: among the Avids, about 2/3 are men and the other 1/3 are women.

This pie chart and the bar charts that follow are illustrations of data taken from the Coyle Sport Poll 2011. The poll collected over 10,000 completed surveys from fans who follow U.S. professional sports teams in NBA, NFL and NHL on Facebook and Twitter. The data illustrated here are taken only from the Facebook surveys. Percentages represent averages (by league) across all participating teams.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that 1/3 of fans following sports teams on Facebook and Twitter are female. Seems like teams reaching the avid fans here. With women making up such a significant portion of the avid sports fan universe, I wonder why more brands aren’t targeting women within the sports context.

Photo viewing and sharing are popular with sports fans – both men and women

So we’ve illustrated the gender breakdown among avid (and social) sport fans. Now we need to know something about behavior, don’t we? What are the engagement hooks that might attract and engage fans?

To begin answering these questions as part of our Coyle Sports Poll we made a list of various online activities, and asked fans following teams on Facebook and Twitter how often they engaged in each activity. Fans were asked to rank each activity on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1=never and 5=constantly. Not surprisingly, “Reading news” was the number one most likely activity among all fans, but viewing photos and posting photos finished close behind in all three sports we measured.

This chart (above) represents averages for both male and female fans. It seems both genders like to look at photos online.

I would submit, however, that men and women differ in terms of the photographic content each prefers. What are men looking at on sports sites? Action photos and cheerleaders. What are women looking at? Well, if they were to visit teams sites they might look at glam shots of the players’ bodies (if such shots were more readily available). Instead, the female fans are most likely over on Facebook looking at photo albums of their friends and families.

And how do I know women are looking at their friends photos on Facebook? First, I see my wife doing this almost every night. Second, the data don’t lie…

Women Post more photos than men

Clearly, user generated photography is a valuable part of the online experience (much thanks to Facebook), especially for women. Women are 7% more likely to view photos online, and a whopping 21% more likely than men to post photos.

And Women share more than men

Clearly men and women behave differently online just as they do offline. Photos are just one example. If we want to maximize ROI from sports audiences, we must engage both men and women. And if we want to engage both men and women, we need distinct strategies for each.

We can’t just make a pink version and expect women will buy it.

I was watching the Super Bowl with three women this year. They were loving the Madonna show, while I was not. It occurred to me at that moment exactly why the NFL must have selected the (experienced) pop star for halftime: women make up 50% of the Super Bowl audience, and women make 85% of brand purchasing decisions. The more I think of it, my entire family (including 5 kids and my wife) seemed to pay more attention to the TV screen during commercials (i.e. Bechkam’s butt, E Trade babies) and halftime than they did during the game. I was exactly the opposite.

I’m not saying women (and kids) don’t care about the game. Many do. But even as women watching sports on TV are interested in the game, they’re interested differently than men. Women may not care as much about statistics as men, but women do care about the social experience around the game.

As my female friends watched Madonna do her thing, they weren’t wondering if the Patriots would score on the first possession of the second half. Instead they were bantering back and forth about their earliest recollections of hearing Madonna’s music; the recalled where they had been; who they had danced with, etc. Then they began getting texts from their girl friends (who were also watching)…more memories, and opinions on Madonna’s talent, outfits, age, etc. Thanks to Madonna, the girls were having FUN watching the Super Bowl.

Perhaps the Super Bowl is a portent of things to come where both male and female fans are considered in the design of a sports telecast. (Now that I think of it, the NFL has been placing pink breast cancer awareness logos on its uniforms for a couple of years now, so it’s likely that they’re way ahead of me on this). But for most sports – and even NFL from week to week, the TV sports experience (and the sports Website experience) remains generally built by men, for men.

How can we design sports media products that cater to women?

I think it’s crucial for sports marketers to understand that women are a huge part of their fan bases; but it’s also important to understand that women and men experience sports differently. Once a publisher understands how different segments of an audience behave, experiences can be orchestrated to maximize engagement for each segment. Photos are just one important example.

Pinterest cuts both ways. Notice this illustration indicates that Pinterest is used mainly by women in the U.S., but is more popular with men in the U.K. This stat could blow my whole story out of the water, but I don’t think so. Remember, I said at the beginning this post is not really about Pinterest.

Anyway, I do think fan generated photography holds HUGE potential for sports teams to drive fan engagement – especially with women – but I’m not sold that Pinterest is the right place for sports teams to spend there time unless they’re really serious about catering to the female fan. And even if they are serious, I’m not sure Pinterest really has anything more to offer than Facebook does, especially when you consider that most teams have already amassed large audiences on their Facebook fan pages, and there are apps (like Olapic) that give sports publishers photo sharing capabilities somewhat similar to Pinterest, yet allow publishers to curate the content and orchestrate the fan experience. At this point I’d keep my eggs in the Facebook bucket – or find a way to do photos on my own site – at least until Pinterest (or my interactive staff) gets much bigger.

Read more on this subject:
How Pinterest in Connecting sports teams with their female fans
Pinterest driving traffic to Websites

Wall St. Journal uses Pinterest to cover Fashion Week

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