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Making the Case for Mobile Marketing: A Look Back at Turner Sports’ SMS Grand Slam

The impact of mobile marketing can’t be overstated. According to IDC, more people in the U.S. will access the Internet through a mobile device than through their PC by 2015. In this new series, Elite Email takes a look at highly successful campaigns to uncover their mobile marketing lessons. This week’s case study: How Turner Sports pumped up the MLB playoff excitement with a smart SMS campaign and the TBS Social Dugout app.

There’s nothing like a day at the park – especially once the playoffs start up. Whether it’s the win-and-in wild card or game seven of the World Series, being in the stands and part of the action as your team fights to keep their season alive is one of the best memories you’ll ever make. But what if you could get in on the action and compete too? Turner Sports thought the same thing this past playoff season, which led to the unveiling of the TBS Social Dugout app.

For the hardball fanatics that installed this app while watching the games, a fun and interactive competition added an extra level of excitement to the play on the field. Questions, trivia, and the ability to talk shop with other fans around the world were all part of the Social Dugout experience. However, just making a great app and hoping word of mouth gets the job done isn’t exactly a sound marketing strategy, even if you’re a major international brand that holds the rights to the biggest games of the year. With this in mind, let’s look at how a great SMS campaign put Turner Sports’ app over the top as October baseball kicked into full gear.

The Need for a Major League Play

You’re probably thinking to yourself that a great app like the Social Dugout should catch fire just because it’s a fun and exciting way to spice up an already action-packed baseball game. However, the big problem is that there are so many apps worth your audience’s time that it’s almost impossible to expect them to simply find it on their own. Think of it this way – with over 1 million apps in the Apple App store alone, would you rely on blind luck for people to pick your app out of this crowd? The guys heading up the app development at Turner Sports saw this issue and decided that the best way to get things rolling with downloads and participation was to get proactive in a big way.

Stepping up to the Mound

At the heart of the campaign was a clever blend of TV spots and SMS instructions. To cut down on time and entice viewers to jump in on the Social Dugout fun, instructions aired live during games giving fans all they needed to get the app immediately. A call-to-action containing the keyword “DUGOUT” and a SMS short code gave viewers access to the first part of the process. From here, those who sent off the text got an immediate response containing two things – instructions on how to download the app and a shortened link that took them directly to the Social Dugout page. Adding in that the app went viral on Facebook and Twitter after fans started receiving download instructions gave the SMS campaign even more reach.

The Big Finish

So what did Turner Sports get for the on-air plugs that were followed up by some savvy SMS messages? Over the first three days of the campaign (which lined up with the first three days of the MLB playoffs), 2,000 baseball fans downloaded the Social Dugout app after responding to the text call-to-action. From here, the app continued to roll and gain ground with the viewers that didn’t see the TV spot run the first time, but stayed tuned in during the rest of the playoffs. Adding in that the consumer response to the simplified “text to download” process was overwhelmingly positive had the added benefit of giving the Turner brand some valuable insight into the blueprint for future SMS campaigns that really resonate with the target audience.

What It All Means for You

Naturally, your company might not have the budget or the opportunity to fire off instructional TV spots during prime time major television events. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t put some of these lessons learned by Turner Sports to good use the next time you’re ready to get in touch with your audience. First, don’t be afraid to keep it simple with the call-to-action and the follow through. A fun and memorable keyword and some easy to follow directions go a long way with customers who don’t have the time or patience to try and decipher what you’re asking them to do. Additionally, if you pushing an app like the Social Dugout, shortened URL links that take your viewers right to the download page are always a good call. With these tools in hand, you’ll be rounding third base in no time and well on your way to some big results via smart SMS tactics.

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