The LA Kings’ social media team is clearly ahead of the game. With a starkly unique approach to social media, the Kings have completely redefined the way a sports team can connect with their fans.
It all began on April 11, 2012 with one game-changing tweet: “To everyone in Canada outside of BC, you’re welcome.”
At the time, the LA Kings had just won 4-2 over the Vancouver Canucks, securing a 1-0 series lead in the Western Conference quarter-final. In celebration, the Kings tweeted out this jab (right), capitalizing on the Canucks’ reputation as Canada’s most hated team in every province outside of British Columbia.
Of course, we now know that this game was just the start of the Kings’ successful playoff run to their first Stanley Cup victory. However, back at the time, the Kings were an eighth-seeded team with many more games to go. As such, the tweet shook the hockey world for its sheer brashness and audacity.
“It was an interesting time. We spent a long time gathering fan sentiment to report on because back then, Twitter accounts were very PC and this was far from that,” reflects Pat Donahue, Director of Digital Media for the Kings and the man behind the genius of the tweet. “But overall, there was far more praise than ‘backlash.’”
At the time, Donahue had been chosen to write for the @LAKings account just months before in January 2012. The task was already a “nerve racking” endeavor, but with his tweet that fateful April day, Donahue essentially put @LAKings on the Twitterverse map, for better or worse.
Luckily, as Donahue states, the tweet overall had a very positive impact on the team’s social media image. As a result, to this day, he still runs the @LAKings account. Following the tweet, @LAKings had a massive boost in followers. Additionally, although the tweet later prompted an apology from the Kings’ communication team, it was also overwhelmingly praised by many outlets for daring to go outside the box when it comes to sports social media. The tweet has since served as the embodiment of the Kings’ fun and snarky social media personality, a trait which has translated into its other official accounts, @BaileyLAKings and @LAKingsPR, as well.
“We started @LAKingsPR approximately a year ago, and we have a lot of fun, behind-the-scenes types of photos as a result of the access that we have,” says Jeff Moeller, Senior Director of Communications and Content.
Bailey, the beloved mascot for the Kings, has also amassed a huge and loyal following due to his sass and attitude on Twitter.
“Every time I go with the boys on an appearance, Dustin Brown always says that I’m ‘the most popular King,’” reveals Bailey, who painstakingly typed out his answers with his paws just to show how passionate he is about the fans.
Much has obviously changed since the April 11, 2012 tweet, the most notable being that the Kings have since won two Stanley Cup titles. As the accolades for the Kings have accumulated over the years, the team’s social media presence has increasingly gained recognition and fan loyalty as well.
“I think winning two Cups, there are just more eyeballs on us and more people paying attention to what we do,” explains Donahue.
By keeping a light, joking tone in its social media efforts, the Kings have truly paved a new way for sports teams to interact with their fans and rivals. Although brands such as Old Spice and Taco Bell have long utilized humor in their branding on Twitter, the Kings’ account is notable for being decidedly partisan among a sea of bipartisan sports accounts.
“I think the Kings account inspired a lot of teams and brands to show a personality online. Four years ago, it was something that just wasn’t done. Now, every day, I see a new team engaging with their fans in interesting ways,” remarks Donahue.
Naturally, going against the grain has led to some criticism from those who believe a sports team’s official Twitter account should be a source of professional, unbiased information and promotional messages.
“I don’t think I’ve personally gone over the line. Other people may disagree with me, but I’ll stand behind anything I’ve said and I’m lucky that our organization stands behind our strategy,” responds Donahue.
That being said, the Kings’ social media team is well aware of the need to sometimes pull back the reins. Bailey, for example, has a compassionate side that comes out when promoting important causes.
“I’m sassy and I make fun of people, but at the same time, I love helping out as well,” replies Bailey, wisely. “It’s all in good fun most of the time, but in the end, the point is to really connect with the fans.”
Overall, the Kings are simply not interested in trying to maintain this status quo of unbiased interaction when it comes to their social media. Unlike other sports teams, the Kings recognize their Twitter account as the interactive branding tool it is and maximize its potential by putting a voice to the brand.
“Our fans love it, and at the end of the day that’s all that matters,” asserts Donahue. “It gives our fans a chance to speak to the organization, and we converse with them.”
The result is a social media presence that is lauded by many of its fans and observers as a truly unique voice in the game of sports social media.
Be sure to follow the official Kings Twitter accounts to keep up with the latest on the team: @LAKings, @BaileyLAKings, @LAKingsPR, @LAKingsIceCrew, @KingsVision, @LAKingsInsider and LAKingsGameEnt.