“Raptors Live” is one of the initiatives the Raptors have put in place to emphasize the live aspect of the sports business.

This week we feature a 3-part series highlighting social media best practices from the 2012 NBA Draft. In part three, we speak with John McCauley of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment about Raptors Live and his philosophy behind fan engagement. John oversees all digital content and business development for the multiple brands at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (Raptors, Maple Leafs, Toronto FC and Toronto Marlies).

Sport Techie: What was “Raptors Live – Draft Central”?

JM: “Raptors Live” is an initiative we implemented to put emphasis on the live aspect of the sports business. So in other words, we’re making sure that all efforts are concentrated around delivering opportunities for our fans to engage with us “in the now”. Live events can include games, the draft and various team events … This is where we feel we need to live in order to capitalize on the audiences that want to engage with our brands.

Anytime we’re going live with an event we go live with “Raptors Live” mode, which is a web page that aggregates content (Articles, Facebook and Twitter) and wrap around a live video feed. Every once in a while we’ll dress “Live” mode up for events such as the draft (Draft Central).

Sport Techie: How do you manage social media for each team?

JM: Each team has a designated community manager responsible for managing the team’s digital properties including official sites, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and any other content feeds. This person will also curate and create new content.We also have designated video personnel for each team because video is such an important part of our business.

Sport Techie: What led to your philosophy around live events?

JM: Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment owns TV properties that we are in complete unison with as it relates to content production. The basic thing about sports content is that the most audience is created around the live game. So we have decided to focus our resources on initiatives that focus as close as possible to that bull’s eye. The challenge, however, is that once you get that down then you realize there’s not enough events. So we had to start manufacturing events (trade deadline day, the draft, season opening, trades, little nuggets of time). I believe it is really important for teams to understand that concept. We have to put our dollars behind things that have the most impact. That’s why I love Google+ Hangout so much. It’s basically a TV show in-a-box. Live or near-live video content is the core of the sports business and we’re doing everything we can to leverage that.

Sport Techie: Tell us more about Google+ Hangouts. Any best practices to share?

JM: We are one of the early adopters of using the technology for sports. I compare the technology, really, to that of live chats from about five years ago. The value wasn’t necessarily in the live chat, but how many people read it afterwards. Same thing with a Google+ Hangout. The archive has a really long shelf-life. In terms of ease of use, my team has found it really easy to use. We pick a few folks (avid fans, bloggers, etc.) to sit down and have a chat with us or a player. As we get better at them, I expect them to become in-broadcast or in-arena features. It could even be a 30 minute show the day of announcing the signing of a player.

Sport Techie: Thanks, John!

(Photos Courtesy of http://www.nba.com/raptors/raptors-live)