It all started when I received two complimentary tickets to the London Lightning game back in 2012. My son (I call him Ninja) and I went to our first basketball game. We were not what you would call hard core fans. We did not watch or follow basketball at all. But that night was a turning point for both of us. We liked being with the crowd and cheering for the home team – London Lightning! My son was impressed by how high the players could jump and dunk the ball. He had tried basketball through Spectrum with the City of London but had not really shown an interest. That year we attended a few more games and that was it.
The change came around October 2013 when Gabe Freeman followed me back on Twitter. I started noticing how involved he was in the community. Through him, I learned more about the whole team and the London Lightning organization as a whole. They had a very strong presence in the community and were constantly working on building relationship within the community and giving back.
I had gotten tickets for the game and when I mentioned on Twitter that we were going to be there, Gabe replied by saying to make sure to bring my son to the concourse to meet the players. We attended the game but took a wrong turn and ended up outside.
The next game, still being clueless as to where to meet the players , we went around and back to the stands and waived at Gabe asking if ninja could have his picture taken with him. He graciously said yes.
Gabe Freeman with Ninja
As we headed out, we saw the line up and the players. My son had a great time that night. This was his first time meeting sports’ celebrities and they were all so tall and he was impressed just being there and shaking hands with them. He was in awe! He got lots of autographs on his London Lightning T-shirt and individual photos with the players. The players were super-friendly, smiling, shaking hands or hi-fiving kids and were just genuinely engaged with their fans. As a parent, I was so happy for my son to have such a positive experience in his life. We were bonding in many new ways and he was learning through observation and new experiences.
London Lightning has thousands of loyal fans who have been with the team much longer than my ninja and I have been. I’m sure every fan has contributed and shown their support in countless ways.
I made an effort to find all the players’ Twitter accounts. The London Lightning social media coordinator was very helpful to tweet all those who did have an account. I followed them. Social media is a powerful tool for the athletes to stay connected with fans, to promote themselves and their work, and to grow their network in many ways. The least I could do was to follow them. I noticed that most fans use the major London Lightning account to wish the team good luck which is great for the organization. But I realized what was missing.
A bit of background about my social media and sports: I have blogged previously about my creative marketing approach that brought swimming events to Facebook and had three major groups with members from around the world. One group naturally was dedicated to Usain Bolt since I’m a hard core fan of the Athletics.
I decided to put to work my social media enthusiasm and my creativity to make a contribution to the basketball team. The athletes were not getting much tweets pre- game to get additional support and encouragement from the fans. There were mostly general congratulatory tweets on the main London Lightning account but not much to the individual players. I had learned from my previous experience with the sport of swimming that sending positive messages and wishing them good luck was really important to the psyche of the athletes.
I started tweeting messages of good luck, support, congratulations, and at times motivational quotes using their individual twitter handles. And since there were lots of changes in the roster I needed to stay up to date. After each game, while ninja was getting autographs I would introduce myself, welcome them to London, and ask them if they had a Twitter account and I would make sure to follow them right away.
I was glad to see more fans tweeting to individual players. A comparison of how fans were tweeting in 2013 to 2014 clearly shows a shift of increased individual tweets to the players’ pre and post games. Hell, I even started to watch the game online and tweet about it which I’m sure drove my Tweeps insane!
We started going to more games. My son adores the team and whenever we can, we watch the game in person or through live stream. We will always support the team as they support the people in the community. My son feels proud displaying his London Lightning stuff in his room. He wore his signed London Lightning T-shirt to school to talk about all the signatures he got. He may not play basketball, but he’s learning a lot from the whole culture of going to the game.
Ninja loves math and is fascinated by the players' stats.
He interacts with other fans and high fives them. He discusses the game and expresses himself confidently.
Thank you for giving Ninja a chance to be on the court!
I use examples from the game to teach him real life lessons. For example, when Zane Johnson walked away after getting hit in the face a few times by the Windsor player I told him “Did you see what a gentleman he was? He’s strong and he can certainly hit back, but he chose to walk way. Who do you think is the stronger person? The one who hit or the one who walked away?” We saw Garrett Williamson having a solemn look after the team had lost and a fan wanted to take their picture taken with him. He put his biggest smile on. I never forget that. Thank you for smiling when you were hurting inside. I told my son sometimes we need to show strength and smile even though it’s much easier to be angry. I also remember Maurice Bolden asking us how we were doing. “You guys doing alright?” he said. He showed genuine interest and cared to ask his fans how they were doing. Thank you for being you.
Ninja hanging out with the team on Kids Day.
We love our team and support London Lightning as they have supported the community and continue to do so. We want all the players to know that ninja and I are and always will be their fans. We have met many great fans and have made new friends. My son and I are creating wonderful new memories, we’re bonding, we’re sharing, we’re better together just by coming to the game.
Ninja needs a few more pictures to complete his collection! See you Saturday night!
We Are Lightning.
Next time you're offered a pair of complimentary tickets to any game, grab it!
Update: March 30th, 2014:
Update: March 30th, 2014:
Some photos after our BIG WIN last night!
Surprise photo of the night!? Coach Michael Ray Richardson!