Monday, July 12, 2010

The NJ Nets Go-Walla! [UPDATED on 9/29]

If you hadn't noticed, I'm on a bit of a location-based services kick these days. Not because I like technology for technology sake but rather because I see real business value that companies like Gowalla, FourSquare, Whrrl and even Twitter and Facebook are starting to provide through their offerings. For anyone that hasn't seen the post I did a few weeks ago on location-based services, the comments are a MUST read (there are 45+ and still growing).

As a result of the aforementioned location-based post, I received an e-mail the other day from someone working on behalf of the New Jersey Nets regarding their current Gowalla campaign. The e-mail talked about the NJ Nets' launch of a 225 x 95 foot painted wall at the corner of 34th and 8th Streets in New York City, just a few blocks from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden (the home of the New York Knicks). The wall features Nets owner and Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, and minority owner and hip hop legend Jay-Z. More important than the images of the two owners is the call to action at the bottom of the mural which states simply, "Check in Gowalla to get a special item." Now I don't know about you but even if I didn't know anything about location-based services or Gowalla, I'd be tempted to jump on Google to find out more.

As a marketer, however, I was curious about what the goal of this program was. Yes, I'm sure it will generate hype and of course it will be a conversation starter (hell, it's got a blogger like me writing about it so they are doing something right). But I wasn't satisfied with that as my answer so I asked my new NJ Nets friend to give me more detail. He pointed out that with new ownership (Prokhorov and Jay-Z), a new coach (Avery Johnson), the third overall pick in this year's draft (Derek Favors), and a new home in Brooklyn in 2012, that the Nets wanted to create an aggressive marketing campaign to let New Yorkers know the Nets are back and ready to compete. One way of sharing this excitement was by experimenting with new experiences like the one that Gowalla would provide.

To that end, I also like what Laura Castronovo, director of research and strategic marketing for the Nets, had to say about how this giant sign with the non-traditional call to action fit in with the Nets' overall plans:

Digital Marketing is now a part of everything we do; whether it be driving traffic to our websites and or building up our social networking communities, having a digital presence is crucial. We also like to make our campaigns as interactive as possible. It made sense for us to include Gowalla on the Blueprint of Greatness 34th St wall so fans can engage in this campaign with us.”
What are the results? As of this writing, there have been 90 organic check-ins to the spot. It also got coverage from TechCrunch which is never a bad thing (okay, mostly never a bad thing). But will this campaign help move the needle? I'm not sure. But you can bet I'll be keeping my eye on how things progress. And you can damn well bet that next time I'm in New York near Penn Station I will be checking into Gowalla to see what kind of "special item" I'll receive.

UPDATED on 9/29 based on panel information at the Location-based Marketing Summit in NYC.

This wall was just the first phase of the campaign. The important part of what the Nets did with @Gowalla is that they randomly gave away 250 pairs of tickets to a Nets game. People would win tickets when they checked in. The redemption rate was 15.2% which the Nets were very happy with. The key was that the nearly 80 people (2 x 40) were encouraged to take pictures, post updates, checkin on Gowalla, etc. This obviously led to a number of conversations and a good deal of earned media. With a franchise that's struggling to regain some relevance in a town that has more than its fair share of successful sports teams, any kind of brand excitement was a net positive. To date, the Nets have been very pleased with the results.


  1. Let's see... Its blue, its a print, its great (big)... But is it a pathway to something wonderful and better than before? Will the "special item" make your experience of the Nets a better one? It appears to be traditional advertising striving to drive traffic online to me.

    I suppose the real question is: Are people checking in to join in the greatness of the Nets and get a "special item" or to tell their friends they are standing under the giant poster with the big guys on it, to meet-up.

    Its good that these kinds of experiments are happening and awareness of geolocation powered experiences are being done. It helps propel the technology through the cro-magnon age that all new things must go through.

  2. Darin - good questions. I'd suggest checking out this post that my friend, Ken Yeung, did about the same campaign:

  3. That's a great read and VERY informative Aaron. I would be interested in what percentage of the 15.x% of attendees converted became fans and repeat attendees of Nets games.

    Right now, I feel like Geolocation based Marketing is largely suited and relagated to being a kind of scavenger hunt. The people who attended that Nets game might have been big D&D fans in the 70's & 80's and are now just joining in because of the challenge to go on an adventure. I'll wager that attendees who are sitting in their free seats, chatting and Twitpic-ing while trying to win more free swag weren't paying much attention to the goings on down on the court. For this to be considered a real success, if I owned the Nets, I'd want to know (via follow-up) how may new fans I have for my team, who are willing to come buy more seats.

    Excellent and thought provoking thread as usual Aaron.