People love talking about sports, whether it’s trash-talking the opposing team, sharing stats with fellows fans, or sharing their team pride.

While TV and radio have done a great job of keeping fans entertained, social media has evolved the way fans interact with leagues, teams, and players. More than 80 percent of sports fans interact with social media sites while watching games on TV, and more than 60 percent do so while watching live events.

Sporting organizations and athletes have had to adapt their marketing campaigns to take advantage this new medium. From real-time coverage and fan forums to pre-game sneak-peeks and offline tweetups, these five sports teams are doing social media right.

1. Tampa Bay Lightning

Playing off of support from its fans, the Tampa Bay Lightning launched its “Be The Thunder” marketing campaign for the 2011-12 season. The campaign highlighted and paid tribute to the team’s fan base.

“Through strength in numbers, our fans are encouraged to serve as that force of nature as we implore them to create a raucous atmosphere in our building for every home game and provide unwavering support in the community,” stated COO Steve Griggs.

For those unable to attend home games, the Bolts encouraged fans to go head-to-head with players through the hashtag “#BeTheThunder“. Despite the season ending in April 2011, the hashtag is still regularly used among fans today.

2. St. Louis Cardinals


Following its World Series win, the St. Louis Cardinals teamed up with sponsor Louisville Slugger to launch a city-wide scavenger hunt. The sporting goods company hid 45 World Series commemorative bats at different locations and tweeted or posted clues on Facebook about their locations.

This was undoubtedly a creative way for the St. Louis Cardinals to give back to fans. The campaign was also a huge success for Louisville Slugger, which increased Facebook Likes by 134 percent, Twitter followers by 161 percent, and its Facebook “Talking About This” number by 834 percent!

Even without elaborate marketing campaigns, the Cardinals are close to the top in terms of social media engagement. The team saw a 1,600 percent increase in followers last year. Its Facebook Page had more than 700,000 Likes last summer and reached 1 million by late October — it now has close to 1.3 million.

3. Boston Celtics


Although it might not have been intended, the Boston Celtics’ Instagram feed is tugging at the heartstrings of fans. The Celtics share exclusive pre-game and post-game locker room shots that take fans on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Blogger Andy Pawlowski noted the impact the team had, which was among the first professional sports teams to adopt the photo sharing app into its social media strategies.

According to 451 Labs, the Celtics have long been admired for its use of social media. The team boasts an active community of fans on Facebook and Twitter, with more than 6.7 million Likes and close to 653,000 followers.

Additionally, the Celtics joined Pinterest early on and began running contests, such as “Pin It To Win It.” The team encouraged fans to show their Celtics pride by creating a board called “Celtics Dream Closet” and pinning items from the team’s official store. The team now has more than 2,500 fans on Pinterest, which is a good start for the relatively new platform.

4. Dallas Cowboys

Not ones to shy away from new social networks, the Dallas Cowboys embraced Google+ early on. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware was one of, if not the, first athletes on a professional team to hold a Google+ Hangout. The video chat essentially turned into an exclusive press conference between Ware and nine fans.

Google+ Hangouts provide teams with a great opportunity to personalize interactions with fans and to provide a unique behind-the-scenes look at what’s happening on and off of the field.

The Cowboys launched its Google+ Page on November 7th, just 10 days before the Hangout. Since then, the team has gained close to 125,000 followers. Although there hasn’t been a follow-up Hangout, the Page remains active, receiving an average of 47.3 +1s on each post.

5. Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver-based hockey club is one of the only NHL teams that brings its online community offline. With official tweetups held monthly, fans are invited to watch games together, win prizes during a bit of Canucks trivia, and even mingle with the team’s mascot, Fin the Whale — who even has his own Twitter account.

Attendees can live tweet using the hashtag #canuckstweetup, and they can also watch a recap of the event once it has been uploaded to the Canuck’s website. Although the players can’t attend these tweetups (they’re on the ice), it’s a great way to make the fans feel connected to the team.

Something else that stands out is the way the Canucks include the fans in its Facebook Timeline. There’s a lot of history to cover, which can be a big job for any social media team. The Canucks encourage its fans to share moments that might have been missed by submitting text, videos, or photos through a tab on its Facebook Page.

Baseball season is in full swing, the 2012 Summer Olympics are just days away, and before you know it the NFL pre-season will be upon us. From real-time event pages to Olympic coverage hubs, social networks like Twitter and Facebook are coming up with new ways to support fans. If you haven’t already, now is the ideal time to work social media into your existing sports marketing strategy.

[Image credits: Cupcakes & Dreams, Vancouver Canucks]