The Washington Redskins Crowd-sourcing Their Games

A week before the start of the NFL 2009 season, Cincinnati Bengals Wide Reciever-turned-parttime-kicker, Chad Ochocino, tweeted to his fans that he was going to delete his Twitter account due to strict NFL rules. Of course he didn’t, and Ochocinco, always a showman, used it to deliver more buzz around his ego.

However, the NFL rules around social media are draconian and many inside the league know this. Earlier this month, they released an updated policy that bars players and their agents from tweeting up to 90 minutes before or after a game. Members of the press are not allowed to tweet during the game either or risk having their credentials revoked.

This is the landscape in the most popular sporting league in the nation. The NFL has enjoyed widespread success through control mechanisms like blackout rules that prevent a team from having home games aired in local television markets if the game isn’t sold out 72 hours before gametime. Though most home games league-wide are sold out, the recession has caused some teams, like the Jacksonville Jaguars, to not be able to sell out.

2897040936_c9546b9679This is what the Washington Redskins face who, on Sunday, will open their first home game at FedEx Field and will be encouraging fans to tweet during the game. The new effort comes as part of a renovation of the Club Level and embracing of social media, Redskins VP of eCommerce and Web Strategy, Shripal Shah, tells me. In this new club level will be the game on massive HD televisions surrounded by live-streams of Redskin fan reaction to the game, but reactions will also be online for fans not in the club level.

The Redskins hope to get reaction from all fans through a new site called Redskins Twackle that does more than just pull tweets having a #redskins hash tag. In addition, they are pushing an iPhone App that will help crowdsource this data into the Redskins Twackle site.

Twackle is not a Redskins technology. Twackle is a product of XTreme Labs and is billed as “Your sports bar in the Twittersphere”.

While it’s not entirely clear what this play will do for new media in the NFL, it will be interesting to see how the League reacts.

* Image Credit: Mad_African78 on Flickr

Update:
The Twackle app in the iTunes store is not an official Redskins Twackle app. It is a generic app released by Octagon, not Xtreme Labs. Commenter Lahne notes that the NFL social media policy is slightly different than what I listed here. For the breakdown, see Tailgate365.

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Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

14 thoughts on “The Washington Redskins Crowd-sourcing Their Games”

  1. It’s great to see Shripal Shah and his organization doing something for the fans. Shripal is a shrap individual and an asset to the Redskins, which have not been getting the best of local PR press lately.

    The concept of what he is doing is simple but great. The technology is clearly affordable to do this; but we’ll see if the other franchises get over their organizational and logistical humps to actually deploy similar capabilities.

  2. Hey Aaron –

    So, that’s not really quite accurate. Yes, they NFL said they can’t tweet (players/coaches) 90 min before a game, and there’s not a definitive time after, but what you are missing IS WHAT they don’t want fans/media to tweet and that’s the “play-by-play.”

    Now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t tweet fast enough during games to do a play by play…but that’s what they are talking about.

    The NFL encourages live tweeting, however, by fans. I was part of this during the draft and have had many interactions with both NFL and the Steelers on this.

    So, while I think I get what you are saying, it’s not quite accurate.
    The NFL actually encourages use of social media by fans – they have their own twitter and facebook accounts…

    Quite frankly, I am gonna kick any Steelers player’s butt who is tweeting 90 minutes before the game – they need to be focused and ready to take on their opponent. But hey, if the Ravens or Redskins wanna tweet and force the issue, by all means do so! LOL…just don’t cry when the Steelers reach SB # 7.

    Also, I would, if I were you, check in with @nflprguy on the real rules….though I have also posted them here: http://www.tailgate365.com/myblog/the-real-deal-nfl-statement-on-use-of-social-media-on-game-day.html?blogger=Steelergurl

      1. Hey, I will buy a ton of beer for the person I meet who can tweet fast enough to do a play by play – that’s like a tweet every 5 seconds…and obtw, I will also “unfollow” someone who tweets that much quickly as well!! That’s a helluva lot of tweeting!
        As for enforcement, I think that’s called lawsuit!!!

        There’s also justsignal.com which can do what Twackle does….along with lots of other stuff…and no, I don’t have stock in the company, but I know the developer :)

        1. Has anyone every read a tweet about a sporting event and wanted to do anything but find a TV to see “that play”? I mean please, play-by-play? Get serious.
          What Social Media is good for is fan engagement (with each other AND with the team/coaches/players).
          And yes, justSignal does that… and more. We will be releasing a justSignal tracker for every NFL team (we already have all of the MLB) in the next week or so…

  3. The NFL doesn’t mess around. They are always swarming Youtube and other websites to have anything related to the NFL taken down… I think that players should be able to tweet whenever they want, but oh well…

  4. Corrections made. Notably, the Twackle iPhone app is a generic app, not a Redskins Twackle app – though it will work with the Redskins Twackle as well. Due to licensing/partnership agreements, the Redskins say they are not pushing the app, but do note it’s availability as a free app in the iTunes store (linked in the story).

  5. Octagon actually owns Twackle.com, and has developed partnerships with a number of teams, including the PHX Suns (www.sunstwackle.com) and the Orlando Magic (www.magictwackle.com). Currently, the iphone app is read only, but we plan to mirror the functionality found on Twackle.com (including the surfacing of trends) soon.

  6. I agree with Addison. Players, coaches, staff should be able to tweet whenever they want. You know the next big invention to come along don’t you? A voice-activated tweet mechanism that wirelessly transmits the voice-tweet. Players will sending tweets while they’re pinched and bitten under the pile!

  7. I don’t like to sound like a capitalist, but I can see that players, coaches, or anyone closely related to a pro team making cell phone calls or sending text messages and tweets during a game are in a unique position to influence really big money on sportsbooks and possibly leaking vital information to the other team to give them an unfair advantage. When the big organizations make tough rules and set policy it is usually because there is a lot of money to be gained or lost.

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