TruFan – Platform for Local Fan Communities

In case you missed it, yesterday TruMedia Networks launched TruFan, a social media platform for local sports fan communities. The platform will power fan communities in 122 markets and you can check out SawxHeads or CeltsHeads for sample communities that live on the TruFan platform.

The platform includes standard community features such as profiles, blogs, pictures, and videos, as well as a ticket marketplace (powered by AceTickets.com) that enables fans to buy and sell tickets. Very cool idea with the ticket marketplace, but I wonder about the long-term viability due to ticketing agreements teams have with the StubHubs and Ticketmasters of the world. The platform also enables the communities to have aggregation features, similar to a Digg or Reddit, so users can submit and vote on stories about their favorite teams. You can see more about the platform on TruMedia’s website.

TruFan plans to monetize via advertising, merchandising, ticketing and sponsorships.  A few weeks ago, I was able to have a conversation with TruMedia’s CEO Rafe Anderson about the platform and where they’re going with it. See below for some of my notes from the conversation.

More about TruFan

Their focus is really on the local scene, enabling fans to  keep up with their favorite teams, no matter where they live. One thing they’re doing is helping to support local media properties—for example, they have a partnership with Boston.com to power fan vs. fan debates, known as Slugfests. I think this is a great way for them to get some additional exposure while also helping local media websites stay relevant and become more engaging.

Facebook vs. TruFan

I asked Rafe something to the effect of “now that many teams are engaging fans on Facebook and MySpace, why do you think fans should join TruFan communities?” Rafe said that while Facebook is a great way for teams to communicate and market themselves, fans don’t get the full benefit of local engagement there. TruFan’s value lies in being able to provide an outlet for fans to connect around extremely niche content.

Consolidation

We discussed a little bit about the fact that there are sports communities (official team communities and individual startups) popping up everywhere. While Rafe said he thinks there is room for multiple players, he believes there will be a lot of consolidation over the next couple years. Online sports properties will be able to create a lot more value together than apart.

My Thoughts

I think TruFan is on the right track by partnering with local media and focusing on scalability. They also seem to be thinking about the right things re: monetization.

The only concern I have is that as more teams have their own official  communities and start paying more attention to them (if they can monetize successfully), will fans join these unofficial communities? Also, will sports teams themselves figure out how to partner with local media to share content? This question has been brought up before on Sports Marketing 2.0. How will this affect TruFan and other non-official team communities who want to do these types of partnerships?

There is probably room for multiple team communities in the same market (just as there is room for official and unofficial team websites, blogs, etc.).  What do you think? I certainly don’t have all the answers (I’m not sure anyone does), but certainly would like to hear your thoughts.

Special thanks to Rafe for taking the time to talk about TruFan and what they’re doing.

  • http://sportmanagementeducation.wordpress.com/ TimNATC

    I think this is a good idea, however once the teams/organizations figure out how to “monetize” the content services such as TruFan may fall by the wayside.

  • http://www.twitter.com/mmahoney13 Mike Mahoney

    I think the issue is what is the driver to yet another site. It is so hard to get people to interact outside of the bigger platforms like FB and Twitter. For example See every Ning network ever created. Some have great content but to get continued interaction and participation is very difficult.

  • http://www.trevorturnbull.com Trevor Turnbull

    Hey Jason,

    Thanks for sharing this article…..trust me….I know how hard it is to keep up on blog posting :-)

    I have to agree with Mike’s comment above. There are a number of great social networks out there with great content. The problem is…..it is difficult to get the average fan to engage in fan site (both official and unofficial). Many teams are implementing social networks like Kickapps to engage with fans. I don’t want to say that these won’t work….because they do, but they become restrictive and underutilized because it is yet another social site that people must manage and return to in order to engage with other fans.

    I have been advocating for months now that trams must meet their fans at social sites that are already mainstream. After all…..it seems as though everyone at least has a facebook account these days. Fans are already using Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr, etc. So, teams need to embrace this and join the conversation where the people are. Creating an “exclusive” social network will get you the hard core fans…..but…..these fans are already buying tickets and jerseys. Teams need to reach out to the average fan that wants to feel as though they have a direct lime to the team, executive and players.

    One of my clients, the Calgary Stampeders (Canadian Football League team) are about to launch a social site in the next few days. The whole concept will be to tap into these social site and create a hub for fans to interact. The site will utilize Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr and others to engage fans and allow them to participate in the growth of the site. Here a link to the website http://www.stampsconnect.com

    keep an eye out for it and feel free to touch base with me directly if you’d like to know more!