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The NWHL and the Age of Social Media Marketing

The NWHL has taken to social media marketing like a duck to water, adding Twitter accounts, Instagram takeovers and Reddit AMAs to their list of ways to spread the word.

It’s a popular topic when talking about the newest women’s league on the block. They’ve done a good job on that front, interacting with fans, putting up exclusive information and making sure their social media-friendly players are at the forefront of conversations about women’s hockey.

But why does the league see social media marketing as such an important piece to their marketing strategy?

A league representative spoke Tuesday at the Boston Pride’s first practice on that very topic.

“The biggest thing that we’re looking for, what Dani (Rylan, league founder and commissioner) likes to say is: ‘we want to have 72 stars in this league,'” said the representative. “We want to have every player in this league be a big deal. The best way to do that is for everybody to know them and care about them and have information on them.”

To that extent, the NWHL has the Twitter handles of every player with a Twitter (and it seems they were encouraged to get one if they didn’t have one already) on their site. It recently started an NWHL-exclusive blog called Double Overtime that, currently as it stands, lacks some bite.

However, as the season gets going and players become better-known to fans, those posts should begin to take on a more intriguing air, much like Players’ Tribune articles.

The NWHL envisions a season where fans tweet photos of themselves in, say, Buffalo Beauts goaltender Brianne McLaughlin jerseys at a Beauts game to Brianne McLaughlin herself, in real time. Where fans are excited to see these players perform and to have some form of access of personal connection to them. Social media is one of the simplest ways to do so.

McLaughlin is one of several NWHL players who has really taken advantage of what social media has to offer and has been interacting with fans on a regular basis online. This, of course, should help bump up her jersey sales, which will in turn result in her being paid more by the league as players earn 15 percent of their jersey sales.

To no one’s surprise, internationally-famed New York Riveters goaltender Nana Fujimoto is currently at the top of that race, but all the players have a good chance to catch up.

“We want to have this big circle of hockey love for the NWHL, and social media right now is a great way for us to get the word out,” the league representative said.

“Social media is definitely something we’re focusing on. as a way to increase the awareness of the league and specific players themselves,” she continued.

However, she noted that it was not the only way forward. It is simply one of the cheapest and fastest.

Teams will be marketing themselves in a grassroots manner as well, targeting a wider audience than the social media-savvy twentysomethings that generally inhabit Twitter, Reddit, Instagram and the like.

Hayley Moore, Boston Pride general manager, spoke about making appearances at offseason sports as a way to increase her team’s reach locally, as well as trying to find a way to partner with other women’s teams in the community.

“Obviously the Lowell Spinners events yesterday and about a month ago were great opportunities to get us out there,” Moore said Tuesday. “Summer sports are a great advantage (for us). We can put ourselves out there. But also, just looking ahead to the hockey season we’ve also done some events with the Boston Breakers Women’s soccer team – their home venue happens to be Harvard as well – but really any opportunity that we have to gain awareness for our sport and interact with the community in general is what we’re looking to do. You can definitely look ahead to more events.”

Young women and girls are a big focus for the NWHL, which should come as no surprise considering the NWHL Foundation’s mission to promote the long-term growth of women’s hockey.

“We want everyone to be a fan of our sport,” said Moore, “but I think the greatest thing about our league is that we can provide young female athletes with incredible role models. I think that would be the most rewarding target audience to be able to work with: young girls.”

The NWHL’s focus on social media-marketing shows a short-term vision that combines with a longer-term goal.

By focusing on the future that is 10 or 20 years off through the foundation side, the NWHL is ensuring an audience for themselves for years to come while simultaneously working on developing one for the immediate future through social media.

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