The Twitter experiment

It was “announced” on twitter yesterday that the Philly Wings will be trying an interesting PR move during a game this season: having the players’ twitter handles on the back of their jerseys rather than their names. This hasn’t been officially announced anywhere, but it seems to have been confirmed by a number of players. Judging from the reaction on twitter, there are a few people who like the idea, but the majority are unconvinced that this is a good idea. OK, that’s generous – most people who tweeted about it hate the idea, including players such as Andrew McBride and Jeff Zywicki. I was in that camp as well – at first. I have to say that the idea is growing on me. I still can’t say that I love it but if done right, it could have a net positive effect.

The NLL is likely doing this not only as a way to get the team and the league some press, but as another move to prove to fans that the players are more accessible than many other professional athletes. There are NHL players on twitter as well, but if you tweet “Hey @ovi8, great game last night!” you are unlikely to get a reply from Alex Ovechkin, since your tweet will get lost in the thousands of other tweets he likely gets from his 270,000+ followers. But if you tweet “Hey @bigdaws02, great game last night!” you are much more likely to get a reply from Paul Dawson. Of course, they’ll need to talk to the players first to make sure of the following:

  1. Which players are on twitter, and what to do about those who aren’t
  2. Those on twitter are behaving themselves
  3. They don’t mind actually logging in from time to time and responding to fans
  4. The handles are appropriate – if 6’10” Richard Morgan were to use “BigDick” as his twitter handle, don’t expect the Swarm to follow suit
  5. It’s at least somewhat easy to tell who the player is from his handle. Stealth owner Denise Watkins uses the twitter handle @drgnqwn which may make sense to her, but I have no idea what it means, and if I saw something like that on the back of a jersey, it wouldn’t be obvious who it is.

Is this the kind of thing the NHL or MLB would do? No. But the NLL isn’t the NHL, as much as people would like to think it is, or could be. Maybe someday it will be and maybe not but either way, we ain’t there yet. Trying to get there requires getting more exposure, and this should help. Is it completely positive exposure? I’d have to say no considering the number of negative comments I saw on twitter, but this issue was compared to the infamous Boston lap dance competition a couple of years ago, and I don’t think this is the same. That was completely inappropriate and should have been flagged as a bad decision right away. This isn’t inappropriate, just… unusual. It may also turn out to be a bad decision, but we won’t really know until it happens. Some have said that any exposure is good exposure and I think the lap dance thing disproved that notion to some extent, but even if you think this is a silly idea, it’s not likely to make you decide to stop bringing your kids to the games. Even if it’s a complete flop, it’s only for one game.

The Wings should thank their lucky stars that Drew Westervelt didn’t do like I did and just use his full name on twitter. @Dwesty1426 may not be as obvious, but @DrewWestervelt might not even fit on the back of the jersey.

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