As social media is still a realm in which few can deem themselves experts, those in charge of social media, digital marketing, and public relations for large franchises such as professional sports teams often find themselves questioning the boundaries of their work, and how they can push them without facing negative consequences.  Dewayne Hankins, director of digital media for the Los Angeles Kings, faced these issues when he reported to LA to overhaul their media in November of 2010.

Los Angeles is not exactly the hockey capital of the United States, compared to Minnesota, where Hankins had previously built the social media outreach for the Minnesota Wild. Hankins faced a challenge in that he had to create a unique voice for a franchise in a city whose basketball team boasted 17 championships, but whose hockey team *had* no Stanley Cups to their name. In doing so, Hankins effectively helped to cultivate the hockey culture in southern California, and along the way, the LA Kings hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup – and was the first #8 seeded team to do so.

Social media in professional sports teams can be very bland. Those without a notion of the impact that effective use of social media can have on the fan base of the franchise tend to stray away from too much innovation, and thus engage fewer consumers. An account that serves the purpose of posting in-game updates and final scores serves a purpose, but is it worth maintaining if it isn’t doing anything to better the franchise? Dewayne Hankins thinks the answer is no, and I have to agree.

Hankins has made the most impressive influence on the Kings franchise via Twitter. From early April of 2012 to the end of May (Stanley Cup playoffs) the @LAKings account gained 60,000 new followers. It was tweets like these that really got the hockey (and social media) world talking:

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This was just after the Kings had beaten the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 in the opening game of the series in the early rounds of playoffs. Hankins called this, “the tweet that shook Canada” after media started to bring up the specific tweet with Kings players. Hankins has been quoted saying that many of the team’s “ribbing tweets” are inspired by fans of other teams – and in this case it was the fans of other Canadian teams who had tweeted at the LA Kings, thanking them for beating the Canucks. This was Hankins way of saying, “you’re welcome.”

Other provocative tweets include an awesome (IMHO) exchange with the Detroit Redwings official Twitter account:

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Now the Red Wings last won the cup in 2008, which really isn’t that long ago, but many have written them off as contenders for a few reasons, one of them being the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom.

The big question here is: are these tweets appropriate? Are they harming the franchise? I personally think that these are the exact type of interactions that hockey fans in particular love to see. No foul language was used, no specific players were targeted, but playful taunts were exchanged – incredibly toned down versions of what the actual players exchange in games. If this were the Twitter account of a children’s soccer club and it posted tweets antagonizing specific players on an opposing team and saying hurtful things about other clubs, we would have a different story on our hands. Because these taunts are kept light-hearted and cater to the culture of “chirping” that has evolved in hockey, I think they are fitting and a creative way to engage and rile up a fan base, which is exactly what Hankins serves to do.

Other examples of “Hall-of-Fame tweets” as Hankins likes to refer to them as, are:


where Hankins campaigns for Anze Kopitar to be on the cover of NHL 13, playing in on popular pop culture references (Nickelback), and posting other humorous fun facts that engage the followers.

Another great way they have engaged their following is through celebrity engagement. Rainn Wilson, probably better known as Dwight Schrute from The Office, took to his Twitter account to inquire about tickets to game 4 of the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the LA Kings and Phoenix Coyotes. Here’s what ensued:

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For those who don’t watch The Office, Wilson’s character Dwight Schrute was pranked by his co-worker Jim when he found his stapler encased in Jell-O in the pilot episode of the series.

What an awesome way to gain more publicity, engage followers of an extremely popular television show, and to have fun while doing so. Wilson tweeted while he was at the game, which gave more exposure to the franchise:

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Even though some of these tweets are a little strange (true to Dwight’s character), they are somewhat provocative and entertaining, and did nothing but good for the franchise.

I had never seen this interaction before doing a little more research on the LA Kings media presence, but this is one of my favorite things that the Kings have done:


If you’re confused, watch this:

If you haven’t seen Wayne’s World (one of the best movies of all time) you probably won’t fully appreciate this reference. But it’s absolutely brilliant. The LA Kings have found unique ways to engage their audience by sprinkling in pop culture references such as Nickelback and Wayne’s World, engaging celebrities such as Rainn Wilson, and playfully taunting their opponents in a way that mimics the style of the chirping that goes on between players on the ice. Having this account associated with the team puts a playfully competitive, engaged, humorous face to the franchise, and keeps the fans wanting to come back for more. I’m a die-hard Chicago Blackhawks fan, but after doing more research on the Kings franchise, I now follow them on Twitter as I am interested in taking away some ideas that I can possibly incorporate into social media for Boston College athletics.

What do you guys think of what the LA Kings are doing on Twitter? Do you think there are negative consequences of some of the risks that they have taken that I have failed to realize?