Digital Autograph Signing on Social Media

Digital Autograph Signing on Social Media

Author: Gina Mason/October 7, 2013

The game of soccer is growing at an exponential rate in the U.S. and even though Americans are a little late to the soccer party, “it’s better late than never.” With NBC Sports now broadcasting the Barclays Premiere League, a promising future for Team U.S.A in next year’s World Cup and the FIFA video game craze, soccer is slowly, but surely becoming a prominent sport in the United States. Although Major League Soccer (MLS) has struggled to break into the big four of U.S. sports (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL), it has gained some momentum in the last few years. By signing big name international stars like David Beckham, catapulting American born players like Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey into the spotlight and using unique social media tactics, the MLS is on its way to reaching its goal of scoring more American viewership.

The MLS in particular has been very proactive with their digital initiatives to get fans more involved and I found one of their recent campaigns to be extremely interesting. Two weeks ago, the MLS hosted a unique and somewhat unusual social event on Google+ with top ranking player and Portland Timers midfielder, Darlington Nagbe. The league held its first “digital signing” in which Nagbe answered fan’s questions via video call and signed autographs for fans on a tablet. The digital autographs were then emailed directly to fans as a PDF and formatted for fans to share their autographed photo with their social media followers.

This concept is extremely intriguing to me. I really like the creativity of the MLS and the fact that they are utilizing social media to reach a broader audience who may not follow soccer. Also from a league PR perspective, I think that digital signings are a creative way to give back to fans in both a unique and cost effective way. If I have learned anything from my previous experience working with the Yankees, I found that fans generally appreciate anything that is free. Whether it is a t-shirt, a poster, a bobble head or a keychain you really can’t lose with free sports paraphilia and even the smallest gestures are usually well received. So to have the ability of getting something signed digitally and emailed to you is the ultimate convenience for the fan, the athlete and the league. Digital signings also present future opportunities for leagues, players or charities to profit by charging a signing fee for fans to get personalized digital autographs. 

Whether we like it or not, we are living in a digital age and digital content is the future.  So maybe, the MLS is onto something groundbreaking and digital signing are the future as well. However while this is very forward thinking, this also raises a lot of questions.

-How will this affect the memorabilia market?

-Will these digital autographs have the same value to fans?

-Does this open the door to more counterfeit autographs?

-Will athletes be in favor of doing digital signings since it will be more convenient for them and will eliminate people profiting from their autographs on sites like eBay?

I think that digital signings can complement the MLS’ efforts to gain recognition and create buzz for the league and its players. However, I feel that once the MLS and its digital signings gets big, the idea of digital signings may lose its fan appeal. I am particularly interested to see how digital signings develop over the next couple years and if this method catches on to other sports leagues.

 What are your thoughts on digital signings and do you think this is the future for sports?

I welcome all comments and would love to hear your opinions. As always, if you like what your read be social and share.

Check out the video of the digital signing with Darlington Nagbe here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xr37evTDuLk

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