It’s just a few minutes before tipoff at a recent Celtics home game, and to find an empty seat at TD Garden, you need to make a dedicated search.
For two fortunate fans who are already settled in, however, the vantage point is about to get a whole lot better.
Peter Stringer, the Celtics’ senior director of interactive media, turns on his smartphone, opens up the Twitter app, and fires off a challenge to the roughly 450,000 followers of @Celtics: He gives his location, then promises that the first person to find him will get an upgrade of two tickets near courtside.
Stringer walks from the parquet floor up to the 300 level, where he is soon greeted by a young couple. They’re savvy enough to know where to find him, and quick - but not savvy enough to not reveal that they’ve won the tickets before and were just waiting for him to arrive. He gives them a voucher but not the upgrade.
A moment later, another fan approaches. His name is Mark Anderson. He is there with his wife, and he asks the winning question: “Are you Peter Stringer?’’ An affirmation later, he has two choice seats and a huge smile.
“It’s a pretty awesome thing for them to do,’’ said Anderson. “Not that I needed another reason to be a Celtics fan.’’
Said Stringer, “It is a good feeling to be able to do that for fans, to help make their experience even more enjoyable.’’
It’s more than just a nice gesture, though - it’s just one of many ways the Celtics use social media in creative ways to connect with fans.
The Celtics have approximately 6.4 million “likes’’ on Facebook, the second-largest following in North American sports behind the Lakers. They were the first NBA team with a Facebook app (“Celtics 3-Point Play’’), and Stringer runs a popular chat during games, hosted by Cover It Live, that has become a community unto itself.
Because of the efforts of team president Rich Gotham, chief marketing officer Shawn Sullivan, and Stringer, the Celtics have remained in stride with the most recent social media trends and breakouts such as Instagram and Pinterest. A recent “Pin It To Win It’’ contest on Pinterest, in which users create theme-based photo collections, had more than 100 entries, exceeding expectations.
What the Celtics do not have is a smartphone app, though one is in the works.
“We’re in the process of surveying our fans as to what functionality they would truly value, both inside and outside of the arena, and results of over 5,000 show there’s great demand for Celtics mobile content,’’ said Gotham.
Of course, the motivation for the approach isn’t entirely about accessibility and interaction. The Celtics have seen legitimate financial benefits from their social media efforts.
“We generated 90,000 fans from Facebook during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, and it helped generate in the range of $200,000 in ticket revenue,’’ Stringer said. “And Pinterest in particular is an interesting new avenue in terms of online commerce. Maybe someone pins something to their board from our online shop that they end up buying for themselves or a spouse.’’
One area where the Celtics may need to sharpen up their strategy? The Twitter ticket upgrade.
“I think we may have to find a few new wrinkles for that one next year,’’ Stringer said. “When I get to a spot and they’re already there waiting for me, that’ll be a sign we need to adjust.’’
Watching the draft
With the first round of the NFL draft conducted in prime time Thursday night on ESPN and the NFL Network, and six more rounds to go Friday (2-3) and Saturday (4-7), even the most enthusiastic draftnik can’t help but wonder whether we’re heading for a time when one round is broadcast each day for a full week. That would mean much more Chris Berman than the Surgeon General advises. Boomer is best in moderation.
This year’s Nielsen ratings are of particular interest. A season ago, the NFL Network averaged more than a million viewers for the first round and 566,000 over three days, its best audience ever for the event. But ESPN’s audience shrank from an average of 7.3 million in 2010 to 6.0 last year overall, including 4.4 million on the first day. It was the second most-watched draft ever, with 42 million viewers watching at least one minute of coverage on one outlet or another. Yet it was down from the previous year.
There were ancillary reasons for the dip last year: fallout from the lockout, as well as competitive programming on other networks, including Steve Carell’s farewell episode of “The Office.’’
With the instant star power of quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III at the top of this year’s draft and plenty of mystery and intrigue beyond those two picks, there’s a reasonable possibility that this year’s ratings set a new standard.
Coverage resumes at 7 p.m. Friday on both ESPN and the NFL Network, then at noon on both networks Saturday.
Who was that?
Several readers asked why so many of the former players who took part in the pregame festivities weren’t identified during NESN’s broadcast of Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary last Friday. Here is NESN spokesman Gary Roy’s explanation: “The original plan was to font each of the 216 players. However, as the ceremony and introductions progressed, we felt the graphics became a distraction. The brisk pace of the players coming out made it challenging to have each graphic in there long enough to read, and we decided at a certain point during the introductions that the graphics would take away from the overall quality of the production. In the end, our goal was to make the viewers at home feel like they were witnessing the ceremony in person.’’ . . . The Bruins may have lost Game 7 of their series to the Capitals Wednesday night, but it was a victory in one way for NESN. The network set a single-game ratings record for Bruins hockey with a 19.6 average household rating in the Boston market. The game ranks as the sixth-highest-rated event in NESN history, and grabbed a 31 share. NESN’s previous single-game high for a Bruins game was last year’s Game 7 quarterfinal victory over the Canadiens, which earned a 17.7/28 . . . Liverpool is giving Fox Soccer behind-the-scenes access for a six-episode documentary series. “Our Liverpool: Never Walk Alone’’ will air this fall in the United States and likely will be shown on networks around the world. “I come from a background where the more supporters get to know the inside workings of the club, the more they are interested in the club itself,’’ said Liverpool chairman Tom Werner, also chairman of the Red Sox. “I am not fearful of showing some behind-the-scenes looks at what’s going on, because it will only increase awareness of the players.’’Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Chad Finn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globechadfinn.