SOUTHFIELD (WWJ) — You might not believe what brands Detroit’s pro sports teams study for ideas in excellence in social media marketing.

Okay, so you’d expect Kevin Currie, director of digital strategy and partnerships for the Detroit Lions, to say, “From a consumer brand standpoint, Nike does it as well as anyone.”

And it might make sense that Doug Wernert, manager of brand networks for Palace Sports & Entertainment and the Detroit Pistons, said he pays attention to “airline sites, for dealing with over the top customer complaints.”

But Ayron Sequiera, director of integrated media for the Detroit Red Wings and Olympia Entertainment, responded: “We pay a lot of attention to National Geographic, believe it or not. They are great when it comes to their Instagram channel, and that’s something were trying to grow. They are always on point and their imagery is stunning.”

Also, Sequiera said, “Red Bull does some really interesting things with repurposing old video on social media to draw people back to their (web) site.”

Currie, Sequiera and Wernert spoke Thursday morning at a WWJ Technology Report breakfast at Lawrence Technological University on social media marketing and pro sports. An audio podcast of the event is below.

Wernert said the great thing about social media marketing is that everything is trackable — and that it allows fans to have a more personal relationship with a team and the sports stars they idolize.

Of course, there’s a business aspect to all this. All three panelists said they’re judged by growth in terms of social media engagements and ticket sales that stem from those relationships.

The three panelists took different career paths to their current posts. Sequiera said she’s been in the NHL for 16 years — starting as an usher and working her way up to intern. She joined the Red Wings six years ago as executive producer of entertainment. In her current role, she oversees publications, website development and content, video production and social media.

Wernert has been with the Pistons 18 months after spending five and a half years at the PR agency Weber Shandwick in Birmingham, where he started as an intern. While there, he worked on the Pure Michigan and Chevrolet Volt campaigns. He handles the Web site and email marketing as well as social media for the Pistons and Palace Sports & Entertainment’s concert venues, DTE Energy Theatre and Meadowbrook.

Currie came up through ad sales with a business background. He’s been with the Lions two years supervising the business function of digital media. Prior to his arrival, Currie said the Lions viewed social media as a PR function — but now they’re viewing it as a strategic part of growing their business.

Not all the teams use all of the social media. Sequeira said the Red Wings recently closed down a Pinterest account, but Instagram has been growing rapidly. “If you can find a Canadian male who will admit to being on Pinterest,” she said with a laugh.

Wernert said traffic had doubled on the Pistons’ Instagram site had doubled in the past six months, while Twitter has doubled in the past year.

And social media are a better way than just about anything else to get direct realtime fan feedback, panelists said.

“If we hear from people that the hot dogs are always cold at Ford Field, we need to act on that,” Currie said.

Panelists said Google+ is a good place for business to be — because it affects your Google search results. And they said Twitter doesn’t drive as much traffic, but those who are on it are really passionately engaged.

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