Sports New MediaSports New Media specialises in offering integrated social media management services to high-profile sports stars and organisations. It wanted to launch a cloud-based social media management tool to minimise upfront investment and rapidly gain market share. For its award-winning Syocial media management system, Sports New Media chose Windows Azure, making its service accessible around the clock through the web to more than 70 million fans.

Business Needs

Founded in 2009, Sports New Media works in partnership with sports stars such as Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, and Boris Becker. It also collaborates with organisations including the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA) in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). The company has a customer base of more than 70 million sports fans around the world, growing at a rate of three a second.

The firm wanted to help sports associations and individual stars engage with their fans through social media. Nick Thain, Chief Executive Officer, Sports New Media, says: “Sports New Media is a hybrid technology and media company that manages Facebook pages and social network presences for its sports clients. Our aim is to connect brands with fans using our cloud-based media management system called Syocial. We created Syocial to automate the process of providing relevant and timely content to fans across social networks—and to monitor a brand’s activity within those networks. We’re currently focused on Facebook.”

Sports New Media dominates the management of social media campaigns for football in the U.K. and is poised to expand rapidly into other sports. For example, it has recently started working with top athletes across the world to manage their Facebook pages. The company has won several awards for business innovation, with the Wall Street Journal recently describing it as, “the brightest example of niche marketing technology married to comprehensive brand monitoring services.”

Solution

Sports New Media chose Windows Azure and SQL Azure as the operating system and database management software for Syocial—helping it manage, moderate, analyse, and publish content to multiple Facebook pages.

Syocial has a range of tools that help companies and athletes engage with their fans while protecting brand integrity. Thain says: “The system is reliable, scalable, and cloud-based. It automatically deletes defamatory content and inappropriate words within five seconds—and it works 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, Syocial can schedule posts in advance to align with product launches and news announcements in multiple languages and locations.”

Syocial uses the Facebook application programming interface to moderate hundreds of thousands of pages and delivers intelligent broadcasting and posting capabilities to its clients. Windows Azure automatically handles network load balancing and failover, and Syocial dynamically scales to provide continuous availability using Windows Azure Worker roles and SQL Azure to deliver the service.

Thain says: “Syocial provides analytics, so it’s easy to see what’s happening on fan pages either historically or in real time. It automates the process of providing relevant content to interfaces across social networks and helps monitor a brand’s activity within those networks.”

In 2010, Sports New Media was invited by Microsoft to become a BizSpark One company. BizSpark One gives eligible startups technical support, training for key staff, and access to the latest Microsoft software, including an introduction to the Windows Azure team—particularly valuable for startups in cloud computing.

Benefits

Sports New Media chose to develop its social media reputation management system with Windows Azure. And, as a Microsoft BizSpark One company, it has been taking advantage of the software provided. The system is robust enough to handle 500,000 new users a month using the platform-as-a-service model.

Reliable service minimises downtime. Syocial uses Windows Azure as the operating system for its cloud-based media management tool, providing a reliable and secure platform. Thain says: “Our previous system used the same server as a high-profile Internet company and was badly affected when that server was turned off in the United States in 2010. With Windows Azure and Microsoft cloud computing, we have a completely secure standalone service.”

Moderating content for inappropriate language takes just five seconds. Sports stars such as England cricket player Kevin Pietersen and sporting organisations such as UEFA protect their Facebook pages from inappropriate content through automated monitoring by Syocial. News or product releases can be timed to take place simultaneously to millions of followers.

Cost-effective cloud-based financial model helps cash flow. By using Microsoft cloud computing, Sports New Media has avoided the need to invest in physical servers while attracting up to 70 million customers in just 12 months. “Fast time to market was a major benefit of using Microsoft cloud computing to launch our global service,” says Thain.

Microsoft partnership ensures IT supports the business. Microsoft BizSpark One membership—along with ongoing access to technical resources at Microsoft U.K.—is helping Sports New Media develop its services. “We regard Microsoft as a business partner rather than a vendor selling us services,” says Thain. “We’re looking to expand the company further with a number of major opportunities in the U.K. during the summer months.”

Dynamic scalability accommodates networking peaks. “When a football star scores a goal, the social network around that star lights up,” says Thain. “For us, that’s a huge surge in traffic to monitor and maintain. With Windows Azure we can dynamically scale up, so we can deal with these peaks quickly—and then scale down at quieter times. It’s like having an unlimited data centre.”

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