Coyotes reach out with Thwapr

The Phoenix Coyotes live on the new-media cusp.

"We try to push the envelope a little bit," said Mike Sharer, manager of new media for the team. "With the struggles we've had with the bankruptcy last offseason, we've been trying as much as possible to do different stuff other teams aren't doing to be ahead of the game."

So it would make sense that the Coyotes became the first -- and for now, only -- team to partner up with Thwapr.

What's Thwapr?

It's a mobile video-sharing platform the Coyotes have been using since the end of February. Fans can subscribe to the service by texting "Coyotes" to 757575 or signing up on the team's website. Once subscribed, the team blasts out video of postgame press conferences and locker-room interviews to fans via text message. Fans can then text it along to other friends, or share to their Twitter or Facebook pages, if they so choose.

And it's worked.

Sharer said every time the Coyotes mention the service, be it via Facebook, Twitter or during a home game -- they promoted Thwapr on the Jumbotron during their first-round playoff series that ended Tuesday night with a Game 7 loss to the Detroit Red Wings -- they've seen a "significant jump" of a "couple hundred fans" signing up for the service.

"In today's world of now media, people aren't waiting to get home for the 11 o'clock news -- maybe their team will be on there, maybe they won't," said Leigh Newsome, vice president of user experience for Thwapr. "Most people have phones in their pockets. When there's something of substantial content or that is unique or just a general scheduled promo that the team wants to release out to their users, that person will get it on their phone no matter where they are.

"And so I think a lot of companies in general are seeing the power of that. And that capability now, specifically in sports, is an incredibly powerful and huge area."

Thwapr's technology, which has been in the works for three years and launched at the end of 2009, according to Newsome, solved a problem in the mobile market. With so many different carriers and phones, sending out video clips that worked across all platforms was virtually impossible.

But in real time, Thwapr's technology understands the correct format for your phone and delivers the best possible video experience. There's nothing to download, and according to the company's website, the technology is compatible with "over 200 phones across major carriers in the U.S. and Canada."

"A lot of other companies require a specific download or only support the iPhone or the BlackBerry," Newsome said. "We work regardless of what the phone is. We also don't require any downloads. If your phone supports text messaging and has a browser, then Thwapr works on that phone."

So think of this utility-wise for a sports institution. Where a team's iPhone app can be a nice revenue stream and marketing tool, the consumer base is limited to iPhone users and those alone. But with Thwapr, a team can blast out video clips to a wider swath of fans.

The more you reach, the better for your brand, the more consumers you connect to.

"We wanted to offer fans a way to receive mobile video directly after the game, so whether it be postgame interviews or locker-room interviews -- if someone's not in front of their computer, they can get it sent straight to their phone," Sharer said. "And it works on such a large number of phones, it seemed like it was the best thing to work with [Thwapr]."

Newsome said the mobile video space is growing "tremendously" and that in the next two to three years projections set active mobile users at 400 million. While many major media sites, such as ESPN.com, successfully deliver video across a variety of mobile platforms, that hasn't been the case for most sports teams.

Newsome added that Thwapr has been in discussions with other teams in the past few weeks, in part because of its relationship with the Coyotes, and the company could possibly have new partnerships in the near future.

The Coyotes will continue to use the service over the summer -- community-related pieces will be the focus, and the team should be able to monetize, as ads will be worked into the videos -- and into next season.

Thwapr also offers a two-way conversation component -- fans can record their own videos or text back comments to create a conversation with each Thwapr post -- something the Coyotes are testing now and hope to push out during the offseason.

"We're trying to get video and content out to fans as easily as possibly in all sort of different mediums," Sharer said.

Ryan Corazza is a freelance writer and Web designer based in Chicago.