Sunday Musings: It all started with a tweet

The giant Sacramento sign at Here We Buy Night 1. (Photo: Steven Chea)

It all started with a tweet.

That is how this chapter in the Sacramento Kings arena/relocation saga will always be told.  A food blogger and daughter of NBA power agent David Falk let the news slip that the Kings were being sold to the Seattle group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer early one January morning.

“So I hear that the Seattle Kings is officially a done deal,” Daina Falk tweeted almost three months ago on Jan. 8.  “The Maloofs finally sold the ailing Sacramento team.”

The social media world set aflame in a matter of moments and by noon that day, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports had confirmed the news.

An incredible horse race followed, one that should come to a finish over the next couple of weeks.

And it all started with a tweet.  A tweet that exposed Seattle’s plans and opened a small door for the city of Sacramento.

It’s poetic in a way, because Sacramento is the capital of social media.  It is the place where the term “grassroots movement” has taken on a whole new meaning, all on the back of social media tools like Facebook and Twitter.

“Social media has played a major part in the fight to keep the Kings,” Blake Ellington, founder of the “Here We Stay” movement told Cowbell Kingdom.  “It has given fans a way to mobilize, communicate with key stakeholders and express their opinions with the potential for it to go viral.”

Here We Stay started the fight to keep the Kings in October 2010, playing on the Kings’ own “Here We Rise” promotional campaign.  That was the beginning of the “Here We” campaigns that have taken on so many shapes and forms.

In March of 2011, local radio talk show host Carmichael Dave used Twitter to start “Here We Build” .  The campaign got Kings fans to pledge more than $700,000 in a handful of days and it all started with a single tweet.  Following approval by the Anaheim City Council to issue bonds to improve the Honda Center in an attempt to lure the Kings south, he tweeted: “Carmichael Dave has voted 1-0 to donate $200 towards building a new arena in Sacramento.”

It’s not an exaggeration.  Just recently, Kings fans used social media to collect more than $17,000 in donations in a matter of days to purchase tickets for underprivileged children and their families.  They have used it to coordinate chants inside of Sleep Train Arena for “Here We Stay” and “Here We Buy” nights.  And they have used it to collect nearly 10,000 pledges for season tickets under a brand new ownership group.

Twitter and Facebook are the modern day phone tree, but they’re more than that.  These social media tools have become momentum shifters.  In 140 characters or less, days are ruined in one city and parties are started in another.  Whoever controls the moment-to-moment message has the advantage.

Sacramento is battle-tested and proficient in the art of managing the 21st century’s 24-hour news cycle.

In a world where the voice of the masses is often ignored, the people of Sacramento have used social media to change the tenor of the political conversation and empower their elected officials.  It has also brought California’s capital community closer together.

“Another unique thing about the role social media has played is how it has brought Kings fans together and helped build partnerships and friendships that may not have happened,” Ellington said.

While this story started with a lone tweet, the initial reaction from the national media was to write off Sacramento and see the relocation of the Kings to Seattle as a foregone conclusion.

But the conversation has changed.  The bylines have changed and those with incredibly loud and valuable voices in the media are now hedging their bets.

They are doing this because the new world of social media is holding journalistic accountability to a new standard.  With all of the attention on Sacramento and Seattle, you better have the story right because if you don’t, the critics now come in the masses.

The story in Sacramento isn’t over.  Whales have been wrangled.  Arena financing deals are in place.  Corporate sponsorships are being readied.

But that is not all.  Sacramento has long had one of the most vibrant fanbases in professional sports.  And now this fanbase is mobilized and has a voice like never before.  And that voice is loud and speaks to the 19-out-of-28 seasons fans have completely sold out Sleep Train Arena.

The game no longer ends at a television set or in a stadium that has changed naming rights three times in the last three years.  It carries on all day and night through the power of social media.

For the prospective owners who’d like to keep the team in Sacramento, just know this.  That if you buy the Kings, you aren’t just getting the team, the arena and a ton of purple and black merchandise.  You are getting a finely-tuned, 21st-century fanbase that’s ready for what’s next.  They are a ready and willing partner in the revitalization of a once-proud franchise and can be mobilized in a moment’s notice.

So hold onto your hats and make sure your Twitter feeds and Facebook pages are ready for the traffic.  The end of this saga is near, but it’s going to be a wild couple of weeks.

And keep in mind, that all of this started with just a single tweet.

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