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chad johnson "ochocinco"In early July, the National Football League announced they would enforce a ban on players using Twitter during games. A Mashable article from July 9th stated, “If you were hoping for Chad Ochocinco to pull out his cell phone and tweet after scoring a touchdown this season, prepare to be disappointed.”

Last week on uStream, Ochocinco announced a contest he was going to hold this season. “I got my contest coming up,” he said:

    Every week I’m flying somebody off of Twitter to a game. Again, I’m flying somebody off of Twitter to a game. It’s eight home games, that’s eight weeks. Every week I will fly somebody out that’s on Twitter, and you will be my designated tweeting person for that game since you already know how to work the device and know what it’s about. We’ll work on our signals for that game as what you’re to tweet at that present time…

The move was brilliant. Not only did he find a way (it seemed) to get around the NFL’s Twitter ban, but he was set to give eight different lucky fans not only a free flight and ticket to a Bengals game, but also the opportunity to interact with him in person, and brief control of his Twitter account. It was to be quite the contest.

nfl logoUnfortunately, the NFL updated its policy on social media yesterday, stating that no NFL player, coach, team personnel, or official may use social media in the time period between 90 minutes before kickoff and 90 minutes after the game ends. “No updates are permitted to be posted,” said the NFL, “by the individual himself or anyone representing him during this prohibited time on his personal Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media account.” So, we will not be seeing Ochocinco’s plan unfold this season.

While the policy saddens me as an enthusiast of both sports and social media, sports tickets and experiences are being given away all the time. Last Friday, the company I work for, VaynerMedia, helped the New York Jets launch a ticket giveaway on Twitter. The Jets gave away 39 pairs of tickets to this Thursday’s preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. In order to win the tickets, you first had to be following the New York Jets on Twitter, and then enter by mentioning one of their thirteen players on Twitter. For example, a fan could have tweeted, “@NYJets I want to win @KerryRhodes tickets,” and as long as they were following @NYJets, they were entered to win. The contest ended Friday night and attracted a lot of interest and interaction for the Jets. Plus, 78 lucky fans get to go to a game for free.

Another example: In the 2008-09 NBA Season, Shaq and Paul Pierce both gave away tickets to fans. On multiple occasions, Shaq would tweet his location and say the first person to touch him would get the tickets. In late March, Pierce tweeted, “aight on my way to arena b there at 430 with my jersey players entrance free tiket to game only got 5 left hurry up passcode is truth.”

Ticket giveaways on Twitter have been done before and they will be done again. But the way fans are getting free access to games is changing all the time. Soon, they will happen in other places and the giveaways will get more and more creative. While professional sports leagues’ social media policies are strict (for now), players like Ochocinco will always be thinking about ways to get around them. And in the end, giveaways will win simply because, let’s face it: we love free stuff.

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