PR Lessons from One Company’s Embarrassing Twitter Duel with Eagles Fans

As the Philadelphia Eagles continue their dominant run to Super Bowl LVII, emotions in the City of Brotherly Love are running at an all-time high. Unfortunately for one of the largest sports-and-entertainment venues in the city, that excitement recently spilled into an embarrassing—and public— Twitter exchange after it was announced that Xfinity Live! planned to host a tailgate for traveling New York Giants fans before the NFC Divisional match-up.

In this post, I’ll outline how that controversy unfolded, as well as some important takeaways for companies who may find themselves in a similar position or are trying to avoid this type of situation altogether.

First, a little background

Anybody with first-hand knowledge of the South Philadelphia sports complex knows that Xfinity Live! is the only bar outside of the three stadiums. That often means long lines down Pattison Ave. for the many fans looking to grab a drink or watch a big game. So, it was no wonder that Eagles fans on Twitter reacted harshly to the news that Xfinity Live! planned to host a pre-game tailgate for opposing Giants fans who were bold enough to travel to Philly for the Jan. 22 game.

The online controversy started when EROCK, an Eagles superfan with 33,000 followers, posted a tweet binging “shame of [X]finity [L]ive for even booking this.” Unfortunately, Xfinity Live!’s Twitter account took the bait, and the situation quickly deteriorated from there, with a series of insults volleyed back and forth and the venue escalating at every turn. The event was amplified for days by EROCK’s followers, earning Xfinity Live! negative press a black eye with their most important customer base, die-hard Philadelphia sports fans. Xfinity Live! later deleted the tweets, but never publicly acknowledged that the ordeal had taken place.

The Eagles, meanwhile, beat New York 38-7, and any Giants fans who did make the trip to Lincoln Financial Field left the stadium utterly dejected, most likely in the third quarter. The Birds won big again the following week, booking their first trip to the Super Bowl since the 2017-2018 season.

What could have been done differently

The obvious answer is that Xfinity Live! should have never responded to EROCK’s tweet in the first place. However, the fact that this the exchange happened at all is evidence of poor communications by one of the city’s most prominent sports bars. Let’s take a look at how Xfinity Live! and other businesses can approach the minefield of social media during a negative media event.

  • Have a clear social media policy in place ahead of time. Every company, no matter the size, should have a dedicated staff to promote and protect the firm’s brand on social media. Only designated employees should have access to the accounts and should be trained on how to execute social media strategy and respond to a crisis. Any content should be thoughtfully crafted and posted in line with the company’s brand and values. Managers should also provide oversight and approval before any posts are sent.
  • Stay on top of your accounts. Companies should routinely monitor and audit their platforms to ensure that the messaging is aligned with the brand’s voice and values. This not only demonstrates that the business values social media as an important part of its communications strategy, but it also positions the firm and its staff to respond quickly and decisively to any mistakes.
  • Act quickly and show accountability. In the event of a crisis, companies need to identify the source of the problem and shut down rogue posts immediately. While specifics of a particular situation can help determine whether the offending posts should be deleted, brands should always acknowledge the error in a follow-up post on the same platform. Addressing the issue demonstrates that the business takes the issue seriously and is committed to preventing the mistake from happening again. They should also communicate what caused the error and explain how they are working to avoid repeating it in the future.

Following these steps could have helped Xfinity Live! avoid an embarrassing dust-up on social media. Hopefully, the company and its staff learned a lesson and will better prepared for many more Philadelphia playoff games to come.

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