By Shannon Valerio, Hockey VIPs Magazine
June 24, 2015
Moscow, Russia — Sitting across from Russian social media guru Dmitry Tereshchenko, it is impossible not to feel his enthusiasm as he talks about his job.
Tereshchenko is the mastermind behind Spartak Moscow’s impressive Twitter footprint. Though the team lost its sponsor last year and did not participate in the 2014-15 Kontinental Hockey League season, Tereshchenko continued to perform his social media and marketing duties as a volunteer for the organization. Spartak still iced a team in the MHL — a Russian major junior league — and Tereshchenko remained hard at work promoting them.
After all, it is a labor of love.
Tereshchenko began using social media as a fan of Spartak Moscow. In those early days, he was an unaffiliated regular guy who simply loved the team.
“Originally it was my hobby,” he told Hockey VIPs Magazine over tea in the lounge of Moscow’s posh Lotte Hotel. “Because I am a fan of Spartak, my grandfather was a fan of Spartak, my father was a fan of Spartak. It’s a family tradition.”
He had seen the success social media had brought international teams and wanted to bring that kind of promotion to his favorite squad. Though he had a full-time job, he set out to do that in his spare time. (The account he set up was @)
Over the years Tereshchenko’s Spartak Twitter page amassed a huge following and he approached the team’s press office urging them to consider using social media to market the club. The press officer at the time laughed it all off as “rubbish” and a waste of time.
Finally in 2012 Spartak management saw the impact his work was having on the team’s fan base — both at home and abroad. They hired him and he became the KHL’s first social media professional.
Although he has taken a few courses in public relations, most of what Tereshchenko has learned about social media has been through his own research and willingness to reach out to others for help and advice. In fact, he credits the 2010-11 Nashville Predators digital media manager for helping him achieve such success.
“He helped me very much with Facebook and Twitter,” Tereshchenko said. “And he helped me with some concepts on YouTube. He absolutely helped me with all platforms.”
Doing it Differently
Over the years, he has cultivated a vast international network and a large devoted fan base for the club.
Tereshchenko has enthusiastically embraced new social media platforms, finding unique and creative ways to market his beloved Spartak.
He uses Foursquare, for example, to advertise games and other team events. He even uses it to advertise new merchandise when it arrives in stores.
Social media marketing is still a relatively new frontier in Russia and Tereshchenko said he strives to push the boundaries and think of new ways to elevate Spartak hockey’s name recognition both at home and abroad.
Though many older Russian players scoff at the notion of using social media, Tereshchenko said younger players are embracing Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
“Everyone under 20 has it,” he said.
So how do teams keep the players in line? The simple answer: They don’t. Tereshchenko said unlike some professional sports teams, KHL squads generally do not police the players’ use of social media.
“[With Spartak] if a player publicly starts to express displeasure with something … that he is not in the line-up, for example … we have had such cases … I would see this tweet and make a phone call to the club’s conmercial director, and this player eventually deletes his tweet.”
To help build interest in individual players Tereshchenko retweets player posts and photographs. Unfortunately, the older players seldom use social media, he said, so the team uses more traditional methods to market them.
“[There was] one press officer earlier on who laughed when I explained what I was trying to do,” he said. “‘Why would you need this?’ He said. It’s the same with older players, they are not serious [about social media].”
Gone (for a While), Not Forgotten
His hard work seems to have paid off. Last year when Spartak lost its sponsor, he started a campaign to save the team. His grassroots effort garnered more than 10, 000 retweets internationally — some by NHL squads and players who spread the word that “Spartak must live.”
It was a great coup for Tereshchenko since a social media reach of that magnitude is relatively unheard of in Russia — particularly for a hockey team.
“For Russia, it is something beyond the limits,” he said.
Fast forward to June and the announcement that Spartak will re-join the league next season and the victory seems particularly sweet.
While the international interest in Spartak hockey may not have been responsible for finally securing a sponsor, keeping the team’s name in the media was crucial.
While Spartak sat out the season, the club’s name was still on the lips of those who love the team and in the minds of KHL fans as a whole.
As for Tereshchenko, now that the team is back, so is his paycheck from the club. But even if it wasn’t he said he would still be hard at work promoting the team he loves.
Tereshchenko is proud of all he has accomplished for Spartak and has no plans to give it up. In many ways, he epitomizes the identity of Spartak, which during Soviet times, was known as “the people’s team.”
“Spartak is the leader in social media in Russia and in Europe as a whole,” he said, pride evident in his voice. “And our digital department can be proud.”
Photographs: Geneen Pipher/Hockey VIPs Magazine; Spartak Moscow
Translations: Tatiana Markina and Alex Bogatiryov