30 Aug The Role of Social Media in Sport Today
Sport has become a huge industry in the past 40 years with the introduction of professionalism and a huge injection of cash through TV deals. Whilst TV has allowed sport to become a powerhouse in the entertainment industry, social media has taken it to the next level. In this article, I will look at social media’s role in sport and how it has transformed the way sport is viewed.
Before we get into it, let’s have a look at the power of social media in the current consumer climate. In terms of a more broad perspective, there are 500M+ Facebook accounts and approximately 700 billion minutes spent on the platform every month overall, this represents the volume of people on certain social media platforms.
Being more specific to the sporting world, global star Cristiano Ronaldo boasts over 74 million Twitter followers, whilst one of the biggest sporting brands in the world Barcelona has 145 million followers across all platforms. Success and reach cannot just be quantified by followers; interactions are crucial in determining if the message that is being portrayed is reaching consumers.
For example, in 2015, a staggering 265 million interactions were recorded during the Super Bowl. These figures just provide a glimpse of the commercial opportunity that many athletes, teams, and fans face, which is why this article will focus on these three groups in particular.
Social media has opened a new channel of communication between athletes and fans. There are wide-ranging opportunities for athletes in how they can utilise this channel. For example, an athlete such as Odell Beckham Jr looks to use social media pages to promote himself and build a brand, so that he can market himself globally.
This provides access to the commercial opportunity that social media creates. Whereas others prefer to use the various platforms for leisure, a personal favorite of mine is Manchester City’s defender Benjamin Mendy, who utilises tools such as Instagram live to interact with his fans.
Like athletes, teams have been granted this revolutionary way of connecting with fans. The information being communicated is different, whilst athletes are looking for some sort of personal gain, teams must always be looking to improve the brand perception as a whole whilst satisfying the fans.
This can be done through a variety of ways such as communicating up to date information regarding the matchday such as road closures, competitions, lineups etc. Humor has become more provident in recent times in sports teams social media platforms and is particularly well utilised by the NBA Teams, as seen below. So there is a variety of ways teams use their social media platforms to satisfy their fans, thus improving brand perception, which they hope leads to commercial gain.
I believe the real winner of the phenomenon that is social media is the fans. Before there was no means of communicating with your sporting heroes unless you went to the game and were lucky enough to them before or after. Now it can be done with a few clicks of your phone or mouse. Social media doesn’t just provide entertainment for fans; you can exploit the commercial gain that it presents. One of the more well-known examples in the UK is Arsenal Fan TV, a YouTube channel, which allows fans to voice their opinion after the game, and has propelled some fans to the title of ‘Z list celebrities’.
Social media does have its fair share of negativity directed towards it. The ability that fans posses to interact with athletes often has a detrimental effect on their mental health. NBA players Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan have highlighted these issues, as they actively attempt to remove the stigma that surrounds mental health issues in the NBA.
Overall, social media is a powerful machine that has transformed the sporting world for good, well mostly. It has created a two-way communication platform where fans can interact with their heroes and favorite teams to create a more immersive experience.
However, it is important to note that social media has not all been sunshine and rainbows for sports, which can be seen through the toll it takes on athletes such as Kevin Love, and Demar DeRozan as mentioned above. Social media has been a great thing for sport but we all need to remember not to be a keyboard warrior and that goes for both athletes and fans alike!