Social media and its rise in popularity have completely evolved the sporting industry today. With the growing use of internet on mobile devices and the immediacy of producing and sharing content globally, it’s no wonder sporting teams and athletes are getting on board the social media wagon. It gives sporting organisations the opportunities to reach new markets and develop broader and larger fan bases through live updates, news articles, photos, videos, competitions, events, and the list goes on. To be more specific, let’s have a look at the stats:
- 80% of fans use social media while they are watching sporting events
- 20% of fans invite friends to sporting events via social media
The most popular content is accessed via social networks where:
- 51% follow teams and leagues
- 46% follow individual players
- 48% watch video highlights
- 48% read written articles
Benefits of social media use (within the sporting industry)
There are many reasons as to why each sport should integrate social media into their strategies in order to remain popular with fans and competitive with other sporting teams, and athletes. These include:
- Increase in brand (team and/or individual athlete) exposure and reach through fans’ growing use of social media
- Retains fan loyalty through interaction and engagement such as constant updates, competitions, give-aways, video interviews etc.
- Social media bridges the gap between expensive sporting events (which fans may not be able to afford) and free exposure of social media where fans still feel involved through live updates and scores
- Promotes awareness of the brand including sporting event dates, ticket sales, information on the team or athlete
- Promotes products or services of the sporting team or individual where fans can purchase sporting merchandise or experiences such as valet parking and dining before a match – these can be purchased either through social media platforms or the main sporting website and can lead to an increase in revenue
Risks of social media use (within the sporting industry)
As shown above, several advantages exist in the sporting industry’s use of social media, although disadvantages do also exist including:
Negative feedback – any sporting organisation needs to ensure they regulate their use of social media to ensure appropriate messages are being sent out to fans. This includes messages which send out a message which isn’t intended for example Liverpool’s post below:
Although the sporting organisation behind the team claimed to post this tweet to find out who fans thought should be the club’s new manager, it sent out a vibe that Liverpool were that desperate to find a manager, they called on fans for their opinions. Therefore, even though sporting organisations may have a certain message they wish to communicate, another may be interpreted by the audience.
Here is another example, featuring skateboarder Tony Hawk, which demonstrates a disadvantage of social media for the sporting industry in that it can be damaging to a brand image.
Image via @tonyhawk on Instagram
The above post on Instagram displays Tony Hawk riding his skateboard whilst holding on to his daughter without any sort of protective helmet or safety gear on himself or his daughter. This is very damaging to his brand image as it shows he isn’t taking his own or his daughter’s safety very seriously. Hopefully no one got hurt…
Australian Open 2015 success
This brings me to the Australian Open this year and its use of social media in various ways throughout the event which led to the tournament’s highest attendance on record. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram were predominant social media platforms, as well as the official website and phone app which allowed fans and spectators keep up-to-date with the latest results and news. Fans were continuously encouraged to be interactive and get involved through the use of hashtags, selfies, competitions, and interactive stands at Melbourne Park where the event was held. Take a look at my video I made for a university assignment below to see in detail how the Australian Open this year was so successful with its use of social media:
Implications for the sporting industry
So what does all this mean for sporting organisations? What should sport teams and athletes be wary of when using social media? Here are a couple tips and tricks:
Focus on user engagement – make sure fans are constantly being kept engaged through daily updates and interaction such as asking questions and feedback on matches, holding competitions to win merchandise, being given prizes for tweeting about an event or posting a selfie (like how it was done at the Australian Open this year).
Regulate statuses and posts – this is important to ensure that what is put up on social media is relevant and appropriate to the sporting brand and athlete as negative backlash can occur if not careful, which can lead to a damaged brand image. A forward-thinking approach needs to be put into place which is demonstrated by the Football Association which banned players from tweeting 24 hours prior to a match. This was implemented in order to protect players, opposition teams, and related bodies.
With the popularity of social media, it is absolutely essential for sporting organisations to use social media as a marketing tool as they result in numerous benefits (when risks are monitored) for a sporting brand.
I’d love to hear what you think as a sporting fan. Is social media a great marketing tool for sporting organisations to use or should they focus on other marketing strategies? Was the Australian Open successful this year with its use of social media in your eyes? Let me know in the comments below!