It was only a few decades ago that professional athletes seemed to live unreachable lives. The only thing that sport fans could see was what was broadcasted during the game or on select TV and radio interviews. And yet, there has always been a larger cry to really connect athletes and their fans.
While sports fans can still turn to the constant stream of sports coverage on ESPN and similar coverage, the new and revolutionary standard is social media.
Never before have we really been allowed inside the minds of athletes. And who knew we would be able to do so in 160 characters or less?
Thanks to social media networks, we are now able to connect with athletes at a much more personal level. The rise of social media has allowed athletes to establish themselves as ambassadors of their sports, and to also build themselves up as legitimate brands.
So as we follow athletes on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, we are seeing a whole new side to them. Outside of the interview table or conference room, they can really speak their own mind; and we really see what they’re experiencing and what their values are beyond the boundary lines.
Why Does This Matter?
Okay, so athletes having the chance to speak their minds on social media, but does it really mean anything drastic for sports in the long run? The immediate thought would be, “No. Haven’t sports, professional, collegiate and so on, become something massive on their own?”
But from a business perspective, professional sport organizations are prioritizing the usefulness of social media for marketing, like any other company or agency who wants to continue to thrive.
Take what the NFL is doing for the 2013 season with the new “Together We Make Football” campaign. You might have already seen some commercials pop up during the games for Week 3 this past weekend.
The NFL is inviting fans all over with to submit their stories of what football means to them. Through a submission and voting system on the main website, winners will get to go next year’s Super Bowl.
This example is a big more large-scale, but it does provide the chance for true fans share their thoughts on the game and the league. Players will undoubtedly encourage participation on their Twitter feeds, since they are technically employees of NFL and abide by their rules.
Other leagues are joining in on the call to have fans interact with the direction of the seasons. When the planets align correctly, higher interaction leads to higher revenue.
Maintaining consistent interaction
The reason why social media remains the primary driver for interaction between audience and organization has to do with the notion of trust.
When we have the chance to speak directly to organizations in a timely manner, it’s the strongest link that can be formed. Athletes and organizations as a whole want to connect to their fans just as much as any other business does.
Based on the numerous Twitter accounts from professional and collegiate athletes that exist, most are more than happy to take the time to talk with their fans. There is no more relying on distant satellite TV and radio interviews; they can now share their thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks.
Sports organizations will have to continue to adapt to the growing influence of their fans; exactly how remains unclear, but it’s all headed in the right direction.