Monday, 15 August 2011

Sports & Social Media:- Whys & Wherefores Part I

This week we start publishing some articles from one of the moderators and contributors to this blog. It has been a long time coming and a bit of arm-twisting here and there. Richard is currently one of the writers for Marketing Africa magazine where he contributes for the sports marketing column. Here's an article on Sports, Social Media and Digital Platforms;

Champions League
The UEFA Champions League 2011 and the whole world is glued to their screens; flat, HD, projector or otherwise. Its kick-off and the hallowed pitch that is Wembley Stadium is buzzing as is the streams of news coming through major channels be they sports or cable news ones.
Even ‘louder’ is the buzz created in the social media circles of Twitter, Facebook and among others. The first goal is scored by Pedro, the whole game now went into overdrive and the social networks were red-hot.
(Image courtesy of

For anyone not watching the game live, a second-by-second update was running on Twitter and this came through in positive comments about the favoured team, barbs and jibes thrown at the losing team and faltering players along with histories around players and teams.
Gone are the days that we had to wait for the television and radio updates to know the highlights and scores of a game.

Shaq Attack
A few days later, one of sports easily recognisable figures, Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal nicknamed ‘Shaq’, ‘The Big Daddy’, ‘Diesel’, to use but a few of the many names announced his retirement via YouTube and instantly the news was trending in Twitter and other social media platforms. Perfect way to leave the basketball world!
(Image from

Yes, sport has slowly and is now synonymous with social media. We have seen many spoofs or what you might call product endorsements done using short clip videos posted on YouTube and Facebook and these links tweeted and retweeted by brand followers, ambassadors and admirers.
Even at a local level, sports disciplines such as football and rugby have started appreciating the use of this platform. Talk of the Kenya Premier League and the various club fans and sports media enthusiasts will tell you which club is playing where and the fans in attendance, their cheer songs and other enticing offers.
These technological developments are slowly helping us maintain and establish new connections and reconnect with those we know or knew from previous engagements. The connections too are not restricted to individuals but include companies, brands, and for the sake of our discussion, clubs, players and relating sources.

Converse not Command
Social media tools are becoming integral tools of communication and this is favoured channel for most if not all sports participants. The demographics show us the numbers of those using the platforms are the ages between 18-30 years. The platforms had initially swung in favour of the PC but are slowly tilting towards the mobile telephony thanks again to this age group.
The main bane though as is usually the case for new technology, how successful it is in implementation will be from understanding it. Be it an individual or team start by developing a proper strategy that forms part of a larger marketing strategy.
Remember social media is about creating conversation, not one-way or one-sided communication from the brand, individual or team. It should not be a simple posting of updates and news but a long-term and continuous process that could enable you to get feedback from your fans and the wider sporting and non-sporting audience.

One Millionth Man
NBA – the US professional basketball league teams have been able to utilise these social media platforms to make for very interesting interactions with their fan base. For example, one of its biggest players (quite literally too and the new gentle ‘Superman’) Dwight Howard playing for the franchise Orlando Magic has perfected this.
(Image courtesy of
From communicating about his daily engagements, he also pushes for the brands he endorses and acknowledged his 1 millionth follower with an all-expenses paid trip to Orlando for a game and hang-time with the rest of the team stars. (As of the time of going to Press, he had over 2 million followers on this @DwightHoward, one million more than his team @Orlando_Magic)
One must remember that sporting events, sports personalities and teams as well as news around sports has made the growth of social media platforms explode in the last 3-5 years. Major events from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa all made use of social media and were able to keep vibrant conversation going about the events.
Sample this, the nuisance and widely controversial vuvuzela had an iPhone App which became the number 1 app on iTunes in 50 countries in June 2010. Nike with its ‘Write the Future’ World Cup advert had over 19 million views on YouTube.
As sports enthusiasts hunger for fodder for more and more about their favoured teams or individuals there is definitely a need and demand created and these teams and individuals have to oblige albeit trying to maintain as much professionalism and true personality as they would in real life.

{Part II coming soon...}

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