Social media is changing the way athletes, clubs and fans are interacting with each other. No longer are fans queuing to have the rare encounter with their idol, with the introduction of the Internet and social media, fan interaction is easier than ever! Because of the webosphere we are not only just watching, fans can get instant news, insights, commentary straight from the source.
Singaporean commentator Walter Lim describes sports and social media as a match made in heaven, he says “the instantaneous, intimate and interactive nature of social and mobile technologies make them perfect platforms to fuel our sporting desires”.
The incorporation of social media into sport is showing our deep descent into a future culture, now more than ever has social media and the internet given the sporting industry a Segway to maximise their reach to fans.
A prime example of this is renowned English Premier League Club, Manchester United. Man United are known for ‘flexing’ their ‘social media muscles’, social media has become one of their key tools in the marketing department. Manchester United are one of the most followed football clubs in the Premier League, fans of the red devils are said to make up 30% of all premier league followers. Meanwhile, the club has been accounted for more than 40% of fan engagement in 2017.
Social media is being used as a tool for marketing, fan impression and also merchandising. 2016 was a big year for signings at Manchester United; one, in particular, was the five-year deal of Paul Pogba. Rather than addressing the media the traditional way in a press conference, Man United took to social media to break the news to the world.
On Tuesday the 9thof August at 12.35am the news broke loose at emerged the hashtag #POGBACK that signified his reunion with the club that sold him in 2012. Red Devils were sent into a frenzy over the new signing, but this was not the only way the news broke the Internet.
Social media can maximise reach to their followers, Pobga, Adidas and Manchester United are a match made in heaven. The club and the brand went hand in hand to unveil a music video performed by artist Stormzy.
The video quickly went viral and within the first week, it reached more than 3million views. The video represented a fusion of music, lifestyle, rap and sport – which some can is the perfect reflection of Paul Pogba. But this is only one example; currently, Paul Pobga on Instagram alone has 22.8 million followers, Manchester United can offer any sponsorship this much reach each time the athlete posts a picture wearing their product.
Pobga signed to the club for £89 million, however, shortly after Man United signed renowned Swedish player Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a free transfer. It was rumoured that Zlatan’s jersey sales alone had paid for Pogba’s transfer fee.
These are only some examples to exhibit how much of an impact social media is having on the sporting industry. Sporting clubs now are thinking beyond the realm of social media and are exploring digital innovations; apps like the Manchester United application or the NBA app on smartphones are changing the game. Brands and clubs are branching out to maximise fan engagement in the next generation.
Sport is progressing further towards cyberculture. How we know, communicate and engage has all turned to digital technology. As previously stated the sporting industry has invested in social media in order to engage fans and attract the newer generations. However, the relationship between social media, fans and athletes proves not to always be as efficient and positive.
With heightened fan engagement and surveillance, social media creates an easy opportunity for athletes to go viral as a result of their actions or words. As a result of this athletes are heavily surveilled by governing bodies to avoid public humiliation and outrage. An example of this is Paul Pogba, in March of this year he released a photo of his latest haircut, as some described it resembling a ‘peacock’. Fans expressed outrage by Pogba’s ‘antics’ on social media, urging the football star to clean up his act.
There are further countless amounts of ‘accidental’ posts by athletes on Twitter:
Furthermore, while social media has now become a key tool in marketing for athletes, associations and brands we can see social media as an ever-evolving platform for fans and the next upcoming generation. In order to maintain its success and efficiency, player profiles must continue to be patrolled to avoid miscommunication, embarrassment and potential harm.
With all the success and branding from social media, will athletes and their clubs take an extra step for precaution and surveillance?