Social Media

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:

paul-george-tweet-about-ray-rice-wife-beater-2014.jpg

https://www.instagram.com/p/BggH7-nj-CR/?taken-by=paulpogba

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?

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The Final Whistle

“Attention involves the allocation of cognitive resources to deal with multiple inputs at once. Switching, screening, analysing and risk management are all part of normal cognitive processes” (Maloney, 2016). 

Space, place, audience and media are four components that individually affect your viewing experience. Adopting the participant ethnography research method, it allowed me to examine how these component effect others and also myself. This has been proven through my observations while watching the Premier League at a friends house, in my bedroom and at The Star.

Approaching the assessment, my preconceived ideas were that audiences and media would have the greatest impact while viewing the game. However, space and place played a large role in the way each individual enjoyed and focused on the game.

My bedroom

  • My attention span was low and media activity was high and constant.
  • Being alone I was not able to share the excitement of Arsenal scoring with anyone else
  • Watching the game in the comfort of my bed caused me to relax and fall asleep throughout the game unintentionally

My boyfriend’s house

  • Being surrounded by friends made the game enjoyable
  • Media use was average, as during halftime and pauses in the game we would all log onto social media and communicate with others regarding the game
  • ‘Soccer watching etiquette’ allowed each viewer to have a comfortable view of the game and all were mediated by these un-proclaimed rules

The Star – 24/7 Sports bar

  • Attention spans carried as a result of external components and surroundings e.g. alcohol and the crowds of people walking around the casino
  • Atmosphere enhanced the viewing experience, being surrounded by hundreds of strangers who share the same passion for the sport as you creates a welcoming community bond
  • As a result of the interactions with those around us, our media use was roughly 15% of the night
  • However, as a result of a ‘drunk’ spectator, it affected our viewing as a result of insults being taken a bit too far

It is evident how viewing the Premier League in three diverse settings can alter the enjoyment and engagement of the viewer. Furthermore, from partaking in this assessment it has allowed me to identify a range of avenues for exploration for future research. Examples of these would be:

  • How alcohol affects sports fans
  • How the Premier League can incorporate these online sports communities into their halftime commentary and interact with there fan baseArsenal-16-17-kit (1).jpg

Only to name a few. I think observing and researching these areas and sports fan habits are valuable for Premier League stakeholders, it will allow them to identify areas that fans around the world suggest to improve. Potentially changing and revamping the viewing experience all around the world, lessening the need or desire to be at Emirates rather enjoying the game from the comfort of the local pub or home couch.

While the project has come to an end, it definitely has taught me where and who to watch the games with.

Till next time, Up The Gunners!

References:

  • Maloney, S. (2016). Attention, Presence, Place.

Arsenal vs. Middlebrough

Sitting in second in the Premier League and the stakes were high for Arsenal to continue on with their winning streak.

Week 9, Arsenal set to verse Middlesbrough. After weeks of rest Cech, Monreal and Iwobi 1477066623-7859.jpgfinally returned, however, it turned out to be a game that the team wasn’t expecting. Arsenal’s winning streak came to an end after a 95-minute game, they drew 0-0 to Middlesbrough.  Cech‘s skills were challenged as Middlesbrough kept coming, however he held strong as Negredo kept coming and Ramirez free kick to the cross bar presented itself as a surprise. However, Arsenal fought back with Ozil crossing the ball to Chamberlain to take the kick, only to face the waving flags as the German was offside.sports-bar-fuel-247-drinks-alcohol-city-sydney-cas1.jpg

This weeks sit-in was at The Star’s renown Sports Bar. The night was filled with alcohol, gambling, banter and of course the Premier League. This was a quality night out, however, the game was a bit of a letdown.

As we were on the train heading to Central, I asked myself ‘how is this night going to be different than all the others’? I began my observations the minute we sat down at the sports bar, drinks began flowing and the seats around us began filling up. Die hard fans front and centre, while the rest of us were scattered around. As the game kicked off the people around us began to become louder and louder. As per usual banter bounced from one table to another, all fun and games until…. My friends and I encountered a male who may have had’one to many’, he then began to take the insults one step further as a result of what was going on in the game.

This was something that notable changed the dynamic of the room, laughter and cheering lowered and every table began to keep to themselves. It was at this point that phones were taken out, and became a large factor for the rest of the night. In comparison to the beginning of the night, not only my friends but also the people around us were not relying on their phones as much. An enjoyable and relaxed atmosphere was created in the room, and the need to partake in only online conversation was erased.

In comparison to the previous settings, I thought that this highlighted the different nature of place and space. As it was a public domain, and of course alcohol was in the mix there was the freedom to converse with the people around us rather than rely on twitter feeds and our friends only. “Membership feelings are enhanced by watching sport its other [people], and the public context supplies moments of acknowledgement and acceptance by other fans”. It was interesting to notice how a single game can unite such a diverse range of people, and how this ‘soccer etiquette’ is practised by more than my close group of friends. Rules that I noticed were:

  • Insults and aggressive behaviour were monitored by all (with the exception of a certain someone)
  • Volume of conversations was respectful during match play
  • Seating arrangements were made so all can see

By doing so all were able to experience a comfortable and fun night, in comparison to the first match viewed with friends attention span did alter. I think the major difference was that alcohol played a role in this week’s viewing, resulting in attention spans becoming shorter than usual. However, the nature of this week’s game also impacted our enjoyment, as Arsenal did not perform as well as previous weeks I think the ‘pre-game hype’ resulted in a letdown.

Viewing this week’s game in a public domain this week was helpful in understanding how place, space, audience and media influence our viewing experience. Surrounding yourself with strangers as well as incorporating other activities into the mix can cause viewers to rely less on their media activity, and interact more with their surroundings. I think by having that extra external ‘distraction’ it eliminates the need to participate in the only sports domain.

Till next week, Up the Gunners!

Arsenal vs. Southampton

The Premier League season is finally back and to say I am excited is an understatement.

Week 4 into the EPL season Arsenal was set to face  Southampton. After SouthamptonSouthampton-vs-Arsenal-prediction.png
scoring the first goal, in the 29th minute Koscielny legendary bicycle kick settled the score to be 1-1 at half time. However, with 5 minutes extra added to the clock, Cazorla’s last minute penalty gave Arsenal a 2-1 victory over Southampton at Emirates Stadium.

This week I had chosen to watch the game at my boyfriend’s house with some friends. We were a divided audience, and it was safe to say that the banter was at its peak.

Cheering and laughter filled the room as the game became neck-to-neck after half time, like any sporting event a referee is always subjected to hateful remarks. And in this instance, hateful remarks were yelled at the television as three Southampton players were rewarded a yellow card, and the “banta” did not stop there.

Throughout the game, I began to observe the social media habits of myself and also my
friends. For myself, I noticed that my mind wandered more at the beginning of the game, my social media activity was at a high as I found that I was not as interested in the first 30 minutes of the game in comparison to the 65 minutes remaining. Whereas observing the boys around me, after every five minutes each one would log onto Facebook to post something in the sports chat or access Twitter. From there, conversations would circulate during the game around certain players and dispute certain official calls.

“Through social media, fans not only connect with sport teams and leagues, but the athletes themselves have accounts which allow potentially millions of fans to connect personally to the athletes and their teams. This direct connection has allowed fans to now be a part of the sport organization’s story.” – Dr. Alyssa Tavormina.

It is becoming increasingly evident that social media is having a profound effect on the way sports fans interact and watch sports. It is almost like their social media activity adds to their viewing experience, a friend said that it adds an extra commentary section which is both informative and entertaining. Mashable have designed an infographic which displays how social media is changing our sports experiences, http://mashable.com/2012/04/27/sports-social-media-2/#9_5J3wwr8kqf.

While the night was all fun and games, I noticed that unenforced rules began to emerge such as:

  • During a good play, no one was allowed (or did) speak
  • The ‘banter’ came to a halt when we each realised it began to become a bit much
  • Once the game resumed after halftime, we all were back in the same spots as no one wanted to shift the unexamined balance of the room

After everyone left I began asking my boyfriend why he thinks these rules were unknowingly followed, he responded: “to tell you the truth its just ‘soccer watching etiquette’, rules that we’ve just unknowingly followed and its mediated everyone”. I thought this was interesting, that these rules were based on seating and speaking rather than focus on social media or what is going on around them.

From reflecting on this sit in with my friends I wanted to decipher why they added to my viewing experience?  I noticed that we feed off each others enjoyment and passion of the sports, while we were a group divided it was this division that created an energetic atmosphere. It can be said that “sports bonds people together“, while we may not have a continuous conversation circulating, “sports isn’t replacing other, more worthwhile topics of conversation between those sons and fathers, it’s just adding a level of closeness that would not be there without it“. It is this ‘bond’ that created an enjoyable atmosphere while my engagement was not at its peak, it was the influential attitudes that drew my attention more so to the game than usual.

It is the norm to say that having our eyes glued to social media we become anti-social, however in the case of this event we were becoming more social than ever. Not only with each other but from people around the world, and also individuals watching the game first hand.

Despite being in Oran Park in front of the television, having a valuable group of friends that share the same interest in sports as you enhances your viewing experience. The energetic atmosphere of Emirates stadium is also replicated in our lounge room.

Where is your favourite place to watch sports?

Till next week, up the Gunners!