Athletes engaging in social media

Hi all,

 I hope you enjoyed last weeks post on brands that have successfully integrated social media into their sport sponsorship leverage campaigns. Continuing along the lines of sports focused posts, I thought this week I would review ways that athletes can use social media to build their brand, manage their public persona and communicate effectively with their fans. Social media is obviously a huge platform for athletes, allowing fans to get to know the person behind the sportsman.

 Shaquille O’Neal (Shaq) is one athlete leading the way in social media. As reported by, Shaq is hugely popular on Twitter with over 4 million followers. He says using social media is a way that he can not only communicate with his fans but also listen to other people and that it’s a way that he can ‘be on the same level as fans’. One of the key things he said that stood out was ‘The point of it all is not to take any of it too seriously. Have fun with it’. 


While Shaq uses social media as a form of communication because he enjoys it, the simple fact is that he’s been able to build a fantastic online brand outside of his sporting abilities – something that lends itself to additional leverage when looking at his value in terms of commercial endorsements. Shaq’s twitter is such a reliable source for finding new information that when he retired, he simply posted it on Twitter and within minutes, all media had jumped on the story – easily as effective as if he had of held a media conference and also allowing him the privacy to announce it in the way that he chose.

 While Shaq may be a great example of athletes that use social media to better their public persona and engage meaningfully with their fans, there are plenty out there that have fallen prey to the pitfalls of such public platforms. Take for example Stephanie Rice. One ofAustralia’s darlings in the pool, Steph could do no wrong. However, a simple tweet, meant with no malice regarding a homophobic term resulted in a huge public outcry and the loss of a major endorsement deal.

 All athletes and public figures should be using social media as one of their platforms to communicate to the public, because they simply can’t afford not to be. However, clearly there is a right way to do so and a wrong way – something the sports community as a whole should be educating their athletes in. Given Stephanie Rice is relatively young (at 22), guidance around the ramifications of publicly commenting on platforms such as Twitter could have meant the avoidance of a very embarrassing and costly tweet.

I would love to hear of any other athletes that people think are using social media well!


2 thoughts on “Athletes engaging in social media

  1. mavilaromero says:

    I’m not a sport celebrities fan, but I recognise the power of social media and specially the power of Twitter to built the personal brand of a celebrity.

    I agree that Twitter is a great tool to make celebrities interact with their fans and to let them (celebrities) know what is happening in the real world and what do fans think and feel about them. For fans, Twitter is the tool that allows them to feel close to their idols.

    I heard that some companies pay to celebrities to write a twit about the product or service that they want to promote, so in this way the company spread the message to all the followers of the celebrity and catch their attention just using the association of the product with the celebrity. This is a good strategy for companies and off course very good for the celebrity, because they get paid very well to write this 140 characters about a brand.

    A Digital Marketing plan for a company or a celebrity as a brand, must include Twitter account into the social media resources to get use because thanks to this platform celebrities and corporate brands can spread the information to millions of people just in one twit. Companies and celebrities have to be aware of the content that they are going to post to prevent unwanted effects.

  2. Hi Kim – you discuss a great topic here. The power of social media is for ever increasing and if people are not coached in how to use it then they may face a similar embarrassing situation to Stephanie Rice. As mavilaromero states in their post, social media is powerful for celebrities.
    In doing a quick search it was interesting to find that the top 3 celebrities with the most Twitter followers are: Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber and intersetingly President Obama. Just to give you an idea Lady Gaga can instantly send out a tweet and have it arrive to 13,872,977 people. Now that is power stuff!
    When you consider that social media is a free source this is a pretty attractive communication channel for marketing, PR and advertising. Again, as mavilaromero states in their reply companies where quick to realise this and started using celebrities to talk about their products on social media. Me personally, I think that this has impacted the credibility of following celebrities on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: