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 Sportsgrid.com, 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!