It’s 7:30pm on a weeknight and your favourite sports team is about to hit the ice/field/pitch; you’ve got your beer in one hand, food in the other – it’s been a long shift at work and this anticipation of this single sporting event has gotten you through all the day’s trials and tribulations. But here’s the golden “target audience” question: with whom are you watching it?
Some people are at the game with a legion of fans (your significant other might be privileged enough to work for a company with corporate box tickets to every game Ottawa Senators play)
Some people are at a bar watching the game with a community of beer drinking buddies (the bar beneath your downtown apartment? Sure, everyone goes there to watch the Sunday night football.)
And some people are at home with an internet stream watching the Australian Open final with… their Twitter timeline?
Like many sports, tennis has quite a significant albeit very unique presence online. Being a major fan of the sport myself and having contributed to a reputable fan blog over the past year and a half, I have come to know first-hand that the demographics of the people that engage with tennis digitally are far different from the people that engage with the sport in reality.
Unlike most popular televised sports that are complete an entire season of scheduled home and away games, tennis matches and the individual pro athletes that partake in them travel all over the world; only staying in one spot for a maximum of two weeks – if they make it all the way to a tournament final.
In a 52-week year, chances are there is only going to be one week of live professional tennis to watch; this means that for all the demand there is for the sport; the supply (of watching it live, of course) is short. This means that ticket prices for the biggest events and names are very high and the diversity of the crowd is, well, very low.
The internet provides a solution for a general lack of community in the live tennis world. The demographics – from age and gender, to education, class, and even race – are far more diverse on #TennisTwitter, as the community has aptly named themselves. Here ticket prices and the ability to travel to tournaments are irrelevant, since there is an infinite supply of online streams to watch. The community of Twitter-users typically have overlap, but divide themselves into communities based on certain player fan-bases, geographic location, and even age and education.
From my own experience, a large majority of the #TennisTwitter users that I follow come from an educated background; they are cynical, passionate and generally knowledgeable about the sport beyond simply its rules. Of course, there are branches that I’m not directly connected with, yet that I have also experienced overlap with courtesy of retweets from this web-like network of tennis fans.
Communicating with the broad tennis digital community from a sports brand’s perspective would require, in my opinion, two key traits. The first would be knowledge of the sport and of the sports different fanbases: the difference between a Rafael Nadal fan and a Roger Federer fan is significant, and to ignore that is to potentially marginalize a large group of potential consumers. The second trait is objectivity; if a brand – such as a sports equipment warehouse or a local tennis club – invests emotionally or unprofessionally on their social media account within a larger community of digital users, it will hurt the brand’s credibility in communication with those users.
Do you follow any sports with a ‘Twitter community’? Sound off in the comments!