The Impact, and Risks, of Twitter on Branding in the Sports World

“How short would Player X’s career have been if Twitter was around during his playing days?”

It’s a question that athletes wouldn’t have even had to consider a decade ago but is now an inescapable part of being an athlete in 2017. Given the immediacy and virality of social media, fans and teams are expected – as they should be – to be on their best behaviour at all times.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Similar to my post last week in which I pointed out how social media is changing the world of sports viewing, Twitter, in particular, is changing how athletes and teams market themselves in the digital age.

Building A Brand

Although athletes have the benefit of possessing a personalized, human element to their Twitter accounts, I would argue it’s the team who have made better use of the social media tool. It’s true that most teams have a pretty boring approach to Twitter – although, thankfully, most social media departments are realizing the need to step up their online games – but some teams have been early pioneers.

The Los Angeles Kings have perhaps the most well-known reputation, at least in the National Hockey League if not the sports world at large, with close to 1.1 million followers on Twitter. They’ve made trolling a regular occurrence and even inspired a best-of list of some of their most memorable and hilarious tweets.

Their social media presence was so successful and notorious it even earned the man behind the keyboard a feature article (how many social media operators can say that?).

(But watch out, LA. The Dallas Stars are coming in hot with some great content of their own.)

Peek Behind the Curtain

As fans, our exposure to our favourite athletes used to be what reporters wrote in the following day’s paper. But with 24/7 access to social media, fans can not only get a glimpse into the lives of those same athletes but also get a better sense of their personalities.

Once again, one of the most notorious athletes for this comes from the hockey world (admittedly, his reputation was one of the reasons I joined Twitter in the first place). Paul Bissonnette isn’t a household name for his play on the ice, but his online popularity is another story, amassing 1.03 million Twitter followers.

As with the Kings’ account, Bissonnette also inspired an uncommon but awesome best-of list of his own. The funniest part about his fame, in my opinion, is that he achieved such notoriety from fans for his what-goes-around-comes-around approach to mocking and at times humiliating fans.

The Risks

As I noted in my last article, risks are simply a fact of life on social media – but that doesn’t mean the risk can’t be reduced. One of the most common risks is pushing the envelope a little too far, which can burn you as some users have learned the hard way.

The operator of the Houston Rockets’ Twitter account learned the hard way that there are limits after he was fired in 2015 for posting a controversial tweet as his team neared a playoff victory. NFL player Antonio Brown was fined for breaking league policy by posting a live video to Facebook just minutes after a game.

And even Bissonnette was forced to step away from Twitter in order to resurrect his career, due to the negative attention his unique brand of online activity attracted.

Most of the accounts listed above are those that I’m familiar with (and enjoy), but I want to know: Who are some of your favourite team or athlete social media accounts that you follow?

Twitter promotional post: Are you following the @LAKings or @BizNasty2point0 yet? If not, you should probably get on that – you’re missing out

Facebook promotional post: Tired of seeing the same ol’ same ol’ from your favourite teams on Twitter? Check out my article to find a couple of accounts that do it right

2 thoughts on “The Impact, and Risks, of Twitter on Branding in the Sports World

  1. Sports has never been my thing. It probably never will be. I don’t understand why these people get paid sooo money much for putting a ball in a hoop or a puck in a net. However, I do understand that sports at this point in time is partially a popularity contest. Social media is a great way for athletes to promote themselves and the product they endorse. It is always great for advertisers because they know if “athlete A wears Nike, then I am going to as well”.

    Social media also brings attention to things we don’t like about some players. I will give you an example. I refuse to eat Subway — great product. They sponsor Michael Vick – the football player who promoted dog baiting rings. I could go on but nobody needs to know those horror stories. I am not promoting a promoting that goes against my basic values so it can to both ways. Thanks for posting.

    I recently heard that the NHL is now charging an extra fee for tickets unless they are on a smart phone. Paper tickets will cost up to $150 more.

  2. “Popularity contest” is a really clever way of putting it. Especially when athletes are sponsored by different companies and they’re trying to push content out to support those companies, being the more popular athletes (in this case, having more followers) is so important.

    Unfortunately, as you noted, social media also does allow us to see things we don’t like. Athletes are free to share their (sometimes unpopular) opinions about topics they otherwise wouldn’t get to talk about, which can also influence how fans perceive them.

    One example that comes to mind is a former baseball player, Curt Schilling, who lost his job as a broadcaster because of numerous instances where he posted controversial and politically incorrect views to his personal Twitter account. He has since fallen out of favour in the media and among hordes of fans.

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