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7 ways social media have impacted sports and sports marketing

Today more than ever, social media are playing a major part in all types of communication and marketing strategies. This should come as no surprise: as eMarketer shows in a 2020 research[1] mobile phones and connected devices are quickly replacing traditional entertainment and information platforms. In the United States, the average adult spends 3 hours and 54 minutes per day looking at their mobile phone (with television dropping at 3:22), with a staggering 70% of sessions lasting less than two minutes.

Among all forms of entertainment, sports have probably been impacted the most, with all professional teams and athletes quickly joining the major social platforms in a fast-paced race to the best bit of content, the funniest video, the most engaging storytelling.

Together, Sports Marketing agency eyed the unprecedented opportunity to engage with fans more efficiently, to better reward and attract sponsors and to show a different angle of the properties they were managing without the constant hassle of dealing with third-party services and platforms. It was a revolution. And while superstar athletes quickly saw their followers rise to the millions, new sponsorship opportunities arose and a whole new set of skills had to be developed, with top-tier clubs racing to hire the best social media managers and digital agencies.

But how have social media impacted the sports marketing and sports sponsorship world? We have listed 7 reasons to try and explain how Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have rocked our industry.

1 – Disintermediation

What might look normal today was but an illusion only 15 years ago. Until Facebook really changed the paradigm of global communication, most of the news and information about sports, athletes and their likes came from newspapers, television channels and magazines. Journalists and editors filtered each and every piace of information, creating a refiner between the fans and the properties.

Disintermediation, meaning the removal in the use of intermediaries between producers and consumers, is possibly the greatest achievement brought by social media. Sports properties (but also sports marketing agencies, insiders, influencers and others) can now communicate what they want, when they want, how they want on their channels, thus creating an extremely customized storytelling and fan experience.

From a commercial standpoint, sponsorship and sports marketing professionals found this newfound freedom extremely beneficial: sponsors, partners and suppliers could be promoted and communicated in a whole new way.

2- A growing fanbase

Social Media are an excellent tool not only to take extra care of the existing fanbase, but to reach and make new fans. Social media, thanks to their ease of use and availability, make it easy for everybody to follow their favorite team and to get more information about new players, tournaments, series.

The immense capillarity and diffusion of the major social networks (Facebook currently has 2.7 Billion users in the world, according to Statista[2]), allow teams and athletes to grow their fanbase quicker and easier than any other media in the world.

3 – An excellent opportunity for sponsors

Sponsors and commercial partners found an excellent opportunity with the arrival of social media. All of a sudden, thousands of eyeballs -loyal and passionate- were focused on the same Twitter profile or Facebook page allowing not only for increased visibility, but also for better engagement.

On social media products and services can be embedded organically in a robust storytelling strategy that ties with what is happening on the field and on the track.

Moreover, athletes can easily become successful testimonials, without the need for brands and companies to buy common inches or airtime: an Instagram picture of a MotoGP rider parallels a cross-channel campaign on billboards and traditional media, while a facebook live from the house of a Formula 1 star attracts more viewers than a regular TV spot.

4 – Redefining time and space

Being a millennial and a long-time NBA fan, i remember the daily struggle of trying to catch a glimpse of the action or event the latest results when i was a kid. As my generation (or older), clearly remember, we had to rely on cards collections, monthly magazines and that lucky friend whose dad flew cargo airliners to the States and could bring back some then-mouth-watering memorabilia (usually an NBA-Licensed piece of candy, a copy of SLAM magazine and a Sprite can when they used to have the logos on the front).

Social media changed precisely that. A Hanoi boy working night shift in the local hospital can follow his beloved Manchester United Team on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as much as the local lad born in Gorse Hill. There is no space or time on social media that allows for global, transversal, free communication. That means more fans, higher loyalty to the brand, more opportunities for sponsors.

However, I console myself in convincing that today’s kids will never know the sheer joy of hitting the newsagent’s on the second Wednesday of the month to get a copy of American Superbasket.

5 – Creating one-to-one connections

Social media give the fans exactly what they want, how they want, when they want. Videos from YouTube (yep, that’s a social network, too), pictures from Instagram, quick updates from Twitter and these days even players’ playlists from Spotify. Clever enough, social media managers have learned to craft different messages for different platforms, according to the features of every tool.

Fans can therefore tailor the pieces of content they get on their feeds, creating a customized relationship with their favorite team or athlete. Again, while we take this for granted today, this is light years away from how sport information worked just ten or fifteen years ago. Not only that. Your average Joe can now, thanks to mentions, private messages and @’s get to talk directly with the team or their favorite players, engage in conversations and answer questions and polls.

Add to that enhanced experience the massive opportunities provided by CRMs and digital databases, where fans are greeted with a discount on their birthday, receive tailor-made offers in their inboxes based on their preferences and so on.

6 – Create and improve a brand

With state-of-the art graphics, a robust tone-of-voice and unmistakable style, teams and athletes can create and strengthen a solid brand image. Some teams are funny and playful while other are focused and very serious. Some athletes are outgoing and chatty, while others reserved and performance-oriented.

Social media are an excellent vehicle to build, develop and perfect a brand and that’s a huge opportunity for sports marketers and sponsorship professionals all around the globe. Because strong brands are the foundation for strong partnerships and for loyal fans.

7 – Creating easy, bit-sized pieces of content

Finally, social media are the perfect platform for today’s crazy, fast-paced, multi-tasking, multi-channel, multi-everything world. In a day and age dominated by second and third screens and where wrist pieces have more computational power than what NASA had in 1969, the attention span is dropping faster than a stone in water. A 2015 study from Microsoft[3] showed that the average human attention span is 8 seconds (also, the average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds).

In such an environment, bit-sized information is key and social media provide just that. While long-forms are now but a pleasant reminiscence for the lazy, 128 characters are the standard to discuss everything from sponsorship to the latest trade rumors.

All jokes aside, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. As Harry Styles would say, it’s a sign of the times, more than a manifesto of intellectual decadence. But again, it’s a revolution for sport properties, organizations and sponsors, who today can (or have to?) fire out tens if not hundreds of tiny bits of information to engage with their stakeholders.

And so we can take a look at twitter in the elevator, scroll through some insta pics in the pub queue or catch a replay of last night’s racing while watching that boring cooking show again.

Finally

If you want to know more about social media, sports marketing, sponsorship and communication, give us a ring or shoot us a message at info@rtrsports.com. Since 1995 we craft the best strategy to make your brand stand out with sport.

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