With the FIFA World-Cup erupting all over the major social networking sites, Naomi Owusu, founder of Tickaroo, shares her thoughts concerning the effect social media has begun to have on the way we cover sports, and how it is affecting clubs, associations, and franchises as they attempt to keep up with the demands of their fans.
Over the past few weeks, the FIFA World-Cup has made it clear that the world of sports has established a place in social media. Game statistics are now shared and discussed with Facebook friends and live-tweeted to followers. Funny picture compilations of athletes or videos of coaches are shared countless number of times. Even selfies of athletes are distributed to their fans through the use of their personal social media channels.
The public is no longer instructed to seek out the latest details about games, athletes, and locker room drama through official press conferences, commentators or gossip columns anymore. Just like in other areas of interest, sports now have a new avenue to important information. Through Facebook and Twitter, instant sports updates, independent from the typical mass media providers, are available for all leagues and sport disciplines. In order to gain attention, it is especially important for the larger leagues and well-known franchises to put a stronger emphasis on their social media presence, in order to build a strong relationship with their supporters. Fans have to be provided with regular updates, news, and hints of up-coming events in order to maintain their support and, ultimately, to generate new fans.
The big sports clubs know this and are actively working on their online-presence. Take a look at FC Bayern München for example: On Facebook alone the club has 16 million fans. In total, the Bavarians have 720 million contacts, so-called Touchpoints, on all of their digital channels per month. Social Media also provides the athletes with new ways to present themselves, as one can see on their Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts. From these accounts photos from games, training camp, on vacation, or half-naked in front of a mirror are shared; the important thing is that the fans are entertained.
The fans appreciate these tidbits and continue to like and share these posts with great enthusiasm. The selfie from Lukas Podolski with Angela Merkel received almost 500,000 likes and was shared from his site almost 30,000 times. But his 5 million Facebook fans are rather few compared to the sites of other soccer stars. Mesut Oezil has 20 million fans alone. Even his fan base pales in comparison to the number of fans of super stars like David Beckham’s (42 million) and Cristiano Ronaldo (89 million). Ronaldo has more fans than the entire population of Germany! In order to reach and maintain this scope, stars must give their fans new information on a regular basis not only about their professional lives but their private lives as well.
But why put in all this effort? Easy: in order to build a successful social media platform, current and potential fans and followers need to be given a reason why they should link the clubs and players to their pages. Providing only dry information about the club without a personal touch won’t inspire any fans to click the like button. Just the opposite! Instead, fans are bored, and in the worst case they are so put off they don’t even want to visit the site. Therefore there must always be an incentive in order for fans to stay engaged and continue to “like” the site.
The continued online support of fans provides their teams with extra value in a way that might not be immediately apparent. This extra value comes in form of essentially becoming unpaid advertisers, thus attracting new sponsors. The team that is mentioned on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram reaches an enormous scope of most companies’ target audiences. By sharing info about the team, brands that sponsor the team receive the benefit of this extra exposure.
Furthermore social media has made it possible for a new form of sports “heroes” to emerge. Now you don’t have to use his or her club’s fan magazine or go to their home stadium to admire them, but instead you can do so from the privacy of your digital device, and probably get more personal information than you would have before. Some athletes even have a cult status solely because of social media. Think of the German Hans Sarpei phenomenon.
The cult status of the former German Premier League soccer player and Ghana Black Stars national player developed after his switch to Schalke. Ironic Chuck-Norris-esque posts began to appear on Facebook, a la Hans Sarpei doesn’t predict how the game will play out, he decides it. In the meantime, Sarpei is a social media consultant, daily columnist, and has his own TV program on Tele5: “Hans Sarpei-The T stands for Coach”, because he coached an unknown amateur soccer team for a short time.
Naomi Owusu, Founder of Tickaroo