Sharing to Sell

By India Hagen-Gates

The world of advertising is always changing. Major advancements in technology have caused creators and advertisers to play catch up, with a majority of their audiences now being online. Thanks to this new focus on social media, consumers expect companies to be more accessible. The sports industry is no exception. Fans now want to be part of the action. They want their favorite players to be active online and feel that they are being heard by their team.

Professional athletes can’t interact online the same way we interact with our friends. Everything they put out has to fit with their identity and help shape their image. There are four main pathways widely used by athletes to build their personal brand on social media: 

  1. Showcase charity work.
  2. Showing family life can help build a connection with fans.
  3. Showcase personality through every picture, tweet, or like.
  4. Show fans their appreciation in their posts.

Sports teams are paying attention to their fans to find out what they really respond to by engaging in social media. The focus on the individual fans extends to athletes’ social media accounts. Each post and online interaction lead to a more intimate and personal relationship between fan and player. Because of this direct connection, athletes have been able to use social media to advertise different products. While in the past, sponsorships felt distant and disconnected now, social media, helps to bolster an athlete’s credibility and makes each ad more personal.

If teams fully embrace social media, they can reap great benefits. In 2012, the Milk Processors Education Program created a “Team Chocolate Milk” by recruiting a group of elite athletes to advertise their chocolate milk as a recovery product. Instead of it being seen as a dessert for children, athletes were able to associate chocolate milk with the words refuel, motivation, triathlete, and improvement. The Milk Processors Education Program and the athletes who took part in this campaign were able to utilize social media to reach their audience and change their identity.

The role of athletes in the world of advertising and corporate communication is already complex, but now, social media is just making their role more confusing. Athletes and their teams are cautiously exploring the world of social media. If used correctly, however, it can be a profitable and positive link to fans. There are many social media components that don’t work, some that have been successful, and many yet to be tried. This blog will explore the role of athletes’ utilizing social media and the effect they can have on the fans watching.