Sports and Social Media - Why Should Athletes Care?

Today is the third in a series of posts (a new post each day) with thoughts from some pretty smart folks to try to answer the question of why people should care about the intersection of sports and social media. You can see the first two posts below:

Even if you already know why this is important, I hope you enjoy getting a variety of perspectives on this subject. If you have bosses, colleagues or friends that still don't get it, maybe they'll find some value in this series if you share it with them.

Today's topic is athletes. Athletes are in a great position to benefit from social media tools and platforms. Social media gives athletes a direct line to fans, and fans a direct line to athletes. Instead of having to tell their stories through media outlets, athletes can now tell fans directly. This gives athletes an opportunity to show their human sides (for bad or for good) and shed light on their favorite brands/sponsors, products and charities. Even after athletes' careers are over, they're still able to interact with fans and extend their influence via social media.

See below for a variety of thoughts from other smart folks about why athletes should care about sports and social media.

Jackie Adkins - In the past, your game was just about all you had to separate yourself from other athletes and capture the hearts of sports fans. That is still important, but social media can both help you win over new fans and make your existing fans even more. This means you are more attractive to sponsors, get more love from the media, and get more cheers during the game.

Dennis Allen - Athletes are needing to become much more brand conscious in this new world of constantly streaming information. Social media is a way for them to engage the fan and their other constituencies directly. To create and broaden their own brand/personality.

Steve Cobb - Social media is a match made in heaven for athletes who want to connect with as many fans as possible, build their brand, attract and activate sponsors, and set themselves up for a career after sport. Sports fans are spending less time watching TV and listening to the radio and more time watching YouTube videos and chatting on Twitter, so what better place to establish a presence and distribution network than the media channels of the future? There is no denying the rising expectation levels of both fans and sponsors for athletes to utilize social media.

Brian Gainor - Social media allows athletes to no longer live at the mercy of the media – they now control their own message. By investing adequate time and resources into developing their own personal social media channels, athletes can manage their brand in an effective, yet cost-efficient manner. Athletes can utilize social media channels to build a loyal fan base, leverage their endorsements, promote national ad campaigns, control messaging around major decisions (free agency, off-the-field deals), communicate directly with fans and fellow celebrities, and promote charitable initiatives.

Anthony De Rosa - Athletes can bypass the middleman of needing a publicist. They can connect directly to fans if and when they want to.

Lewis Howes - Athletes should care about social media because of the opportunities for personal branding. Many athletes' careers end the day they retire from the court or field. If they are planning ahead for that next career stage they can capitalize on their popularity as an athlete and turn that into a new business venture. Social media builds a network that can be carried from a life as an athlete to the next stage of their career.

Ash Read - Superstar athletes like Lebron James, Payton Manning and Lionel Messi will get the big endorsement deals, sponsorships and publicity without social media because they are the best at what they do. For athletes who aren’t ‘superstars’ getting visibility and building your own fan base can be difficult and this is where social media can help. Social media gives everyone the opportunity to be different and stand out from the crowd. Social media also allows athletes to show fans their real personalities, something which doesn’t always show through on the court/field.

Brian Reich - Social media isn't a thing, a set of tools or tactics that anyone can use to advance their work. Social media is how people, looking to connect with others who have shared interests or who are hoping to develop a relationship with an organization that is doing something they care deeply about, engage and develop relationships. Though modern-day athletes have become, in essence, brands, the motivation for fans is to connect with them as human beings. Social media makes athletes more accessible and provides an opportunity for athletes, who are willing, to engage in a deeper, more direct, more genuine conversation, build trust, and develop true relationships

Russell Scibetti - In the age of free agency and big contracts, the most important thing that a player has outside of their contract is their brand. They need to care about social media because it gives them a direct-to-consumer communication channel that has more influence over their brand image than any jersey or team logo does. Because of the power that this medium has, players need to have a great balance of being genuine and being self-aware. They should let that fun personality shine through while remembering that once they click "Submit", there's no going back. They need to better understand the pros and cons of the instantaneous nature of social media.

Trevor Turnbull - Social media allows athletes to control their own personal brand and messaging. For superstar athletes, this means being able to paint their own picture on how they are perceived by their fan base, rather than giving up that control to the mainstream media. And, of course, for those athletes that are not of "superstar" status, social media can help build a loyal following that can prove to be extremely valuable in contract negotiations. It also allows opportunities for new revenue streams in the form of sponsorship agreements that can present themselves as a result of the direct influence athletes have with their unique fan base.

Brendan Wilhide - Athletes on social media control their own message. They can talk to fans and increase their fanbases and exposure with a strong social media presence. Athletes are joining Twitter and other social media sites at a very fast pace because they recognize the unique opportunity to interact directly with their fans via social media.

Joseph Yi - Social media has been an especially valuable tool to athletes because of its usefulness as a branding tool. Not only is it valuable for well known athletes like Shaquille O'Neal, but also for the lesser known individuals who are trying to make a name for themselves. More and more, we are seeing teams utilizing rookies and unknown athletes as part of their social media campaigns because these individuals are seizing the new opportunities to get their name out there through social media engagement.

Now it's your turn - why do you think athletes should care?

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post, which will examine why agents should care about social media/sports.