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The goal of any sports franchise is to have an active, engaged fan base. Thus, it’s been an absolute no-brainer for professional sports teams to adopt social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to deepen and widen their relationships with fans. There are several important ways that social media enables this to happen.
Develop new storytelling platforms for teams
Ultimately, social media is a storytelling medium, and it’s here that it has been so successful in helping sports franchises market themselves to the wider public. Social media can be used to tell the story of an underdog, to share success stories when a team is doing well, and to heighten the rivalries with certain teams. While TV has always been good about showcasing certain natural rivalries – such as Yankees vs. Red Sox – social media adds a whole new dimension by being able to document real fan stories and then present them to a much wider audience in a way that feels authentic.
Create one-on-one connections with star athletes
What has changed the most in the sports marketing industry is the ability to establish very direct relationships with marquee athletes who are using their own personal social media accounts. Fans will certainly tune in to a Facebook Live broadcast with their favorite athletes or check out what their favorite players are posting on Instagram.
These days, every major athlete has his or her own Twitter feed, and there is a surprising amount of give-and-take between these professional athletes and their fans (especially if these fans happen to “own” them in fantasy sports leagues). It’s now often the case that players who are active on social media can become fan favorites and help to shape narratives appearing in the mainstream media.
Amplify the passion of fans
Any time an underdog team starts to become a contender, or any time a team pulls off a huge upset, there is going to be a groundswell of passion and pride. In the past, it might have been hard to harness all that passion and pride – but now it’s possible to amplify the passion of fans on a game-by-game basis. As new hashtags become popular – such as the #whodat hashtag of the New Orleans Saints – they can be quickly distributed across all social media platforms very quickly. Trends that once took weeks to build and develop now seemingly happen overnight.
Create interactive, real-time experiences that involve the fans
Given the real-time nature of social media platforms such as Twitter, it’s now possible to use them to create new types of interactive experiences. During rain delays, for example, the Boston Red Sox will engage with their fans via Twitter, asking them to submit suggestions for music to play while they are waiting for their team to re-take the field. Other professional sports teams use Twitter to conduct blitz polls. It’s all in the name of creating a better fan experience.
Overall, social media has had a significant effect on sports marketing. The industry continues to change and evolve, constantly finding new ways to use social media to widen and deepen relationships with fans. The dream of any sports franchise is to capture the passion and interest of an invested fan base – and social media makes it much easier to do so on a year-round basis.