Social Media in Sports

Social Media in Sports

It’s been a triumphant last few weeks in sports. The Miami Heat and Chicago Blackhawks each took home the trophy and the title of being the best in their respective sport. Fans worldwide blew up social media to either celebrate or rant. Even the teams and athletes took to Twitter and Facebook to reach out to fans.

Hours after celebrating his own title with a parade in Miami, Heat star LeBron James tweeted out congratulations to Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane for winning the Stanley Cup. “Congrats to 88pkane and the Chicago Blackhawks on winning the Stanley Cup #WhatAFeeling #NothingLikeIt,” James tweeted. He also tweeted an Instagram picture of a Blackhawks jersey with the No. 6 and his name on the back. Even President Obama took to social media, sending his congratulations to the Blackhawks: “Congrats, @NHLBlackhawks. Thanks for bringing the Stanley Cup back to Chicago.”

American football produced the most retweeted sports tweet of all time when the Green Bay Packers’ TJ Lang tweeted his frustration on a bad call by replacement refs: “F*** it NFL. Fine me and use the money to pay for regular refs.” The tweet – which went down as one of the most memorable tweets of 2012 by theweek.com – had 100,000 retweets, significantly more than the 28,000 followers he has.

Sports and social media do make a great team. With more than 48 social media sites, sports social media is inspiring and influencing teams, fans athletes and sponsors. It’s definitely fueling sports fans, as they choose to interact with leagues, teams and the athletes. Across all sports, social media sports fans frequently engage in social networks while they watch or listen to the game. This is especially true among MMA fans, where nearly 90 percent of fans who use Twitter or Facebook to follow sports say they “most of the time” or “sometimes” log into those social networks while they watch or listen to the game or fight. That rate is just slightly lower for college basketball fans, and more than 80 percent among NBA fans.

When athletes embrace social media they give fans the opportunity to connect on a level they never could before. Shaquille O’Neal has more than 7 million followers on his @Shaq Twitter account, where he is said to express his larger than life personality and will often tweet clues to his whereabouts for impromptu meet-ups with fans. Better late than never, LA Lakers Kobe Bryant joined Twitter this past January. Bryant has done a great job providing engaging and honest insights for nearly 2 million Twitter followers and 16 million fans on Facebook. Shortly after tearing his Achilles, Bryant shared his frustration with millions of fans on his Facebook page. In less than 48 hours his Facebook post received more than 400,000 Likes. He even live tweeted his surgery, allowing millions of people around the world into a private moment.

For fans who want to connect to other sports fans like themselves to rant, debate, discuss or share their joy, there is social media newcomer LockerDome. Launched in January 2012, LockerDome is one of the fastest-growing online sports platforms, with more than 13 million people interacting with like-minded people around the world about their favorite sports. The social media platform brings together fans, athletes and coaches to dish on their favorite teams, topics and athletes. According to LockerDome, it has delivered 50 percent average growth across Facebook and Twitter for its properties in just four-and-a-half months.

Another sports media site to watch is sportsfangraph.com. This site ranks sports teams by the number of Twitter and Facebook followers and the number of people “talking.” You can segment by sport and region. Pinterest has also become a popular social media platform – and an effective way – to market team merchandise. Many teams – Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings, and Chicago Cubs – are creating merchandise-specific pin boards.

So what can marketing leaders learn from how the sports world has embraced social media? LockerDome’s founder, Gabe Lozano, told Forbes: The sports world has proven that the combination of a real-time strategy around live events and a daily, long-term strategy is critical in maximizing your social media ROI. Past simply the size of one’s audience, this combined strategy fosters a social media audience that can have consistent bursts of excessive activity and growth, but that can also be activated daily to add value back to one’s brand. Pro teams, pro leagues and media companies are leading the charge in perfecting this holistic approach.