(This is a guest article by Aaress Lawless)
The legacy of the sport of tennis lies steeped in tradition. From the pristine lawns of Wimbledon to the earth of Roland Garros, tennis’ past has governed the game of the present. Change is slow, the old ways are revered, and unlike other sports, tennis has evolved little since the modern game took shape in the 18th century.
But a new era of technology is ushering in sweeping changes for a sport which has a reputation for being behind the times. Equal prize money at Wimbledon did not arrive until 2007, 123 years after women first graced the Championships with their flowing skirts. Ironically, tennis has not been so slow to respond to the latest trend attacking the baseline—-social media.
While social media has untold advantages to many industries, it particularly is appealing to tennis. The tennis season is the longest of all major sports, lasting over ten months and with tournaments in over thirty nations. Logistical complexities such as the time differences, tournament accessibility and mediocre television coverage have frustrated fans for years. But social media has stepped in as a new medium, allowing fans to consume the latest news at their own paces and schedules.
Social media has also given tennis fans the thing that they have craved the most—unfiltered, 24/7, uncensored access to their favorite stars. Thanks to messages ranging from the hilarious to the mundane, fans are now able to see first-hand the real personalities behind some of tennis’ most popular competitors.
Maria Sharapova has an official Facebook page that is followed by over two million loyal followers. Roger Federer chose Facebook as the means to introduce the world to his new twin daughters by posting their official birth photograph on the networking service first. The image, which quickly went viral, was given the Facebook thumbs up by over 100,000 thousand fans.
Twitterers were able to empathize with Andy Roddick as he recounted the unsolicited advice he received from his mailman after losing a heart-breaking final last year to Roger Federer at Wimbledon. Steak aficionados have relished reading with delight dining reviews from Venus Williams, who loves a good side of beef as much as she loves fashion. And Serena Williams—let’s just say that the queen of the court is the queen of Twitter, entertaining over 1.6 million tweeps with tweets about her new BFF’s, her latest product lines available on Home Shopping Network, and most recently, live commentary from the first annual Williams Invitational tennis tournament.
Players are not the only ones rapidly embracing the concept of social media. Prince Sports, one of the leading brands in tennis equipment and apparel, has found social media to be a vital asset to its marketing.
“Prince was one of the first tennis manufacturers to adopt and utilize Twitter as a way to extend the conversation players, coaches and industry individuals were having online.” says Zach Perles, the Vice President of Global Communications at Prince Sports, Inc.
“Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites have helped us, because it has given us the chance to really listen and communicate with the consumers in real-time.”
Prince isn’t the only company paying attention to the new craze. The governing bodies of the sport, PR agents and marketers, and other manufacturers are continually expanding their online presences to reach new fans and potential consumers.
As long as the industry keeps engaging the average armchair professional, social media will continue to have the advantage in tennis.
Aaress Lawless is the founder and managing editor of On the Baseline Tennis News, the largest independently owned women’s tennis news website in the United States. On the Baseline is a recognized media source in the tennis world and has been quoted in the New York Times, Reuters, Yahoo Sports, and Sydney Morning Herald, among other outlets. In addition to managing On the Baseline, Aaress is a PR consultant with DuoParadigms Public Relations and Design in Texas. To follow Aaress on Twitter @aaresslawless