Across the world we have recently had a lot of elite athletes making silly mistakes via social media platforms.
Much to my dismay, some of Australia’s best athletes have been involved, with a few tweeting derogatory comments about others or distributing blatantly sexist videos on the net. A recent scandal involving some of the AFL’s best players and an underage school girl who posted nude photos of the players to Facebook has also made national/online headlines.
This type of coverage and portrayal of athletes as arrogant or insensitive (or maybe just plain stupid) breaks my heart. But all journalists have a job to do, and that is to tell a good story. Having worked in media for a number of years now I understand how a good scandal can really mean big money to the media outlet who breaks it first.
But the worst part about negative media coverage of elite athletes is that innocent companies, who might have helped that athlete get to the top level, can have their brand damaged significantly through their alignment. If an elite athlete gets filmed on video urinating in a side alley, it doesn’t exactly promote the best messages for the company that supports them (unless of course you are a street cleaner or possibly teach personal etiquette). It’s the same for sports teams and clubs who often lose much-needed financial funds from the silly behaviour of a few players.
The damage to the athlete financially is also heartbreaking. We have seen many the professional ‘disappear’ after an incident that ruined their reputation when sponsors have departed by truckload.
That’s not to say that an athlete won’t benefit from bad publicity – in fact sometimes it can help boost a nobody to a somebody and pretty quickly too. But this scenario is few and far between.
I read a figure a while ago that a large proportion of athletes end up broke despite many earnings millions during their career. Where are the sports managers going wrong? Are athletes feeling neglected and unloved and as such turning to social media / alcohol mindless activities just to generate attention?
It seems that maybe it’s all about money and performance now, when maybe the focus needs to be a more holistic approach that incorporates the athlete’s welfare and financial stability long term.
Sports clubs, or businesses supporting sports, would also be well advised to develop a social media policy that athletes must follow in order to reduce any possible brand damage in the case of an athlete blow out.
Image by stevebaty