(This is a guest article by Ash Read)
The social media phenomenon is still taking off here in the UK, especially amongst our sports teams and athletes, who are severely behind their US counterparts. We’ve yet to see a sporting superstar utilize social media to the same level as Shaq, Dwight Howard and others have across the pond. Many of our bigger clubs have yet to recognize the power of social media. They broadcast news, results and details of any promotional offers, but in many cases there is very little interaction and engagement with the fans, which is a key aspect of social media, isn’t it?
In an age where the Premier League has a huge presence on the web and a huge global fanbase, it’s surprising there aren’t more Premier League players using Twitter. There is potential for these players to use social media in building their personal brands and following.
The Premier League’s best known Twitterer is Sunderland striker, Darren Bent who, as I write this, has around 28,000 followers (not quite at Shaq’s 2.5 million mark yet). Bent regularly posts an honest, open and interesting account of his life both on and off the pitch. He has used his Twitter account to embrace his new life in the north east. He has connected with the locals making him somewhat of a cult hero amongst Sunderland supporters, of course the goals and his performances on the pitch have helped too.
His famous use of Twitter has also seen his boot manufacturers, Umbro, make him a specially designed pair of boots with the Twitter logo and his username (@DBTheTruth) sewn into them. These boots have made national newspapers and also appeared on national TV. Highlighting the power social media can have and of course the benefits and exposure for any sponsors.
Bent possesses an impressive goal scoring record in the Premier League, and has been one of the top English scorers over the past four seasons, despite this he’s never really been in the media spotlight. Since his Twitter use his popularity and coverage in the media has significantly increased. It’s safe to say that Darren Bent’s personal brand and status has grown hugely through his use of Twitter, so why aren’t more Premier League stars utilizing it, and social media in general? Here are a couple of possible reasons:
Bad Press: One outburst famously got Darren Bent into trouble earlier this year. He posted comments over a potential move from Tottenham to Sunderland and it made national news, causing him to close down his Twitter account.
Lack of understanding: Social media is still a relatively new phenomenon and even the experts are continually finding ways to improve results and use social media to its fullest potential. Many don’t understand and see how social media ROI can be measured, therefore seeing any considerable time spent on social media as wasted time.
So what’s the solution? In one word, education. The majority of young footballers are given media training by their clubs (how to handle interviews, speaking to the press etc.) Maybe it’s time the clubs started to educate all players on the power of social media.
Maybe our clubs themselves need educating, some clubs seem worried about letting players loose with tools such as Twitter due to problems the past. However, with a set of guidelines clubs would have control of what information the players broadcast. If Hull City had some guidelines in place could the whole Jozy Altidore situation have been avoided?
Our clubs and athletes need to embrace social media. You only have to read “3 Reasons Athletes Should Use Social Media” to realize that athletes should be utilizing social media. Not only can it benefit their following on the field but also off the field and in retirement.
Is it the clubs that should be responsible for social media training or should it be the players agents/management or the players themselves?
Ashley Read is a Managing Director at Sport Driven, a dedicated sport marketing platform enabling businesses to source new and exciting commercial opportunities in the UK. Learn more and connect with him here or follow Ash on Twitter.