How Social Media is Changing Sports Marketing

By: Thomas Bradley

Fans at Stadium

Social media has become the go to resource for many fans seeking fan photos, news, information, and behind-the-scenes peeks for their favorite sports teams. The greatest benefit of social media has been the ease of engagement and rapid connection between fans and the teams they love. This leads to building greater loyalty to a team and this leads to more profits that can be made in sports organizations. According to the article, “45% of 18-35 year olds follow sports teams or athletes online, and 35% of them regularly use social media to comment on, tweet/retweet, share or link to online sports content” (Blakely 2012). Sports teams have long been searching for new and innovative ways to generate revenue for their programs. Sports teams across the nation generate additional funds from ticket sales, television contracts, institutional funds, and student fees. Social media has played an important role in this quest for more revenue as it provides brand exposure, fan interaction, and increased awareness of events at a relatively low cost.

One of the most appealing features of social media is that it can give sports fans an inside look at their favorite programs and access to behind the scenes information that otherwise would not be accessible. This backstage feeling is capable of drawing fans in and enhancing the ties they feel to the teams and athletes they cheer for. Social media is able to draw a personal connection that traditional media often lacks and this has provided a significant amount of differentiation. The sense of exclusivity or never before seen information is often exactly what a fan desires and this is what social media can provide.

According to the article, 92% of sports information directors agreed or strongly agreed that social media has shifted the way their organizations communicate, while 89% said social media has changed how sport teams communicate with external entities (Blakely 2012). Social media gives organizations the opportunity to tell interesting tales about the many personalities on a team, satisfying their fans craving for more information about their teams on and off the playing field. This interactive element can be thought of as shifting the public relations role of athletic department from a one way to a two way flow of communication. Through the advent of different forms of social media, fans are able to respond to organizations and engage with other fans on the topics at hand instantly. Athletic departments are communicating with internal and external stakeholders, including fans, recruits, ranking organizations, local, and national media as well as other outlets. According to the article “social media users state they are more likely to engage in the conversation when their team is winning or has won a contest which can be a concern” (Blakely 2012).

According to the chapter in the book, “a key advantage of web-based communication is the opportunity to create a community of users or visitors to the site” (Marshall/Johnson). Many types of social media have created the tools necessary to craft and share new and different information with other fans. These online resources provide a place for “niche” audiences with specific interests to gather and discuss the team or sport that unites them. Fans are now able to respond to content, discuss with other fans and create content of their own. This is one of the reasons why online fan communities are built and are presently thriving. Social media plays an important role in brand building, including engagement, immediacy, and community. For example, engagement and communication may assist in creating feelings of loyalty to an organization among fans. Sport teams are also able to influence brand building factors. A solid brand identity can boost an institution’s visibility and reputation on a national scale. In conclusion, with the rapid rise of social media as a whole, athletic departments across the nation are increasingly facing opportunities related to providing information to fans and the media, refining relationships with stakeholders, and building brands.


18 thoughts on “How Social Media is Changing Sports Marketing

  1. Hardeep Marwah November 21, 2015 / 6:41 pm

    Like many other businesses, social media is indeed transforming the sports business. Especially with the traditional mediums like TV, print are either seeing reduction in audience or are getting saturated with content, social medium provides a new avenue for reaching out to the customers. Not just any customers but a more targeted customer. As we know a more target approach for marketing is more productive than a shot gun approach, social medium has the potential of providing a better return on investment.


  2. Ashleigh Sargent November 21, 2015 / 7:10 pm

    I worked in the Sports Information Office from my freshman through senior year of college, and saw a huge shift in the focus on social media during my time in the office. My supervisor constantly tried to improve the athletics Facebook page and developed a Twitter account. Each sports team now has an individual Facebook page and some have Twitter feeds as well. Student-athletes, parents, fans, and even prospective recruits check the social media pages for game updates, live stats, and announcements. As a former basketball player, I primarily use Facebook as a way of staying up to date with the team and with the department as a whole. While the athletics website is obviously a significant source of information, I see more and more the reliance on social media for information. I graduated in 2013, and I think the use of social media for communication has only grown since then. I am interested in some of the negative aspects of social media for communication, specifically for colleges. With the public having constant access to programs, college athletic departments (and the NCAA in general) are pushed to make decisions and respond quickly to situations that occur. For example, I learned about the recent recruiting issues for Louisville’s Men’s Basketball program through social media, and I saw many posts and opinions in public forums. In the past, issues like this might have been more private to give colleges time to react appropriately. As the world becomes more connected and people are oversaturated with information, it will be interesting to see what other innovations will help collegiate and professional athletic teams to reach current fans and attract people to invest in their programs.


  3. Skye Stewart: Portfolio November 23, 2015 / 12:02 am

    Although it’s obvious and makes so much sense, I never really thought about the fact that social media is continuously bringing sports organizations more revenue. It seems so simple to be able to post live updates of a game, get fans interacting, or creating contests to make customers aware of a certain sporting event/team. I feel that sports organizations especially have a stronger tie to social media than some other organizations out there. Sports teams have the ability to follow dozens of people that are on their teams, events that relate to their teams, a number of games their team plays in, and more. For sports, social media is truly never-ending. For other organizations, there isn’t always something that can be simply posted; content has to strategically be thought about and planned out before posted to the public. With sports organizations, social media really creates a strong relationship between a team and its fans.


  4. Taylor Mason November 23, 2015 / 11:10 pm

    I definitely agree with several of the points emphasized in this presentation.I believe that more and more social media attention is being placed on sports and the different organizations surrounding them. Like others have commented regarding this argument, people look at sites such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other mobile applications in order to view game scores and look up player statistics. As we live in such a technological era it is crucial that social media remain up to date especially with such a high sports fan base. I belie that a great example of this would be the more recent emphasis on fantasy football. I have noticed an influx of news of player highlights and injuries with a significantly higher presence of Draft King and Fan Duel commercials. My Twitter page has been flocked with tweets and posts regarding these different statistics. Overall, summing up what Thomas stated, social media is definitely imperative nowadays in the sporting industry. It is a strong form of communication with other athletes and with all of the individual viewers of these sports.


  5. Jane Paradise November 28, 2015 / 7:34 pm

    Until this presentation I never really noticed the significance of sporting events on the social media channels. To comment on Hardeep’s statement above, it won’t be long until reading statistics / predictions of outcomes in print will be completely obsolete. The rate at which we can now post things to social media portals is instantaneous and as such, social media really does have the capability of strengthening relationships between teams and their fans. This aspect of interaction online between teams and fans is the one thing that print media will never accomplish, so I think it’s important to analyze what is being posted to facebook / twitter by the teams and their managers, because it will immediately have a ripple effect on its fan base.


  6. Geoffrey Dion November 28, 2015 / 8:57 pm

    Although this article talks about how popular sports franchises now can use the advent of higher interaction social media to engage and attract more fans, another area I think that this article could explore is how social media can help emerging sports take hold of their own market share. By this I mean sports that are not part of the United States’ “Big 4” (baseball, football, basketball, and hockey). Soccer (football) is one sport than can really take hold of this and use social media to develop and increase their fan base. In Europe especially, soccer is by far the most popular sport, like football is in the US. But in the United States soccer is just starting out with trying to establish a fan base. The MLS is currently expanding at a rapid rate, adding New York City FC and Orlando SC this year, and soon there will be teams in Miami, Minnesota, Atlanta, and another in LA. Social media will be huge in the development of these teams and trying to attract and encourage people to become fans. One team that I have been following is a great case of how to attract fans and create popularity for itself, and that is Orlando City SC. Coming up from a lower division of American soccer, Orlando already had a fan base and just needed to leverage that to create their own presence in the MLS. Over the course of the season OCSC was successful in creating buzz around themselves in their inaugural season, despite little success on the field. So the point of what I’m trying to say is that social media is great for teams that are already established, but even more so they are a huge opportunity for teams that are just emerging as a force in US sports.


  7. Adam Chadbourne November 30, 2015 / 12:08 am

    As other have mentioned, the use of social media has definitely influenced the change in receiving information on athletes and Sporting events. Years ago, people used to have to wait until the evening news or the morning paper to get their information on sports. Now with social media, people can get their information on athletes within minutes of an event occurring. I have noticed numerous times that as soon as word has gotten out about a football player’s injury on social media, I have one friend immediately going to their Fantasy Football site and changing their lineup. Social Media has definitely become the norm of getting one’s information in sports because they can focus on just one player and give people an insight into that player’s life.


  8. Melissa Miller December 1, 2015 / 4:11 pm

    During my four years playing college basketball I got to see in real life how signifcant a part social plays in all sports teams. They have used social media to help promote our games and even different events we have run like “Midnight Madness.” It also gives spectators a more personal feeling about the athletes because they can learn things about their favorite athletes that they might have not known without social media. Our team recently did a marketing campaign where the athletes took “control” of the team’s instagram account for the summer. They were responsible for posting pics of what they were doing during their summer break. It’s a cool thing to learn about athlete’s outside the court, rink or field. It makes them seem more relatable.


  9. Matthew E. Dulac December 2, 2015 / 8:43 pm

    I am a firm believer that social media has transformed sports and the marketing of respective organizations. There has been a special emphasis that has been put on pages such as Facebook and Twitter that disclose game scores, give statistics, and give instant replay, as well as highlights for fans. These individual sites must be up to date and must give fans the opportunity to see their favorite teams and favorite players. Social media has transformed marketing and has brought about significant revenues and growth for teams in not just the United States but internationally as well. It will be interesting to see how social media transforms in the future as this will have a direct impact on sports teams and other organizations as well that utilize these sites and features.


  10. Kedar Gandbhir December 5, 2015 / 4:06 am

    Social media has played a huge impact in the growth/transformation of sports. There was a time Where newspapers were the only way to get score results after missing games. Now a days social media will fill you in on the latest sports news instantly. The trending feature on facebook is a great example of how quickly information can spread.


  11. Michelle McNall December 6, 2015 / 10:01 pm

    I agree with everyone here that social media has become increasingly popular in the world of sports. It is now easier than ever to stay connected to your favorite sports teams and with real-time updates on social media, even if you are unable to watch a game on TV or listen to the broadcasters on the radio, you can still find out how your favorite team is doing just by using the popular social media sites available today. Social media has had such a significant impact on the professional sports market to the point that now there are sites such as Fan Duel etc. that allow die-hard sports fans to unleash their competitive sides and bet on their fantasy sports teams. This is just one example that immediately struck me when I read this blog post. Great work, Tom!


  12. Melanie Barbarula December 7, 2015 / 1:09 am

    Thomas your quote, “Social media plays an important role in brand building, including engagement, immediacy, and community” is a strong statement that I think accurately reflect the impact social media has had not only on the sports industry but on business in general. Social media is the most prominent marketing tool of its time. Businesses have to make sure that they are keeping up with the times and conform to new forms of marketing otherwise they will become obsolete and their business will pay for their mistakes. In an article I read(provided below), it indicates that business must adopt social media platforms for their marketing strategies otherwise the lack of social media incorporated into their business strategy will become a liability. It is important to note that, “Facebook FB 1.72% , Twitter TWTR -3.40% , Instagram, LinkedIn LNKD 0.86% , and other networks are fundamentally changing how we reach and interact with customers, offer products and services, communicate with employees and — in a nutshell — do business. Social media is the next wave of the digital transformation that started with the web. And its bottom-line impact is proving just as huge. For businesses today, the best way to keep your company successful, in my estimation, is to fully embrace social media.” (Holmes, 2015)


  13. Kimberly Martin December 7, 2015 / 3:17 pm

    I had never thought about sports teams being on social media as marketing. I follow the New England teams on social media and I think a lot of the behind the scenes backstage information they share is pretty cool for fans. Usually that is how I find out information on teams as far as trades or new players being signed. Also it can give the fans things on demand, where as print you might have a day or so turn around before it reaches the fans. Or if it was being presented on the news you would have to wait until the news comes on but with social media it is instant. Like Melanie said the way businesses do things are going to keep changing and businesses will have to keep up with the change and I think sports teams are doing a good job at keeping up with the changes.


  14. Owen Jarem December 9, 2015 / 3:25 pm

    As a sports fan, I think that social media is one of the best things that could have happened to sports marketing. It’s hard to keep up with all the games that go on with different sports, and because of social media we have the ability to stay up to date on all news, scores, or headlines of teams we follow. Not only that, but most fan pages or team pages on social media help market apparel or jerseys that die hard fans crave. Social media has allowed sports teams to keep their fans completely up to date. There are those who protest social media in sports saying that it does more harm than good, and I agree that there is some definite cases where social media has been abused. However, as a sports fan I receive significant benefits from sports information being readily available on social media.


  15. Joe Pantalone December 10, 2015 / 12:56 am

    It is apparent that social media is playing a major role in sports. Being a college athlete I can see the use daily. Our athletic department uses social media to connect with fans to update them on game information. The specific sports teams have their own accounts and have giveaways for tickets and prizes to entice people to attend events as well as play by play information. It has been influential in getting people involved with the certain teams they like to follow.


  16. Rebecca Armstrong December 10, 2015 / 6:12 pm

    I believe that the sports industry is taking full advantage of social media and using it to benefit themselves more and promote more events. This can get the attention of fans, can promote team’s success, and bring in more fans to the games. There are some instances that a sports team can promote a sponsored product through a give-away by asking for a follow and a tag. With this the team gains followers while having the fans promote their name on their own pages. This is a huge opportunity that the sports industry is taking a hold of and I think that it is very effective.


  17. Craig Wyszomirski December 15, 2015 / 5:59 pm

    I like that the players and organizations are using all parts of social media to expand their brand. As anyone else in there world I too have favorite players on sports teams. There is nothing better than getting an all access behind the scenes look at that player. It is always interesting to see how they prepare, what they sound like on the field, what there mindset is. Also it is always cool understanding how teams operate, what are there principles, how do they conduct themselves in a locker room setting, how does the media portray them. All teams should take full advantage of social media apps. Their fans probably spend 60% of there day on social media, why not make it easy for the fans to connect.


  18. Alicia March 5, 2016 / 10:03 pm

    Social Media really is changing the marketing game, especially in sports. I follow my favorite teams on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even Snapchat now. Snapchat allows fans to see exactly what is going on in the players everyday lives following, practices, games and team travels. This alone has impacted the world of athletes tremendously. I love sports, I grew up watching them my entire life and I aspire to work for a professional team one day. Being able to see the behind the scenes of my favorite teams and follow them throughout the year, on and off season, makes the fan experience so much more exciting.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s