By: Thomas Bradley
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.