Former Manchester United player could show US Soccer how it’s done

The latest #DSLondon panel event brought together representatives from the UK arms of NBA, NFL and UFC to talk about what it’s like attempting to break a sport into a new cultural environment, and the difficulties of going from a dominant sport to something more like a challenger brand in a new country.

Of all the examples given of how to make an emotional connection with sports fans of a different stripe, such as partnering with publishers and influencers or teaming up with athletes from other sports, two stood out: looking to see what the players themselves are doing on social media with an eye for helping to create the same sort of content, and aiming to grow participation amongst young people in the new country.

Social media strategies are rightly taken seriously among teams and leagues, but sometimes thinking about it too much can take away from what is, at heart, a platform where everyone and anyone can share what’s on their mind at a given point. The top stars in every sport tend have big social media followings, and the ones who do the best are usually those who are posting their own stuff. It should be obvious, after all, that one of the the biggest reasons for following a player you like in the first place is the fact that you want to know more about their personality.

Indeed, it’s often these young sportspeople with massive online followings who just get the platform best anyway.

One good example this week came from Giuseppe Rossi, the former Manchester United and Villarreal footballer who is currently without a club during his recovery from injury. The former Italy international has taken to posting short video clips of himself performing a skill and asking his followers to send videos of their own attempts to copy it.

So it’s not a social media strategy, and you wouldn’t call it ‘content’. It’s probably not hugely thought-though. Rossi just wants to stay in touch with his fans as he recovers to match fitness and hopefully finds another club where he can put his obvious abilities to good use once he’s back up to speed. But there’s something that just seems so effective about it.

Having been born in New Jersey, Rossi caused a bit of a storm very early in his career when, as a promising youngster for United, he opted to play for the Italian national team instead of the United States, but that doesn’t mean that US fans aren’t interested in the fortunes of the man who divides most of his tweets up between the Italian national team and the New York Giants these days.

He has nearly a million followers and is perhaps the US soccer equivalent of the NBA and NFL’s strategy of using players as influencers and their social media posts as the basis for a content series. Indeed, Rossi’s short, slow-motion clips showing off a footballing technique, it would be perfect for children attempting to learn the game in the back garden.

Maybe the serious point isn’t just about how good it is to be able to use the audience of an athlete with their own dedicated, personal following, but also that simplicity can be very effective if used properly. Careful planning is always a must, but sometimes the simplicity of a fresh eye makes all the difference.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 831 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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