Icons of Rugby tournament merges social media celebrity with live event experience

Social media may have allowed everyone a voice and the ability to air their thoughts and opinions, but it has also amplified celebrity status to a whole new level.

It may not have seemed possible 20 years ago, but the biggest stars are now arguably even bigger than they ever were thanks to social media’s handy knack of connecting everyone. Its power can be seen in tonnes of ways: from seismic sporting events like Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer from Real Madrid to Juventus, to everyday events like a fan’s ability to interact with a player.

Both of those phenomenons mixed at an event just outside London last weekend – the Icons of Rugby tournament.

Run by the Icons Series and featuring similar events involving stars from the world of football, cricket and beyond, the weekend centred around a Ryder Cup style tournament in which iconic figures of rugby’s illustrious past competed against each other in a new sport – golf.

Legends like Mike Tindall, Brian O’Driscoll and Clive Woodward featured for a Northern Hemisphere team against a Southern Hemisphere side inclusive of the likes of Bryan Habana and John Smit at a golf course in London. Where fans used to get as close as the front row at Twickenham to see these stars, now they were able to get up a lot closer on a golf course.

Recently, we’ve been told more and more that people want experiences. A decade or so of being stuck behind screens and living our lives for those same social media platforms that have given us so much does come at a price: people crave those real-world moments away from the veil of the smartphone display.

And that’s something sport should be taking into account when it comes to social media.

More and more, sport is becoming a televised phenomenon. A soap opera there for your entertainment and consumption on a sofa at home. But sport also has something that TV shows and on-demand video don’t have, for example – the ability to create events that you can physically go to and be at. And that’s something that shouldn’t be ignored either.

Conversely, nor can sport ignore social media. The draw of rugby players playing a new sport in a new context, or legends reviving their rivalries in new ways is clearly a draw, but with the social media prowess of top athletes engagement can be high on social media, too.

It’s events like these that remind us of the power of social media and how we should be thinking of it as complementary to the live event, not something that might one day take it over. At an event like this, social media and online coverage added to it, but it wasn’t the main attraction.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 836 posts

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

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