Should Sports Stars Be On Facebook?

I have been interested over the last few months about sports stars using social media.  There are so many benefits to do it (if done right) though with everything there are dangers involved.

We have seen what can happen with the adventures of Darren Bent and Jozy Altidore for example.  This is more down to a lack of training than anything else.  How can you assume that a player knows what to do and how it works by just letting them go out there and do it?

If you look at the strides that the Ultimate Fighting Championship have made using social media but this has been carefully guided by digital agency Digital Royalty.  They not only set out the strategy but trained all the athletes involved over a good course of time and are there to support anyone having problems or has questions.

This morning I thought I’d talk more specifically about Facebook and how athletes have been utilising it, or not in some cases.

As it becomes more widespread and understood by clubs and players then we should see a shift in behaviour and more interaction taking place.  The strangest arrangement that currently exists is that of English Premier League players who have basically allowed the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) to use their pages.

It is a actually counted as a verified account on Facebook so is seen as official even though the player has no involvement in it at all.  All they do is set them up to aggregate news about the player in question (video, written and photo’s) so that there is activity going on.

The PFA do make it obvious it is run by them so it’s not pretending to be an official page by a player but it still plays on the fans love for their favourite players to make money.

How do they do this?

Well, the main objective is to get fans on the page to vote for the player as their ‘player of the month’ which is an official prize.  To do this you are redirected to the PFA site where you have to enter your details to register and vote. 

This is run by a company called SportsNewMedia.  They then sell on this data to the likes of Virgin Media and Sky, thus monetising fan loyalty to their favourite player without them really knowing about how and why it has been set up.

As Facebook has become more popular, currently over 500m accounts, then so have the fan pages.  In terms of football in the UK, Fernando Torres is by far the most popular and has grown from about 900,000 to 2,366,650 in the last few months.

He is still a long way behind the biggest in the world, that of world football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo who has his own official page with 10,096,989 fans when I checked this morning. 

The point behind looking at the numbers, something I try to encourage people to look beyond, is that for a player it is a valuable commodity when you think about their usually closely guarded personal brand.  How much extra income/sponsorship could be negotiated on the back of their brand popularity and access they can give to sponsors and achieve more merchandise sales?

Yes, this still involves making money from fans who love that particular player but if they are personally involved they can give so much better content and personal interaction.  Would like to hear from the player himself or just news about what they are doing/press photos?

To give you an idea of how powerful football brands are here is a list of the top 10 athletes on Facebook as of 10am on Friday 13th August…..

You can see that basketball, football, tennis, swimming and motorsport are the big winners here though it is interesting to see the Lionel Messi’s and Valentino Rossi’s accounts are both unofficial and set up by fans.

Is it any surprise that the most carefully managed brands in football are the only two in there; Christiona Ronaldo and David Beckham…. I don’t think so.

So where are our beloved players who play in biggest league in the world?

Is it any surprise that they score so lowly when the players are not involved in them.  It can only surely be a matter of time when they see the value in a social media presence and take back control.  Then it will be worthwhile ‘liking’ them and getting a real inside look to the people off the pitch.

The players do so much charity work that goes unseen, especially Didier Drogba.  He should take a leaf out of Lance Armstrong’s book and use his online presence to promote this work, show what it is that he does and help raise even more money for the causes he campaigns for.

What do you think about athletes being on Facebook and social media in general, in the UK and from other parts of the world?

About author

Daniel McLaren
Daniel McLaren 820 posts

Dan is the Founder & CEO of Digital Sport. Can be found at sports industry events and heard every week on the Digital Sport Insider podcast. @DanielMcLaren

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