Social Media and Sport – 2013 Predictions

It’s that time of year again where we take a look into our crystal balls to predict what trends need to be kept an eye on over this next year.  Last year we were lucky enough to have a wide variety of people offering their predictions for 2012, many of which were ones we saw come true.

Some of the highlights of these insights were areas such as the live streaming of training sessions and press conferences becoming more the norm. This has come true with the likes of The FA streaming training sessions when the England squad get together, also Man City with their “Tunnel Cam” and QPR using Livestream to showcase their press conferences.  There are many other examples of this outside the UK and is something fans have come to enjoy and now even expect.

Two other areas that were mentioned a few times were Mobile optimisation and Big Data.  This was in a time when ‘datatainment’ hadn’t been mentioned by Richard Ayers yet (how long before it enters the Oxford English Dictionary?) and we were entering the next in a line of ‘this is the year of the mobile’.  But this time it has become a very true statement.  The biggest growth factors seen by all social networks was on mobile (including tablet) as people move away from PC’s and to easier, quicker ways of accessing their favourite sites.  Below are the links to the full predictions from a year ago…

So now we move onto 2013 and we ponder what the next 12 months hold for the industry.

Before we get to our experts, who have been handpicked to take part in this years stargaze, I’m going throw my own ideas out there for you to think about – and maybe disagree with.  I know we’re not going to get everything 100% spot on but we are going to take a good, educated guess.

For me the main thing that I have seen and expect the trend to continue is the maturation of the industry.  By this I mean that we have seen a significant move away from PR activities, those quick hits which have little long term benefit, and also a long overdue move away from what we call ‘vanity metrics’ (likes, comments, views, etc).  Businesses and clubs are starting to look more seriously at the industry as they moe to becoming more of a ‘social business’.

Most of top clubs, NGB’s and brands now have dedicated resource in place for social media and these people are taking it to the next level.  The majority are very intelligent and experienced with an increasing say on what the strategy is going to be, and then implementing it.   As a greater understanding of how social media fits in with business objectives (this can include fan engagement and not just financial) we will see more resource being put into the areas.

Another area I see a demand for soon is that of aggregator platforms – or social hubs.  We see so many platforms now that those in charge are looking at the role of each and how these can come together in a way in which it is easy for fans to digest.  I was close to implementing this for a recent campaign and am sure would have been a great success.  What you see is fantastic ‘stickiness’ as people use them primarily around events to get a better picture of what is happening.  It’s something I’ve touched on before as an early prediction for 2013.

That’s is enough from me for now.  I’ll be writing up more of my thoughts on what is coming, including a deeper look at business objectives and that move away from vanity metrics.

Here are the thoughts of some of the most widely respected thought-leaders in digital sport.

I’m delighted to welcome….. Amy Jo Martin (CEO of Digital Royalty), Adam Bader (Social Media Manager at Real Madrid), Shergul Arshad (Digital Business Director at AS Roma) and Oscar Ugaz (Regional Project Director at Phantasia Wunderman).



dR Amy Martin

Amy Jo founded Digital Royalty three years ago to help companies, celebrities, professional sports leagues, teams and athletes build, measure and monetize their digital universe. In addition, Digital Royalty provides customized social media education programs through Digital Royalty University, which offers a comprehensive curriculum blending strategic and tactical training.

Amy Jo herself has nearly 1.3 million Twitter followers @AmyJoMartin and she travels the world to speak about the latest trends in social media, how to monetize various social platforms, and how to successfully build a personal brand by utilizing social media. Her audiences have varied from the Harvard Business School and National Sports Forum to the Design Leadership Summit in Venice, Italy. Martin is a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review and Sports Business Journal. In October 2012, she became a New York Times best-selling author with the publication of her book, Renegades Write the Rules.  She and Digital Royalty have been featured in top-tier media outlets including Vanity Fair, TIME, Forbes, The New York Times, Fast Company, ESPN SportsCenter, USA Today, MSNBC and Newsweek. Martin also sits on the St. Jude Digital Board of Directors.

“2013 will be a very important year in social media and I think we’ll see even more change in the industry than in 2012.

Need for Education: Social media affects every part of a business—executives, HR, legal, customer service, etc.—therefore, everyone needs some kind of education. I’ve witnessed a lack of proper social media education over the past few years when working with clients and businesses. That’s why I launched Digital Royalty University. For the past year and a half, I have been developing and testing classes, while training thousands of our client’s employees. Especially in the sports industry, where social media debacles seem to happen daily, educating players on how to engage with their fans via social media channels could prevent 90% of these crises.

User Fatigue: Fatigue, consolidation, and the continuing struggle to remain relevant will be prevalent themes next year. There are simply too many options out there. People are busy, so social media platforms must continue to find interesting ways to engage users. With so many choices to choose from, simplicity and value reign, as evidenced by the success of platforms like Instagram.

Better value offer: Brands are beginning to recognize the power of providing relevant content vs. just trying to sell products. Via Pinterest and Instagram, yoga-gear retailer Lululemon features not only products, but useful information like yoga poses and running tips. By toning down the sales pitch and showing real-life uses for their products, people feel more engaged and involved with the brand.”




adam-baderAdam is the Social Media Manager at Real Madrid C.F.  He manages the social media presence of the club (currently serving over 40 million fans) and helps plan its online and social media strategy.  He advices on SEO and content production as well as supervise the official websites.  Also a guest lecturer at the Real Madrid International School (European University of Madrid) and previously worked for Realmadrid TV and OleOle.
“In 2012 I said everyone will focus on mobile apps and streaming and I see that the majority have done that. YouTube streaming is a brilliant product that makes it easy for clubs to stream events to a large audience without consuming big resources. In 2013, I think the focus will still be on video, especially Google Hangouts. It’s currently the best way to do “social” interviews with players and managers and fans love it. Another product that will see a lot of exposure in the industry is Instagram. It’s a great way to be personal with your fans and share behind the scenes photos.

Twitter has proved to be the place to go for breaking sports news in 2012. I think clubs realise this and will start breaking news on the platform before their official websites like Chelsea did with the Benetiz signing recently. This way they make sure they get the news out faster than anyone else and to a lot more people. Another thing I think clubs should and will do in 2013 is to use it to start and support campaigns. For example, I’ve seen my good friend and Guardian Journalist Sid Lowe help Real Oviedo start a campaign to raise money to avoid bankruptcy and they managed to raise enough cash in less than a month all thanks to the power of Twitter and of course the love people have for the game and the club. If you want to read more about this, check out this article:





shergul-2Shergul is Director of Digital Business at leading Serie A club AS Roma.  A passionate football fan who has previously worked at Amazon, Stylefeeder and Time Inc. Here he talks about the lessons learned from taking social media from nothing to being one of the leading lights in the country.

“In 2013 I think there will be some interesting trends in the world of social media and football.  First off, as clubs have seen their social media audience numbers soar, there will be much more focus on obtaining full user data and then centralizing the many various databases in a cost-efficient, browser-based manner.  Gone are the days of expensive CRM implementations, and there will be a rise in web-based information repositories that can manage data and communicate to fans on a personalized basis.

At AS Roma we are looking at such options via our partner, Raptor Sports Properties.  In eCommerce, there will be more of a trend towards targeting fans via social profiles and maximizing relevant, personalized offers.  YouTube could become a much more meaningful source of revenue if it opens up a paid access channel, as has been reported.  Twitter will continue to penetrate countries that have been slower to adopt, but some high profile incidents such as the Ashley Cole Tweet could lead to less authentic and more manipulated usage by athletes – unless Twitter deploys some damage control techniques.

Facebook fan pages may continue to suffer backlash until Facebook opens up easier ways to go back and view past posts via searching and browsing, and until they remove the throttling of posts that are vastly limiting reach. Finally, I think some clubs will be exposed as having “bought” their way into millions of fake fans and followers just to dupe advertisers and fans.  This has happened with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more – and the negative effect will be evidenced when advertisers back away from clubs who have exhibited such deceptive behavior.  There’s a lot for the major social networks to take away here, and I trust that the continual optimization will lead clubs and our fans to an even better place in 2013: more content, more access, more reach,  more authenticity, more protection and more money to the clubs and value to the fans.”



OSCAR UGAZ – Regional Project Director at Phantasia Wunderman


o ugazOscar (@oscarugaz) is Regional Project Manager at Phantasia Wunderman and former Digital Business Manager at Real Madrid  with expertise in Digital Media and online businesses. Over the past 15 years he has worked for major brands in America and Europe. 

“This is not a prediction. It is more like a wish and a demand. 2013 must be the year to get honest about digital in the sports industry.Social media, online video and mobile have been around for some time and a lot of buzz has being poured around them. But the contribution to the bottom line is still very small. Bad news is that 2013 is going to be most of the same.

We must acknowledge that digital in our industry is an investment.  That real value nowadays is in the understanding of the mechanics that will shape the near future and how we can take advantage of them.  This is not a solitary process. Sponsors, right holders and other partners must be involved.

Get ready for some disdain looks at the office and please understand the situation. We are talking about the classical innovators dilemma:  successful sports organizations focus in their cash cows of today (TV rights, ticketing and cookie cutter sponsorship deals). Few understand that disruptive innovation starts in small markets, with little returns. But then, the innovation hits the mainstream and old business models are beat down (Hello news media and music industry!).

Let’s stop buzzing and start measuring.  Not only how much money we make but also how much we save doing more with earned and owned media. How much traffic we are converting with less resources? Can we improve business results using clever solutions over new platforms? And most important of all: what are we learning to get prepared for the road of disruptions and potential business bubbles down the road.

Hope that the predictions of 2014 and the years ahead find us ready. Ready not only inside the digital department but within the whole organization. It will be terrible to predict or, God forbid, describe a major shift in the old business models (Hello football clubs, look what YouTube is doing) and discover that we are totally unprepared.

So, do you agree with our experts?  What are your predictions for social media and sport in 2013?

Love to hear your comments below….


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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