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Sport and social media are obvious partners. Sport provides ‘live’ excitement and social media lets you share the moment with your friends.

It’s a social marriage made in sporting Heaven. 

A recent infographic from Eventility sets out exactly who the sporting winners and losers are in social media – and it’s not always who you might think.

Of course, the obvious winners are there. Christiano Ronaldo recently became the first sportsman to pass 50m Facebook fans and we all remember Usain Bolt’s victory in the Olympic 200m final which resulted in 80,000 tweets-per-minute.

But if you’re an American Football fan you might wonder why there are no NFL teams in the top 16 ‘most followed’ lists on Twitter or Facebook. Baseball fans will be similarly disappointed; they don’t feature anywhere.

That eight of the top ten teams on Facebook are football (soccer) teams, exposes the limited popularity of heavily US-dominated sports. 

When you see this list it’s pretty obvious why US companies are buying English football teams. The international factor also significantly affects personal popularity.  All of the most popular individual players are football, basketball or tennis stars.

Most of us in the social media industry know the importance of thinking before tweeting only too well, but apparently this knowledge is lost on sports players. Many have found themselves in trouble as a result of misjudged, foolish or offensive tweets:

  • Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, was fined $25,000 for criticising referees on Twitter.
  • Chelsea’s Ashley Cole was fined £90,000 for calling the Football Association a “bunch of t***s”
  • NFL star Rashard Mendenhall lost a sponsorship deal after tweeting a controversial theory about the 9/11 attacks.
  • Triple Jumper Voula Papachristou was expelled from the Greek Olympic team for making a racist remark on Twitter.

Looking more locally, it’s encouraging to see that smaller sports teams and clubs are using social media to promote their activities. In fact, 76% of sports event organisers use social media to promote their events, with Facebook being by far the most popular social channel.

Of course, Eventility also highlights how sports groups are using social platforms to organise online - but it's interesting to note that only 50% of smaller sports clubs have adopted social media.

Given that a Nielson study for Sport England suggested that over a third of people who participate in sport would do more if they could use a web tool to search for sport locally, these clubs are clearly missing a trick.

Perhaps the key takeaway from this infographic is how effective events themselves - including sporting events - are at generating both buzz and followers, and how important it is to seize the moment.

Ask yourself how many of the 130,000 Twitter followers that Greg Rutherford attracted by actively Tweeting during the Olympics had heard of him before the games? And, were it not for Twitter, how many would know where his next competition is? No wonder the long-jumper makes it into the Social Media Winners category.

 Sports and Social Media: Winners and Losers

Luke Brynley-Jones

Published 16 January, 2013 by Luke Brynley-Jones

Luke Brynley-Jones is Founder at Our Social Times and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

12 more posts from this author

Comments (1)


Wesley Parrish

Great Post! I think that Social Media has really allowed for more growth in terms of revenues in these leagues and fans of sports teams and athletes feel a 'real connection' to their biggest stars and heroes. The Barclays Premier League has really brought reasonable regulations to the Twitter and other social media accounts of clubs and players alike that keep the face of the league in mind. Any players who act in misconduct are subject to fines and really feel the consequences of their actions. This leads to less racism, abuse, trash-talking, and other problematic concerns that have arisen when such a diverse crowd is shuffled together into the same boat and only have each other to communicate with. Hopefully the benefits of social media use in major sports will continue to grow and boom with the industry!

almost 4 years ago

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