Social media is tailor-made for international athletes, not big brands and corporates. A simple comparative exercise will prove this point:
According to BrandSouthAfrica.com, the five strongest South African brands in 2013 were, with their Twitter followers in brackets: MTN (101,000), Vodacom (119,000), Sasol (173 sic!), Standard Bank (32,000) and Absa Bank (19,800). Total Twitter followers: 271,973.
The first five batsmen in the last Test match the Proteas played against Australia at Newlands in March were, with their Twitter followers in brackets: Graeme Smith (654,000), Alviro Petersen (68,500), Dean Elgar (2,922), Hashim Amla (370,000) and AB de Villiers (1,260,000). Total Twitter followers: 2,355,422.
Proof that social media offers top athletes an incredible platform to not only improve their public image, but also unlock unlimited exposure for their sponsors. David Carter, an American authority on sports business and strategic marketing, recently remarked that even “a mid-level player with social media savvy can reach endorsement and name-recognition levels that were once only the domain of the best of the best.”
Here then are some tips for athletes to improve their and their sponsors’ social media presence:
The only way to deal with change is to embrace it and the time is now for all athletes to embrace social media. Social media is the perfect vehicle to use to create, increase and retain a following because people can connect easily and instantly with one another. The number of technologically smart consumers is growing daily. Not embracing social media is quite simply a missed opportunity to increase the value of sponsorships and endorsements or to promote a personal cause. It is the way to connect with fans and maximize the value of endorsements.
Secondly, all brands always aim to please consumers. In order to please a brand (and be selected for lucrative endorsement campaigns), athletes need to aim to please consumers.
How do you please fans and consumers? Answer: Engage with your followers.
Consumers want athletes who are willing to invite them into a part of their lives and authentically engage with them. For example, they want someone who responds to social media posts and someone who posts unique messages, photos and videos of sites or experiences that they otherwise may not be able to be a part of.
An athlete using his unique personality to build a relationship and engage with his followers builds trust between himself and his followers. At the same time it signals to brands that the athlete has influence amongst his followers and that he just may be the right athlete for an endorsement campaign!
Thirdly, be personal yet still professional. It is important to always display and maintain a professional image when posting, even if the post is not directly related to an endorsement.
Any post, whether in the past or future, will shape the athlete’s image and have a direct impact on endorsement potential. Brands will take this in to account when selecting which athletes to choose for endorsements because the athlete’s image will now be used to reflect the brand’s own image. Once an endorsement deal is signed, the athlete will from that moment be expected to assume accountability for what he posts and maintain a professional image for the brands he represents.
Finally, the athlete must always remember that his sponsors, fans and followers love him for who he is. The athlete must use social media to further express his personality and showcase his experiences with fans.
Don’t try to be something or someone you’re not just to please sponsors. People will pick up if an athlete does that and will not be so keen to engage with him any longer. The athlete must stay true to himself and an authentic engagement with fans will follow naturally.