Star athletes Tim Tebow, Chad Johnson, and Nick Young have all used social media to propel their celebrity status beyond the sport world. Through the use of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, athletes now have the power to engage more actively with fans, as well as devolp their own personal brand. With this power comes a new sense of responsibility from both the athlete and fan.
Since it’s conception, social media has had a significant impact on all facets of society. The area of sports is no different. Indiana University professor Dr. Clavio, believes twitter is at the backbone of social medias involvement in sports.
“It’s all in the algorithms. I think Twitter is neat because it treats everyone the same within the system giving all athletes, journalists and fans equal opportunity,” Clavio said.
Social media has helped to shape how fans view athletes and their individual success in the field. Although social media can be extremely influential for athletes popularity, Texas Tech professor, Dr. Jimmy Sanderson, believes athletes can be just as effective without it. Sanderson, highlights star hockey player Sidney Crosby and Mike Trout, as clear examples athletes that have maximized their star potential with little to no social media presence. Trout, is less active on social media compared to the average star, but relies on endorsements from Nike, Bodyarmour, and SuperDrink to gain more publicity. Without his social media presence Trout is still one of the more popular players in the MLB ranking eleventh in jersey sales in 2018.
With this new freedom given to the athlete, experts like Sanderson and Clavio warn of the potential dangers of using social media inappropriately from both the fan and athlete.
Former Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, is an example of how social media can negatively impact athletes. In high school, Murray posted tweets containing homophobic language that surfaced right after he won the Heisman Trophy. Scandals like this affect player marketability, and can take away from how they perform.
“At the high school and collegiate levels we are seeing many issues with athletes posting thing’s on the internet and it coming back to bite them later in their careers,” It’s a shame because one mistake can alter so much”, Sanderson said.
According to Clavio, fans engaging negatively with athletes is an increasingly hot topic and an area for concern within sports. Whether it’s Russel Westbrook going back and forth with a fan at a game, or Kevin Durant responding to nasty Instagram comments, social media has given fans power like never before.
“The main problem I see with fan and athlete beef depends on how sensitive the athlete is. I also think a big part of it are these fans who say crazy thing’s on the internet but wouldn’t say it to athletes because they would get punched in the face,” Clavio said.
In 2019, the ability for sports fans to engage with their favorite athletes continues to progress. Sports fans before the creation of social media would only be allowed to engage with athletes on an indirect level. This means at games or at special sporting events. Now fans can know what are their favorite athletes favorite food, what they like to do and the weekends and all the little
Platforms like Bleacher Report and ESPN allow multi-tasking that wasn’t available for fans in the past. According to Dr. Sanderson, big sport media companies realize the power of athlete driven contact and are devoted daily to providing up to the minute update on almost anything sport related.
“They’re in these production rooms going over a bunch of thing’s like 360 video and graphics to wow the consumer, that’s their primary focus, Sanderson said.
Looking toward the future, Sanderson believes more people than ever are going to be viewing sport content. He credits the sheer amount of information available at fans fingertips that’s going to drive the next generation. Archives of information are readily available for fans to look up information on their favorite athletes. He also foresees athletes trying to monetize their social media savvy.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see athletes signing deals with YouTube, Twitch and gaming companies. Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros does some really cool thing’s with his YouTube channel, basically using it as a tool to showcase his daily life with his friends,” he said.
Clavio also believes the trend is going towards monetizing based off athletes popularity, but argues this may cause some issues of discretion.
“I think for the players in each sport who choose to monetize, and the fans and media watching them, because the athletes are going to be the one profiting, they can tailor their page to fans and people who are only going to have positive reactions toward them, Clavio said.
Social media has also given lesser-known athletes the ability to branch out and gain the opportunity to further their sporting career. “Going viral” in today’s society can be the difference between gaining a college scholarship and the end of a career. SUNY Herkimer guard, Keshaun Howard, credits Facebook for his rise in popularity during his senior year, due to a poster dunk.
“I was always good and people knew, but having that dunk go viral let the entire world know it seemed. Before I knew it I had colleges knocking on my door.” Social media allowed me to become someone important before I even realized I was important. “Howard said.
Looking towards the future, Dr. Clavio foresees communication between athletes and reporters, having a stronger presence on different social media accounts, but Twitter specifically.
“You’re going to see a lot of players who’ve feel like they been wronged in sports writing, speak out on social media. You’re also going to see athletes answer questions from journalists directly on places like Twitters as opposed to the conventional locker room interview.” Clavio said.
Online viewership through sports is becoming more popular. People are watching sports on practically any device they can connect to on any platform. Streaming especially within professional soccer has become more popular due to the size of its fan base. Clavio suggests that the “connected arena” may be an opportunity for fans who still like to attend games, but also get the online viewing experience.
“I know personally I can’t sit down at a sporting event anymore. I much rather watch on my phone or laptop. People in Roman times got together in arenas because they needed something to do. I think over the years as a society we’ve got to a point where it’s not that important anymore.” Clavio said.