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Sport & the social media landscape

An article in Mirror portrayed Lord Sebastian Coe criticizing athletes for spending too much time on social networks during the Olympics. Young media darling, Tom Daley fired back at Coe by stating: “speaking to fans and friends on social media was part of his day-to-day routine.” The diver responded to Coe’s comments in a forceful way emphasizing that social media activities did not take away focus from his preparations for training and competitions. According to Daley, social media routines are part of life for most young generations, including athletes. Daley also refers to the fact that he has a life after the end of his athletic career for what reason it seems logic to establish some awareness around his personality and initiatives.


Havas Sports and Entertainment measured the geographical allocation of the mentions of Tom Daley across all online platforms from July 2012 to August 2012 (around the time of the London Games). They found that Daley has international reach although most of his mentions came from the UK or North America. Sports Marketing Frontiers found that Daley according to Facebook was the most ‘talked about’ Olympian in the world on social media. The same source compared Daley’s exposure to other Olympic stars:




Tom Daley

642,522 unique people engaged*

Michael Phelps

463,964 unique people engaged*

Usain Bolt

322,661 unique people engaged*

* Unique people engaged: total likes + friends + comments


Tom Daley saw much progress on Twitter as well where his followers were boosted from approximately 250,000 in July 2012 to a total of more than 1.6 million by the end of August.


Social media has definitely come to play a central role in sports and has come to stay. It is a force in sport marketing, which cannot be ignored and the sport industry and related actors are fully aware of exploiting the commercial potential tied to social media. In today’s contemporary sports world, athletes, coaches, teams, leagues and managers are trying to launch a presence in social media in order to find a common playground, on which they can interact with corporations, media, fans, and other stakeholders.


A case study (Pegoraro, 2010) conducted on a university in Canada reveals part of the impact of social media on sports. The study deals with the popularity of athletes on social media and sets the tone in coding different categories concerning athletes’ content on Twitter. The study also offers insights into content as it relates to different sports. Part of the conclusion deals with commercialization, see below:


In the very competitive worlds of sport and marketing, professional athletes are increasingly looking for positive exposure to attract fans, gain publicity, and ultimately attract sponsorship and lucrative contracts.”


Athletes embrace opportunities to communicate directly about their lives without being disturbed by filters from marketing and public relations people. Though, sometimes these filters are good because there are social media success and social media disasters. For instance, Charlie Villaneuva from Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA posted a tweet from the Bucks’ locker room during halftime of an important game and was fined, see more. So was Chelsea’s Ashley Cole when he criticized the FA on Twitter, click here for more information.


Additional source:

Pegoraro, A. (2010). “Look Who’s Talking – Athletes on Twitter: a case study”, International Journal of Sport Communication, 3, pp. 501-514.



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