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Social media is an engagement platform that brings sports brands closer to their audiences – case of sports stars’ social media use

In my recent post about social media applications as a way to more profitable stakeholder relationships in the business of sports, check here, I commented on some of the many commercial opportunities tied to sports stars’ social media presence. Basketball star Jeremy Lin is one example of how proper online appearances have changed the nature of commercialism in sports. He proved to be another example of the American (and global) sports market’s demand for positive narratives about elite athletes that are competent enough to step out of the relative quiet shadows of basketball and into the limelight of heroic sports idolization in professional sports. Lin, an undrafted Harvard University graduate, epitomizes the story of the charming improbability of an underdog athlete that takes the NBA by storm. The underdog story is a well-known sports analogy but when adding the presence of social media in sports, Lin’s story is an example of an athlete’s story that reached out to and engaged with a large global audience at a rapid speed. That illustrates a very powerful commercialization tool for sports properties and also mirrors that the business of sports has changed in the sense that social media to some degree have made it easier to connect with target audiences across national borders, cultures and various segments. The term ‘Linsanity’ was coined and was a product of a social media landscape engulfed by applauses of Jeremy Lin. So, the sudden rise of a sports personality via his/her sporting performances and other activities and enhanced by a strong social media presence may help boost traditional media awareness, fan approval, and brand monetization opportunities.

On the contrary, it takes continued efforts, on the field and off the field, to maintain a strong social media presence and that is more difficult if athletes become injured (happened to Lin) or sees too many games from the bench (happened to Tim Tebow after his impressive climb to the limelight, see here). In the digital era of sports consumption, sports entities must always consider what to do and how to manage the commercial assets as the power of consumption stays with the audiences and is characterized by short attention spans. Sports consumers are continuously attacked with commercial messages and it requires GOOD content to prevent consumers from rejecting or stopping to watch the social media post (e.g. a YouTube video) within the first seconds. Keep in mind that social media may help sports entities to improve their profitability but it still requires GOOD content to keep the target audiences tuned in to your communication and branding activities! All in all, social media have come to stay in sports and there are so many commercial benefits associated with social media application but social media also prove to be a double-edged sword in the sense that the presence of social media gives sports entities a good scene to emphasize winning but it also highlights losing periods and what goes with that. Before going to the NFL and the Cleveland Browns, Johnny Manziel was a quarterback at Texas A&M University and in 2013 he tweeted the following, see below, which is an example of what not to do via social media in sports:

Skærmbillede 2014-11-23 kl. 16.17.42

Photo: Johnny Manziel tweeting and putting a distance between himself and the university (source: Twitter).

Below, I have listed the social media (Facebook and Twitter) presence of various professional athletes (the numbers have been retrieved on the 28th of October, 2014):


Rory Mcilroy

Facebook: 687,947 likes.

Twitter: 2.18 mio. followers.

Adam Scott

Facebook: 140,688 likes.

Twitter: No official account.

Jim Furyk

Facebook: 5,698 likes.

Twitter: No official account.

Sergio Garcia

Facebook: 115,654 likes.

Twitter: 307,000 followers.

Henrik Stenson

Facebook: 53,268 likes.

Twitter: 103,000 followers.

Justin Rose

Facebook: 8,927 likes.

Twitter: 388,000 followers.

Bubba Watson

Facebook: 241,817 likes.

Twitter: 1.27 mio. followers.

Jason Day

Facebook: 6,491 likes.

Twitter: 46,000 followers.

Matt Kuchar

Facebook: 27,650 likes.

Twitter: No official account.

Tiger Woods

Facebook: 3,147,828 likes.

Twitter: 4.1 mio. followers.

Peyton Manning

Facebook: 1,728,240 likes.

Twitter: No official account.

Tom Brady

Facebook: 2,556,972 likes.

Twitter: No official account.

Drew Brees

Facebook: 2,116,886 likes.

Twitter: 2.02 mio. followers.

Aaron Rodgers

Facebook: 1,176,134 likes.

Twitter: 1.26 mio. followers.

Tony Romo

Facebook: 582,876 likes.

Twitter: No official account.

Andrew Luck

Facebook: 398,135 likes.

Twitter: No official account.

Cam Newton

Facebook: 1,146,397 likes.

Twitter: 219,000 followers.

Colin Kaepernick

Facebook: 274,350 likes.

Twitter: 664,000 followers.

Philip Rivers

Facebook: 105,908 likes.

Twitter: No official account.

Ben Roethlisberger

Facebook: 203,608 likes.

Twitter: No official account.

Novak Djokovic

Facebook: 5,403,223 likes.

Twitter: 3.53 mio. followers.

Roger Federer

Facebook: 14,704,259 likes.

Twitter: 2.29 mio. followers.

Rafael Nadal

Facebook: 14,843,070 likes.

Twitter: 6.91 mio. followers.

Stan Wawrinka

Facebook: No official account.

Twitter: 352,000 followers.

Tomas Berdych

Facebook: 110,053 likes.

Twitter: 131,000 followers.

David Ferrer

Facebook: 388,167 likes.

Twitter: 768,000 followers.

Kei Nishikori

Facebook: 426,621 likes.

Twitter: 169,000 followers.

Andy Murray

Facebook: 2,854,482 likes.

Twitter: 2.75 mio. followers.

Marin Cilic

Facebook: 123,191 likes.

Twitter: 25,400 followers.

Milos Raonic

Facebook: 149,324 likes.

Twitter: 187,000 followers.

Lebron James

Facebook: 21,810,693 likes.

Twitter: 15.7 mio. followers.

Kobe Bryant

Facebook: 20,721,481 likes.

Twitter: 5.77 mio. followers.

Kevin Durant

Facebook: 9,561,074 likes.

Twitter: 8.41 mio. followers.

Blake Griffin

Facebook: 3,726,927 likes.

Twitter: 2.74 mio. followers.

Dwight Howard

Facebook: 4,851,711 likes.

Twitter: 5.46 mio. followers.

Russell Westbrook

Facebook: 3,021,062 likes.

Twitter: 2.04 mio. followers.

Carmelo Anthony

Facebook: 4,970,182 likes.

Twitter: 5.57 mio. followers.

Stephen Curry

Facebook: 1,702,432 likes.

Twitter: 1.6 mio. followers.

Anthony Davis

Facebook:1,145,610 likes.

Twitter: 535,000 followers.

Chris Paul

Facebook: 4,252,048 likes.

Twitter: 3.6 mio. followers

Derek Jeter

Facebook: 2,752,364 likes.

Twitter: 7,000 followers (Derek Jeter news channel).

Mike Trout

Facebook: 329,276 likes.

Twitter: 555,000 followers.

Victor Martinez

Facebook: No official account.

Twitter: No official account.

Giancarlo Stanton

Facebook: 44,141

Twitter: 160,000 followers.

Andrew McCutchen

Facebook: 189,930 likes.

Twitter: 296,000 followers.

Johnny Cueto

Facebook: No official account.

Twitter: 53,900 followers.

Clayton Kershaw

Facebook: 193,403 likes.

Twitter: 220,000 followers.

Miguel Cabrera

Facebook: 23,279 likes.

Twitter: 508,000 followers.

Michael Brantley

Facebook: 3,647 likes.

Twitter: No official account.

Adam Wainwright

Facebook: 28,843 likes.

Twitter: 65,000 followers.

Corey Kluber

Facebook: No official account.

Twitter: 21,800 followers.

Serena Wiliams

Facebook: 2,593,385 likes.

Twitter: 4.42 mio. followers.

Maria Sharapova

Facebook: 14,956,223 likes.

Twitter: 1.33 mio. followers.

Petra Kvitova

Facebook: 482,484 likes.

Twitter: 164,000 followers.

Simona Halep

Facebook: 983,291 likes.

Twitter: 5,816 followers.

Eugenie Bouchard

Facebook: 908,137 likes.

Twitter: 358,000 followers.

Agnieszka Radwanska

Facebook: 709,109 likes.

Twitter: 125,000 followers.

Ana Ivanovic

Facebook: 2,786,310 likes.

Twitter: 330,000 followers.

Caroline Wozniacki

Facebook: 1,262,165 likes.

Twitter: 730,000 followers.

Na Li

Facebook: 275,568 likes.

Twitter: No official account.

Angelique Kerber

Facebook: 285,193 likes.

Twitter: 101,000 followers.

Annika Sorenstam

Facebook: 39,700 likes.

Twitter: 11,800 followers.

Michelle Wie

Facebook: 68,123 likes.

Twitter: 169,000 followers.

Danica Patrick

Facebook: 1,238,182 likes.

Twitter: 1.13 mio. followers.

Yuna Kim

Facebook: 3,089,320 likes.

Twitter: 776,000 followers.

Yani Tseng

Facebook: 94,288 likes.

Twitter: 18,200 followers.

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