The dynamics of fandom have changed over the years. The application of social media has sparked new trends and agendas in terms of the interrelationship between athletes, products, teams, governing bodies, and fans in sport.
From posting pictures and updates about your favorite sports entity, the application of social media has turned into a commercial ‘cash cow’. Social media has become an inevitable source of information for fans and thus a powerful ‘marketing vehicle’ for sports entities (striving for information about and communication with their fan groups). Social media has also added a level of transparency to the sports world. Earlier, fans did not have the same access to their idols and favorite sports entities – that has changed with social media, which give fans an opportunity for more ‘behind-the-scenes’ information. Hence, the influx of social media in sports is a win-win situation for fans and sports entities. It builds a bridge meant for personal communication and relations and for valuable information.
Burst Media conducted a study showing that 45 % of people between the ages of 18 and 35 track sport teams or athletes online. 35 % of them use social media on a regular basis to tweet/retweet, to comment on, to link to or to share online sports content. The study also revealed that many fans use smart phones or tablets to access sports content while attending or watching games, see more about this study and social media in sports by clicking this link.
Kerr & Gladden (2008, p. 61) defined different categories of antecedents, which explains ‘brand equity’ among fans, who regardless of a shared geography, have engaged in an emotional bond with a foreign-based sports team. First of all, the team itself means a lot, i.e. its success, star players, coach (a charismatic coach is beneficial) etc. Second, the organization plays a role, i.e. its conference or league (the NFL or the English Premier League are two brands with enormous reach), its stadium, sponsorships, reputation, traditions etc. Third, the market is of great interest. It includes the team’s geographic location, competitive forces, existing brand community, global media set-up etc. My point in this regard is that a sports entity’s application of social media adds value in the sense that the sports entity brings in an additional way to enhance its market reach, to improve its CRM activities (including fan data processing) and to establish a brand community, which re-produces itself and grows through organic growth. This argument seems to be backed by Chanavat & Bodet (2009, p. 477), who states that “sport brand strategies have to be thought through carefully if they are to be a successful means of obtaining or keeping a top-of-the-table position, and international development cannot be successfully achieved without a precise evaluation of current or potential fans’ perceptions.” Social media lead to a better understanding of fans’ perceptions. Sport entities can also benefit from this understanding in their sponsorship efforts. By including sponsors in the brand communities, which are shaped by fans, the probability for higher ROIs increases.
Chanavat, N., & Bodet, G. (2009). “Internationalisation and sport branding strategy: a French perception of the Big Four brands”. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 12 (4), pp. 460-481.
Kerr, A.K. and Gladden, J.M. (2008). “Extending the understanding of professional team brand equity to the global marketplace”. International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing, 3 (1/2), pp. 58-77.