From a very static internet showing one-way communication in web 1.0, towards web 2.0 that encourages complex networking, interaction, the main characteristics of social media include; framework for participation, content agnostic, community features (Lingren, 2021). The creation of social profiles has aided the rapid rise of Instagram in a sporting sense, football clubs can now create a digital marketing strategy for Instagram, shown in the Leeds United Instagram page below, using content of the much loved head coach Marcelo Bielsa to create engagement through sharing of underlying values with the fans of attitudes and love towards the football club. This tool is invaluable in an ever competitive digital era.
How has this benefitted the athletes?
From an athletes perspective, some of the more skilful and creative athletes are able to forge careers away from competition and almost solely through short films that are then shared widely by their peers across an array of social media platforms (Thorpe, 2017) , such as James Maddison’s recent collaboration with Cernucci.
The marketing orientation of a social media post can be based on assessing the relationship marketing concepts of teammates, photo quality, hashtags, and sponsor-related posts (Doyle et al., 2020). This has created the rise of influencers, social media arguably, is the most important branding tool to athletes to create impressions through how they are perceived to the consumers. Prime example is Cristiano Ronaldo, charging nearly $1 million per paid post, earning more from social media than he does from playing football. Allowing them to show their personal identities beyond professional athlete narrative, meaning the audience can engage with the attitudes and values portrayed by the athletes.
Being relatable by leveraging social media accounts means there is now a pathway to connect with fans like never before, having instant access to these athletes can lead impressive results. Building a loyal fan base through value creation athletes will ultimately profit in the long term from building a personal brand, with Goffman (1959) recognising the effectiveness of social media in building athlete-consumer relationships.
Additionally, being authentic allows a genuine connection to occur within the relationship, Marcus Rashford’s actions over the last 18 months (see below) are a prime example of the success social media can have on athletes personal brands, as he is now Marcus Rashford MBE. Using social media to challenge the government over child hunger and poverty issues, his sponsorship value has grown, with partnerships with Nike, Burberry and appearing on the cover of GQ magazine.
One common criticism of Instagram is the life of a ‘fake influencer’ being portrayed, which can influence younger people to perceive the ‘perfect life’, leading to negative consequences surrounding body image and lifestyle. However, it’s very difficult to argue the value Instagram has to professional football clubs and athletes alike, in terms of the ability to increase likes and comments to facilitate greater interaction between fans. Particularly with female athletes now having the ability to grow their personal brand in a non-sporting dynamic, to resonate with the consumer by expressing their personal identities.
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