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Social Media Marketing for Professional Sports Teams

For athletes and professional sports teams, social media outlets are a two-way street. While major franchises like the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bulls use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to grow their brand, fans and media outlets are equally free to post information that may paint professional teams in a negative light. Gone are the days when sports teams could simply focus on print and televised media outlets to shape public opinion. The technological changes mean that sports team marketers must be well-versed in social media.

A Look at the Impact of Social Media on Professional Sports Team Marketing

A growing proportion of viewers now follow their teams via social media apps. In 2017, 61 percent of fans followed sports-related social media accounts, according to the social media marketing blog MartechZone. According to Statista, the Los Angeles Lakers had the most Facebook followers (21.5 million) of any professional U.S. sports team in 2018, followed by the Chicago Bulls (18.4 million), Miami Heat (15.7 million) and Golden State Warriors (11 million). The New England Patriots dominate the NFL Twitter rankings with 4.28 million followers, followed by the Dallas Cowboys (3.7 million) and Pittsburgh Steelers (3.33 million), according to Statista. Moreover, 30 percent of fans now stream sports on smartphones and tablets, so it’s no surprise that sports teams rely on social media platforms to sell tickets and merchandise, increase viewership, and build their fan base.

A recent article in The Sports Digest notes that teams can use the online platform to promote two-way conversations with their fans by replying to and interacting with followers online. It also states that social media costs less than traditional media while being more effective and more consistent.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Social Media for Sports Franchises

An article in Forbes highlighted the benefits and potential perils of marketing and brand management in the digital age. Focusing on the New York Knicks as an example, the author described how the franchise faced several challenges in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Technology was allowing New York-based fans to view sports games around the world, diluting the Knicks’ already dwindling fan base. Several faltering seasons were exacerbated by online articles describing the team as in crisis. Ron Berkowitz, president of Berk Communications, described how professional sports team can climb out of those PR obstacles using social media.

Beyond engaging fans, Berkowitz said, online platforms can be used to cultivate a sense of community that re-engages followers. By posting about fan events and taking the team on tours abroad, sports teams like the Knicks can restore their image. Successful brands figure out how to build and maintain their image, but doing so requires an understanding of how social media influences crisis and brand management, the article concluded.

St. Thomas University’s online Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Sports Administration prepares sports team administrators to navigate the evolving world of social media marketing. The online degree program’s Sports Media and Public Relations course, taught by STU faculty, covers current trends within media relations in addition to teaching a comprehensive overview of the history and evolution of public relations. Students can complete the online courses in as few as 10 months.

The advent of social media has created both opportunities and challenges for sports team marketers and public relations specialists. STU’s online MBA in sports administration prepares sports team administrators to grow new online markets while avoiding potential pitfalls. As Berkowitz noted with the Knicks, successful sports teams understand how social media influences crisis and brand management.

Learn more about the STU online MBA with a concentration in Sports Administration.


TheSportsDigest: The Impact of Social Media in Sports

Forbes: Foul Play: Brand Management in Sports in the Era of Social Media, Part 2

MartechZone: The Huge Statistics of Sports on Social Media

Statista: U.S. Sports Teams With the Most Facebook Fans as of April 2018

SportTechie: 30 Percent of Fans Now Stream Sports to Their Phones, Tablets

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