There is little room to argue with the development of social media platforms over the last few years as the use of the Internet continues to grow apace. Major sports organizations may have been slow to jump on the social media bandwagon by largely focusing on their websites, but in the last few years, the potential of social media has been identified. For the everyday sports fan, the main benefit of social media is the ability to get up close and personal with a team or player within the digital realm.
The rise of sports social media has proven to be a great way for sports fans around the world to interact with their favorite players. In terms of the individual sports personalities who are involved in the sport at professional levels, receiving a Tweet or seeing an Instagram post related to a game they may have just played is a far more intimate approach to the post-game interview.
Sports fans now feel they are closer to their heroes, favorite teams, and to their fellow fans because of the use of social media. The Boston University College of Communication has completed a large amount of research into the engagement of fans through social media and states the interaction between fans is an area of importance for many. By following a favorite team or sports personality online, fans are given the chance to interact using hashtags to see more of the opinions of their fellow fans. This form of interaction was previously only available to those who were lucky enough to obtain a ticket for a game or to spend time with friends in a sports bar or other location.
By shifting the sporting conversation online, the interactions of every sports fan have been taken out of their home location to provide them with interactions spanning the globe. The internet has taken live matches and highlights of games to almost every corner of the world to have a major impact on the way we see our favorite teams and players.
Sports fans are now looking for different ways of interacting with their favorite team or player. For example, the image of an individual player outside that of their role within a team has been bubbling under the surface of professional sports since the early-21st-century. A study from The University of Stirling links the rise of image rights and the personal brand with the transfer of soccer star, David Beckham from Manchester united to Spain’s Real Madrid.
The natural extension of the abstract image rights fought for by Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi is the arrival of the personal brand of athletes created via social media posts. By creating a brand that allows fans of other teams to follow them on many social media platforms with advertising and marketing opportunities now being taken over this form of media. This is positive for the professional athlete and for their fans who can feel closer to their heroes by seeing them outside of the4 sporting arena.
In terms of fan interaction, there has never been a time when the fans of a team or an individual have had the chance to be so close to their sporting heroes. Looking at the cultural importance of Colin Kaepernick and his devotion to social justice shows how a professional athlete can transcend their sport with the help of new technologies.