Social networks and sport

James Santomier. Professor. IE Business School

2 July 2013

Social networks are revolutionizing the world of sports marketing, enabling brands to establish direct contact with their clients.

The rapid integration of information technologies in the sports sector has enabled fans from any country to enjoy a tournament or championship being held anywhere on the planet, in real or deferred time, from practically anywhere. This elimination of geographical and time constraints brings big new opportunities to promote sport, and significant benefits for stakeholders. Social networks are helping to further the democratization of knowledge and information, and transform people from consumers of contents to producers and consumers of content, or rather “prosumers”.

Social networks permit the creation and exchange of content generated by the user, and combine images, videos, audio and words on an interactive platform.  The arrival of social networks is one of the reasons that the times we now live in have been dubbed “the era of attention” or “the attention economy”. This era began with the surge of social networks at the beginning of the 21st century, and is marked by the capacity of individuals to become “prosumers”, that is to say, the capacity to create and consume instant and limitless information, and share it over the internet through social networks.

Social networks have altered the dynamics of marketing. The people who hold the most influence are no longer marketing experts or traditional media who had previously always controlled and filtered publicity messages, but rather millions of normal people who use powerful direct channels to convey what they hear, say and think. Major predictions for the future include the following: the use of social networks for the glocalization of brands; an attempt by teams and leagues to create communities out of their own networks; properties that redefine  coupled with new norms for publications on Twitter to counteract tarnished images; the popularization of bloggers in the world of sport; the hiring of experts to manage campaigns on social networks in the field of sports; the use of social networks by sports companies to increase revenues; consumers who demand a deeper and more meaningful interaction with teams and athletes; the continuous growth of live video streaming and pay-per-view events; mobile and virtual games with consumer participation; and increased efforts by brands to better gauge outcomes of all these actions. An increase in “social business” is also expected in the world of sport. The use of measurement tools to gauge the return on investment are starting to emerge as one aspect of the use of social networks for marketing and promotions. Prosumerism through social networks is now a reality in the current market.

Think, for instance, about the NBA finals. Fans from 215 countries recently had more options to follow the match between Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. More than 300 journalists from 34 countries met in Miami and San Antonio to cover the event, while fans were able to register on the NBA Finals Companion platform, play the “NBA Challenge”, a gaming experience in real time, follow the tweets of international commentators, and publish their photos using the #NBAFan hashtag on Instagram or Twitter. This type of initiatives show how fast the world is changing. And the professionals involved in the marketing and promotion of sports brands, or the promotion of brands through sports, are participating actively in social networks to connect with their clients without having to go through intermediaries.


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