Professional Athletes and Social Media
Professional athletes have a finite amount of maximized earning time within their actual sport (field, court and ice time). The current groups of professional athletes are not only running out of time (some more quickly than others), but are being affected by the state of the economy. The question is, besides hoarding massive amounts of cash or investing in real estate or restaurants, what can athletes do TODAY to help ensure the longevity of their fame and persona (personal brand)? One solution is creating a raving fan base and leveraging it for life with social and modern media.
An opportunity exists to capitalize on the downturn of the economy (much like an ice age that eliminates all but the heartiest of animals) that coincides with an upswing/revolution in communication and community-building technology.
The difference in who profits most or garners the most power in the sport after this recession will be those who fully utilize the vehicles of social media, internet and mobile communication to build their following and create the largest number of loyal and raving fans to leverage now and in the future. Creating a short and long-term strategy to harness the power is essential.
A short-term plan should include building the foundation for online social media assets so the fans have somewhere to go and interact with the athlete (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Blogs, etc.). These assets should not be taken lightly. They need to be the correct assets for the athlete's intentions and fan demographic, maintain the identity of the athlete (desired appearance) throughout the assets and be properly optimized for interaction and scalability. Next in the short-term plan is creating a strategy to attract fans and engage them over the next 6-12 months. This includes how to communicate the fact that the athlete exists online, how to connect and what they can expect by connecting. Then, a strategy for continued engagement and calls to action daily/weekly for the fans (contests, prizes, secret info, meet and greet, offers from sponsors and partners, etc.). Give them a reason to visit your site daily/weekly and they will come back. Build it and they will come becomes Engage and they will RETURN (hopefully forever).
A medium-term plan could include converting the fan base to customers, partners and investors in more traditional businesses (restaurant, club, health club, etc.). Also included may be the transition to Babe Ruth status of the sport (he or she who is remembered in 10-20 years which, social media may ensure if leveraged properly) and becoming a regular icon or ambassador (as the athlete grows older in years). Commentating, consulting, media, author, visionary, media darling, etc. will all assist this in becoming a reality for the star.
A long-term plan could include parlaying continued success and building of a raving fan base to build, spur, fund, create large movements, companies, organizations, causes, etc. The goal would be to always be at the forefront of the newest social technology and to be one step ahead so momentum is never lost with fans, changing directions in fan base tactics while keeping the existing fan base.
There are questions a lot of "once famous" athletes have been asked: "You had so many fans 10 years ago, what happened to that "buzz"?" "What have you been doing all these years?" "Why could only make money from your fan base for a short period of time?" The answer may be a lack of continued connectivity and interaction with the fan base. Athletes depended on traditional printed news to run a story about them or have them on the radio and when those who control the communication lost interest, the fire hose of info or news about the athlete was turned off.
Social media and modern media (and however it continues to develop in terms of the next Twitter or Facebook, mobile communications, etc.) places the ability to connect, promote and communicate in the hands of the individual athlete, actor, etc. It allows them to always be able to re-create themselves, offer something new, engage the fan base daily, become a real person, provide continued value, become a household name, etc. It allows them to capture lightening in a jar and perpetuate it, which done correctly, can be monetized for the sake of amplifying short-term income and CREATING medium and long-term income opportunities.
By Eric A. Rice
Lone Wolf Inc.