From Tweets to Touchdowns: the future of social media in sports


Who really won Super Bowl XLVI?  Eli Manning and the Giants…or social media and it’s team of over a million contributors?

If your answer is both, social media statistics and Tom Coughlin (Giant’s head coach) would back you up.

According to TNS Global, 46% of Internet users worldwide interact with social media on a daily basis. Why wouldn’t the largest sports franchises in the world take advantage of this exponentially growing number?

The Nielsen Social Media Report: Q3 2011 found:

“Social networks and blogs dominate American’s time online – they account for nearly a quarter of total time spent on the Internet.”

“4 out of 5 active Internet users visit social media sites or blogs.”

“Close to 40% access social media sites from a phone.”

Social media and sports 

In a recent article Joe Jackson of Time magazine calls sports and social media,  “natural teammates.”

In the past year, social media has become one of the most popular ways to share news. For sports, it has served as an outlet for fans to connect with and receive updates from their favorite teams and for franchises to extend their brands. This year the first ever Super Bowl Social Media Command Center took flight. The center provided a way for the NFL to connect with the 150,000+ attendees through social media.

This twit pic (below) shows IndyStar employees in action, as they put their social media skills to work.

The Chairman of the Super Bowl Host Committee stated,

“The big goal is to be the most connected Super Bowl ever. We think we’re going to be able to achieve that.”

And low and behold…

The Command Center is evidence that social media is being taken seriously. Websites like Facebook and Twitter are considered a convenient way to get news and also serve as a quick and easy way of communicating with a large number of people. Both sites covered the big game…

Even the International Olympics Committee recognizes the rising power of social media sites.

The Olympic guidelines for the 2012 games in London state:

“The IOC actively encourages and supports athletes and other accredited persons at the Olympic Games to take part in ‘social media’ and to post, blog and tweet their experiences.”

Read the entire document here.

Why do social media and sports go hand in hand?

The  biggest goal of any franchise is to build and expand. To do that, they must reach out to the ones who are buying tickets and displaying undying support – a.k.a. the fans.

Sports fans are constantly seeking updates on their favorite teams. They jump at any opportunity to cheer with fellow fans, argue with rivals, or simply just get their opinions out there. With social media, the possibilities are endless.

The main players:

1. Facebook

Despite Twitter’s growth spurt in 2011, Facebook still has the upper hand, having 8x as many users as Twitter.

2. Twitter

Twitter is gaining momentum. The site reached over 100 million active users in 2011, and is one of most popular social media sites on smart phones and tablets.

3. Mobile apps

Mobile apps are growing in popularity. Microsoft Tag predicts that in 2014, mobile internet usage will overtake desktop internet usage. In 2011, more than 50% of all “local” searches were done from a mobile device.

NFL leads the pack with social media strategies

Super Bowl XLVI’s involvement in Facebook and Twitter spoke for itself. The NFL is utilizing all the benefits social media has to offer. The Giants’ reporters were tweeting play by plays, while the Patriots’ were anticipating the team’s next move.

However, social media use in the NFL is hardly absent outside of the Super Bowl…

Big NFL teams, like the Dallas Cowboys, are in on the action. It’s no coincidence that the Cowboys, who Forbes put at the top of the list of the world’s 50 most valuable sports teams, also have the most Facebook followers (nearly 3.6 million). The franchise independently acquired more than 4 million fans on their site at the end of 2011 — a 474% increase from 2010 according to NFL Digital.

The NFL dishes out up to $4 billion in television, radio and digital earnings across it’s 32 teams ($125 million per team) in addition to an equal share for the league, and social media sites heavily contribute to the corporate branding that makes these big deals possible.

The future of social media in sports

Social media sites have already begun to pave the way for an even bigger expansion into sports and sports marketing in coming years. With the introduction of the first Social Media Command Center and 4G/LG Super Bowl in 2012, there are numerous possibilities. Analysts say that sports activity in social media will only increase from here. The ultimate goal would be to get more of the major sports teams involved.

Currently, the NFL leads the pack in social media activity, but the MLB is catching up. During the 2011 season, the MLB created an online feature called The Fan Cave, which documents two men’s reactions to all of the regular-season and playoff games via social media. The response was incredible. The site brought in a huge number of Facebook and Twitter fans and over 100 million page impressions.

Meanwhile, other franchises are making online debuts of their own. The New York Yankees, which Forbes named sports’ most valuable brand with an estimated marketing worth of $340 million, have acquired nearly 5 million Facebook fans, over  500,000 Twitter followers,  and have established an impressive web site.

So 402,840 “likes” and  5,000 tweets later, we’ve established this:

Social media has been making a huge impression on sports and sports marketing lately. But is this interaction a trend that will fade…or is this only the beginning?

Make sure to check out Activ8Social’s 2012 Sports Social Media Predictions 

For links to other related websites and more information, visit this Storify.

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