How Sports #PR has Changed for the Better (Mostly)

A Guest Post By Aaron Dean, American University Student, PR Expanded Blog Contest Winner

As with most fields in Public Relations, there is no arguing that social media is changing the game. Consumers, especially young ones, are getting most of their content from social media and online platforms. The changing media landscape has made companies and organizations change the way they do PR.

This is even more evident in the sports world. Fans expect their favorite teams and leagues to get them as close to the action as possible. Before the emergence of social media, this was not the case. Sports organizations would conduct their PR through traditional forms of media; newspapers, television, billboards, things like that. When your favorite team signed a big player, you could read about it in the newspaper and there might be a television campaign highlighting him/her.

Social media has completely changed this. Take Manchester United as an example. Manchester United is ranked as the third-most valuable franchise in the world, valued at over $3 billion. They have hundreds of millions of fans around the world, many of whom follow them on social media platforms. When they signed Alexis Sanchez, one of the most famous players in the world, they saw it as a great opportunity to promote on their social channels. They came out with a very dramatic introduction video, which featured him playing the teams theme song on the piano.

This video was retweeted over 150,000 times, and the hashtag #Alexis7 was one of the top trending hashtags on Twitter. Manchester United saw an opportunity to produce a really cool video for their fans, and it gave them a lot of free exposure. When people share these posts and use hashtags, it doesn’t cost sports teams like Manchester United anything. Other than the cost of making the video, it was pretty much free promotion for them. This is great for the team, and for the fans because they get to see cool content.

The great thing about the rise in social media for sports organizations and fans alike is the rise of live content. Before social media, the only way sports fans would see games was on television. While this is still the main way to watch, there are now so many other avenues where fans can view live content. Most major sports leagues stream their games online.

Along with this, the use of stories on Snapchat and Instagram gets fans even closer to the games. Teams live tweet games and put highlights on their social media platforms. There are also pregame and postgame videos that teams produce and put on their channels. Teams are able to release content immediately to keep fans engage and have them connect with the games.

Another way for fans to follow sports is through their favorite players. Especially with Twitter and even Snapchat, fans can interact with their favorite players. Many times, athletes will hold Q&A sessions on twitter, where fans can send in questions for them to answer. The idea of fans directly talking to players would never have taken place before the rise of social media. Teams also sometimes give their players access to their official social media accounts for a “takeover,” which is a great way for fans to see the sports world through the eyes of their favorite players.

With all these positives come some negative consequences. Players and teams can reach so many people instantly, but if someone makes a mistake everyone is going to see it. Kevin Durant is a great example of this. After Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Golden State Warriors, he got a lot of criticism on social media. He then created fake accounts on Twitter to defend himself and was caught when he accidentally tweeted a defense of himself from his official account. He received a lot of bad PR for this and is a warning to all players using social media that they must be careful.

Still, even with some negative effects, the changes in sports PR over the past decade have been mostly beneficial. The New York Mets perfectly illustrated how changes in PR can help sports teams. Callie Quinn, a Mets fan who did not have a prom date, direct messaged the team asking if she could take her prom pictures at the Mets stadium (Citi Field). The Mets messaged her back saying if she got 500,000 retweets on her tweet she could.

The Mets started the hashtag #CalliesMetsProm, and quickly people from around the country started retweeting and tweeting support for Callie. She ended up surpassing 500,000 and will take her photos before the Mets game on May 18. Not only was this a good thing to do, but it was also a great way for the Mets to promote themselves as an organization.  This type of PR would not have been able to be done through more traditional PR platforms. The Mets illustrated perfectly how the sports world is using social media to improve their PR.

Aaron Dean, American University StudentAaron Dean is a Sophomore in the School of Communication at American University. Originally from West Windsor, New Jersey, he is majoring in Public Relations and Strategic Communications, with a minor in Business and Entertainment. He hopes to one day to work in the sports industry.