#Athletes on Twitter

Written by 5ivecanons Staff

With the ever-changing environment of fan interaction, athletes are constantly looking for new ways to drive consumer engagement.

Social media is the current trend in keeping fans involved both from an organizational standpoint, and from the standpoint of the athletes. Athletes can use it to communicate on a one-on-one basis, or an audience at large.

Top Athletes on Twitter

According to tweetingathletes.com there are just under 7,000 professional athletes with active twitter accounts. Of the top 10 most followed athletes on twitter, eight of them are soccer players. Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo is the most followed athlete in the world with 13.4 million followers worldwide, whereas Shaquille O’neil, who is third, has a mere 6.27 million followers. Compare that to the most followed player from the NFL, Chad Ochocinco, 3.7 million, MLB, Nick Swisher, 1.58 million, and NHL, Alex Ovechkin, 458,519.

Twitter extends conversations beyond generational lines.

Tim Tebow, one of the most polarizing figures in sports, became an overnight Twitter legend when he threw a game winning 80-yard touchdown pass in overtime of a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He set a new Twitter record for most related sports tweets per second with 9,420. The main topic was the verse Tebow wore on his eye-black in college, John 3:16. This was a hot topic because in that game Tebow threw for 316 yards, had a 31.6 yards per-completion average, and the telecast of the game peaked with a rating of 31.6.

Athletes Tweeting at Work

Leagues are starting to incorporate twitter into the events that they host. In the 2012 MLB all-star game, for the first time players were given the opportunity to tweet in the locker room once they were out of the game. Matt Kemp of the Dodgers (above) became the first player in MLB history to tweet during a game, tweeting “First player 2 ever tweet during the 2012 #ASG!!! This experience is incredible!! Have fun watching the game. Go #NL”.

Proving that Twitter is extending over generational lines, 37-year-old Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey also tweeted during the game. 38-year-old Derek Jeter and Billy Butler took time during the game to answer twitter questions from fans.

During the 2012 NFL Pro-Bowl, the NFL experimented with allowing players to use twitter during the game, even going as far as placing computers on the sidelines for the players to use. Players such as London Fletcher and Eric Weddle immediately took to twitter. Fletcher later found himself in a bit of trouble after tweeting “$500 to whoever predicts the final score. Must be my follower. $1000 if you predict the score and MVP. deadline halftime.”

The league informed Fletcher this was a violation of NFL policy, he was later allowed to offer a signed NFL jersey. Not only do players need to be aware of their leagues policies in these changing times, but also of the social networks policies on giveaways and contests as well.

Twitter Talk

Twitter has transformed from a platform that allowed a person to express themselves in 140-characters, to a leading source of news and a way for athletes to connect with fans.

Some of the most engaging twitter athletes are Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics, who uses his twitter account to promote his charity, Tiger Woods, who uses Twitter to answer questions from his fans, and Shaquille O’neil, who consistently remains engaged with fans and famously retired from professional basketball via Twitter.

Improper Use

Athletes tweeting does have its darker side however. In the spring of 2011, Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall found himself in hot water after he posted three tweets reading, “What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side … “, “I’m not convinced he was even behind the attacks we have really seen no evidence to prove it other than the gov telling us”, and “We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.”

Following these tweets the Steelers organization immediately separated themselves from his comments by stating they were proud of the job our military has done.

Another athlete who took to Twitter at an inopportune time was Timberwolves forward Kevin Love who tweeted “Today is a sad day … Kevin McHale will NOT be back as head coach this season.” This is a harmless tweet in itself, with exception to the fact that the firing of head coach Kevin Mchale had not yet become public and was still private information.

During the 2012 London Olympics dubbed by some as “the social media games”, Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was banned prior to the start of the games for a racist tweet targeted at African migrants. Swiss soccer player Michael Morganella was booted from the games after he referred to the South Korean team in a derogatory fashion.

What’s Next?

The Philadelphia Wings, of the NLL (National Lacrosse League) became the first team in professional sports history to showcase players’ twitter handles on the back of their jerseys rather than their last names. By doing so, they were able to make their players more accessible to fans, and were also able to gain followers of the team as well.

Another step that may be taken in regards to social media use in sports may be its integration into the youth circuit. There are new web start-up companies who are offering internet platforms for coaches and players to stay connected with one-another. These networks allow for players and parents to swap game photos, share team updates, and keep in contact with each other. About 62% of American children from 6 to 12 years old participate in organized sports, according to the Outdoor Foundation.

Interested in learning more about engaging your customers or leveraging your followers into sales? Give us a call at 904-353-2900 or fill out the form on the hire us page and let us bring you some ideas. At 5ivecanons, our focus is on your business and our produce it is fusing brands with culture.