Global Sports Forum: Social Media and Facebook

There were two different sessions at the conference that specifically focused on the subject of social media. The first featured Jonah Lomu, former professional rugby player from the New Zealand All Blacks, and Christian Hernandez, Head of International Business Development for Facebook. I don’t have any amazing insights to share from this panel, because it felt more like a confirmation of many of the typical social media tactics that most teams and athletes already implement, such as:

  • Social media is the ideal way for athletes to take ownership of their brand – it all comes down to effort.
  • It lets fans see a personal side of an athlete that they can relate to, such as their upbringing, family, personality, etc. Fans learn what type of person they are based on what information is shared.
  • Personal tones in Facebook messages resonate stronger than statements tied to a corporate message.

There were a couple of specific details that deviated from the standard social media discussion. For example…

  • Jonah Lomu initially decided to join Twitter because someone was imitating him. This could be an interesting way of “encouraging” a particular athlete to join the conversation.
  • Instead of creating a dedicated “Jonah Lomu Fan Page” which he could still manage himself, he actually opened up his personal Facebook account to connect with everyone and share more. There are some functionality differences between what you can do with a regular account vs. a page that can add value to this approach, but it does mean the athlete has to sacrifice the idea of using Facebook in a private manner with family and friends.
  • I also learned that the English Premier League has rules in place to prevent their players from using Facebook and Twitter (I’m surprised I hadn’t realized that).  As a result, their official pages aren’t as effective because they are run by player management, making them less personal and less engaging.

The other social media panel was actually a breakout session with Christian Hernandez specifically discussing Facebook and sports marketing. Two specific statistics that I found to be quite interesting were:

  • A typical Facebook page update will be seen by 5% of followers.
  • 200M out of 500M Facebook users play a game at least once per month.

The first statistic shows that even the best updates will only reach a fraction of your audience, so there is a definite importance to frequency of communication in order to maximize your effectiveness (as long as you do not sacrifice quality with frequency). The second shows that games are a very viable engagement option to complement the standard Facebook communication options. It may take resources to pursue that option, but the results could be well worth it.

For more insights from this session, check out the three videos below:

Engagement through Facebook Games vs. Basic Facebook Functionality

Facebook and TV Integration in Sports

Facebook Pages vs. Using Microsites:

8 thoughts on “Global Sports Forum: Social Media and Facebook

  • March 21, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Russell – What sort of standards does the EPL have in place? I haven’t heard of that before and now you’ve definitely sparked my interest.

  • March 21, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    I found this from

    The statement issued by the English Football Association (FA) made it clear that any comments from players on Twitter or other social networking sites will be regarded as “public comment.”

    “Any comments which are deemed improper, bring the game into disrepute, or are threatening, abusive, indecent or insulting may lead to disciplinary action,” the statement said, clarifying that “comments which are personal in nature or could be construed as offensive, use foul language or contain direct or indirect threats aimed at other participants are likely to be considered improper.”

    Players were also warned that postings only visible to a limited number of selected people may still end up in the public domain.

    “Consequently, care should be exercised with regards to the contents of such postings,” the statement added. “In addition, we would remind participants that social networking postings could also lead to civil proceedings being brought by affected parties.”

  • March 22, 2011 at 6:30 am

    Hi Russel,

    Thanks for sharing the videos, the integrated TV one in particular was very interesting.

    In regards to the EPL rules, just to clarify, players are allowed their own accounts and in fact multiple high profile players do such as @rioferdy5 and @jack_wilshere. Arsenal FC in particular has a huge amount of staff and players on Twitter. Other clubs have none – either because it’s banned or they don’t yet see the value in it. Some as you suggest are run by player management, but for the most part – it seems that the players themselves tweet.

  • March 22, 2011 at 6:32 am

    I think I might have been too vague in my statements. I know that many of the players have accounts on Facebook and Twitter, but are they actually updated by the players themselves? Based on what I was hearing at the conference, these updates are coming almost exclusively from player management, minimizing the personal nature of the interaction with fans.

  • March 22, 2011 at 6:38 am

    I think in some cases we see accounts ran by both player and an account manager, but the most popular football tweeters are most definitely those that tweet themselves – particularly as the likes of Ryan Babel, Jack Wilshere, Darren Bent, have all got into trouble for tweeting controversial things in the past.

    I think for Facebook it’s a different kettle of fish. The Facebook fan page platform is more difficult to update and requires a bit more technical knowledge. Most players seem to tweet from their phones or blackberrys, so a lack of decent Facebook page management in the Facebook mobile app is perhaps restricting them. So, they leave that to their PR staff.


  • March 22, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Today on ” The 10 Sports Stars to Follow on Twitter ( UK )”

    quote from this article
    [b]Rio Ferdinand[/b]
    Oddly for the captain of a club that’s so cagey around the press Rio’s feed is lucid and forthright. [b]Laudable, particularly as it’s not the intern at his PR agency writing the tweets for him.[/b] Does, however suffer from over-reliance on the ugly portmanteau “Tweeps”.
    Sample Tweet: “Michael Jackson statue outside fulham FC? I’m a huge Jacko fan but why?! Surely there’s a long list of players who deserve a statue b4 Jacko”

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