Monday, May 27, 2013

HIO: Twitter & Athletes - Tips for Athlete Marketers/Agents to Manage the Risks

Professional athletes, and celebrities in general, understand the power of Twitter: it is a revolutionary way of connecting with an interested audience, allows marketers to quantify the fan base, and it gives a complete view into the athlete's life. While these are fantastic, there are countless examples of athletes using the micro blogging platform recklessly. 

In a holistic view, the primary benefit of Twitter, the two-way communication to fans, also has the highest potential for risk. Athletes and fans love the two-way communication Twitter affords. However, the direct access athletes have to a global audience presents challenges for athlete marketers and agents who work hard to build and manage a reputation and brand for the athlete.

Describing examples of athletes misusing Twitter is moot. We are all aware of the countless stories in this regard. We have also discussed the topic before, so feel free to read to explore this area.

Given athlete misuse of Twitter can potentially negatively impact an athlete's brand, below are three tips for athlete marketers/agents to manage the risks.

1.) If Needed, Take Control Back from the Athlete
In the past, athletes connected with fans through interviews with the media and digital websites. In interviews, athletes understand their importance and are usually on their best behavior. Every professional team also holds media training. Website content always has layers of approval from perhaps a marketer/agent and the agency updating the site. Therefore, the control in externally communicating to the general public was out of the athlete's hands.

However, Twitter puts the control back in the hands of the athlete. Unless the marketer/agent has the password, the athlete has the sole responsibility of communicating with the public through Twitter. Should there be demonstrated misuse of Twitter by the athlete, the marketer/agent must make the case to the athlete for creating an approval-layer for the account. This conversation is never easy and can be near impossible depending on the athlete. The athlete has always been the center of the relationship with the marketer/agent and the onset of Twitter has not changed this. However, having a healthy relationship with the athlete means the marketer/agent should be able to make a serious recommendation to be considered.

2.) Establish a Content Policy
From discussing the game, to showing pictures of family, there are numerous forms of content that can be Tweeted or talked about through social media. It is important to have a discussion with the athlete about the types of content used and which are off-limits. For example, some athletes wish to keep their family life private, while others like to Tweet pictures of their young children. Having this conversation will ensure the athlete has verbalized their strategy/intent and will hopefully have them think before they Tweet. After having the discussion, it is best to put the policy on paper and make modifications as needed.

3.) Be Proactive
The time of an athlete or any high-profile individual is tight and very valuable. However, like establishing a content policy, taking necessary steps before misuse occurs is an important strategy is managing the associated risks. Having proactive communications with the athlete about Twitter and general social media use can prevent misuse, as opposed to being reactive if misuse occurs.

Using the three tips above with the athlete will aid in managing the risks associated with athlete use of Twitter. It is also worth noting that managing the risks is important for all athletes. From veterans to rookies, NFL players to MLS players, understanding what could happen and negatively impact an athlete's brand perception will likely prevent Twitter misuse from occurring.

A senior sport management major, Kevin Giordano has experience in pharmaceutical social media, professional athlete brand development, college marketing and sponsorship, and men's and women's professional soccer operations. Kevin is slated to graduate in December '13. His thoughts are his alone and do not reflect those of any of his current or previous employers. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinGiordano.

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