Public Relations, Social Media and Sports

Hausarbeit, 2015

13 Seiten, Note: 1,3



The reach of social media and relationship-building

Advertising and revenue


Disadvantages and threats of social media

Possibilities for combating hazards of social media



“Successful companies in social media function more like entertainment companies, publishers, or party planners than as traditional advertisers” (Qualman, 2013, p.94). In times of globalisation and worldwide interconnectedness, traditional media, such as magazines and newspapers, lose ground. People work and communicate differently nowadays, using social media and mobile applications as daily platforms of communication and networking. Social media is not only increasing in importance for private people and businesses, especially the sports industry seems to benefit from this digital development. What does the term ‘social media’ exactly mean and why does it play such an important role in our today’s life? Social media can be broadly defined as websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or participate in social networking (Burkhalter and Wood, 2015, p.43). The rise in popularity of social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook or Linked-in is tremendous. Sports clubs are realising that using social media is the future and allows improving and extending their businesses (Kuzma, Bell and Logue, 2014). According to Briones, Kuch, Liu and Jin (2011), “practicing public relations through social media is effective and necessary in the emerging digital age” and the understanding and application of social media practices helps to build strong, lasting relationships. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (no date) defines public relations as: “the deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish maintain mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.” This essay tries to identify the relation between social media and public relations, the opportunities social media offers and the challenges it bears. Furthermore, it attempts to emphasize the meaning of social media for the work of contemporary sport managers with public relations responsibilities by analysing different studies about the use of social media and by considering social media websites of well-known sports companies.

The reach of social media and relationship-building

Social media has an astronomical reach. As of August 2015 there are almost 1.5 billion active users on Facebook worldwide (figure 1) with over 31 million users in the United Kingdom (UK), representing nearly 50% of the total UK population (figure 2).

Figure 1: Leading social networks worldwide as of August 2015, ranked by number of active users (in millions)

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Figure 2: Number of Facebook users in the UK from 2012 to 2018 (in millions)

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Sports clubs like Manchester United, Real Madrid or athletes like Cristiano Ronaldo or LeBron James have millions of supporters and followers all over the world. An incredible amount of 66 million (Manchester United, 2015) people follow Manchester United on Facebook and Cristiano Ronaldo has 107 million followers (Cristiano Ronaldo, 2015). In the past, football clubs were hardly able to reach that amount of people using traditional media only (Kuper, 2014). Clubs did not know the names of their fans and not even know they had fans in other countries. Now, as social media is gaining importance, it seems that it can change the relationships between club and fan and allows gaining “access to a significantly larger, more geographically diverse group than traditional formats” (Gallafent, 2013, p.2). Social media offers an opportunity to connect with fans all around the world and to build close relationships between fans, the club and its players. Social media enormously increases connectivity and affiliation (Gallafent, 2013). Channels such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram allow instant interactions between a club and its fans or a brand and its consumers (Swartz and Gazley, 2015). Swartz and Gasley (2015, p.5) described social media as “an optimal mechanism for developing consumer-brand relationships due to its interactivity and its ability to build long-term relationships”. However, the role social media can play in building this relationship between a fan and a club or an athlete has not yet been completely explored. Turri et al. (2013) identified two key relational attributes of how social media influences a fans attachment towards a club’s or an athlete’s brand image, which are: self-connection and relationship. Consumers prefer products and images that accord with their self-concept. That is why a club or an athlete often tries to build an emotional relationship with the fan. To offer an example: “FC Schalke 04 uses live tweets displayed on a wall next to their dressing room to motivate players before matches” (McLaren, 2014), and, from experiences, the fans can also see these live tweets in the stadium on a big video screen. To quote from Filo, Lock and Karg (2015): “Interaction and engagement play a crucial role in cultivating these relationships“. “A fan is the most emotional thing in the world. He will do everything” (Kuper, 2014), Oliver Kaiser, CEO Advant Group, commented on the IFA conference 2014 in Berlin. Kuzma, Bell and Logue (2014) rightly pointed out that, sport managers need to see social media as a business opportunity. Newcastle United’s Head of Media Wendy Taylor explained in an interview: “There has never been a more effective way to reach your fans directly. You cannot ignore it, you can engage with fans. There are so many benefits.” (Taylor, 2015). Taylor also added: “We are poor in social media. We must get better.” (Taylor, 2015). This seems to be one of the current major aims for many sport clubs and teams. Francesco Calvo, chief revenue officer of Juventus Turin, also emphasized: “We want to apply a proper Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategy. We want to drive fans on to our platform, where we can register them. The ability to know our supporters and also influence them is fundamental for us to generate higher revenues” (Kuper, 2014).

Advertising and revenue

In addition to emotional aspects social media also gives the opportunity for advertising and revenue. With help of social media the clubs can give updates on events or news to be linked with merchandise, tickets or sales. Football clubs as Liverpool FC often use social media for publishing news of a club’s new signed contract in conjunction with a link to the online store where fans can buy related products (Gallafent, 2013) (figure 3).

Figure 3: Example of a tweet of Liverpool FC linked with merchandise

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Ganguly (2015) correctly indicated that, “Social media advertising is set to explode in the next three years.”(figure 4), because of the advanced targeting options of social media, the reliable conversation tracking, and the prevalence on mobile devices. In addition, social media is a free tool and does not require special software or resources (Kuzma, Bell, Logue, 2014) leading to savings in marketing budgets. With help of social media the clubs are also able to gain useful information about the user’s identity and consumption habits of its supporters. In his analysis of the role of social media in sports communication in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Wysocki (2012) came to the conclusion that the primary reason of NBA teams for using social media is to increase game ticket and merchandise sales, sponsorship deals and to drive stakeholders to their website. Currently big football clubs like Manchester United (66 million followers (Manchester United, 2015)) have a lot more followers on Facebook than companies like Adidas (21 million followers (Adidas, 2015)) or Chevrolet (4 million followers (Chevrolet, 2015), which are sponsors of Manchester United. That is why these companies wanted to establish a cooperation in form of sponsorship deals with Manchester United. They aim to win some of the 66 million followers of Manchester for themselves. Moreover, a database of 66 million fans could be worth billions of pounds for the club (McLaren, 2014).

Figure 4: Social network advertising revenue from 2014 to 2017 (in billion U.S. dollars)

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Gallafent (2013) claimed: “When used well social media can have a strong humanising effect on a sportsperson’s image.” Figure 5 shows that building brand awareness and reputation is one of the main reasons for using social media among retailers. Social media can be used to build and to reinforce a brand. Reputation can be earned through shared content, expressed thoughts or likes. A good example for personal branding is Hans Sarpei, ex-football player in the German Bundesliga. During his time as a football player he rarely played but he is is still considered a ‘superhero’ by his followers. His manager’s strategy was to combine current political and sporting events with funny comments and posts. Ludewig (2015) states that “Hans Sarpei has developed into an Internet phenomenon.” Increasing reputation is not only a goal for individual athletes, it is also one of the major aims for many sport clubs (Wysocki, 2012).


Ende der Leseprobe aus 13 Seiten


Public Relations, Social Media and Sports
University of Newcastle upon Tyne  (Sport Economics)
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
676 KB
public, relations, social, media, sports
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Marc Andre Lenhard (Autor:in), 2015, Public Relations, Social Media and Sports, München, GRIN Verlag,


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