Social media gives sport invaluable link to fans

We are in the midst of the 2010 Tour de France and the race has come down to just two riders. Andy Schleck is just eight seconds behind “Berty the Accountant” (Alberto Contador) as Ned Boulting and Matt Rendal call him on their Real Peloton podcasts. It has been an amazing spectacle, cobbles, crashes, tears on the podium, mountains, more crashes, British riders in the mix and millions of Twitter posts.

This year more than ever before we are able to share in all the ups and downs of teams, riders and all other interested parties in diverse ways. Where marketing budgets for teams (marketing tools themselves) are tiny – let’s take the first year British team, Team Sky, as an example – social media has become a cornerstone of its communications plan.

Prior to this year, and it can be seen in Formula One as well, Facebook fan pages and especially Twitter profiles were the preserve of a limited number of tech savvy competitors looking to build their own brand. 2010 however, has seen a holistic approach to social networking as a seriously cost effective channel to fans.

Looking more closely at Team Sky you find the website is supported by a Facebook page, a Twitter profile and a blog (only in name as nowhere to add comment) on the website. Add to this the set of individual rider’s Twitter profiles and the whole story of the team’s race can be gleaned in just a few minutes.

If success is measured in numbers, and it most often is, then Team RadioShack – undoubtedly due to the presence of Lance Armstrong – has the social media yellow jersey. Team Sky do well with over 42,000 fans, while the current yellow jersey wearer’s team has just 2,133 fans. That said the current race leader himself has almost 70,000 followers on Twitter, damn good when he is only following 16.

We are seeing a real revolution in sports marketing. Fans have always been fans, but with social media the ability to get to share in the success and disappointment of your heroes, almost as it happens and directly from them, creates a much stronger bond for that fan with that sports person as a brand.

Having said that, you can get too much of a good thing. At the moment I have to avoid using Twitter for large portions of the afternoon and evening so I don’t see who wins the stage before catching the highlights on TV that evening. But, once the stage is over, I am straight onto TweetDeck to get the inside track on what the riders are saying.  Word of mouth marketing has never had such a perfect case study.

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