The athlete as a social media marketing product

November 23, 2015

The athlete as a social media marketing product - Johan Cruyff Institute

Marketing benefits from the power of social media to identify potential consumers of your brand and reach them quickly and easily through the athlete

Social networking has definitively changed the way we connect with the world. News reaches us via Twitter the moment it happens, there’s no need to go to the newsstand in search of a newspaper to find out what’s in the press today, and even in our leisure time, we are more focused on that ‘second screen’, such as the mobile, than on enjoying the moment. Have you ever counted the times you look at your smartphone during the day? You have no idea.

This rapid shift to the digital world has affected all sectors of communication, and marketing is one of them. “Twenty years ago, the media had a great deal of power and advertisers had a lot of faith in paid advertisements”, says Edwin Schravesande, professor of e-marketing at the Johan Cruyff University of Tilburg. Today, other communication channels are proliferating. “We need to pay special attention to how the digital world is changing marketing techniques, and it is a challenge for students to acquire new skills to manage digital marketing tools. But the indiscriminate use of these new channels may have a risk: destroying marketing budgets in campaigns without any kind of effect. What really matters is how you use your communication channels”.


But we can’t deny reality. “We are definitely facing a change of style,” recognizes Schravesande. “Companies have learned to listen to their customers, to give importance to the individual and to offer their consumers stories they really like and information they need. Corporate information and striking logos have become a thing of the past. People of flesh and blood who express a genuine commitment to the products and services of a company have gained prominence and arouse far more interest”.

Athletes have always been one of the most direct ways to reach consumers. Sport arouses passions, is a source of health, sacrifice, commitment, positivism and, taken to the elite level, develops the fan phenomenon that has few competitors in other sectors of society.

For a brand like Babolat, for example, having a world icon like Rafa Nadal as its top representative is priceless. There is no better way to stand up to your competition than by joining up with the strongest. But you must know how to do it, it is not a case of anything goes. And this is where knowing how to use social media is fundamental. “A message on Twitter is not just an advertising channel with which you can win an audience. Its power lies in the message being relevant and credible”,  explains Edwin Schravesande.

The athlete as a social media marketing product



Athletes’ advertising commitments are an obvious way to boost their extra income, but also one of the most contentious before signing a sponsorship deal. Having a sports star’s time at your disposal to go through long filming sessions, which require complex production, is increasingly difficult. And, for the company, being absolutely sure that you will reach the audience profile you want also costs money.

Social networks are, in many cases, a good tool for avoiding costly market research. They are the shortest, fastest and most direct way to reach your audience through a person who, in that specific community, has more credibility than anyone. The athlete ‘delivers’ to their sponsor a consumer base of millions of people who every day are interested in what they do, what they feel, what they consume. No need to go to a Nike shop window to see Cristiano Ronaldo’s latest boots. He sells them for you directly via a Tweet. For just one message from him the brand can expect to pay up to $260,490, but it is still much more affordable than a television commercial. And it saves the athlete time and hassle.

The athlete as a social media marketing product


Of the 10 highest paid athletes by sponsored Tweet, seven are footballers, starting with Cristiano Ronaldo with 38.7 million followers on Twitter, 36 million on Instagram and over 107 million on Facebook. The second most sought after is the NBA basketball player Lebron James, although he receives just a little over half ($140,119 per Tweet) what CR gets. The new FC Barcelona phenomenon, Neymar Jr., is the third most in demand, and the best Spanish tennis player of all time, Rafa Nadal, closes the Top 10.

The athlete as a social media marketing product



The athlete as a social media marketing product

There’s nobody better than an athlete with an interest in and knowledge of marketing to understand the needs and preferences of athletes and brands and to simplify their life. Blake Lawrence has launched an online platform called Opendorse to bring athletes together with companies interested in their ‘services’. Blake played American football for Nebraska until injury forced him to retire and left him time for his other passion: sports marketing. That’s how he makes a living today, and his customer base is growing.

The athlete as a social media marketing product


“Digital marketing campaigns enable brands to instantly reach millions of fans of the sport. But marketing managers do not have an easy time choosing the best representatives of their product. At Opendorse, we use the information from social networks to advise them who should sell the image of their company effectively and in real time”, explains Blake Lawrence.

The idea has been well received by athletes’ agents for being a user-friendly tool and for its instant payment. “Our software helps managers to be clear about the value of their clients through their presence in social networks and provides an additional source of income. When an athlete receives an offer through an Opendorse company user, managers can review and approve the deal online. A contract for each deal is generated, avoiding endless paperwork, and we handle the payment process from beginning to end. The athletes give their OK to the contract from their phone with their digital signature and the agreements are automatically generated on the date and time that the brand requires”.

The power of social media lies in their ability to create community. It’s never been simpler to get news about your idol in real time and in your pocket. The way in which the message arrives is, as always, a question of marketing.

The athlete as a social media marketing product


Football Industry Insights

The Football Industry Insights is a one-week program in Barcelona where participants will have the opportunity to learn about the football industry and interact with key individuals in the most relevant areas of the sector. The week is made up of a series of panels presented by a diverse range of professionals who will discuss the contemporary issues affecting the global and specific football markets.

Sign up

7 thoughts on “The athlete as a social media marketing product

  1. Jesus! Those dollars per tweet stats are astonishing. People love to hate on athletes for being rewarded with millions of dollars but that’s just the reality of the current market.

  2. It’s true that the sports industries bring billions of earnings in a year. The use of social media has made a great impact on sports consumers. It is important to have a sports franchise valuation so they can measure revenues. If I were to own my baseball team, I’ll be sure to use a sports advisory firm to help me in evaluating revenues for the team.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Magazine