Social Media in Sports Marketing

What does the number 3.8 billion mean to you? In the world of sports marketing, it should mean a lot because that number represents how many people around the world use social media on a daily basis. On top of that, there are over 5.1 billion people who now use mobile phones across the globe—a number that has jumped steadily over the years.

What does this mean? The ability to reach a targeted audience is now more accessible than ever before.

With the opportunity to connect with so many people literally at your fingertips, social media and sports marketing go hand-in-hand in today’s world. Social media provides the opportunity for teams, leagues, and athletes to seamlessly connect and engage with their adoring fan base at any given time making it one of the most important marketing tools in sports.

With platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even YouTube entertaining the majority of people an average of 142 minutes per day—with some of these folks being avid sports fans—the potential to leverage social media from a marketing perspective is huge.

Trends in social media sports marketing

Live streaming

Year-over-year, sports viewership on platforms like YouTube TV, Amazon Prime (I’m looking at you Thursday Night Football), and Hulu continue to rise. At the same time, we’re also seeing social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter partner with sports organizations to broadcast real-time sports content to give the social media what they want—opportunities to watch the game more conveniently than ever before.

Live tweeting

In today’s world, people turn to Twitter for big events—especially sports games. To help quench the thirst of fans needing to be updated on games in real-time, live tweeting has become an increasingly popular way for teams and broadcasters to keep their audience engaged. If someone is at work while their favorite team is playing, they can simply follow the game along by receiving twitter notifications on their computer or mobile device—they never have to miss a second of any of the action.

Augmented reality

Probably one of the most innovative trends in social media sports marketing is the concept of augmented reality because it is single-handedly changing the way people enjoy sports. Aside from its ability to help influence accurate on-field decision making for officials, it can be a powerful tool for sports marketing. While it goes without saying that most sporting events occur with numerous sponsorships behind them, companies can also clean up revenue-wise be incorporating interactive marketing campaigns throughout a game. Recently, the Dallas Cowboys enabled an augmented reality photo kiosk called “Pose with the Pros” in their AT&T Stadium which allows fans to snap a picture with their favorite players on the team.


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, then you know just how powerful marketing in eSports can be. Businesses like Nike, Coca Cola, Red Bull, and BMW have sunk some serious cash into advertising through eSports. Due to the rise of eSports popularity amongst consumers, companies are now investing in professional gaming by sponsoring teams and events and also endorsing popular eSports athletes and teams to influence the hundreds of millions of people around the world that tune into eSports events.

Strategies for winning with social media in sports marketing

With so many businesses and media outlets utilizing social media to attract the attention of their targeted consumer, how can brands, marketers and sports organizations leverage social media in innovative ways to set themselves apart from the competition and drive more business?

Aligning with causes

Across the sports landscape athletes are using their salaries and likeness to give back to the community—whether it’s by working with children or helping clean up or environment.

Popular names like Russell Williams and Michael Phelps have both aligned with supporting charities that help children in need with the former starting the Why Not You Foundation and the latter creating his own charity, The Michael Phelps Foundation.

The charitable efforts don’t stop there—other athletes have been donating their hard-earned cash and time to a number of different causes. Pro-footballer Neymar not only leads charitable causes that fight against Ebola but he’s also cleaning up Brazil’s water.

One of the most charitable athletes today is Serena Williams who supports a whopping 13 charities and numerous causes including at-risk youth, women’s health, gender equality, and poverty—just to name a few.

Including athletes in campaigns

The connection between digital marketing and sports is undeniable. When these efforts are done correctly, sports marketing campaigns have the ability to captivate sports fans. Brands today are using sponsorships and promotions via social media to help transform the way audiences see their brand and to build loyalty.

One of the most popular uses of an athlete in a campaign has to be Under Amour’s “Rule Yourself” campaign with Michael Phelps—one of the most shared Olympic ads of all time.

Or who could forget the appropriately co-branded efforts of the Seattle Seahawks and Starbucks? These two massive forces utilized Snapchat to produce an effective marketing campaign of co-branded coffee sleeves that looked like Seahawk jerseys with a snapcode on it. This campaign allowed Seattle fans to enjoy a nice cup of joe while accessing exclusive Seahawk content on Snapchat.

Investing in women’s sports

Even though the popularity of women’s sports has historically trailed behind men’s sports, the past few years have certainly sung a different tune. In fact, studies are continuing to show that sports fans today not only enjoy watching women’s sports, but are starting to believe in women’s sports more and more each year.

Some of the most recognizable names in sports today are women—Serena Williams, Ronda Rousey, and Lindsey Vonn have become household names.  On top of that, there has been a huge surge in women’s soccer viewership over the last few years. The United States women’s soccer team has garnered more attention each year and have brought stars like Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd  into the spotlight in recent years.

And brands are following suit with this trend. Nike has invested heavily in women’s sports by joining forces with Serena Williams, Simone Biles, Chloe Kim, and members of the US Women’s National Soccer Team over the years.

The future of social strategy in sports marketing

The influence of social media in sports marketing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon—in fact, one could argue that utilizing social strategies in your marketing efforts will only continue to grow. With social media platforms constantly evolving and adding more features, the opportunities for brands, athletes, and sports teams are endless.

Instagram is continuing to release new interactive features via Instagram Stories, while Snapchat adds to their library of filters to keep social media and sports fans engaged. On top of that, increased accessibility to viewing sporting events content through live streaming and surge of popularity in mobile devices will certainly increase the likelihood that certain marketing campaigns will fall into the hands of more and more people.



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