Image by braveheartsports.
Image by braveheartsports.

This is the second post in a series adapted from the white paper “3 Ways Sports Organizations Use Social Media to Increase Fan Loyalty.” In this part we break down the first way social media increases sports fan loyalty, by humanizing the teams and athletes they love. View part 1 in the series here, or download the full whitepaper below.

1) Humanizes and Personalizes Teams and Athletes

A massive benefit of being active on social media is that a team’s fans inevitably end up interacting with real people. This human-to-human contact is a game-changer for professional sports organizations.

Whether or not you agree with their tactics, the Los Angeles Kings took the risk and did something few other teams have done: they ditched the corporate line. Putting the script aside and speaking from the heart (and speaking as fans themselves) the Kings’ social media team added a level of humanity to their social network that struck a chord with people. This undeniably helped them gain followers as people lauded the account’s tone and approach.

When a team ignores the passion of the game, the rivalries and controversies, in favour of a neutral and politically correct approach, they miss an opportunity to put themselves on the level of their fans. After losing to a rival team, fans don’t want to hear “it was a good game,” they want to hear “we’ll get them next time.” Fans want to connect with other fans and since many of the people working for sports teams are fans of the teams themselves, they should use that, rather than hide it away. Sports content is shareable because it’s emotional. In embracing their own passion for the team, the Kings organization was able to channel the passion of their fans as well and increase their following in the process.

In terms of athletes, getting to meet, speak to or interact with your favourite player is a dream shared by countless sports fans, young and old. Only a decade or two ago, this dream was pretty much limited to those who could afford to attend games, special events or autograph signings. No more.

Lebron James is afraid of the dentist? Sharing everyday experiences helps fans relate to athletes.
LeBron James is afraid of the dentist? Sharing everyday experiences helps fans relate to athletes.

The humanizing effect of social media is obvious. Athletes have taken to social media like wildfire, and while many of them use it sparingly, others are prone to responding to questions, retweeting fans and generally interacting with the people that idolize them. From discovering what video games they play and shows they watch to seeing the charities they contribute to, these interactions can make a major impact on fans. In extreme cases, tweets have even lead athletes to join pickup games and go on fun dates! The more relatable the athlete, it seems, the greater the chance that a fan feels a personal connection with them.

Whether they’re team-organized Q&A sessions or spontaneous discussions, these social media conversations have brought fans closer than ever to professional athletes. The contribution this has made to fan loyalty is evident in the follower count of athletes, including Cristiano Ronaldo, John Cena, Maria Sharapova and many others who rank among the most-followed individuals on social media.

In the next post we will break down the second way that sports organizations can build stronger fan loyalty, by offering fans unique, behind-the-scenes content. You can download the full whitepaper now.

Read More: 3 Ways Social Media Increases Sports Fan Loyalty, Part 4