For me, Cardinal baseball is like a religion. In reality, it’s a brand. And just like many other brands, harnessing social has been a learning process for sports businesses and franchises. Most teams have learned that creating a social brand strategy is the best defense against an offensive remark.
Employees of brands act as mini-brand ambassadors, tweeting and posting about what’s happening around the office or, in the case of sports teams, the field, track, or pool. Early on, many businesses realized a need to implement a social media policy for their employees. For any employees who post socially as a part of their job or as a private person, Mindjumpers recommends a social media policy that provides corporate guidelines to:
- Provide structure for employees
- Protect your brand and business
- Educate employees to be “ambassadors”
- Create value for the organization
- Reflects positively on the brand
What makes sports organizations a little different is that sometimes their “mini”-brand ambassadors have millions of fans. So, for example, when upset players, like the Green Bay Packer’s TJ Lang, take to Twitter with F-bombs to voice their anger, the NFL and the Packers have a serious social situation on their hands, spiking tweets by 400,000 within the hour following this tweet
Negatives aside, I think these brands would agree that the fan-to-athlete social media engagement is greatly appreciated. So as brands, what social media policies should leagues and teams be making for the players?
My top 5 social media recommendations for professional sports teams based on our experience working with brands on social media:
- No phones on the field. Employees owe their employers a certain degree of confidentiality. Personal affairs of the team should never be aired out on social media. Don’t tweet, text or post prior to or during the game. In the heat of the moment, you may say something you regret. Veteran community managers have learned to wait and think about comments, and so should athletes.
- Don’t make official statements without consent. Just like professional bloggers or any other celebrities paid to endorse brands, athletes need to be transparent about their affiliation with the company. As players and coaches, do not make any official-sounding comments on behalf of your organization. That pertains to official statements, positions, logos or confidential information.
- Develop a positive rapport within your team and opposing teams. All major brands know better than to stir up bad blood with competitors on Facebook or Twitter. Friendly rivalries are fun, but trash talking is crude. Promote positive interactions within your community. Show your fans that you encourage other athletes and actively promote other brands. And unless you want to pick a fight with Tom Brady and the Patriots defense, don’t take notes from Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.
- Don’t tweet about a call (bad or good). Sportsmanship, bad or good, reflects back on your brand. Smart brands using social media try to avoid controversial subjects that can stir up negative buzz. Trust me: your fans will have plenty to say about it, but as a role model and member of a professional organization, it’s up to you to take the high road.
- Engage with your fans. Bring value to your brand and your fans! Community managers have long known the way to foster a great community and keep fans engaged is through frequent and genuine interactions. Social media levels the playing field for fan-to-athlete communication. Engage with your positive supporters, and don’t fuel the fire for those with negative comments.
Professional sports like the NFL, MLB, and the Olympics already have guidelines in place. Some rules are still vague, but as brands, sports teams are headed in the right direction. Even collegiate sport teams should consider athletes as brand ambassadors and enforce social media guidelines for coaches and student athletes.
And for all you fans, tell us your opinions of athletes on social media. Who’s bringing equity to their team’s brands and who is damaging their brand’s image?