By: Tom Malone
A few years ago, a professional athlete received sponsorships and endorsement deals for their in-game performance. Off-the-field actions played a significant role in an athlete’s personal brand as well. Team and league public relations strategists (and personal agents) crafted these images and fed the media machine.
With the rapid rise of Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, each athlete now has the power to control their personal brand without the carefully planned strategies that experts used to (and still do) provide.
Take Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, for example. Sure, he has a few endorsements here and there. He generates a little bit of publicity by appearing on late night talk shows and NBA public service announcements. But how does he take control of his own image?
Howard has nearly 3 million followers on Twitter! He tweets about three times per day. Through these tweets, he opens a direct communication line with his fans and crafts his image in an ever-evolving fashion.
Sports public relations practitioners increasingly incorporate social media lessons into their media coaching sessions with the athletes they represent, according to Melinda Travis of Pro Sports Communication. One rude or politically incorrect tweet can ruin an athlete’s image, an image that can take an entire career to build carefully.
Mediocre players now have the chance to engage with their audience, build a following, and boost their individual brand. The potential for endorsement contracts skyrockets, as does the potential for an exponential growth in fan base. So, future professional athletes, use social media to build your brand, not to stop your career short.