There’s no question that in the last couple of years, the world of sports has been shaken by the impact of social media. With every action, milestone, and mishap being documented and shared on the internet, fans have gotten a much more intimate peek into what their favourite athletes are up to. As a result, many sporting franchises have seen a rise in popularity as fans get to know them better through social media.
The Case Of The Bambino
One example of this is the Boston Red Sox. In 2017, the team had the second-highest average annual attendance in the MLB. Additionally, the team also saw a 16% increase in social media engagement compared to the previous year. This was likely due to the fact that the players had become more accessible to fans through platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
One of the reasons the Red Sox were able to maintain their popularity in the face of a more traditional sports scene was the emergence of a player named David “The Bambino” Bambino. The six-foot-three, 225-pound hitting machine spent most of his professional career in Japan, but came back to the US in 2014 to play for the Red Sox.
Bambino quickly became a fan favourite for his hustle and infectious smile, and the Red Sox quickly rebranded themselves “the Bambino’s Club.” When he returned to the team in 2017, he had the second-highest average annual attendance in the league.
The Rise Of The ‘Superstar’
In the last decade, the popularity of individual sports competitors has increased as well. Figure skaters, for example, have been on a roll. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio saw a 47% increase in audience compared to the previous year’s games in Rio de Janeiro. And who can forget about Usain Bolt’s incredible 100-metres dash? The Jamaican sprinter’s final races in the 2016 and 2017 Summer Olympics were both viewed live on YouTube globally.
While this is certainly an exciting time to be a part of a sporting team, the increased popularity of individual sportspeople has led to the rise of a new type of athlete. Referred to as ‘superstars’, individuals who are successfully able to combine athletic prowess with an appeal to a mass audience become role models for those who aspire to follow in their footsteps.
The Role Of Social Media In The NBA
The NBA is currently undergoing something of a digital transformation. Once considered a grey area in terms of gameplay and television viewing, today the league actively promotes social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram.
Unlike the Red Sox, the NBA does not have a single player that embodies the success of social media in sport. However, the league does have a variety of role models that show us how to integrate digital tools into our everyday life. From social media superstitions that Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson use to stay motivated to personalised jersey designs that make a massive impact online, the NBA is fully committed to becoming a fully digital entity.
The Future Of Sports
While social media has undoubtedly had a positive impact on sports, it’s not yet clear how much longer we will see this influence increase. The simple fact of the matter is that more and more people are choosing to watch and follow sports solely through their smartphone.
Smartphones allow fans to access live games, highlights, and digital magazines, all of which can be consumed on the move. As a result, today’s athlete is frequently found juggling training, competitions, and the responsibilities of a digital nomad.
The future of sports is undoubtedly digital, but that doesn’t mean every aspect is under threat. Stadiums and arenas will always be important for generating revenue, and there will always be a demand for top-ranked university athletes to play for professional teams. Furthermore, while we have seen the influence of social media increase, live sports will always have its appeal.
The rise of the ‘superstar’ is undoubtedly a positive thing for sports. It gives fans someone to cheer for as they watch a game, and encourages athletes to create memorable performances that will stay with them for a lifetime.