FeverPitch: Social Media and the Sports Fan – The Story

Pitch hosted a stand-out sporting event of Social Media Week 2013 on Monday evening. We assembled a high-profile panel of sports and social media experts which included Richard Clarke (Arsenal), Craig Hepburn (Nokia), Mark Bullock (Supporters Direct), John Cross (Mirror) and Perri Shakes-Drayton.

Between us, and with the help of Pitch Social Insight, we looked at the power of sports fans on social media and the techniques that influence them. The panel intricately explored how clubs, athletes, journalists, organisations and brands can develop influential relationships with their fans through social media, highlighting topics such as sentiment and understanding how to direct conversation.

And, we weren’t the only ones looking forward to the event…

Things kicked off with the first Q. of all: What is the value of social media as the platform for conversation around sport?

And, first to answer was panelist Richard Clarke, Managing Editor at The Arsenal Media Group:

Richard discussed how fans create the conversations themselves, but social media allows Arsenal to ‘funnel’ chatter, rather than direct it.

John Cross, Sports Journalist at the Daily Mirror, had similar views. He doesn’t believe that clubs can direct positivity on social media unless they are performing positively offline, too:

Managing Director of Supporters Direct, Mark Bullock, stated that the relationship between fans and clubs on social media has to be the responsibility of both parties, not a monologue effort:

Q2. What impact does social media have on the relationship between fans and athletes?

Britain’s number one 400m hurdler, Perri Shakes-Drayton, revealed the pressures of being an athlete on social media:

Perri talked extensively about her responsibility of being a professional athlete on social media. She commented that it’s her job to perform well at an event, and if she doesn’t, she has to take responsibility and confront those who criticise her, or sympathise with her, online.

Perri was open about the expectations she feels as a role model on social media, but questioned whether she had a responsibility to show the darker side of being a professional athlete, rather than glamorising it as most people tend to do:

And, Perri touched upon the professional benefits she gets by engaging with her fan base online:

Q3. Has social media brought fans closer to sport?

Mark Bullock, Commercial Manager at Supporters Direct, gave an insight into how social media could actually be causing a barrier to fans, despite its apparent transparency:

Mark also explained that with such huge data available to clubs about fans, this should be used to create a unified fan experience that combines social media with the traditional fan experience.

And, our audience agreed:

Mark also revealed that in the US, clubs are scouting youngsters based on social media (which is access that fans similarly have):

Q4. Has social media devalued sports news journalism, and what impact does this have?

John Cross talked about the best practices for sports journalists engaging with fans on social media:

And, John got a lot of support from the audience on his views:

Q5. How does sport make money out of social media?

The killer question… Craig Hepburn, Global Director of Digital and Social Media at Nokia, answered:

And, after an hour of debating, the panel took some questions from the floor. Q&As:

Finally, everyone left with fresh insights and knowledge of social media, sports and fans.

Thanks to all those that attended #SMWFeverPitch – hopefully see you all at Social Media Week London 2014!

Further Reading