The sports industry, at all levels, has been quick to recognise the advantages to be gained by using social networking sites and the internet to connect more closely with its fans via organising bodies, teams and individual sportsmen and women.
In the early days of the internet, a number of companies began the process by selling tickets to sporting events alongside those for concerts and other forms of entertainment. Others started to sell packages combining tickets to events all around the world with travel and hotel accommodation. More recently, sporting organisations such as the English Premier League have set up their own websites offering tickets to games, along with comprehensive details of future fixtures; news articles, histories of clubs, biographies of players and competitions for fans to enter.
Social media sites have enabled fans to become even more closely associated with their favourite teams and sports celebrities; in many cases fans are even able to correspond with them directly to learn how they prepare for their next event, and later to read their feelings on how well or poorly they performed.
In the past there was a feeling among sports fans that their heroes had lost touch with them; in sports such as football, baseball, American football and boxing, for example, the protagonists had begun to be paid such high salaries that there was a perception of them becoming aloof from their traditional fan base. In addition, the security at stadiums and other venues became ever tighter, making it virtually impossible for spectators to get even the briefest glimpse of their idols. Thanks to social networking, all that has changed and it is now possible to interact directly with even the most famous celebrities.
In addition to social networking sites and the internet, interactive TV has made it possible, for example, for viewers to sit in the cockpit of a Formula 1 car of their choice during a Grand Prix, see which gear the driver is selecting, how fast the car is going, how many Gs are being pulled in a corner and how far ahead or behind he is of his nearest rival.
Staying with F1 for a little longer, having a TV camera mounted on the cars has meant that when crashes or other incidents occur they are seen by millions of viewers in real time; a good example being Jules Bianchi’s accident at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix. Ultimately, it was found that no one was to blame for the accident, which resulted in the driver suffering severe head injuries. Former FIA president, Max Mosley, who used his position to champion improvements in motor racing and road safety in general, pointed out that it was thanks to efforts by him and the sport’s governing body, teams and drivers, that no driver had suffered fatal injuries since Ayrton Senna’s accident at Imola in 1994. Incidentally, the FIA (Fédéracion Internationale de l’Automobile) website is a great source of information on F1 and motorsport in general.
Some of the best known sports stars who use Twitter regularly include ex-Real Madrid footballer (currently at Orlando City in the MLS) Kaka, who recently recorded 10 million ‘followers’; tennis player Serene Williams; rugby player Will Carling, basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neal and golfer Ian Poulter.
So what are you waiting for? Seek out your favourite sportsman or woman and start Tweeting!