Social media in the NFL (part one)

For one of my classes this semester in college, I had to write a term paper about the connection between media in society. So, I decided to write it about social media in the NFL, and this is my final draft.

Social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook clearly have had a strong effect on the National Football League (NFL), and this effect seems to be constantly increasing. Almost all players and teams have accounts that they update regularly. The teams all spend lots of time and hundreds of thousands of dollars each year trying to get their fans to come to their games, interact with the team, and ultimately, make themselves a profit. Marketing is a big reason why the teams have social media accounts because more exposure will lead to these profits. They want to establish a relationship with their fans and get them to associate with their teams so they will consume their products. And the players all have access to social media as well, making even more opportunities for the fans to connect with the team. The teams are using social media to make more money, the players are using it to better voice their opinions and connect with the fans, and the fans are using it to better connect with the teams and their favorite players. This seamless three-way connection between the team, the players, and the fans make an interesting dynamic in the social media world, and it has changed the way the game of football is consumed in a positive way.

According to the Social Media Bible, social media is defined as “activities, practices, and behaviors among communities of people who gather online to share information, knowledge, and opinions using conversational media” (Hull). In this essay, the main outlets of social media discussed will be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and personal blogs. Most people who watch football regularly have an account on at least one of those social media platforms, and some have accounts on all of them. Since players and teams also have these accounts, there is a constant interconnection that allows everyone to stay involved 24/7. While teams initially did not take advantages of these never-ending opportunities to market their products, they are beginning to do so as the technology becomes more widespread. According to a group of sports marketers, “New media have begun to compensate for live word-of-mouth and fans now have unprecedented opportunities to communicate with the sport and each other technologically” (Oates). A famous blogger for the Dallas Cowboys noted that, “Until recently, the NFL’s social media strategy was a purely traffic driven approach. More recently, the focus has shifted towards engagement, acquisition and community via an increased focus on social media platforms” (One.Cool.Customer). So, while teams were originally just looking for page views on their official websites, they are now looking towards more interaction on their social media accounts. They also argue that it “deepens the relationship between the sport and the fan,” further establishing the link between the three groups (One.Cool.Customer).

In 2010, the boom of social media was starting to affect the NFL. Teams were even wondering if they should allow their players to tweet (D’Costa). This thinking may have been due to possible distractions that players could cause such as negative publicity and lack of focus on football. But now, the only main restriction on the players is that they cannot post on social media from ninety minutes till game time and on, as well as until all broadcasted interviews are over (Kishner and Crescenti). Other restrictions prevent play-by-play descriptions on social media or on a website to protect the networks’ copyrighted broadcasts. Some teams also have their own stricter policies, such as the Miami Dolphins, which prohibit anyone from tweeting, blogging, or even texting from training camp. Other teams that have their own revised rules are the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, and Detroit Lions (Hull). Teams can make whatever rules they want as long as they are not less strict than the league rules. The league also puts restrictions on the fans. Play-by-play live tweeting or real-time posting of exact plays is discouraged, and in some cases deemed illegal, but only if it can be considered a legitimate substitute for the broadcasted game. This is very hard to prove, and it highlights the lack of practical forcibility of the league to shut down sites that provide play-by-play accounts of games. These examples show that there are multiple levels of restrictions in the triangular connection between the teams, players, and fans.

(Works Cited will be given in the final post)

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