Sports marketing and social media go hand in hand due to the large recent increase in fan use, which explains why teams are jumping on this as a way to increase profits (Kishner and Crescenti). Taking away the sports aspect, social media in general has allowed for a spike in integrated marketing communications (IMC), which are defined as “attempts to coordinate and control the various elements of the promotional mix…to produce a unified customer-focused message and therefore, achieve various organizational objectives” (Mangold and Faulds). While many managers and executives in high-profile corporations may dislike or fail to correctly utilize social media for promotional reasons, “internet-based messages…have become a major factor in influencing various aspects of consumer behavior, including awareness, information, acquisition, opinions, attitudes, purchase behavior, and post-purchase communication and evaluation” (Mangold and Faulds). If consumer behavior is being affected this much due to social media, it only makes sense for teams to take advantage of it. Now adding the sports aspect back in, these tactics can be applied the same way in order to make more money. “Social media give teams the opportunity to directly interact with fans, potential fans, and even those who may never have sought out the team in the first place” (Kishner and Crescenti). The possibilities are endless, and it will become more and more obvious that NFL teams are applying marketing strategies in social media platforms.
But from the fan perspective, the more social media use these teams have, the more a part of the team they feel. Fans use “we” and “my team” all the time now to describe their relationship with their favorite teams because of how close they feel. According to a study done by KT Tape, “more than 80% of sports fans monitor social media sites while watching games on TV, and more than 60% do so while watching live events” (Laird). These are extremely high numbers, and if social media is impacting more than half of the fan base, it only makes sense for teams to continue their use of it to attract more attention. When former Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow threw a game-winning touchdown in the playoffs in 2011, more than 9,000 people per second tweeted about him. When former Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson posted insulting tweets about his coach following a game in 2009, 32,000 fans came together to petition for his release from the team, and it was eventually granted (Laird). The power that fans have on social media is so important for teams to understand that using it to bring them closer to the game only makes sense.
And these are just small accounts of the fans’ impact on the league through social media; there are many large-scaled problems in which they use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to voice their opinions. In 2012 when the NFL was using replacement referees due to their inability to come to new contract terms with the original referees, fans all across the world complained. When the infamous “Fail Mary” play occurred that the referees botched, giving the Seattle Seahawks a win over the Green Bay Packers in the final seconds, Twitter exploded. Right after the game, over a million tweets were said to be related to the blown call, and a Facebook page was even created with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s work phone number on it for fans to call in to complain (Carter). The criticism was so large that the NFL soon gave in and made a deal with the original referees.
Another issue is with the Washington Redskins’ name. Many fans are disgusted with the “racist” and “indecent” reference of the name “Redskins” to the Native Americans that they started a campaign on Twitter to get the name changed (Gianatasio). Highly respected sources such as USA Today and Sports Illustrated already refuse to use the name in their writing. But Redskins owner Dan Snyder is unlikely to give in considering the fact that the team is valued third-highest in the league, and partly due to his stubbornness. His response was “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER—you can use caps” (Gianatasio). Ironically, the Twitter campaign may have shifted after the creation of the hashtag “#NEVERINALLCAPS,” but those who feel strongly enough about the topic have continued to voice their opinions on social media. As Kishner and Crescenti pointed out, “Now, with Twitter and Facebook, one critical statement can be broadcast globally,” and this gives ordinary people a large power in vouching for their issues.
(Works cited will be included in the final part of the series)