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Athletes and the use of social media as an additional revenue stream

By Marianna Kazazi, The Sports Financial Literacy Academy, Nicosia, Cyprus      

The emergence of social media and their continuous fast-paced development through the years have brought new levels of popularity and exposure for athletes, allowing them to promote and market their brands with greater ease, increasing their reach and audience engagement. Due to the great influence that they exert on their fans and the general public, athletes can be considered as highly effective influencers for potential endorsements and promotional campaigns, ranging from sportswear to promoting social messages on current and prevalent issues, such as mental health awareness.

To utilize their online presence effectively to create a generous additional source of income, athletes need to establish a well-thought-out social media strategy.

It has been proven that a strong presence on multiple social media channels and platforms is the best online marketing strategy, since athletes, with at least three channels, generate more income than athletes with limited social media platform use.

A great example is Cristiano Ronaldo, whose social media presence is massive. His Instagram account is the most followed account on the planet, with over 489 million followers, earning approximately US$2,000,000 for each post.

Since the more followers that athletes have on their platforms, the more they profit, it is crucial for athletes to build a long-term online fan base.

Ways to do that, involve sharing a peek of their behind-the-scenes lives, automatically connecting with their audience on a deeper and more relatable level and creating a more transparent relationship with them.

To be specific, they can share photos from events that they attend, how they prepare for games, their ways of giving back to the community or charity donations, their daily life with their family and friends, their achievements and much more. This will allow fans to see a different, more relatable side of the athlete, other than the professional one that they see on the sports field.

Social media algorithms support regular posting. Therefore, consistent social media posting is  key to generating traffic to the social media accounts of athletes; and will eventually lead to high earnings. Consistency in athletes’ social media posts can be determined by regular posts that include their gym routine, inspirational quotes, healthy meals, videos with highlights after each game or photos from their practice sessions.  

For advanced social media management, athletes may need to hire a PR agent. This may be expensive, but can prove to be really effective, especially if these PR agents specialize in sports.

Sports PR agents understand the busy schedule of athletes and are aware that, in order to maximize their performance on the field, athletes need to stay away from distractions; such distractions include excessive social media exposure in connection with dealing with endorsements, sponsorships, along with the general vulnerability of online use of their name, image and likeness. Sports PR specialists also contribute to guiding the outreach of the athlete’s brand.

Whilst the extremely high degree of exposure athletes get from using their digital platforms can play a beneficial role in their accessibility and engagement with both fans and brands, it can also have negative effects on their personal and professional lives. Since fans scrutinize every post or comment from their idols, athletes need to be extremely careful about what they share and how they communicate it with the public. A wrong move could mean losing a professional contract, endorsement or sponsorship deal. Furthermore, with the common and widespread occurrence of online bullying, athletes need to be able to deal with and manage hate comments in a way that does not deeply affect them or their mental wellbeing.

We may conclude that having a strong digital presence on social media can be an extremely powerful tool for an athlete’s brand and thus for their revenue streams from endorsements and sponsorships, provided that it is used strategically and with great caution.

For further information and advice on this increasingly important subject, log onto ‘www.moneysmartathlete.com’



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Sports Law & Taxation features: articles; comparative surveys; commentaries on topical sports legal and tax issues and documentation.

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The editors of  the Journal Sports Law & Taxation are Professor Ian Blackshaw and Dr Rijkele Betten, with specialist contributions from the world's leading practitioners and academics in the sports law and taxation fields.

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Maisto e Associati, Milano

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