SOCIAL media now plays a big role in many aspects of our lives, and it’s fair to say that pretty much every industry has been drastically impacted in one way or another. But one particular industry is sports, where social media has really changed the game. In many ways, social media has changed the way we view, think, and feel about sports.

Sports teams across the world have been given an opportunity to increase their brand awareness to a level which, in the pre-social media era, would not have been possible. On top of building their sporting profile, social platforms also empower athletes to strengthen their own personal brands.

According to Sprout Social, over 80 per cent of sports fans interact with social media sites while watching games on TV, and more than 60 per cent do so while watching live events. This opens up a huge window for brand interaction and is the reason you tend to see athletes’ personal brands posting sponsored posts straight after an event.

Personal branding in sport

In the rise of social media, the importance of an athlete’s personal brand has increased dramatically. This is due to the impact sports stars now have on society – being looked at as influencers by not only their fans, but by brands capitalising on their popularity and fame.  Some leading sports stars have now transcended their chosen sport and made an impact on mainstream culture.

There are hundreds of high-profile athletes in the world. However, one particular sportsman leads the way when it comes to personal brand exposure: Cristiano Ronaldo. With 381.4 million followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the Portuguese superstar is known as the “most famous athlete in the world” (ESPN 2018).

With that in mind, it is no wonder some of the biggest brands in the world want to work with the footballer to increase their brand awareness.

An example of one such brand is Nike, with the worldwide sportswear company agreeing a one billion dollar life sponsorship contract back in 2016. This may sound like a lot of money to some, but no doubt Nike saw this as a golden opportunity to increase brand awareness and increase profit in the long run, with Ronaldo’s social media accounts allowing them to reach a huge variety of audiences from all over the world.

Although Ronaldo is sponsored by a number of different brands, with a large percentage of his posts being ads, he continues to use social media as an effective tool to represent himself by maintaining a good balance between sponsored and more personal posts, keeping both sponsors and fans happy. With consumers craving authenticity more and more from influencers, this is key to Ronaldo’s social success. 

How is social media helping athletes?

As social media continues to grow and help with personal branding, the culture of sport also changes; the biggest change being wages. For stars such as Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, LeBron James, Serena  Williams and many more elite athletes, their main source of income no longer comes from playing contracts, but from endorsements. Therefore having a strong online presence has helped athletes out financially.

This is no doubt a key reason why rising football star Kylian Mbappe has started to tap into the business knowhow of Nike athlete LeBron James. The two athletes recently met up to discuss the importance of building a brand and the influential impact they both continually make. 

“What we do, what we say, how we perform, we change culture,” LeBron said about himself and Mbappe. 

The future

Social media usage shows no signs of slowing down, and it’s clear these platforms will continue to play a big part in the lives of athletes.

Even after an athlete’s sports career is over, many are taking their personal brand with them. Michael Jordan is a prime example of this. This is even more notable since his career was in a pre-social media age. As technology continues to grow, the bigger legacies can become.

But with incredibly busy lives, do they have the time to manage their social accounts? With social media management being incredibly time-consuming, Fortunately, there are agencies that are starting to take the pressure off athletes by providing their services.