Athlete In-Game Twitter Use: Teams Need to Take Control

With every passing day Twitter is gaining more traction in the sports world, not less, so for all those that said it’s a passing a fad and ignored it, open your eyes. It will have a growing place in sports over the next year, like it or not. Chad Ochocinco proclaims he plans to tweet during games, and though we usually take his comments with a grain of salt, this has some merit. NBA players already started this past season, countless athletes are tweeting before or after playing, and many times in between, coaches are there, the list of tweeters is an almost endless cross-section of society.

Rather than prevent it or ignore it, teams and leagues need to take control of it. As silly as some people think it is, Twitter is a perfect in-game tool to further fan engagement. Fans consume media on multiple screens using multiple mediums, sometimes simultaneously, sports either needs to find a way to provide multiple engagement points, or make way to share its fans with other forms of entertainment and communication.

Teams should allow players to Tweet, however control the platform they use during games. Develop a branded Twitter extension that fans of the team need to register to use and that only displays tweets among fans and players on your team. Maybe it has an extension that can tie in with a similar system that manages tweets for your opponent that night so you can see those player tweets and maybe do some smack talk with the opponents fans. Don’t you think fans attending a game would be interested in what a player has to say after coming off the court, or about what happened on the last play, or even deliver a message to solicit more noise from the home crowd?

If sports properties can intelligently, and unobtrusively insert themselves into the process while still giving players as much free reign to speak as they have now, its creates an opportunity to add those 1 million Shaq followers, or at least a subset that’s willing to deal with a small registration process, into your team marketing database. That’s valuable. Armed with that marketing info, and an undoubtedly engaged audience given the research on how tribal and passionate fans are, especially during a game, it’s a great sponsorship opportunity. Brands can certainly extract value from this type of engagement – especially brands already associated with the team that can inject calls to action, or a brand the players believe in and can inject into their Tweets. Smells like measureable ROI.

Forget the argument that player’s should focus on the game, not Twitter. Tell me that next time some sideline reporter stops a player between quarters to ask pointless questions. I’d much rather give the athlete an open mic and let journalists report on the game and describe the action, not try to dictate what the player is thinking.

More to come on this, but I think its ripe for its own platform.

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