The following article is a guest contribution from Evan Brennan. Mr. Brennan is a current student at Whittier Law School in Orange County, CA. He holds a Master’s degree in Sports Management from California State University at Long Beach, and a Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University. He has worked in athlete public relations, marketing, and other areas for various sports professionals and companies for years. Follow him at @brennansports on Twitter.
When one thinks of managing professional football players, one thinks of contract negotiation, endorsements, and maybe some public relations efforts that will be required of the manager or agent. In the ever-evolving industry that athlete representation is, a new and growing role and skill is now gaining prominence and importance in the services and repertoire that such a professional should possess and be able to offer. That talent and service is the advisement and management of a player with social media.
One particular sport that has seen a growth and prominence of social media in its ability to interact and provide value is the sport of football. Looking across sites such as Tweeting-Athletes.com, one sees players such as Larry Fitzgerald, Tim Tebow, Drew Brees and others that command over 1 million followers on the Twitter platform alone. Savvy agents and marketers have been and must now have the savoir-faire in order to capitalize on this type of interactable exposure for their clients with fans, media, and ultimately endorsers that want access to them.
Many of the endorsement deals that agents now will pitch to endorsers will have a clause or provision that exacts some social media interaction and consistent posts about the endorsing company’s effort, product, or event. Obviously the more followers and the activity of said followers that the player possesses, the more the agent should be able to seek in compensation for use of the player’s social media. Companies desperate to find ways to penetrate markets with real interaction with an oversaturation of other advertising are interested in putting together these types of deals. The zero cost for an athlete to put together a Twitter page is therefore enticing as a starting point to build towards these types of deals.
But, an agent must be well-versed in how to effectively grow social media to the point that it can be used for such endorsement purposes. An associate of this writer, Cameron Jensen, a former BYU and Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker, is now an executive at NUVI. NUVI is a platform that analyzes social media with graphics and visualization in real time to provide insightful analytics. In an interview earlier this year with ESPN, Jensen discusses NUVI’s study concerning notable 2013 NFL Draft rookies and the negative and positive sentiment that they were garnering on and through social media. The study and article also discusses how positive interaction and perception through social media can raise the amount of followers, thereby adding a tangible benefit to a player’s marketing cache. The NUVI platform and others like it, provide evidence of the progression that athletes must be prepared to deal with now when embarking on professional careers. Having a representative who is able to utilize services such as NUVI, who has a well-laid out and executable plan to enhance the interaction and followeing of fans on social media, and who can effectively spent significant amounts of time educating and insuring that that the player knows what not to tweet is also huge.
But the need for advisement on social media extends so much further than the procurement of endorsement deals. Where public relations was at one time confined to television interviews and press releases, the accessibility to athletes has been augmented through the rise of social media. The instantaneous nature of the medium allows information (positive or negative) to spread quickly and largely uncontrollably, in many cases.
Beyond this, NFL teams look to social media as a means to see whether or not players are going to be a good fit for their respective team. Team executives have openly admitted that they monitor every single prospect on their draft boards as they evaluate them. From their vantage point, if a player is willing to do something stupid or questionable on social media, they are willing to do stupid or questionable things in life as well. The inverse can be said as well, if a player can demonstrate continued and perceived genuine character on social media, agents believe it may aid a player’s stock. Knowing this, it is essential that a player has an agent that is able to spend the time and has the expertise to educate him on what to say and what not to say social media. The agent likely needs to monitor the social media of his client, selling the good works that the player is engaging in, and steering him clear of potential pitfalls.
This type of social media etiquette and management is not being taught in schools or other locations, as one article hints that the vast majority of collegiate athletes (and therefore presumably professional) have social media pages, and less than 10% have received more than 3 hours of social media training. This is true despite the fact that they nearly 20% of student athletes freely admit to have posted something inappropriate on some form of social media. A savvy, well-trained agent can capitalize on this dearth within the market without question.
Those agents that are not well-versed in social media are certain to encounter the difficulty of client retention and procurement of endorsement deals. As social media is now such a huge focus of marketing, the inability to advise and craft marketing plans utilizing social media to a distinguishable extent will keep such agents a way from long-term relationships with high-profile (and therefore lucrative) clients.