I recently jumped on the Twitter bandwagon and one guy I’m following is Sunderland striker Darren Bent. I follow simply out of curiosity as he is a well-known Premier League figure using social media. He is an avid tweeter and mainly interacts regarding a game he is about to play or has played in. Roughly two days after following Bent on Twitter I found myself being followed by SAFC (his club). Call me a cynical bastard but I don’t think it was a coincidence. Many of the SAFC club tweets are related to its official website trying to flog match tickets and merchandise. Of course I don’t really mind this as I can control whom I follow and whom follows me on Twitter. After all, if you buy any gear online from a footy club these days, you will likely receive email after email from them offering you anything from a club scarf to the tackiest trinkets imaginable.
I think we have to accept that currently, and even more so in the future, a lot of sport stars are not only out to promote their own image when using social media but also their employer’s – rather they will likely morph into one; similar to when a team has signed the hottest rising star and the star is looking to further his career and brand. The initial idea is win, win and produces excellent results for all parties when the going is good. Former NBA star Jalen Rose explained on the Mashable social media guide, “Social media numbers may become a part of contract negotiations. It’s possible this won’t happen in the next year, but the numbers will definitely play a major role in the future. Some athletes have over a million plus followers on Twitter and Facebook. These numbers can be used by agents, lawyers, and business managers to leverage higher contract dollars for their clients. The fans are buying into a brand and if an athlete delivers consistently, then he or she should be rewarded for it.”
I’m inclined to agree with what Rose is saying after my recent experience of Bent and Sunderland. However, I do think in this case Bent is actually tweeting with his fans and his club have probably cottoned on to the fact that they can build their club profile further and sell merchandise by piggy-backing off his social networking on Twitter. Furthermore, the striking ace has had the Twitter logo and name sewn into his football boots. Perhaps this the way of the future. Maybe his next step is get a tattoo on his right thigh.