5 Ways Sports teams can leverage Social Media Influencers

As more sports teams begin to see the value in their Social Media audience – which has undoubtedly skyrocketed in the last 12 months – the next challenge is around how to make better use of their followers. Few teams make the most of fans who are influential in the Social Media space and have an invaluable skillset in networking, content creation and even brand protection.

Social Media influencers can be the difference in a small complaint going viral and truly damaging the brand’s reputation. Likewise, positive sentiment from a fan influencer can vastly improve the reach and overall success of a campaign on Social Media. With so much at stake, it’s surprising to see (particularly in football where there is a plethora of influencers) so few teams willing to publicly engage and leverage their influencers.

With this in mind, here are 5 ways that sports teams can utilise their Social Media influencers to help support their Social Media strategy:

1. Fan meet-up days

Fan days are increasingly popular in US sports (who have long been leaders in fan engagement via Social Media) and there’s no reason they can’t take off here. The premise behind the day is to invite a number of influencers to a club location, usually the stadium, and simply give them a forum to ask questions, raise issues, find out more about the club as well as talk to other influencers that they probably have only communicated with via Twitter.

Fan days help portray the club as being transparent in their dealings and  also being seen to be actively engaging with the fanbase – which is an issue many fans cite never seems to happen.

2. Access all areas

We’ve talked about the value of behind-the-scenes content before, and really this is just a natural development of this concept. Fans want to consume content that they view as valuable, so if you’re struggling to get views or shares on official club content, then perhaps think about what you’re actually offering. A simple invite to 3 or 4 influential fans to access an area of the club not usually accessible, and letting them record the visit – will go a long way. For example, you might invite influencers to take a tour of the training ground, meet the physio team or find out some basic training techniques from the coaches. If a club wanted to be really ambitious, that might even let an influencer shadow the team on a game day…

3. Fan content

Website content such as match reports are often written by journalists at the club, and as such tend to be similar to mainstream media and traditional content. Whilst it’s obviously important to have a high standard of writing, it can sometimes get a bit too over familar and go stale. Many of your influencers are likely to be proficient bloggers and as such can write to a good standard, so add a bit of variety to official club content and ask them to contribute every so often. You may find that the content is more reflective and resonates with the fans better, and it is equally more likely to receive more Social Media engagement if the influencers aggresively promotes his involvement with the club with pride.

4. Match-day coverage

Something we have discussed before is integrating your influencers into matchday coverage on your Social Media channels. Whilst US sports have managed to allow influential fans to take over the Twitter and Facebook channels, this might be too scary for UK based sports teams who are not quite there yet in terms of passing on the responsibility.

With this in mind, you could still invite influencers to live blog the match, be involved in the commentary or at the very least retweet/share influencers thoughts at halftime. This is a really easy and effective way of leverage your influencers and getting them more involved.

5. Supporting campaigns

Last but not least, simply putting some time and effort to build a relationship with influencers with a tweet here and there can prove to be a wise investment in the future. Sometimes, a Social Media campaign can be flagging or not really taking off. A quiet word via email or direct message asking for a bit of support or just a retweet can be the kickstarter your campaign needs. This is the simplest of solutions and nothing but old fashion PR translated onto Social Media. Of course, you can’t just do this without any work or previous effort – influencers need to feel like that you’ve bothered to actually care about their involvement. Simply mass tweeting influencers to retweet will not go down well and will more than likely stir up negative sentiment.

Sean Walsh

Founder of Digital-Football.com and leading Football Social Media expert.

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3 Responses

  1. Peter Eckersley says:

    Excellent-just starting at Evesham United FC in a commercial role. Thanks.

  2. Great article. You’re right about teams being more transparent thanks to social media. It’s better being open than having someone hack in the team and make the team look bad, right?

  3. Kaihu says:


    Thanks for sharing your insights. While your article is about how to leverage the social media influencers, it got me thinking about what’s needed of today’s social media tools in order to make everybody’s job easier.

    FYI, my company has an upcoming social platform designed specifically for sports. There are three areas where we try to push the envelope: broad crowd contribution and socialization, real-time usage experience, and extensive tools for the influencers.

    Firstly we want to empower the fans to contribute more and express themselves, such as initiate polls, comment, debate, play a long-running prediction game for bragging rights, etc. Secondly we understand the importance of the influencer so we give them tools to guide and entertain the fans right inside this environment, such as live blogs, live audio/video commentaries, etc. And thirdly we make it very simple to aggregate media content (kind of like a Pinterest pinboard on steroid for the community), so that you have all the relevant content in one place for all fans to enjoy.

    When I compare what you outlined in your article with what we are trying to achieve, I thought I saw that we both recognize the importance of long-term and in-depth fan engagement, as well as the important role that the influencers can play. FYI, you can see an early demo of our site here http://www.smesh.net/pages/980191118. I would love to get your expert input on it, so that we can steer it in the right direction. Please feel free to contact me at kaihu@smesh.net

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