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Archive for May, 2011

Social Media: The Good, The Bad, and The Juicy

The use of social media is exploding amongst professional sports leagues, teams and players. The adoption of various social media platforms has had numerous effects on fans, players, teams and leagues alike. Some of these effects have been great, some bad, and some that deserve their own category, which I will just classify as the juicy.

The Good:

Social media has allowed fans to connect with their favorite leagues, teams and players on a deeper level then ever before. Fans can now follow their favorite athletes, teams and leagues on sites such as Twitter and Facebook, giving fans a sense of deeper connection as well as real-time updates on what these athletes or teams and leagues are doing. Social media adoption has also allowed teams and leagues to gain a greater access to people, drive them to their websites, and has created a place where teams and leagues “can gauge the pulse of its fans“. The NBA itself currently has over 2.5 million followers, allowing the cross collaboration of fans and the league on things such as games, highlights, breaking news and stories. But many athletes and teams are doing great things with social media as a means of building a platform to attract fans and build their brand image.

My favorite thing has been professional athletes and teams using social media for giveaways. In 2009 the New York Jets gave away 39 pairs of ticketsto its Twitter followers for a preseason game. While other teams have done this as well, no one has done a better job of it than the players themselves.

Screen shot of Shaq's Twitter page

Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce of the NBA gave away tickets to fans via twitter in a creative manner. “On multiple occasions, Shaq would tweet his location and say the first person to touch him would get the tickets. In late March, Pierce tweeted, ‘aight on my way to arena b there at 430 with my jersey players entrance free tiket to game only got 5 left hurry up passcode is truth.'”(source)

Screen shot of Pierce's Twitter page

These are great ways for players and teams to connect with their fans and develop deeper relationships, and bring more and more people to the arena to watch games and spend money on other items. And hey, who doesn’t enjoy free stuff!?! The two athletes who have proven to be the best at using social media giveaways are Chad OchoCinco (NFL) and Ron Artest (NBA). These two players have taken giveaways to the next level and in the process have enhanced their brand image while developing a greater and more loyal fan base. Chad OchoCinco created a contest where every week he would fly one lucky fan (who follows him on Twitter) to a Cincinnati Bengals home game. “Every week I will fly somebody out that’s on Twitter, and you will be my designated tweeting person for that game since you already know how to work the device and know what it’s about. We’ll work on our signals for that game as what you’re to tweet at that present time”, said Chad OchoCinco. It was a great move as it boosted his following on Twitter considerably and drew more and more fans to him. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter the NFL updates its social media policy and Chad’s plan was unable to be implemented. (source)

Volatile NBA forward and current Los Angeles Laker, Ron Artest, has taken the giveaways one step further. Most people remember Artest as the player who started the brawl at Aubrun Palace. However, since that incident Artest has made great strides in repairing his image and reconnecting with fans. When he signed as a free agent this past summer with the Los Angeles Lakers, Artest used his Twitter account to connect with fans on a level never before seen with professional athletes. One night Artest sent this tweet when he was looking for a fan to have dinner with him, “what fan wants to join me to eat right now?!!!! email me at shinshinartest@gmail.com and I will tell you my location in Los Angeles!!” (source) Shortly after sending that tweet, Artest announced the contest winner and afterwards even tweeted about how great a time he had with the winner and her boyfriend. Ron Artest has been doing things like this since singing with the Lakers. He has held contest for his Twitter followers to attend his barbecues, meet him at restaurants and clubs, and even invited every one of his Twitter followers to his Christmas party. Here is the invitation that Artest sent out via Twitter,”December 23rd come to Marbella on 6757 Hollywood blvd. The Ron Artest Christmas Party. World Wide Wariers will be performing also!!While not all players have made themselves as accessible to the public as Ron Artest has, they are utilizing social media sites to connect with fans and their cities as well as build their brand images. Players have also used Twitter and Facebook to promote their the various charities they are involved in hoping that their fans who follow them will support the causes they are trying to help. Even though the foregoing is my favorite example of the good side of how professional athletes, teams and leagues are utilizing social media, I want to be clear that there are many other positive effects stemming from their use of social media.

The Bad:

I can still vividly recall the press conference where former NBA player Latrell Sprewell lost all his credibility and respect amongst his fans, the media, and his peers. In fact, he probably lost almost all of his fans as well. While Sprewell was entering the final year of his contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves and slated to earn $14.6M that season, he was in the midst of a dispute over the terms being negotiated for his contract extension. The Timberwolves had offered Sprewell a 3 year deal reportedly worth $21M. Feeling insulted by this offer Sprewell threatened to not feed his children, who were present at the press conference, saying“’I told you I needed to feed my family,’ Sprewell said at a press conference yesterday. ‘They offered me 3 years at $21 million. That’s not going to cut it. And I’m not going to sit here and continue to give my children food while this front office takes money out of my pocket. If [owner Glen] Taylor wants to see my family fed, he better cough up some money. Otherwise, you’re going to see these kids in one of those Sally Struthers commercials soon.’”(source) This story still shocks and disgusts me to this day. Anyway, before social media players would go to the radio, television, and print media to air out their grievances, but now with social media players are openly doing this via Twitter and Facebook. Players are using social media to try to gain sympathy amongst loyal fan bases to use as leverage during contract disputes and negotiations. Case in point, Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels, unhappy with his contract situation a few years ago took to his Facebook page to during his holdout to explain to fans why he was unhappy and holding out. Daniels eventually agreed to a contract extension, and while it is unknown if his use of social media and fan support had any effect on the negotiations, this has become a common event for unhappy, disgruntled athletes. Thinking only about the money they hope to make, players go to social media outlets to complain and seem to forget how petty and bad this can make them look. This is the main bad aspect of social media and professional sports that I hope to see end soon.

The Juicy:

This section is probably not exclusive from the bad section, but these are things that fans flock to see. We find them entertaining, sad, funny, confusing, etc. Make no mistake though they can have considerable ramifications for professional athletes and teams. Example number 1, Matt Leinart and drunkenathlete.com. In college Matt Leinart could do now wrong at USC dominating on the field and leading his team to a national championship. However, he struggled when entering the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals. As he continued to struggle on the playing field, many people began questioning his commitment to football and preparing for games and practice. Additionally, rumors of constant partying were spreading and he was quickly developing an image as a wild partier who cared more about having fun then playing football. At a press conferences both Leinart and his coach stated that Leinart was committed to game and was focused and working hard. Then pictures began to hit the internet on sites such as drunkenathlete.com.

Thanks to thedirty.com for this photo

These were pictures of Leinart out partying late during the season when he was supposed to be focused on the on working out and improving during the off-season. Leinart’s image took a huge hit, one which he never seemed to recover from. A few tumultuous season later he was cut by the Cardinals and is now in Houston trying to reestablish himself and resurrect his career. Athletes need to be careful. Fans and media are all to happy to snap a picture of them in unsavory situations and quickly spread it throughout the world via sites like Twitter, Facebook, drunkenathlete.com and thedirty.com. Many times the pictures are harmless and do minimal damage to a players reputation, however they can have severe consequences and cause people to lose millions of dollars in sponsorship money like what happened to Michael Phelps. After becoming a worldwide star thanks to his dominant performance in the Olympics, a picture emerged of Michael Phelps smoking marijuana at a college party. This damaged his image severely, and resulted in his suspension from competition for three months and lost one of his sponsorship deal with Kellogg, one of his most lucrative sponsors.(source) Phelps is not the first, nor will he be the last athlete to have his reputation and checking account hurt from pictures surfacing through social media sites. There are numerous other examples that can fall into the bad side of social media, but crossover into the juicy sector. One of the most memorable examples was oddly enough a self-inflicted act by former NBA star Stephon Marbury.

After a tumultuous career in which he received a lot of criticism seemed to have come to an end, Stephon Marbury to the internet for a 24-hour live video session to set the record straight. During this live feed Marbury, rather than setting the record straight, appeared to have a complete emotional and psychological breakdown.  Marbury could be seen dancing around his house singing along to music playing int he background, bursting into tears and crying uncontrollably, even explaining how his little brother’s “grandmother, who’s almost 100 years old, told him that when you can’t get your voice back, take some Vaseline and swallow it and it will help you,” and then providing a demonstration. It was sad to see someone fall apart like that, yet videos of his meltdown spread rapidly throughout Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. At the time Marbury was still hoping to make it back into the NBA, yet due to his live streaming meltdown he was never offered another contract and wound up having to play overseas in the Chinese Basketball Association.

The embracing of social media by professional athletes, teams and leagues has had a variety of good, bad, and juicy effects. As social media continues to evolve and its adoption continues to grow, fans will be there eager to partake in the good, shun the bad, and be mesmerized by the juicy.

Here are two videos from Stephon Marbury’s breakdown:

Marbury eating Vaseline: 

Marbury crying: 

Here is a link to a great article about the NBA and its social media explosion: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=burnsortiz/110425_nba_social_media&sportCat=nba

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AimPoint Technologies’ Mobile Application

Last week I briefly mentioned a company, AimPoint Technologies, and its advancements in the golf broadcast sector of the sports industry. Specifically its Emmy Award winning predictive put technology. However, as I dug deeper into AimPoint’s website I discovered a great mobile application that the company has developed exclusively for use on the iPhone. AimPoint’s mobile application has three distinct uses to help golfers, Electronic AimCharts, Video Tips, and Instructor Listings.

Electronic AimCharts:

“The AimPoint app is an electronic version of the AimChart, showing expected break amounts in both English and Metric values as well as breaks on all three primary green shapes. It allows you to use green speeds of 8 thru 14, and grades of 0.5% to 4.0%.” (source) This means that both professional and amateur golfers can have a better understanding of how the ball will break depending upon the contours of the specific green that they are putting on.

Electronic AimCharts screenshot

For professional golfers, this can serve as a valuable tool for practicing on courses before a tournament is held in that location. Pro golfers can utilize this app while practicing to understand how and where the ball will break, as well as how fast the ball moves on the putting surface. By taking advantage of this technology during practice rounds, professional golfers can obtain an advantage heading into tournaments as they will understand the nuances of each putting green and can obtain a mastery of the course. An advantage that would certainly be well worth it considering the large monetary sums players can win. For example, the winner of the 2011 Masters Tournament is slated to earn $1,440,000, while second place earns $864,000 and the earnings continue to wind down quickly with the 48th place finisher (the final “in the money” player) earns $21,920. (source) For the more casual and amateur golfers, this technology can certainly help improve people’s short game and make the game more enjoyable. Moreover,  it enables people to use the same technology that professional can use at the affordable onetime price of $29.99.

Video Tips and Instructor Listings:

These two sections are focused on amateur and casual golfers as opposed to professionals.

Video Tips screen shot

Like the name say, the Video Tips portion of the application allows users to watch short videos featuring advice from AimPoint’s “senior golf instructors as well as some of golf’s greatest short game instructors“. The Instructor Listings section of the application allows people to find the closest AimPoint instructors to help them master the use of AimPoints technologies and techniques in a hands-on manner. It also gives people the options of getting a list of all instructors by state.

Instructor Listing screen shot

This gives people to see where each AimPoint instructor in the state is located and allows a greater variety of choice between instructors whose hands-on instruction is critical to becoming an expert green reader.

While only one portion of this application is truly aimed at professional golfers, it is equally valuable for amateur and casual golfers as well as for caddies. This is just another demonstration of how AimPoint Technologies continues to lead the way in developing innovative technology for the game of golf, its players, and broadcasters.