How Social Media has Changed Sports

July 01, 2012 | Jeffrey Gilley

Twitter and Facebook have become two the most popular social media websites in the world.  This has created a whole new culture that everyone using them must adapt to and athletes are no different.  Twitter and Facebook create more of a personal connection with fans and athletes have to learn the hard way how to properly use these social media websites.

Perhaps the biggest way social media has changed sports is the marketing opportunities that now exist.

Before social media, players might not receive the same endorsement opportunities they now have.

Currently, there are 5,550 athletes around the world that own a Twitter account.  American Football has the most athletes with 1,540 and Tennis has the least with 126.  Although American Football has the most athletes on Twitter, none of them are nearly as popular on Twitter as a soccer or tennis player might be.  In fact, Chad Ochocinco is the only NFL player of the top athletes that are followed on Twitter.

So why is this significant when it comes to marketing strategies?  In an interview with former Baltimore Raven long snapper Matt Katula from 2010, Katula shared with me the marketing strategies athletes are now using.  “With the NFL, because we wear helmets, most of our faces aren’t very recognizable,” Katula said.  “Sure, there are stars on every team that are recognized.  But do you ever notice how many NFL guys are on TV ads? Not many.  Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Tom Brady, and only a handful of others.  Because of this fact, Chad is using social media sites to make himself more recognizable to the everyday fan.”


Matt Katula (left) has played for the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, and Minnesota Vikings. Source:

Because Tennis players don’t have any equipment getting in the way of their face, they become more recognizable to the everyday fan and are therefore more marketable.

So what was media like for athletes before social media?  How do former athletes feel about social media?  Former Washington Redskin defensive end Todd Liebenstein shares his thoughts below.



So how can organizations cut down on distractions social media creates?  I think you have to educate athletes on proper use of social media.  It sounds cliché but in the end, social media is relatively new and athletes must learn on the fly about proper use of social media.