Summer is a time for BBQs, road trips, and perfecting selfie stick techniques. Athletes are no different. During the summer months, most professional athletes return to their hometown for quality time with family and friends. Others use the break to enjoy their acquired wealth and travel the world, doing things they’ve dreamed of doing.
Social media has allowed an unprecedented level of access to the sports world in relation to life from the athlete’s perspective. Last week, Forbes ran an insightful article in which this trend was detailed. What’s remarkable about the intersection of sports and social media is that it’s being used to enhance an already-thriving fan experience. For example, a photo was posted on Twitter of Lebron James and Kevin Love meeting in a cabana. That photo, shared by a fan, unwittingly confirmed what Love would state himself on The Players’ Tribune a few days later.
While social media can bring out vitriol and keyboard courage from the critics, here are some athletes who I see that are wisely utilizing social media to build their brand.
- Odell Beckham Jr.: Many of the videos that well-known media sites post of OBJ come directly from his IG page. Beckham is experiencing the level of exposure that rookies rarely see. Is it his uncanny talent to catch any ball you throw at him? Is it the fact he’s gifted at multiple sports? Is it his personality that draws fans worldwide, regardless of what team they root for? It’s a combination of all that. Beckham Jr. is a beast on the field and he’s on pace to become one of the most popular NFL stars across multiple platform.
- Dwyane Wade: I don’t follow him personally but enough people that I follow do. I can’t not see his posts. Upon further observation, the $20 million 12 year veteran has a social media presence that’s representative of every aspect of his life. Fatherhood, marriage, friendships, opinions, it’s all there. Wade recently hosted a Twitter Q&A with some clever responses; including one that surely made a fan’s entire year. The great thing about Wade’s social media is he’s an elite player who doesn’t ruffle as many feathers as his best friends. He’s like the guy in college who was cool with everybody and no one ever had a bad thing to say.
- Sydney Leroux: If the world was more into womens’ sports as a whole, I think World Cup Champion Sydney Leroux would have way more followers than she does. By comparison, Alex Morgan has almost 2M Twitter followers, even though she’s not an active Tweeter. But between Twitter and IG, Leroux has just over a million fans. I admit that I was even ignorant to how beautiful she is.
Because that’s the primary reason why men follow female athletes anyway.I watched a few World Cup games. The USA Womens team killed it, especially in the final match. We may not actively talk about womens’ sports, but there are still thousands of girls and boys that are motivated and inspired by Leroux and her teammates.
- Serena Williams: When it’s all said and done, Serena Williams will be one of the greatest athletes we’ve ever seen. She’s right up there with Peyton Manning, Lebron James, and Floyd Mayweather (ugh) in terms of maintaining elite performance over a career. Williams’ continued excellence in tennis is incredible. Williams never shies away from her roots of being a black girl from Compton. She’s un-apologetically black and of course, that pisses them off. Although the summer is her IN season, I had to include her on the list because she’s the most visible female athlete in the world. Williams is far more active on social media than her female counterparts in other sports. But even with all the accolades and achievements, she’s not above posting a funny meme that makes us feel like she’s still one of us.
- Dwayne Johnson: I was torn on adding The Rock to the list because he’s not really “The Rock” anymore. In the August issue of Esquire, he talks about how acting has become his sole focus. Johnson has the unique ability to corner multiple markets because the sport from which he comes is so massive and diverse. It’s also helping him in Hollywood. Not only does Johnson cover the lighthearted and the inspiration through his social media, but this guy has some of the funniest hashtags I’ve ever seen!
It was tough to leave LeBron James off this list considering his very own IG post gave us this hilarious meme. What I do respect about Lebron is that he goes dark on social media in the offseason. He uses that time to refine his unmatched skills and then pops back in October, ready to go; both on the court and off.
Athletes have various platforms to leverage exposure and brand recognition off the court. The key to any athlete successfully managing social media is to not only be organic and authentic, but to be engaged with fans and followers. Social media is a two-way street.