March 15, 2022

How Social Media Changed How Fans Interact With Sport

Whether you are someone who likes to bet on sports or just watches them fanatically, it is impossible to ignore the impact that social media platforms of all forms have had on athletic competition, as well as how its is bet on and consumed in general. In the leadup to any big sporting event, or packed weekend fixture list, the online ether is abuzz with free bets offers touted by tipsters and experts via their feeds, as well as every opinion under the sun. This can all get a bit overwhelming for many sports bettors and fans, meaning that sometimes it is worth taking stock for a minute to think about exactly how social media has altered the sporting world, both for better and for worse.

Social media is everywhere, tracking every move that sports stars make, which helps them grow their personal brands but also eradicates any semblance of personal privacy.

More Access to Players and Teams Than Ever Before

The most obvious way that social media has altered the sporting landscape is the way in which it has brought the average fan so much closer to the teams and individual stars they love. Before social media, the only way fans could get an inside peek into a pro locker room or player abode was if a camera crew was invited there. Now, each and every player’s phone acts as a gateway to these special places, which used to be largely off-limits, but that is now shared with huge social media followings.

It is even possible for fans to actively interact with their favorite athletes via platforms such as Instagram Live, TikTok, and Snap Chat. The only downside of all this access is that many athletes are becoming overwhelmed by the exposure they receive. This has led to many top-level stars closing their social media accounts for a time or indefinitely as they go about trying to make sense of their rampant fame.

A Chance to Have Your Voice Heard

How many times have you heard people say, “I’m entitled to my opinion” in recent years? The chances are, quite a few. This is because platforms like Facebook and Twitter have given ordinary people the idea that their opinion is worth something, with those same people being encouraged to spout their beliefs as if they were verified facts – likes and shares emboldening them to go further and further.

For the large part, this has been a positive development, with sports fans emboldened to challenge contentious decisions made by the powers that run their beloved sports team.

Sports Journalism Changed Forever

One common criticism of modern-day sports journalists is that they appear to spend more time rehashing what’s said on Twitter rather than going out and finding fresh scoops. This has led to lots of newspaper back pages and sports sections resembling reconstituted social media feed fodder.

However, in some quarters, it is very much the case that social media has challenged media outlets to significantly up their game. This is in evidence at publications like The Athletic, which as a start-up subscription sports news service has taken the world by storm, bringing a blend of top-quality journalism, reminiscent of some sports journalism back in the day, and a super-modern interface, that ensures fans of certain sports and teams receive the targeted news stories they crave or never knew they needed.

Multimedia Now a Part of Matchday Experiences

There was a time when watching a big game was as simple as taking your seat in a stadium or doing the same at home in front of the TV. All that has changed, with most people now experiencing a game or match partly by watching what’s going on and partly via social media, where opinions and expert analysis are given in real-time.

This trend has been exacerbated by more and more people watching sport via streaming services like ESPN+ and DAZN. Such services are so agile and can be used simultaneously across so many different devices it is not unusual for a sports fan to watch multiple games at the same time while also scrolling through social media feeds at the same time.

All this has somewhat taken away from the social aspects of spectating sports but will be a difficult trend to reverse, with people seemingly ingratiated with their endless streams of information and live-action.

Is a workout really a workout unless you’ve logged every single aspect of it on your social media feeds?

Fan Groups and Clubs Go Social

Most pro sports teams these days have global footprints. This is thanks to the endless reach of the internet and social media. Fan clubs and supporter groups that previously met in a club or venue can now congregate online, meaning that millions can join the atmosphere and camaraderie that previously only existed for a lucky few who lived in a certain city or district.

While this expansion of supporter groups has been viewed as largely positive and healthy, there are some fans who believe that the importance of the local community is being lost. This is a fine line that many fan clubs and supporter groups continue to tread online, as they attempt not to have their identities completely eroded.

Emulating Stars by Building an Online Presence

Another way in which sports fans are leveraging social media to have their voices heard is by becoming social media stars themselves. This has been particularly evident in sports such as football, where fan-led YouTube platforms like AFTV have completely outstripped the official social media channels run by the club itself.

This is similarly the case with sports such as MMA, where podcast hosts such as Joe Rogan dictate the storylines that are given major airtime rather than the UFC itself. As live streaming platforms such as Twitch and YouTube continue to grow in prominence, it’s quite possible that the future of sports media and content creation will be fan-led, to be streamed and posted on live social media feeds that have no connection whatsoever to legacy media channels.

About the author 

Kyrie Mattos

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