Some athletes are really at the top of the social media game. Cristiano Ronaldo is considered one of the best soccer players in the world. He is also one of the top social media influencers as well. Between Instagram and Twitter, he has over 180 million followers. According to Forbes, Ronaldo has made $1 billion in sponsorship revenue just from social media. Serena Williams is considered one of the top athletes in the world. She has over 8 million followers on Instagram. This has led her to partner with Beats By Dre, Nike, and Chase to promote their products on social media. It is not all about securing product deals though. Former New York Yankee shortstop, Derek Jeter, uses his social media accounts to promote his charities. The Turn 2 Foundation focuses on creating healthier lifestyles for children. He has found out that his voice can reach more people via social media than any other sources. This helps to promote his work and ensure his legacy off the field.
Most athletes are considered public figures both on and off the playing field. They are held in the same regard as those in the entertainment industry. This recognition leads to additional responsibilities for the athlete. NBA star LeBron James is seen as a role model in the community. He uses his social media accounts to make political statements about the certain policies. San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick became a polarizing figure in 2016. He refused to stand for the national anthem as a protest against racial inequity. The National Football League was put in a precarious spot with a divided fan base. It is still too early to tell the impact of the kneeling protests of the NFL. However, it’s had no affect on the nation’s opinion of sports betting. Earlier this year, New Jersey started allowing online sportsbetting after the Supreme Court overruled a previous Bill earlier this year to allow individual states to create their own laws. Regardless of whether you agree with athletes and their social media activities, one thing we can all agree on is that betting on sports should be legal. Ex-athletes are already aligning themselves with sportsbooks in NJ. Charles Barkley made a big social media splash with his DraftKings Sportsbook commercials. The culture around athletes promoting themselves and betting brands is changing rapidly.
There is a fine line between being active on social media and representing a team brand. Athletes who sign contracts are technically employees of their clubs. In turn, these athletes must support a charity or organization that is more aligned with the values of the club. This can put the athlete in an uncomfortable position. Like with the Kaepernick protest, some owners did not support his actions while the athletes on the field did agree with it. The term role model is often thrown around with athletes. Many of them create a perfect image to sell to their fans. Former NBA star Charles Barkley once quipped, “I’m not paid to be a role model. Parents should be role models.” In the thirty years since that quote, athletes are accepting the role model position and using their influence on social media.
Athletes are getting smarter with their social media. It is not just about gaining followers and voicing their opinions. They are building their own brands for the future. Stepping out of the spotlight can be devastating for many athletes. It is not just ego-driven athletes out to promote their brand. Social media is now about income and maintaining their status after their playing days are over. Higher visibility will guarantee that the athlete can secure endorsement deals after retirement. Many athletes start to lay the foundation early in their careers. Some college athletes begin to build a small band of followers while still in school. This can also be a tricky slope as what they say and do must adhere to school policy. Many college athletes have been fined or dismissed for a tweet or post. These followers usually continue to support the athlete in the professional leagues. The best time for an athlete to increase followers is during their playing career. It is during this time that they have more national exposure to the media. This is why you see top athletes from all over the sports world using social media accounts. They know they have a limited time frame to grab as much attention as possible. The key is to hold on to those followers once they retire. Retirement can be a difficult prospect for many athletes. A strong social presence can secure endorsement deals for more financial stability.
Athletes are embracing social media at a record pace. These athletes are using their influence to express their views or promote a product. They are not only finding followers, but they are securing their financial future as well.
Garon Cockrell is the Founder and Editor of Pop Culture Beast and host of The Pop Culture Beast Show. He founded the site over seven years ago to have a place on the internet to write about the things he loved. Since then, Garon has become a best-selling author (Demonic and Other Tales), an award winning screenwriter (Best Screenplay 2013 Motor City Nightmares Film Festival), and a cast member on the top rated podcast, Never Not Funny.