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Sports & Social Media: 5 things sports properties can learn from AS Roma, Kanye & Zlatan


In April we had the four European Champions League (CL) quarter finals. The second legs of three games were epic. Roma beat Barcelona in one of the greatest comebacks in CL history. Juventus almost did the same against Real Madrid, while Liverpool destroyed Manchester City 5-1 over two legs. Bayern Munich won the fourth quarterfinal, a relatively straight forward one-sided game. The social media accounts of all these football clubs were churning out real time content. Of the four match winners, Roma won the content/social media game hands down, as can be seen in the below table.

How come Roma, with ~3 times less followers (reach) than Bayern, 6 times less than Liverpool & 19 times less than Madrid had a staggering 185 times, 11 times and 16 times more engagement (retweets & likes) than the three clubs, respectively? Differentiated, fun & engaging content!

We are being fed so much content every single day that unless there is something unique about your content, consumers will ignore it. As a top sports property (sports team or player) you can get millions of social media followers because of the power of your brand. However, unless your content captures users' attention they wont engage with it (like, retweet). Engagement is king. If you are getting engagement, if people are sharing your content, you will automatically get reach. Otherwise, having all the followers in the world is useless if the content is not worth talking about.

Key to Producing Engaging Content

Engaging content has one or more of the following:

  1. Unique: different from standard content being churned out on social media

  2. Behind the scenes & un-curated: Real content that connects followers to the sports property

  3. Dramatic: Captures real time emotions, especially after a win or loss

  4. Plays on current social trends

  5. Ironic/audacious: as opposed to the standard, bland, low risk boring content being put out to not offend anyone

AS Roma

Below are some of Roma's twitter posts during & after the CL second leg win over Barcelona.

Tweet: Final Whistle

Emotional & random, posted right after the final whistle of the historic win against Barcelona

If you dont love me at my worst, you dont deserve me at my best

Funny, self-deprecating & playing up on current social trends.

Roma got so many likes, replies and shares not just through its own following (reach) but also through viral reach as friends of friends kept viewing, liking & retweeting its great content.

Roma is building a digital voice that is engaging. Even though it does not fall in the top 10 most supported European clubs globally, very soon it will build a large social media following due to its different & engaging content. Roma used the CL quarter final against Barcelona - a big game with high viewership - to get their content out there.

Kanye West

For a celebrity or sports star, its not about being exclusive & hard to reach, its about your fans/followers/audience being able to interact with you, getting to know you better, being able to relate to you & finding common ground.

A great example is Kanye West. Some of his tweets are truly brilliant and not what you would expect from a celebrity. You can see that he himself tweets rather than leaving it to a social media team. He comments on current social events, is audacious and gives his point of view. He provides insight to the man behind one of the icons of our times & is instantly relatable.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Another icon, Zlatan has built a great persona around being the best, doing amazing stuff on & off the field and building up on it on social media.