The Starting Lineup: 5 Social Media Plays For Athletic Brands

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I grew up playing sports. After my elementary soccer career stalled out, a brief, yet horrific volleyball stint and time spent playing lacrosse at the varsity level; one fact remains. Athletic communities are vibrant hotbeds of participation.

Anastasia Dextra sports marketing

Me, at the height of my soccer stardom.

Few things compare to the pandemonium and exuberant joy of attending a live sporting event. However, if you’re skilled, those same levels of excitement can be translated and even strengthened in communities online. With that being said, I’m going to show you how to create a team of evangelists, showcase your brand and make community members more invested with my go to social media plays for the athletics space.

If I had to employ a team of tools to enhance an athletic brand’s online presence, this would be my starting lineup. Ensure social media success for your sports organization with these five strategies.

Showcase Your Stars

Every athletic achievement is inevitably followed by a celebration of its star players. And, the same should be true when it comes to social media. In community engagement for sports and athletic brands, it is highly recommended, nay essential, that you highlight all those whom contribute to your success. Yes, that includes your fans.

It’s trite, but true. No celebrity or beloved brand would be anywhere without the support of their admirers. Extend the fanfare generally reserved for the Derek Jeter’s and MJ’s of the world to the all-star cheering section that is your audience. Celebrating their personal stories, victories and connections with your athletic brand will only strengthen their fandom. Additionally, this strategy will encourage and inspire more passive fans to share their passion for your organization. At the end of the day, it is important to take part in the successes of your community in much the same way as they take part in yours.

Root for your home team using some or all of the following tactics:

  • Highlight a fan of the week with an online shout out.
  • Serendipitously surprise fans who are active on social media with tokens of appreciation (i.e.: branded swag).
  • Chronicle a day in the life of a diehard fan with a digestible, documentary-style clip.
  • Celebrate their individual achievements. If you’re an athletic apparel brand for runners and one of your online fans set a new PR, congratulate them!
  • And finally, our simplest and by far most effective tactic: talk to them online!

Get Participatory

Much like professional athletics, social media is a team sport. Motivate your fans by inviting them to participate in your online content. Create simple calls to action that solicit your audience’s input and repurpose the content dynamically. In creating new content for one of our clients, an elite sports series, we occasionally ask community members to impart a piece of advice they’d share with first-time runners. We then turn their responses into professionally branded quote images and share them online while crediting the original sources. This engagement tactic resulted in hundreds of likes, dozens of re-shares and a reinvigorated sense of community. We call that a triple win.

Sports digital marketing

By affording our client’s fans the same treatment given to elite athletes, their audience felt valued and our client saw a marked rise in the levels of fan engagement on multiple social channels. The takeaway: when it comes to the social media playing field, don’t be a ball hog. Don’t make your posts all about you; instead, diversify your posts by routinely sharing your community’s insights. It pays dividends to crowd-source your content.

Be Emotional

sports digital marketing

One of the biggest draws of participatory sports are the gamut of emotions it can elicit from athletes and fans alike. No matter if it’s the thrill of an underdog performance or the pain of defeat, embracing the various states triggered by athletic involvement is vital for well-rounded content. Many sports brands stray away from presenting emotional extremes in their social media outputs. And that’s a big mistake.
Smiles, tears and the occasional bruise are all realities for those who participate and/or engage in athletic endeavors. Strive to produce content that addresses different stages of the athletic journey and the emotions they evoke. For example, you could write a blog post on how to bounce back after being sidelined by an injury or offer strategies to combat fatigue by mixing up your workout. Appealing to the emotional journey of your audience asserts your brand as an invaluable authority and resource in the athletic space and connotes authenticity– a characteristic people crave in their online and personal lives.

Rep Your City

sports digital marketing

Every great sports team or brand has a good origin story–and that tale of genesis always has a birthplace. Hometown pride is a key component to the success of professional athletics. People tend to celebrate and align themselves with where they came from. The success of the Chicago Blackhawks is not only deemed a victory for the organization, but the city of Chicago as a whole. The hometown connection proves to deepen fan allegiance. And in some cases, is the determining factor for fandom in the first place. Further ingratiate yourself with your local community by showcasing your city in your social media posts.

Don’t Be A Spectator

sports digital marketing

There are tons of spectator sports–basketball and football, for example. Social media is not one of them. This brand of media is deemed social for a reason. You must interact with others in order to establish an online presence and active audience. Set yourself up for social media wins with consistent and regular fan engagement and dynamic interactions with sports-minded individuals and complementary brands. These practices will keep you abreast of new developments in the space, allow you to establish and maintain a loyal community and can even supply you with ideas for new content.

Now that you have a new set of social media plays, it’s time to get your head in the game and put them to practice! Still in need of some community engagement coaching? Contact the Lightspan team for more online pointers.


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Coming to Lightspan Digital with an arts and entertainment background, Ana has a proven knack for connecting, sustaining, and engaging communities online and off with show-stopping content creation. As a graduate of DePaul University’s Media and Cinema Studies program, Ana is adept at deciphering which images can best communicate a brand’s goals in a mediated setting; and keenly aware of the ways in which a brand can generate original content and function as its own media outlet.
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