Monday, April 13, 2009


Last week, Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports discussed how NFL teams are going deeper into background checking of potential draft picks by perusing their social network profiles. While taking a peek at Facebook, MySpace and other networking profiles is quite common for most employers, the fact that professional sports leagues are following suit is all the more alarming for future prospects.

In reading the piece, it made me think about how the leagues themselves are participating in social networks.

If there’s a pro outfit that has unquestionably made the most of the social networking scene, it’s the NBA. As of this post, the league’s Facebook page has over 700,000 fans, hundreds of official photos and videos and thousands of fan contributions (photos, videos, discussion threads, comments, etc). Plus, likely because of press received for some of its players using Twitter – which has been all the rage as of late within the marketing and advertising community without people having a concrete idea of its purpose – several teams in the Association and some media personalities have jumped on the bandwagon as a way to increase immediate fan interaction.

So what has this meant for the league?

For starters, social networking has created tremendous buzz around the games, even as an 82-game season can get long on the tooth for fan bases that won’t enjoy the postseason. In particular with Facebook’s popularity having soared in the last two years, their presence gives instantaneous feedback to any and everything NBA… even if that feedback tends to be nothing more than nonsensical rants that have nothing to do with the uploaded clip or status update.

The NBA has the youngest fan base of all the major sports and for the past twenty years, has been the most successful in bringing in younger fans of basketball into the fray. The A’s success thus far in social networking shouldn’t come as much of a shock.

What is a bit of a surprise is the lack of involvement from other pro leagues. You’d think that for a league that is slowly regaining its footing in the sports landscape that the NHL would be a bit more active on their pages (though having over 100,000 fans on Facebook isn’t too shabby).

You’d think that the most popular league in the United States, the NFL, would dominate Facebook, MySpace and others as they dominate television. The truth of the matter is that outside of fan-created groups and pages, the American Idol of sports doesn’t have much to speak of outside of its own internet portal and media partners.

You’d think because of the regional connections baseball teams create, Major League Baseball would be a leader in this realm. Its Advanced Media sets the bar for the Internet among the professional sports leagues across the globe, not just the United States. Yet, while its page of MLB Network is updated rather quickly, it seems as if the league hasn’t discovered the full potential of social networking just yet.

So, beyond what I might be able to see here, what are your thoughts on pro sports and the social media world? Is there room for improvement for the NBA? Should the other leagues continue to merely dip their hands in the pool or just dive in already? Does social networking increase your interest in games and their participants?

Say What?!?!: Baseball lost not only one of the best voices in sports, but anywhere in television. Respect due to Harry Kalas.

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