Social media has hit the big time. Since 2005, when MySpace really took off, more and more people are bypassing traditional sources of information (TV, radio, newspapers) in favor of cutting-edge websites that exude “hip,” “chic,” and “in.”
How else can you explain the growth of YouTube, Facebook, and the latest social media darling, Twitter?
On the surface, the use of Twitter appears to be as harmless as its bird logos. However, in the summer of 2009, the microblogging phenomenon drew the ire of National Football League officials in August. (NFL). In particular, some coaches, managers and league officials fear that 140-character “tweets” could compromise sensitive game plans, injury reports and sensitive marketing information. Certain NFL teams are even banning tweets during training camp, threatening players with fines and suspensions if they don’t line up.
What is the controversy really about?
Twitter’s speed and massive instant messaging capabilities scare head coaches. While a team can manage press conferences and dictate press releases, Twitter gives soccer fans unfiltered access to their on-field heroes. It represents a transition from commando-controlled media to a crude kind of citizen investigation. While professional sports journalism still has its place, modern technology (laptops, notebooks, cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs)) allows ordinary people to bypass the local sports broadcast, ESPN, the NFL Network and even the own teams to get what they want. want.
The NFL in a Web 2.0 World.
NFL franchises are understandably sensitive about their on-field operations, but media leaks and other breaches of confidentiality will happen with or without Twitter. In the age of 24/7 news cycles, a fragmented multimedia environment exposes professional athletes to a host of “independents” (bloggers, freelancers, paparazzi, etc.). For better or worse, the NFL front office can’t stop intrepid reporters and investigative journalists from seeking out good stories.
The NFL and other sports leagues must maintain the highest level of integrity to survive. As America’s number one spectator sport, soccer is particularly susceptible to issues that can compromise its image. However, instead of attacking Web 2.0, perhaps you should take a look at the growing presence of gambling around the game (fantasy football leagues, weekly pools, sports betting, etc.) and the effect it has on society.
In Favor of the Freedom of the Player.
Despite some highly publicized tabloid incidents, NFL players are mostly responsible, hard-working men who represent their teams with honor and dignity. It’s hard to believe that someone who has sacrificed so much to rise to the top of his profession would knowingly risk his career with inappropriate tweets. Instead, most players see Twitter as a way to connect with fans and promote themselves off the football field without the usual involvement of team agents, coaches and publicists.
Twitter as a future partner?
The NFL is possibly the best marketed sport in the world. Between September and February, it pretty much dominates Sundays in the US, with the pre-game and post-game hype always carrying over to non-game days. So why the sudden Twitter paranoia? After all, weren’t team GMs gleefully tweeting their winning picks on draft day this year? Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has a Twitter account!
Like anything else in business, perhaps NFL twitterphobia boils down to money. As financially strong as it is today, the league still doesn’t know how to monetize Twitter. Still, you should relax: Twitter’s owners (Obvious) are also looking for a viable business model that will ensure long-term viability and keep it out of the hands of a giant media conglomerate. Perhaps the two organizations can come together to create better brand awareness and shape their respective images.
Given his reputation as a marketing genius, the NFL’s reaction to Twitter is a bit strange. Sports leagues cannot control the flow of news any more than the government or the military can. Your best option may be to update your mobile technology policies, especially on game days. For your hardcore Twitter phobias, perhaps the time has come for the league to offer general Twitter guidelines that coaches, players, managers and support staff can live with.