Twitter, sports stars & freedom of speech

  • 1
  • September 28, 2012
Matthew Jackson

Matthew Jackson

Planning Director

Twitter has landed a few sports stars in hot waterAt Branded3, pretty much everyone uses at least one social media platform of their choice.

Personally, I don’t “like” Facebook, but since coming to Branded3, I have increasingly used Twitter both for work purposes (it’s great for keeping an eye on Google updates and other industry news) but also for personal interests.

I follow a lot of sports stars, especially in golf, and Twitter is a great way to not only get up-to-date information on scores and news, but to actually interact with the players too.

Plenty of celebs have taken to Twitter to get closer to their fans and ultimately enhance their popularity and fame; but sports stars have really embraced Twitter more than most. For some sports stars media engagement is a breeze, but for most, they didn’t get into the sport to receive the celebrity status and the endless media attention which comes with it.

For me, as an ex-competitive swimmer I don’t think I could handle or deal with the fame and attention which has befallen some of swimming’s biggest stars such as Rebecca Adlington and Ellie Simmonds; I was simply in the sport to swim and compete.

Luckily, there has been an improvement in the media relations training and support which sports stars now receive. For example, towards the end of my swimming career, lottery funding meant that me and my team mates could attend seminars and workshops on how to deal with the press, which really helped us understand what we should and shouldn’t be saying , and how comment can be taken out of context.

But because Twitter is such a personal social platform, and a comment can be posted to the Twittersphere in a matter of seconds, it can sometimes land sports stars in hot water.

An example of this happening recently is Lewis Hamilton tweeting out some of McLaren’s important telemetry data. He thought his followers would be interested in some of the technology behind the race, but his team and other teams thought perhaps he had leaked some secret data that could be used to gain those vital few tenths of seconds during the race.

Hamilton's Twitter Telemetry Data

In the end his team decided he had not given out anything that was too sensitive but if he had, perhaps another team could have won the Grand Prix that weekend. Despite the removal of the controversial tweet, by that time millions of people had seen and re-tweeted the comment, and the data was out there in the public domain forever.

Many players have lost jobs such as Northampton Saints hooker Brett Sharman for “inappropriate” tweets, which he would have put down to friendly “banter” that usually only stays in the dressing room between friends.

Kevin Pietersen also lost his England cap after a parody Twitter account was made about him, allegedly by some of his England team mates. Originally, it was claimed Kevin was holding up England talks due to his annoyance at this mickey-take, but in the end he was dropped from the team because of an “old fashioned” text message he sent to South African players badmouthing England and Andrew Strauss.

These examples show how important it is for public figures to watch what they’re saying on Twitter, although they want to be themselves and let their fans get to know who they really are behind all the tabloid stories; there has to be a balance to what they’re saying.

There are however some great sports people out there striking the right balance and enjoying interacting with their fans. Some notable embracer’s of Twitter include Danny Cipriani who commented on the BBC:

“I enjoy interacting with them. You can say what you want and I’m pretty honest. A lot of young players ask questions and it’s always nice to help them. You get some eggheads, but it’s alright.”

My advice to sports stars would be to stop and think about every tweet before posting it; if you’re in doubt about whether you should be saying it, give it five minutes and phrase it in a different way or ask a social media expert.

When you’re a top sports star, media attention isn’t a choice; it’s a given. It’s a fine line to walk between being fun, engaging and controversial enough to create discussion; and sparking a media frenzy which calls for your career downfall!

My Top 10 Twitter Sports Stars

So, if you’re looking for a few sports stars to follow on Twitter who create debate and give a great insight into the sporting world, then check out my recommendation below for the top 10 Twitter sports stars (in no particular order):

  • Ian Poulter – Good golfer, great Tweeter, with the Ryder cup starting today there could be some good action here.
  • Lewis Hamilton – Great pics of some of the cars he drives and you can see some of the F1 info (as mentioned above) if you are quick!
  • Joey Barton – Where does he get some of these quotes?
  • Michael Vaughan – Some great cricket commentary insights and a great Yorkshire man, perhaps avoid while he is on Strictly, however!
  • Andy Murray – Another prolific Twitter star with some good insights into the boring life of a tour tennis player.
  • Tony Hawk – Often tweets promotions such as the international Twitter hunt to find prizes near you.
  • Will Carling – Some genuinely insightful and funny tweets from “bum face”.
  • Rio Ferdinand – Sometimes controversial but some interesting football tweets.
  • David “bumble” Lloyd – Need to find out what Beefy is eating in the Sky Sports cricket commentary box? Bumble will put his own spin on it.
  • Dan Walker – Not exactly a sports star, but some good insights from the BBC presenter.

I’m sure there are a few I’ve missed here so if there are any you think are worth a mention, how about adding them in the Facebook comment section below!