Rooting for a Social Sports Team

January 6th, 2012 by Jamie Porter

For a sports team, Twitter can certainly create hype among fans before a big game. But what happens when the team requires each individual player to join the conversation from their own handle?

Professional lacrosse team, the Philadelphia Wings will soon find out, when they become the first U.S. sports team to create jerseys that swap out players’ last names for their Twitter handles.

With a focus on increasing social media presence, the campaign has noble intentions: The stunt is already calling attention to a team (and league) with a relatively limited following. Ticket sales may increase, but the Wings will not ball-hog monetary benefits. After the jerseys’ February debut, the team will auction them off and donate proceeds to the American Cancer Society.

But is requiring 28 lacrosse players to tweet the best way to connect with fans? We can all recall instances of professional athlete and celebrity social media blunders. According to Forbes, team management is taking preventative measures by requiring Twitter training attendance for all players.

It will be interesting to see how closely the Twitter accounts are screened and monitored. Off the field, each player has individual opinions that may not represent the ideal image of the team’s brand. The Wings may have a discerning eye for what sentiments are Twitter-appropriate, but a major slip-up could have extensive backlash.

Hopefully a crisis communication plan is in place for those, but recent trends suggest fans might find less severe mistakes endearing, even. Trendwatching.com lists “Flawsome” as a top-12 crucial trend: “Brands that are honest about their flaws, that show some empathy, generosity, humility, flexibility, maturity, humor and dare we say it, some character and humanity.”

Perhaps this trend’s origins are in social media, as spontaneous and instantaneous messaging is naturally edited less thoroughly. I’m rooting for the @PhillyWings, and other sports teams making this leap into social media.

Is this campaign a good idea, or too much of a risk? What do you think?

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