Tanya Lee | The value of social media marketing in sports

Recently, I had a discussion, with Simon Crosskill on Hot 92FM’s Sports Grill. On the importance of social media as a sports marketing tool.

This topic has come to the forefront recently as KPMG tabled a report on the majority of the world’s top football leagues moving towards an entertainment model and utilising social media heavily in marketing the sport. Football is seen as the sports-­marketing benchmark and accounts for the lion’s share of the world’s sporting audience.

No surprises here. I spent upwards of a decade convincing sporting associations, including the National Basketball League and the Jamiaca Football Federation (JFF)/ Premier League Clubs Association (PLCA), that sports go beyond the pitch and that we must cater to a complete fan experience for TV, at the venue, and an increased loyal fan base.

The JFF and Windies cricket have been doing a creditable job of using social media to engage with and promote their respective sports.

My hope is that all local associations will begin to adopt this global trend of recognising social media as an important marketing tool. Athletes should also get into the game of ensuring that their social media brand is developed with consistent interaction with their fanbase.

Increasingly, companies both locally and overseas are incorporating influencer marketing in their advertising mix via using athletes and social media personalities to promote their products and services.


Athletes who have enormous reach on social media and who have developed a good rapport and trust with their followers are much sought after for brand promotions. They are seen as more credible than traditional advertising and can easily give a stamp of approval, to the public, on what products to buy, clothes to wear, places to eat or service to utilise.

Social media is a thriving marketplace where athletes earn big. The highest earner on Instagram is not Kim Kardashian or Kyle Jenner or Beyoncé. It’s Cristiano Ronaldo, the most followed person on the planet with over 187 million strong. Forbes estimates that Cristiano is Instagram’s top earner, with $47.8 million in one year from paid Instagram posts. This is more than the $34 million in salaries he pockets annually ­playing for Juventus!

For those who always mock him for being a pretty boy whose hair never goes out of place, please note that Clear Haircare pays him almost $1 million for each post. I guess it pays to sit pretty on social media after all.

And for those Messi fans who find this laughable, Cristiano is not alone. Messi is the second-­highest earner on Instagram, with $23 million earned over one year. He makes a little over half a million dollars per post.

David Beckham pockets a mean $10.7 million from his paid social media posts. Impressive, considering that he hasn’t kicked a ball professionally since 2013.

Neymar is Instagram’s sixth-­highest earner, with the less flashy Ronaldinho and Zlatan Ibrahimović also among Instagram’s top 10. They bank more than Kylie Jenner and Khloe Kardashian combined.

In the Caribbean, there are athletes with a sizeable social media following that make them great options for influencer marketing.

Usain Bolt, two years after retirement, has close to 10 million ­followers. Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo are in the three million club, and André Russell is currently two million strong.

Best of all is that social media is a free platform accessible to all, and if utilised effectively, can become a powerful promotion tool that goes well beyond traditional advertising.

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