What has Social Media provided for athletes? For some it has assisted with their career and for others it’s had a detrimental effect. The positives and negatives all relate and impact on the athlete’s ‘Personal Branding’. The growth of social media has changed the way professional athletes develop their personal brand. This aspect of their career is exceptionally important as it affects their marketability, popularity and sponsorship/endorsement opportunities.

Catalyst Public Relations published a study which found that sports fans are 55% more likely to purchase a particular brand that their favourite athlete, whom they are following mentions it on Facebook or Twitter

Jeremy Lin, NBA point guard of the Houston Rockets is a prime example of an athlete who has effectively managed his brand since he shot to stardom after an impressive run of performances for the New York Knicks. In the mecca of basketball, New York City, Lin’s sudden rise won him thousands and thousands of fans worldwide and the ‘LINSANITY’ craze caught on.

During the NBA playoffs Jeremy Lin hosted ‘Fan Appreciation Week’ using different social media platforms, giving him the opportunity to give back to his fans that have supported him throughout his career. A simple gesture which goes a long way in maintaining and building his popularity.

Jeremy Lin - Fan Appreciation Week

Facebook Q&A

Monday started with the Facebook Q&A, which featured 18,424 Likes, 124 Shares and 5605 Comments. As Jeremy Lin is of Taiwanese descent he has a large following of fans around Asia. To capitalise on this he has an English and Chinese Facebook page which reaches both fan bases. Unfortunately Lin wasn’t able to respond to all comments, but seemed to answer as many as he could during the time.

The Q&A was a simple and effective way for Lin to reach and engage with his fans while giving his followers the opportunity to ask any question, within reason and be answered. Questions ranged from obscure ones like “Chuck Norris VS Liam Neeson in a fight ….. Who wins?” to “Funniest guy in the Rockets?

Jeremy Lin - Fan Appreciation Week - Day 1 Facebook Q&A

Rockets Artwork Contest

This was the first contest of the ‘Appreciation Week’, which involved Twitter. Followers were required to send in any Rockets artwork they had created with five followers chosen to win a signed ‘Linsanity Movie Poster’.

This contest also had a dual purpose. Not only did it promote fans to interact with Lin, it also created an avenue to promote the upcoming ‘Linsanity Movie’. We have also seen this occur in posts from Teams such as the Golden State Warriors, where they promoted sponsors while engaging and interacting with their fans, providing the ever present dual purpose of social media. As we can see from the Topsy.com graph below the @JLin7 handle was mentioned 941 times during the day two contest.

Jeremy Lin - Fan Appreciation Week - @JLin7 mentions

Instagram Impersonation Contest

Fan Appreciation Week Day 3: Rockets Impersonation Contest! Post (and tag @jlin7) a picture on instagram of you impersonating a Rockets player(s). Heres my sample of @jharden13 on the left and @chandler_parsons on the right. Be creative and winners announced tonight!

Let the impersonations begin! Day 3 featured a Rockets impersonation contest via Instagram.

SINA Weibo Q&A

Lin hosted another Q&A, this time on the Chinese micro blogging site SINA Weibo. It was evident that Lin made a major effort to maintain his global appeal especially in Asia. In 2012 Lin returned to Taiwan to participate and instruct a local youth basketball camp with the assistance of NBA player David Lee – making good on a promise he made earlier in the year.

Multiple Choice Quiz via Facebook

We are back on Facebook for the final day of ‘Appreciation Week’ and the fans have to answer a Multiple Choice Quiz and the first person to answer them all right wins a signed pair of shoes.

Jeremy Lin - Fan Appreciation Week - Day 5 - Facebook Quiz

While this post received 7518 Likes, 137 Shares and 629 Comments, it didn’t experience the same success as the Day 1 Q&A. Besides the dilemma of going through the comments to find the winners of the competition (Lin mentioned he got a headache looking through the submissions), the quiz format would only reach those who waited for the post, thus limiting it’s reach. When social media competitions prompt followers to be the first to answer or post you are neglecting your casual followers who aren’t constantly connected. Having a competition which allows followers to post a simple entry such as the Twitter art work and Instagram impersonation you are now allowing the majority of your followers to participate.

Looking over the events of ‘Appreciation Week’, Lin has proved how simple it is using social media to interact with his fans and in the process thank them for their support. The ‘LINSANITY’ craze may have been lighting in a bottle with Lin’s move to Houston but through the use of simple and effective competitions and the continual interaction on a regular basis, Lin has be able maintained his popularity globally. The great use of social media combined with regular visits and accommodating his Asian fan base has in turn increased his marketability and improved his chances of garnering endorsements.

Lin’s Volvo Commercial

Lin heads out for some ‘street-ball’ with David Lee

Athletes in many sports worldwide have a short career span. What social media has provided is another avenue off the field or court to develop an athlete’s brand. It has also allowed middle tier players in many leagues to increase their popularity with their personality and social media savvy competitions to increase their name recognition to heights only reserved for the superstars.

Have a read of the ‘Social Media Guidelines’ post, which outlines what athletes need to consider when posting to maintain a positive image.

What other athletes do you feel have done a great job in maintaining their personal brand through Social Media? We would love to hear your thoughts.

Lin takes part in #HerosHangout on Google+

Lin also recently took part in a Google Hangout as a part of the Veteran’s United channel, where he discussed life as an NBA player and conversed with military heroes from across the US.