Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic’s Social Media Competition

Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer occupy the top three spots in the tennis ranks

The tennis playing Cerberus of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic has taken their competition and dominance of tennis outside of the white lines and into the world of social media marketing.  All three of these tennis greats use facebook, twitter, and have personal websites on which they compete for fans. Online fans are important because they will support the players’ sponsors, their charities, and themselves as they travel the world. This will improve the player’s brand values.
Here are some numbers that show their dominance in the online world. The triple-threat combines for a total of nearly 20,000,000 fans on facebook. The fourth most influential tennis player online, Andy Murray, has only 460,000 fans. As an aspiring tennis professional, a lifelong tennis fan, and a student of the Medill Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program at Northwestern University, I have particular interest and insight into the way in which Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic have managed to build their fan base and brand through the use of social media.
One way that these athletes connect on a personal level to their fans is through their pictures and videos. Rather than using the professional pictures one would find in a magazine, they upload pictures from their mobile phones, taken up close by themselves or their friends. Under the photos, they give personal, detailed, often funny descriptions of their daily life and entourage.  This makes fans feel that they are also part of the team, and have an intimate view of the life of their favorite player. The videos deliver the figurative and literal message that the fans are part of their intimate circle. For example, on November 1, 2009 Roger Federer posted this video in which he said directly to the camera:
Hey guys, its me again, after six weeks of no tournaments I’m playing again in Basel Switzerland, …where I used to be a ball boy…it’s been a long time, but here we go again. See you later guys, bye bye.”
 Rafael Nadal uploads similar style videos. Here’s a recent one.
Novak Djokovic gives fans a look at his jokester personality through his videos. Rather than talking directly to fans, they are often funny videos of him and his friends that would otherwise never be seen on T.V or at matches.  Here’s a link to these videos.
In addition to using videos and pictures, the three athletes can connect with fans and build their likeability through their words. For example, they can show good sportsmanship through congratulating another top player on a tournament win, or help another player promote a charity event through twitter. Last month, Andy Roddick’s agent passed away unexpectedly. Novak Djokovic’s tweet on October 20th read,    
@andyroddick Andy,we are all feeling sorry for your loss.Ken has always been a true entertainer and respectful person. Stay strong..
Although I’m sure such tweets from the players are heartfelt, don’t think they aren’t also aware that this increases their likeability among fans and in turn their brand value. Such tweets to other players, individuals, and organizations act as a form of self-promotion. Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal are all masters of self-promotion and marketing.
They can also use twitter or facebook for push marketing. Here was a tweet from Rafael Nadal promoting his “Drink Responsibly” campaign with Bacardi Rum: “Win a chance to serve me for real. Check out ‘Ace Rafa’http://on.fb.me/vN91mO.”
A couple of interesting notes to make about tweets like this from Rafa. First, he shares a link to his facebook site in order to get fans on multiple platforms. Second, Rafa includes every tweet in both Spanish and English, so as not to alienate any group, especially his core fan base in Spain. Djokovic and Federer similarly link up their social sites and use language skillfully.
The three stars also link up their social network sites to their main, personal website in strategic ways. On November 11, 2011, for example, Djokovic sent out a tweet with a link to his site on which he wrote a letter to fans. It read,
Dear fans and friends, sadly i have to inform you that i have withdrawn from the further tournament. I have pushed myself to the limit by playing, and after the match yesterday my shoulder got worse. For this reason, i have to put my health first and withdraw even though my urges as a professional player are making me want to play until the last drop of energy. I am very sorry for all of you who bought tickets and wanted to come to watch me play. My season has been long and tiring, i played all of my matches at my highest level, and now my body is aching for recovery. Hoping for your understanding and support,
Love 
Nole”
Rather than waiting for fans to read an article online about his withdrawal, Novak Djokovic wants to control the message as he would a backhand down-the line. Facebook, twitter, and personal websites give the triple-threat this control. In addition to being the head marketer for themselves, social media gives the trio the role of Public Relations specialist.  
For celebrities, getting fans (consumer) to follow them on multiple platforms is very important, as it builds brand value and allows celebrities the choice of distribution channel depending on the kind of message he/she is delivering.

Josh Graves
Undergraduate IMC
Follow me on Twitter @joshgraves4

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