Why ego is as important as engagement on social media

24th February 2017 by Dan French

Up until this season, one reason brands turned to social media influencers (in my opinion) as opposed to Premier League athletes was not because of the lack of engagement but the lack of ego. Athlete platforms had become so controlled, so sanitised that Gen Y and Z found it difficult to trust the authenticity of the output.

The tide is changing; I believe a fight back is emerging from the Instagram and Snapchat platforms of Premier League athletes. A new wave of Gen Y ‘ballers’ is emerging ready to cast off their club shackles and expose their personalities.

This is the first Premier League season for a long time to see an uprising of athletes willing to share their true selves; we’re starting to get a glimpse of the self-confidence on the pitch, off the pitch. The likes of Ibrahimovic, Pogba, Giroud and Luiz are reminding fans (and brands) that it’s not just their feet that do the talking.

Fans are thus reminded that these guys are no different after all, they talk the same as they do, laugh at the same things and love football as much as they do. Patrice Evra’s ‘I love this game’ content series on Instagram encapsulates this better than anything else. It’s a strategy rooted in simplicity that is consistent and conversational.

Pat’s French teammate, Paul Pogba, is single-handedly reminding brands why athlete endorsement should and will always rule. Pogba is merging the worlds of sport, entertainment and technology with raw ego, he announced his move to Old Trafford via a music video with Stormzy and even has his own Twitter emoji.

If I take a walk down memory lane, it’s the mercurial Frenchman, Eric Cantona, that would become the reason I fell in love with football. Eric’s personality was replicated by the brand campaigns that endorsed him off it. Who can ever forget the Nike OOH ‘1966 was a great year for English football, Eric was born” campaign. Brave, bold, it summed up both brands.

The prospect of Eric in his pomp active across Instagram and Twitter would have been entertainment of the highest order. You’d imagine the majority of his wages would have been spent on fines, it would have caused a massive headache for the club, but for the fans and disruptive brands, it would have been content gold.

One of the reasons for this groundswell is the technology advances that are making video creation so accessible for athletes. Where athletes were once unsure about Vine and Periscope, the mass adoption of Instagram Stories and Snapchat has made it more acceptable for them to join the party.

As we’ve outlined previously on this blog, athletes not only need publicists who can manage sports desks and 24-hour rolling broadcast channels, they need publishers who can create content, design, animate, manage communities and listen.

Instant video is raw, real and relatable; there’s no fear of a journalist asking a difficult question or a publicist briefing instilling a sense of fear, athletes can share their true personalities which are driving more engagement, deeper relationships with fans and more opportunities for brands.

Fans don’t care about consuming polished production either; no one ever shares content because of the lighting rig or the fact that it was shot on a Sony Alpha as7. Shaky un-edited content is exactly what Gen Z and Y share, like and comment on so why should athletes be any different?
The key, in my opinion, is delivering a strategy that is consistent, conversational and collaborative with brands and platforms. Will we see brands shifting budget away from influencers as more athletes (and their teams) see the value of showing their true personality across platforms?
If you’re a brand or athlete that wants to create engaging content with ego across earned, own and paid channels, tweet me @french_dan.