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Cotterill Punishment

By Patrick Kavanagh, Head of Sponsorship and Experiential Marketing

October 21, 2011 | 5 min read

It was strange, but so vivid. The juxtaposition, it seemed like a gap, a gap that was a decade wide.

I was doing a little reading at the end of the day, catching up on some social media news and keeping tabs on my Twitter feed. An interesting article popped up on Twitter. It was a piece on how the NFL has become the most progressive social media giant in the sporting world. This didn’t really surprise me as I had read a while back that the NFL has social media education programmes for players. They teach things like how to promote themselves and the league, how to converse with fans, and what may be deemed inappropriate. Is it perfect? Not at all. But what it does do is set guidelines so players can bring the fans closer to the game, which is a big challenge for sports in modern times.

They certainly have had incidents, such as the example of Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall making ill-advised tweets in the wake Osama Bin Laden’s death whilst implying 9/11 conspiracy’s. These are isolated, however, as with all forms of social media. Out of millions of bog standard tweets you may get one that raises eyebrows, at times, across the globe. So what does the NFL do? They treat these as isolated incidents and fine or punish that individual accordingly. Seems sensible right?

Well off we move to the world of football in England, where they may as well pull out the ol’ school cane and punish those professional athletes before they even start.

Just as I saw the tweet about the NFL, I saw that Steve Cotterill, the new manager of Nottingham Forrest, has set a fine of £1,000 per word for every tweet one of his players makes about the club. Pretty progressive eh? We have a manager of an underperforming club suggesting that, "I don't want any players or staff Facebooking or Twittering about the club or they will be fined that's for sure.”

So there you have it. Club representatives that can’t talk about the club they play for. They are in no way able to promote the club or talk to a fan about the club. You know, those fans that basically fund the club and those players. Short sighted methinks. Especially rich after Cotterill said, "I'm not the big saviour – the saviour will be the 20,000 fans who come here every week."

Finally, he went on to say, "They can Twitter about anything else, talk about their cars or anything else they want to do – but not about the club." Yep, I’m sure that’s exactly what those 20,000 paying fans want to hear from their favourite players: ‘My Porsche is in the garage, I guess it’s the Range Rover for me today…’

Now back to how the most progressive social media league is benefiting by not stalling themselves permanently in the stone ages. Currently, across all 32 NFL teams the social media strategy is being handled by a 150-person team that works on shifts 24/7. That’s correct, non-stop information for the fans of all 32 teams – when they want it, day or night.

Currently the NFL has over 4 million Facebook supporters and each individual team averages over 2.5 million. Since the NFL put in a concerted effort towards building their social media platform, they have seen a growth of 474% on Facebook alone since 2010. And according NFL Digital as reported on Mashable, NFL fans generate 144% more content than they did last year. Imagine that: fans generating and sharing content working in conjunction with the league and its players. Mashable also interviewed Joel Price, the Manager of Internet Service for the San Diego Chargers. He stated: “I’ve been working with the Chargers for 10 seasons. I’ve never seen fans more excited than they are this year.” Price speaks of fan engagement with the team – especially via Facebook and Twitter, but also offline as well – as being at an all-time high. This year, he says, fans attending the Chargers preseason practices were checking in on Facebook in droves, without being prompted to do so.

In the past there were jibes suggesting the NFL stood for the ‘No Fun League’ due to their stringent policies, but evidently, even the No Fun League understands the fact that you need to allow a conduit between the fans and the players they admire. Football in the UK talks about international growth and how they are the biggest football league in the world. But in reality, by a massive margin, the biggest football league in the world is the NFL. Maybe, just maybe, they should have a look at what some progressive leagues are doing across the world and offer fans what they want… access. Waddya think, Mr. Cotterill?

I remember someone said to me once: “if a dollar is going to make or break you, then you are already f*****”. It can be suggested that if a tweet or two is going to make or break your club, well then…


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