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Baseball Embracing Social Media

I may as well be mainlining black coffee at the office today, as my morning started at 5:00 am in Atlanta. A quick jaunt south, an orange juice and packet of Delta Biscoff ginger snaps later, and here I am, down but not out, ready to bring you your weekly dose of PR blogging. I was in Atlanta to catch the Braves’ weekend series against the Washington Nationals, and with the season coming to a close, Sunday’s game was picked up by ESPN and subsequently moved to 8:05 pm, leaving me to scramble to reschedule an early morning flight today.

The Braves swept the series which made it all worth it, but my public relations gears were still turning even surrounded by throngs of cheering fans; the Braves were actually promoting their players’ Twitter handles on the Jumbotron, something I have never seen at a sporting event. Players have previously been derided for their social media usage; teams have labeled the likes of Facebook and Twitter as distractions and set strenuous guidelines for their respective clubs when it comes to online activity. The promotion of their players’ Internet identities sparked the following question in my mind: are sports organizations now realizing the inherent benefit to an online presence, and if so: how does establishing a digital footprint positively impact the sports business?

A little over a year ago, Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison made headlines for his demotion for supposed tweet-related activities. Now, a year later (and granted, a different team): athletes’ personal Twitter accounts are being displayed by their organizations alongside their stats and pictures. My initial thought is that major league baseball is finally recognizing the value of having their players interact with fans online. In a nation where the NFL is king, MLB has always struggled with attendance and national appreciation for their sport. Getting players involved online generates awareness and relevance, and reignites excitement for a game that has been on the decline since the mid-nineties.

In some ways, Twitter can double as an e-autograph for fans. Let’s face it: if you’re over the age of twelve, pining for a player’s signature is pretty cheesy. With Internet interaction, you can direct a sentiment in a perfectly acceptable manner, and if responded to, you can satiate your desire for some celebrity attention without sacrificing your self-respect. Mark that tweet response as a ‘favorite,’ and you now have an online-autograph that you can share proudly across your social media cache.

There is some speculation as to the legitimacy of celebrity and athlete Twitter accounts; even though many are verified, are they physically managed by the individual or outsourced via a third-party public relations firm? Regardless, their mere presence on social media continues to feed awareness to their cause, and in the case of the Atlanta Braves, they are wholeheartedly embracing this online avenue to promote their business effectively.

-Carter Breazeale

PR/PR Public Relations

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