Wednesday, 28 April 2010

When Football meets Social Media

“Football is the world’s biggest sport, so the world will practically stop for the month of the World Cup,” Matt Stone, Head of new media for world soccer’s governing body FIFA. (CNN)

But while the world as we know it may stop, you can be guaranteed that the social networking will not. In fact, rest assured that the sites like Facebook and Twitter will blow up during the month-long footballing bonanza. Though I looked at the money side of this global event  previously, WC2010 is a great time for getting together and meeting up with people you may never have previously met. It's a great time for football and destination blogging, video and photo sharing, tweetups and meetups, virtual discussions, podcast shows and social media promotions and giveaways. During the last World Cup, while some of us (myself included) blogged our way through the Finals, there was no Twitter, and Facebook was still a proverbial infant. So this has been described as the first World Cup of the social media age and it's left to be seen just how huge the tournament will be this time around. But between you and me, I imagine it will be HUGE.

My profile on The Club. My avatar is pretty damn stylish.

FIFA has already attracted 1.6million fans (including myself) to The Club, which is an onsite social networking platform, which connects fans of the beautiful game and allows them to get up-to-the-minute news and interact with fans across the globe. Soon they will add Facebook Connect and official Twitter sites, with promises of tweets from high ranking FIFA officials. Of course as the tournament draws closer, the number and variety of channels will undoubtedly increase - both official and unofficial, but all ultimately lending a global space for passionate fans to express their views and opinions on the game. From the bars and pubs,  tv rooms and office kitchens, cubicles and coffee shops, the age of social media will bring the tournament to more people in ways that they may not have experienced before. Instant video replays, coach perspectives, fan accounts, player feedback (hopefully, depending on the level of restrictions imposed by home FAs) - straight to laptops and mobile phones across the globe. The football community will not only grow but will be more connected to each other than ever before, eclipsing probably any other event - sporting and non-sporting - which has preceded it.

Events such as the Olympics and FIFA also raise the level of awareness on social issues due to their mass global appeal and the attention which is placed on these events. So while there will be action on the field, from a CSR perspective, it is also what happens off the field which is important and 1Goal has already started to draw attention to the issue of education for all. With over 3.5million followers already, 1Goal is "a campaign seizing the power of football to ensure that education for all is a lasting impact of the 2010 FIFA World Cup". I'm happy to see this aspect of the tournament on social media as well, as it should be, since social media has the power to catapult these issues to an even wider audience than ever before, thus providing the opportunity for millions of poeple to understand and make an intangible contribution. I think more sponsors should use the opportunity, in much the same way Pepsi did for the Super Bowl, and not only focus on sales/marketing gold but also on playing a part in the way we, as fans, view the game and its impact on the issues which affect millions of people.

And who knows, maybe for one full month, Justin Bieber won't be a trending topic on Twitter! I do not think it's impossible! 43 days and counting...

Photo credit: CNN; screen shot of my profile on The Club. Feel free to add me.


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