Among Olympic athletes, there may not be a more effective — or by-the-bootstraps — user of social media than runner Nick Symmonds.
How’s this for — as the phrase goes — “leveraging social media”? In January, Symmonds held an eBay auction for the rights to his left shoulder. Symmonds would apply a temporary tattoo of the winning individual or corporate bidder’s Twitter handle to his shoulder for every competition of the 2012 track and field season, including this summer’s London Olympics.
The marketing company Hanson Dodge Creative eventually shelled out $11,100 for Symmonds’ real estate offer, but he’s been forced to cover their handle with a piece of tape for many events and will have to do so in London as well.
Symmonds says he started the promotion in part to raise money and awareness of himself as an athlete heading into an Olympic year, but most of all to call attention to the sponsorship restrictions placed upon track athletes by many of the sport’s governing bodies.
While the eBay stunt gained Symmonds some notoriety and praise, it actually just scratches the surface of his social media savvy. His smaller scale promotions and constant interactions with fans and have helped him surge from some 1,500 followers to more than 10,000 since mid-January. (Reportedly dating Paris Hilton hasn’t hurt there either.)
“Track and field is a sports where it’s hard to differentiate and form a following, so I want fans to know I’m a very accessible person and that if they tune in to watch an event they’ll actually know something about who I am,” Symmonds told Mashable in an interview.
Twitter is Symmonds’ preferred social platform and he uses it to keep fans updated on his training and his 2012 qualifying quest in the 800 meters (he made his spot official earlier this week). He also chats and retweets fans, and sometimes holds contests where followers who come closest to predicting his finishing time in an event receive an autographed Nike shirt from him.
But Symmonds says his social media adroitness goes beyond fun with fans — it “absolutely” helps attract potential sponsors too. Since that winning eBay auction, Symmonds says his partnership with Hanson Dodge has been more than he could have expected and he’s now producing a YouTube series with them. He’s also sponsored by Nike and Melaleuca but is looking to expand that portfolio, and hopes his continued social success will help the cause.
“We have to remember that, even though we’re pro athletes we’re really entertainers,” Symmonds says. “As someone in the entertainment business, my brand is important. This helps get people to watch me run and the more people do that, the more draw there is for sponsors.”
Do you think excelling at social media makes athletes and entertainers more attractive to sponsors? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Courtesy by Sam Laird