With more and more athletes, coaches, mascots, and even stadiums getting Twitter it is only a matter of time before twitter handles and hashtags show up on programs, scoreboards, jerseys, stadiums, courts, and even buzzed into people's hairstyles.
On February 12th, the Philadelphia Wings lacrosse team decided to put their twitter handles on the back of jerseys for a game. This marked the first time in American sports history (a Mexican soccer team did it in November of 2011) that a team had integrated social media onto the field. All players were asked to create Twitter accounts about a month prior to the game and then they were all given professional guidance on how to manage a Twitter account and keep it family friendly. If you think about many athletes in the NBA, NFL, MLB, and other professional sports, you would think that some of them need training, too.
After the game the jerseys were auctioned off to the public and proceeds were given to the American Cancer Society. As a very involved American Cancer Society volunteer and a member of the Midwest Youth Advisory Team for the American Cancer Society, I could not be happier with this move. It was more than a move to create social media buzz, it was a move to give back – it is very important for athletics to incorporate social responsibility.
I believe that it would have been a whole new situation if the Twitter handle jerseys were a permanent move, but do you think that this could eventually happen with the emergence of social media?
I think it may take a while and may not be for all sports. For lacrosse, the small size and popularity of the sport allowed them to take advantage of this, but I don’t think we will see this anytime too soon with the NFL for example. The National Lacrosse League (NLL) does not have too much if you look at past traditions so therefore incorporating something new like these Twitter handle jerseys was a good fit. With the popularity and past tradition of the NFL, I don’t see jerseys like this happening too soon.
When it comes to college football however, it may be something different than a Twitter style jersey. For example, take a look at the football endzone hashtag that Mississippi State had back in November for their big rivalry game. The team painted #HAILSTATE in their endzone, which is their school’s traditional rally chant and fight song. According to Mississippi State’s athletic director, Scott Stricklin, the original plan was to simply paint “Hail State” in the endzone. It was when someone suggested using a hashtag that “there was [a] moment in the room, like, 'Ohhh, that’d be different, no one’s done that before.'”
It may not be too long before Twitter truly becomes the universal platform for engagement with sports, especially with March Madness approaching and the Olympic Games not too far off.
So what are some other things going on?
- Kobe Bryant’s facemask has a Twitter handle: @KobeMask. The first tweet? “Lots of stars @ Staples tonight. I’m a little shy.” It also has tweeted things like: “Thank you @DwayneWade for finally allowing me to have my big break!” and “Wow! I might die from a heat stroke.”
- The Boston Celtics were said to be the first pro sports team to advertise Twitter on their home playing field by putting @celtics on the court.
- Twitter’s mascot “Larry the Bird” is named after the Celtics legend Larry Bird, said Twitter founder Biz Stone.
- Georgia Tech’s maintenance crew painted @gtathletics on their sideline during football season.
- In the PGA, golfers sponsored by TaylorMade wore hates that had #driverlove embroidered on the left side.
One in four people have a smartphone so wouldn’t it be crazy to not take advantage if you were a sports team?