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World Cup Special: What organisations can learn from football in brand protection on social media

12 June 2014 | 10:54 am

20745936_mWith the football World Cup kicking off in Brazil later today, it’s not just the corporate world that has to grapple with social media, there’s plenty to learn from football too!

Whilst the England team were warming up for their friendly against Ecuador, up in the press box the team sheet (complete with passport numbers – usually not for publication) was being passed round for media and sponsor information. In a split second, an enthusiastic representative from official team sponsor Vauxhall tweeted the entire team list complete with passport numbers onto the brand’s corporate account to their 70,000 fans. The security breach caused uproar. Despite the tweet being deleted within a minute, in social media that’s plenty of time to spread and go viral, with thousands retweeting the post including football pundit and avid tweeter Stan Collymore.

In addition to this major security blunder, England Captain Frank Lampard and the team’s Director of Operations Michelle Farrar’s signature’s also ended up on social media. The Football Association are aware of the mishaps and said it hopes that the mistakes will not be repeated when England take on Honduras in their first World Cup Match this Saturday.

Earlier on in the domestic football season, West Bromwich Albion Football Club former manager Pepe Mel lashed out at social media trolls for their attack on one of the club’s defenders, Liam Ridgewell in response to a knee injury sustained during a match against Manchester City. Internet/social media trolls are groups/individuals who post inflammatory comments designed to attack, upset and start arguments in an online community. One individual posted onto the club’s Facebook page “If it’s not that bad please leave me in a room with him for half an hour with a hammer.” Although the comments were deleted from the club’s official Facebook page, they still reached the public domain and spread the discord intended. While you cannot prevent the public from venting their frustrations, social media management platforms enable a certain level of control, by moderating the content posted onto the page and even auto-deleting the content if it contains forbidden keywords and phrases.

Social media is increasingly becoming a permanent fixture on the sporting landscape and one that is impossible to ignore, despite potential risks associated with this instantaneous channel there are plenty more opportunities that can be utilised.

Whilst a brilliant channel of communication allowing fans to feel closer to their favourite sports teams and athletes, it is imperative that organisation’s provide support and guidance for social media usage. Over in the States, sports organisations have implemented social media guidelines for a number of years, with the NFL and the NBA providing a set of rules to be abided by, if the rules are broken, players and teams may find themselves receiving fines. Back in the UK, in 2012 the Premier League offered its players and clubs guidance surrounding their social media usage as well as outlining the penalties for breeching these guidelines. Within just a few short months of the guidelines being released, England and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was reportedly fined £45,000 for his tweet referring to fellow England teammate Ashley Cole as a ‘choc ice’. The Football Association found the tweet to demonstrate improper conduct with reference to Cole’s colour, ethnic origin or race. Prior to this Ferdinand was seen as the Football Association’s ‘poster boy’ and role model to other professional footballers for his use of social media. Instances like this make it vital to constantly update and reinforce social media guidelines, particularly as the nature of the technology is constantly evolving.

Mainstream press outlets are using social media as a source for information, as well as reporting on its impact within the sports industry. With the BBC encouraging it’s reporters to scour social media for scoops.

The Olympic Games has seen a transition towards a more socially engaging sporting event, starting in London 2012 continuing and expanding in Sochi 2014. The Winter Olympic Games earlier this year has been described as the ‘Social Olympics’ with the IOC tracking activity of over 6,000 Olympians. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts being monitored throughout the event, with key elements such as like, shares and comments reported on. IOC Director of Communications Mark Adams commented "The Games have come to an end, but the social legacy lives on as we want to keep connecting with our millions of new Russian fans, telling them about the Youth Olympic Games and of course Rio 2016 - the host city of the next Summer Olympics.”

The World Cup 2014 brings brands and organisations a wealth of opportunity and promise for building fan engagement, however our one sage piece of advice is to learn from others mistakes. The key to successful social media in all industries is providing, organisations and brands the right tools to engage with their fans, but importantly the support and education on how to use these tools effectively.

Related: Six ways you can use a major sporting event to leverage your brand on social media.

Kate Allum, Marketing Manager