PR 101 - Why is Public Relations Important in Sports?

PR 101 - Why is Public Relations Important in Sports?

By: Natalie Mikolich

With the continued growth of social media in our everyday personal and professional lives, it often raises the question of what is the difference between social media and public relations and why is public relations important in sports?

In our first article “PR 101 - Why is Public Relations Important in Sports,” we are going to break down these two areas and get insight from some of today’s top sports business industry executives and public relations professionals. They will share with us why public relations is important in the sports industry and where social media fits into the equation.

Before we hear from some of these industry executives and professionals, though, let’s take a closer look at what public relations and social media is exactly, considering many people really are not sure what public relations is and what purpose it serves in many industries today such as sports.

By definition, Public Relations or “PR,” (in our slightly modified version) is “the actions (or art) of an organization, event, brand, individual, etc. in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, community, consumers, etc.” 

For the definition of Social Media, it is described as “websites and other online means of communication that are used by large groups of people to share information and to develop social and professional contacts.”

To “spin” this another way for you, tactics of executing traditional public relations strategies in today’s sports industry for events, institutions, teams, brands and athletes include press release announcements, press conferences, publicity events, media interviews and much more. These tactics are used by various public relations professionals in order to have information reported by the media and shared publicly on an organization, brand, team, athlete, etc. so they can “promote” themselves through the traditional mainstream media channels. 

And, to clarify today’s traditional mainstream media channels, they include online news websites, newspapers, magazines, television networks, radio shows and news wires.

Commenting on the importance of Public Relations in a recent interview with Chris Yandle, Assistant AD /Communications, for the University of Miami Athletics, he had this to say:

“Any Public Relations division within a university or college athletics department is crucial. Not only are you spreading your organization’s messages across a variety of platforms, but you are the mouthpiece for that entity.”

“Public Relations is a major part of running the US Open,” added Randy Walker, former Sr. Publicity Manager for Professional Tennis at the USTA including 13 U.S. Open championships. “PR is 'the bull horn to the public.’”

When discussing the importance of publicity as it pertains to top professional athletes, Carlos Fleming,  VP of Talent Management for IMG (who represents clients including Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, Venus Williams, and James Blake), said:

“You have to educate fans and business customers about who your clients are and pr is the vehicle to do that. First, even before anyone knows how good your clients are in their sport, pr is the pathway to let people know at corporations, with potential sponsors and sports fans that the person is coming.”

“Media is an athlete’s opportunity to get an opinion across to masses. It can be very beneficial to an athlete if approached the right way,” added Andy Roddick, tennis celebrity superstar and former ATP World Tour #1 Singles Player.

On the other hand, social media networks have also become the means that many organizations, institutions, brands, events, athletes and even media reporters are sharing information about who they are, what they’re doing, what their products are, and what’s going on. In addition to this, even traditional news media outlets are using social media as a way to be the first to break news in “real time.”

“Publicity and social media are becoming 'close cousins.' Social media channels are now what print advertising used to be,” Added Carlos Fleming.

However, these “online means of communication” such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Google+ (with Twitter being the fastest growing social network with a 40% increase from Q2 2012 to Q1 in 2013 according to the latest GlobalWebindex Study for 2013) usually contain teasers, quick facts, updates and stats along with article captions and news headlines that are being reported on through the traditional media channels. Often done so in order to gauge interest with their social network communities for a more in-depth look at their announcements and media coverage, social media is becoming more and more instrumental in today’s communication efforts to promote a wide range of initiatives in the sports industry.

“Our Communications, Marketing and Digital Strategy divisions are instrumental in all promotional activities for UM athletics,” added Chris Yandle with the University of Miami Athletics Department. “Our Athletic Department Communications handles the traditional sports information roles - statistics, releases, media almanacs, historical archives, rosters, player and coach bios, etc. but it is our Marketing staff that handles the GameDay experience for fans and students, and it is our digital strategy team that handles all the great digital assets on and social media.”

Now that our PR 101 and intro to “why pr is important in sports,” is about wrapped-up, let’s move on to some of the more exciting stuff! In our upcoming articles, we will take a closer look at some of today’s top sporting events, professional teams, college institutions, brands and athletes to discuss more in-depth a variety of topics in the sports industry and the role that public relations plays in supporting them.

Along with this, we will also hear from some of today’s top sports industry executives and professionals who will share why public relations is important along with leading sports media reporters  who will provide some inside tips in addition to where social media fits in the overall bigger picture.

Stay tuned for more to come!

Photo By the Incredible Humberto Vidal - Humberto Vidal Photo