Ian Monk: Football brands at odds over Twitter

As the new Premier League season kicks off, it is a fair bet that tweets as well as tackles will make the news.

Ian Monk: Football brands at odds over Twitter
Ian Monk: Football brands at odds over Twitter

Which will earn more red cards may remain a moot point as clubs struggle to regulate the use of social media by players.

Generally, clubs, national teams and sponsors are at sixes and sevens over how to deal with the Twitter phenomenon, which has seen individual players create massive followings.

Some clubs, such as Newcastle and Wolves, have issued legal letters to players warning them about its use. Others, including Sunderland, have passed friendly guidelines to players encouraging the use of Twitter to communicate with their fan base. Other clubs still are desperately working on guidelines aimed at protecting club reputation and confidentiality, while at the same time respecting individual freedoms of expression.

Before Twitter, communication between players and fans was generally managed by PR professionals working with clubs, country and commercial sponsors.

Now, many players converse directly with millions of football fans through Twitter. Inevitably, given the tribal nature of football, many incoming tweets are not flattering: some are grossly abusive.

Self-control is crucial to the player who finds terrace-style abuse being delivered directly to his iPhone. Angry responses can provoke a flood of unfair tabloid headlines, threatening reputational damage to player, club and sponsors. At the same time, many sponsors see Twitter as a great means of conveying clever product plugs directly to a defined core audience.

Others may be concerned about the erosion of their expensively purchased image rights through the uncontrolled posting by players of content on social media sites. Additionally, clubs are justifiably concerned - as any big company or brand would be - about the impact of Twitter on their ability to manage their brand and corporate reputation.

It is a comms challenge that requires the wisdom of Solomon. The outcome may leave some parties feeling sick as parrots, while others tweet from over the moon.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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