Twitter has been a tremendous boon for athletes, because after decades of walling themselves off behind banal clichés delivered only to accommodating media figures, the service allows them to open up directly to their fans.Ad.ly can undo that in a matter of months.
The Twitter-based ad service bragged to ESPN recently about their ability to deliver brands to sports fans, via the mouthpiece of their favourite heroes.
Although some might have a negative reaction to athletes advertising to them instead of nonsponsored engagement … ad.ly’s service does a solid job of negating such qualms.
In fact, you might not even realise any sort of advertising is going on.
So the key to fears about advertising is to simply trick people into thinking it’s not advertising?
Ad.ly ads may be clearly labelled as such on Twitter, but the influx of commercials into a previously open and ad-free zone will ruin everything that’s made Twitter so valuable to sports figures.
Once they sign up enough athletes and in-stream ads establish themselves as just another standard endorsement vehicle, the “authentic” fan-athlete relationship that Twitter has cultivated will be dead. Tweets will no longer be trusted. Fans will begin to assume that whenever an NFL player mentions a movie or his favourite new restaurant on line, that he is being paid to do so—even when he isn’t.
The most popular athletes on Twitter—like Chad Ochocinco and Shaquille O’Neal—are those who don’t give their audience the usual, manager-approved sound bites. They may still be a carefully managed brand, but it’s their brand and that’s the one fans want to cheer for. Not the spokesperson being paid to sell soap.
Fans can see Paul Pierce advertise sneakers anywhere, but Twitter was the one space they could enjoy sports without beer commercials and licence fees. At least … it used to be.
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