PR in Sports

Looking at the World of Sports from a PR Perspecitve

Can Social Media Change the “One and Done” Rule?

with 4 comments

harrison-barnes

Harrison Barnes announced his college choice via Skype

Professional athletes have entered the realm of social media in full force. The smart ones are joining sites like Twitter, creating Facebook Pages and enhancing their own websites in an effort to build their personal brand and market themselves. But, pro athletes aren’t the only athletes working on their personal brand using this exploding form of personalized communication.

The top high school athletes in the country are popping up all over Twitter, Facebook and more. Kyrie Irving, the 9th ranked basketball player in the class of 2010 according Rivals.com, played out much of his recruitment on Twitter, and he’s not the only one. It’s also common place for the top high school basketball and football players to announce their college of choice on ESPNU.

So, it wasn’t a surprise when the #1 ranked basketball player in the country used an innovative online tool to announce his college of choice Friday evening. Harrison Barnes wanted to do something nobody had done before.

In the middle of his press conference on ESPNU, Barnes said he would be attending the school “of the coach I’m about to Skype”, then dramatically stood up from the podium and walked over to a laptop to  use the video messaging service Skype, to video conference North Carolina Coach Roy Williams.

The result of this new movement? The “Social Media Athlete”.

The “Social Media Athlete” is communicating with fans on a personal, sometimes one-on-one level. Social media isn’t solely responsible for more polished 18 year-old athletes. This movement began years ago, but direct communication tools like Twitter, Facebook and Skype have young athletes not only crafting their message, but developing entire recruitment campaigns, thus beginning to build their personal brand as early as high school.

Seriously, watch the video of the Barnes news conference. Before he “Skyped” Coach Williams, Barnes individually thanked the media outlets that covered his recruitment in a carefully crafted speech.  That’s right, he thanked the media individually. PR folks and media can attest, that’s virtually unheard of. Barnes seemed closer to what we’ll expect out of LeBron James when he announces his destination next summer, than a high school kid announcing a college. Not that LeBron will thank the media!

This focus on personal branding by athletes at much earlier ages makes sense though. The top high school players and their handlers see the potential and realize they’ll be in the NBA after just one year of college. But, what will the effect be?

Can the “Social Media Athlete” be a catalyst for eliminating the NBA rule that mandates players be one year out of high school before they can enter the draft?

It’s a possibility. Let’s be real, that rule isn’t about academics or physical development, it’s about marketing. Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant were fine, but when 5-6 high school players a year began going straight to the NBA, fans didn’t know who they were, so they weren’t marketable. Now, with the “Social Media Athlete” these players are becoming household names at earlier ages.

The question though, is this focus on personal branding at such a young age a good thing? Probably not. But, I’m sure one person out there is loving it. I’m looking at you David Stern!

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Written by Brian Gleason

November 16, 2009 at 12:03 am

4 Responses

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  1. First – As a huge Tar Heel fan/graduate, I love that the Heels got Barnes. He’s an incredibly well-spoken, smart dude and he happens to be amazing on the basketball court, too.

    There’s no denying that athletes have more power now than ever before in terms of being able to control/build their brands and connect with fans directly. But I’m not sure the age limit will go away anytime soon-in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was raised. The age limit means there is less baby-sitting involved and more skilled players. This is good for the NBA and for fans…even if it might not always be what the super-skilled top high school prospects want. I believe the rule could even be unconstitutional (but I’m no legal expert), though I do understand why the NBA instituted it.

    Jason Peck

    November 17, 2009 at 10:31 am

    • Hey Jason,

      As an Indiana fan, I hate that you’re a UNC guy. We’d like Sean May and Tyler Zeller back please 🙂

      On to the post: I was being a little over-dramatic to drive the point home, I don’t really expect David Stern to see Barnes’ news conference and change the rule immediately. I think you’re right in that he’s actually looking to add a year or two to the rule. But, the “one and done” rule is definitely more about marketing than player development, and may be unconstitutional as you mentioned (I’m not a legal expert either).

      The NBA says player development and that even some college is good, but the rule is really because top draft picks were being used on unknown and unmarketable players. I guess my point is, the more and more these high school players delve into brand building and social media, the more marketable they’ll be at a younger age, and maybe over time, the need for the rule will be eliminated.

      Brian Gleason

      November 17, 2009 at 10:47 am

  2. Hi Brian,

    First time finding your blog and definitely put it into my reader good stuff.

    As time goes on and we here more about ‘building your persona brand’ etc, high school athletes are going to need some serious coaching as to what that is.

    I doubt the ability of a 16 year old to be able to manage his brand when he is worrying about who he is going to take to prom (yes that may be simplistic, but you get the point).

    So what’s the next step? is my question (I will probably address what I think it is in a blog post in the future).

    Ryan

    November 18, 2009 at 11:10 am

    • Hi Ryan,

      Thanks for checking out the blog, and putting into your reader. I’ll definitely check yours out as well.

      Great points, what is next? High school athletes delving into brand building will probably be a slippery slope. You’ll probably be able to add Marketing Firms to the agents, AAU coaches and shoe companies that already try to sign these kids at young ages.

      Let me know if you tackle this on your blog, it’s really interesting, and maybe we can do some sort of cross post.

      Thanks,
      Brian

      Brian Gleason

      November 18, 2009 at 11:41 am


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