CAMERON: Virtual community becoming a major player in sports entertainment

Christopher Cameron
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Christopher Cameron

Social media is an interesting revelation to the world, especially with regards to sports in the last number of years.

If you’re on Twitter or Facebook it’s likely been difficult in the last few months to not recognize that basketball was alive and well in Toronto with the Raptors being back in the playoffs for the first time since 2008 or that the Blue Jays had won seven straight games heading into last night’s match with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Feeds are dominated during games with people cringing or criticizing when their team is losing or voicing their thoughts on the final result. Because of this, the excitement tends to extend past the walls of the stadium or arena.

Fans are able to watch from anywhere and communicate with others watching the game, which creates a second “virtual” environment for fans outside of the thousands of people at the facility.

It also allows people to feel like they are part of the game, which is something sports teams have tapped into in a major way. They have adopted outdoor areas like Maple Leaf Square, where fans can show up and watch the game – yet another way to make them feel like they are part of the live action inside.

That extends to the overall brand of teams, who are for all intent and purposes in the entertainment business. You have to have an exciting product on the court, ice or field to draw the fans in, but once you do that, social media explodes the impact of the entertainment provided. It shares what the environment is like in ways we couldn’t have dreamed of five or 10 years ago.

It also lends itself to a lot of interesting stories, which in a way has become a trend in the media. Stories have been written about Roberto Luongo and his Twitter account, mostly centering on his cheeky posts and what he has to say about things happening in the NHL.

Recently Drake drew just as much, if not more, attention with his lint rolling on the sidelines of the Raptors game than the game itself. Instagram and Vine videos instantly popped up of him doing this during the game on top of the thousands of tweets.

It then turned into a fad, so to speak, as the Toronto Raptors and Bounce created an official line-rolling promotion.

If that isn’t ridiculous enough, one of the limited edition lint rollers was sold for $55,100 U.S. after the fact. Social media led to the promotion to begin with and it exploded into something even bigger.

Every night you never know what is going to happen, but more importantly you never know what someone is going to catch on their smartphone. It only takes a photo or short video for something to go viral.

Teams have started to really use it as a way to create a community around their team, past their city limit signs. They want all of their fans to feel like they are a part of the ups and downs of the season, which seems to be paying off.


Christopher Cameron is the sports reporter for The News and can be reached at christopher.cameron@ngnews.caor on Twitter @NGNewsChris. His column runs weekly on Wednesdays.

Organizations: Toronto Raptors, Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays NHL

Geographic location: Toronto, U.S.

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