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Social Media and Community Sport – Channel 4 Thursday 1st May

Celtic football club

Photo by LittleMissSilly

I’m on a panel next Thursday 1st May, at All Together Now – Social Media and the Future of Community Sport, a joint Sport England and Channel 4 event at the Channel 4 building.

This is what it’s about:

Over the course of the past three years the emergence of blogging, social networking services and platforms which showcase and share user generated content have transformed the possibilities of how we connect, converse and collaborate with one another.

’In the 20th Century, we were defined by what we owned, in the 21st Century we will be defined by what share and give away’ Charles Leadbeater, author of We Think

The potential for organisations and brands to harness these technologies and tools to engage with users, customers and their communities in radically new ways is becoming clear.

How can all those organisations working to promote active participation in sports and the brands that wish to sponsor their activates and campaigns work together to make the most of the unrivalled viral power and network effects of the web in the run up to 2012?

Other speakers will include Thomas Godfrey, Commercial Director of Sport England, Jon Gisby, Director of Technology and New Media at Channel 4, Rebecca Caroe, Gi Fernando of Technlightenment, Antony Mayfield and Ed Mitchell.

I’ll be there as an ambassador for social media, to share my experience of blogging, social networking, Twitter, etc. and give the representatives of sports organisations some idea of the possibilities and pitfalls of engaging with people via the web.

After receiving the invitation I was struck by two thoughts: 1. How much time I spend on football messageboards when I should probably be doing something else, and following on from that, 2. that sport may be the ultimate social object [WARNING: cartoon with rude word] i.e. conversation starter and social catalyst. If I meet a stranger and they let slip they’re interested in football, I know we’ll have plenty to talk about and there will be no awkward silences (well not unless they turn out to be a Rangers fan).

So it looks to me as though sports organisations have an open goal in front of them – they have something that most people love to talk about and nearly anyone has an opinion on. But will they slot the ball calmly home or sky it over the bar? Or will they be fatally distracted by the animated advertising board behind the goal?

There are still a few free tickets left, so if you’re interested in any combination of social media, sport and marketing, then register for the event, ask me some easy questions during the debate, and come and say hello afterwards.

If you can’t make it on the day but you’ve got any thoughts on how sports or other organisations should engage with people via social marketing, please leave a comment below. I don’t think I’ll be able to link to you from the stage but I’ll certainly Twitter my thanks if I use any ideas from the comments.

Thanks to Steve Moore of Policy Unplugged for inviting me to join the panel and giving me an excuse to post a photo of Celtic.

EDIT: I’ve posted my presentation slides to Slideshare. You can probably tell I was trying to keep things as simple as possible.


  1. Hi – love your blog. I am a Pompey fan so riding pretty high at the moment with 2 cup final tickets in my hand!

    As I am also a parent of 3 footballing sons I think that the FA have some real challenges both to improve the future of football and to also reach out to the hundreds of people who are involved in youth football.

    I wonder if the SOHO ivory tower guys are really tapping into social networking to really get in touch with grass roots football. What better way of getting people’s views? Maybe Trevor Brooking should start a blog…?

    Chris’s last blog post..Blended learning….what is it…really…?

  2. I hope the event goes great for you, Mark. You’ll be cheering on the Gers tonight then? 😉

    David Airey’s last blog post..WordPress plugins installed here

  3. I know I am the last person who should leave a comment on this topic but I have some strong feelings about football. While I know this is about sport and not just football, I assume football with be a large portion of the community sport. My strong feelings on football is the connection with violence with the game. Kind of takes the sport out of it for me. A major rival game was played out where I live two weeks ago and the visiting team were held in their seats for 30 mins after the game! It shouldn’t be like that and I know a lot of people enjoy football without problems. I would hope as the sponsors reach down to the non professionals that they sell the “sport”of the game as much as their product. With a degree in marketing and advertising, I believe they can have a profound influence, positively or negatively, so they need to be clear in their direction.
    With that off my chest, I am delighted Mark, that have been invited and know you will add a wealth of knowledge on social media and social responsibility. Perhaps you could wear a Rangers shirt just to show your sportmanship. : )

  4. Chris – Congrats on the final appearance! And on getting tickets, they must be like gold dust. Yes there are big challenges and opportunities. I don’t know much about the situation with regard to sports, but my guess is that many sporting bodies are in a similar situation to a lot of organisations – curious about social media but not at the stage where they are confident in engaging with it. So I see this event as positive in that they are looking to listen to participants – an essential first step before joining any online conversation.

    David – Forza Fiorentina!

    Rosanne – Violence is obviously beyond the pale. I do think it’s pretty safe to attend most football matches in this country, partly because a lot of work has gone into improving the situation. One of the disturbing things about violence by so-called football gangs is the way it’s often orchestrated via the internet. However that’s dwarfed by the massive online communities of genuine fans, on messageboards, blogs etc – many of which have clear codes of conduct for users, to keep the atmosphere welcoming for everyone. That’s the spirit that the sponsors and governing bodies should be looking to tap into with their initiatives. As for your suggestion, I’m all for sportsmanship but we should beware of going to extremes. 🙂