What does a man do 10 months after signing a $ 40 million dollar contract extension that included a $ 12.5 million dollar signing bonus? Would you guess “getting arrested on possible murder charges”? Yeah, me neither – oh wait, we are talking about professional athletes. For every Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees we have out there as positive role models, we also get Chad Johnson, Dez Bryant, Ben Roethlisberger…and now Aaron Hernandez. Mere mortals are confounded by these athletes who “throw it all away” simply because they have more money than sense! There have been 35 arrests in the NFL since the start of 2013.
The New England Patriots released Aaron Hernandez when they knew he was going to be arrested for his possible involvement in a murder. They are getting ahead of the PR curve, and they are trying to “take back” their reputation for signing high character players. I remember when the Denver Broncos passed on drafting the much heralded (and much maligned) Dez Bryant in favor of the squeaky clean Demaryius Thomas. I applauded that decision, and the Broncos are reaping the rewards by going with the high character player. No drama…just great plays on the field by a great teammate.
Can sports teams go even further upstream on the PR curve – and prevent the event from happening in the first place? Well, no…that is impossible because this isn’t the Minority Report. Even the most rational people will take irrational action under extreme circumstances. However, teams can “hedge their bets” if they actively monitor athletes’ social profiles. Mantis made it easier for teams by customizing Pulse Analytics into a product called Pulse Athletics.
We’ve seen the following practical applications for active social media monitoring:
1. Track social profiles for high school and college recruits
When did your kid get a Facebook profile or a smartphone? The average age of social media users gets younger every year, right? College recruiters can do due diligence with interviewing high school athletes and their families, and they can review personal recommendations from coaches, teachers, and pastors. But what if they could also monitor the athletes’ social profiles before awarding scholarships?
Colleges could save themselves future headaches, or choose to mentor student athletes early, by monitoring for “early indicators” showing a lack of judgment when it comes to behavior – with a tendency to amplify that error in judgment by letting the whole world know via their Facebook and Twitter accounts!
2. Track social profiles for collegiate athletes
Pulse Athletics sends alerts to coaches and staff when athletes’ social interactions could lead to NCAA violations jeopardizing student and school eligibility. One of my favorite anecdotes for this scenario was a Division 1 school tracking mentions of keywords associated with Tobacco, Drugs, and Sex. One of their student athletes got flagged for Tobacco and Sex alerts for a tweet like the following (I’m paraphrasing here): “Thought this chick was hot walking down the sidewalk until she fired up a cig”.
The good news is that the alerts worked! The happy ending is that this student athlete chose to steer clear because of the use of tobacco.
3. Track social profiles for athletes entering the NFL Draft
We are on the cusp of the biggest payday these kids may ever see! The coaches have plenty of game film, and they can benchmark the athletes’ performances at the scouting combine and pro days. Now they can use a tool like Pulse Athletics to monitor the social profiles for all of their draft prospects. Imagine being able to view a dashboard like the following for each of the draft picks – FYI, I picked a squeaky clean basketball player in the example below because he was active across several social networks. Besides, I like to highlight the kids who are keeping a level head!
4. Track social profiles of micro-influencers
By now, you know I’m a big fan of the methodology outlined by Sam Fiorella and Danny Brown in their new book: Influence Marketing. You will have to read the book to better understand the power of dyadic relationships and micro-influencers. In summary, most people no longer make their decisions based upon a talking head they see on TV or a super-model they see in a magazine. Instead, their decisions are impacted by the people closest to them. Pulse Athletics helps teams identify and track these micro-influencers for each of their players. Where the players themselves may show restraint with what they share on their social profiles (most of Aaron Hernandez’ tweets are encouraging and uplifting), their micro-influencers may not demonstrate the same discretion. Perhaps the teams can spot trouble brewing before it spills over and results in spilled blood or lawsuits!
I recently heard a sports agent on a radio show state the following: “Character is only an issue in the absence of talent.” As a sports fan, I hope teams start taking a harder line holding their players accountable to the same societal standards as everyone else. Meanwhile, teams will continue to tolerate misbehavior from their superstars as long as they produce in competition. Whether holding their athletes accountable, or just trying to “nip it in the bud” when it comes to public relations, I expect more teams to start using solutions like Pulse Athletics to monitor athletes’ social profiles and to take corrective actions when necessary.