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The English Premier League is arguably the world's most popular sports organization, and this season saw explosive growth off the pitch in the realm of social media . Manchester City snagged its first English title in 44 years last weekend to cap off another dramatic EPL season. To recap how the league developed digitally this year, Mashable hunted down some stats. We also consulted Sean Walsh, whose blog Digital Football is a leading source on the intersection between English soccer and social media. "EPL clubs have been criticized in the past for their out-of-date approach to social media in comparison to the youthful and creative tactics employed by U.S. franchises in the NBA and NFL ," Walsh, who's interviewed the digital directors of several top European clubs over the past year, told Mashable in an email. "But the 2011-2012 season has seen the rise of social media in 'the beautiful game,' and Premier League clubs have finally begun to invest in it."
When Mashable took a look at the English Premier League's social media side last week, the main takeaway was that the 2012 season marked the big social push of the world's most high-profile soccer league. But Spain's LigaBBVA — considered a tier below the EPL on the pitch, although it's home to powerhouse clubs Real Madrid and FC Barcelona — actually looks to be world soccer's digital leader. To get the fuller picture, we scoured social media sites, and consulted LigaBBVA as well as the Spanish sports and social media site Sportwist . Perhaps the place where La Liga's social media dominance shines most is with its biggest stars.
Among professional sports teams, the social media playbook is pretty cut and dried — be enthusiastic yet conservative, engage but don't offend and it's definitely better to err on the side of blandness. The NHL's Los Angeles Kings, however, are tearing that playbook to bits — and it's working. The Kings' Twitter account and social media team have an unabashedly biased voice, regularly poke fun at opposing teams' fans and hometowns and pull comedic stunts other pro sports teams would likely deem too lively. The Kings play in the first game of the NHL's Stanley Cup Finals Wednesday night.
The National Basketball Association became the first major sports league in the world to top 5 million Twitter followers on Monday morning. And no other league is even close. The next most popular sports organization, the NFL, clocks in around 3.3 million followers. Major League Baseball has just over 2 million, while the National Hockey League and World Wrestling Entertainment have about 1.1 million each. World soccer's governing body, FIFA, has almost 800,000 followers. “We are committed to delivering great content to our fans 24/7," Melissa Rosenthal Brenner, the NBA’s vice president of marketing, told Mashable earlier this year.
Instagram and baseball have a few things in common — they both invite reflection and facilitate nostalgia, for example. Now it seems they go together like 7th Inning and stretch. The photo sharing network is completely dominating in Major League ballparks this season. A month into the 2012 season, there has already been a 400% increase in Instagram photos posted from big league parks compared to the entire 2011 season.
London soccer club Chelsea won its first Champions League title on Saturday, defeating German side Bayern Munich to become Europe's best team. It was a nail-biting close final match that went down to a penalty shoot-out. But on Twitter , it wasn't even close — Chelsea was dominant. The all-star London club gained 73% of team-specific Twitter mentions related to the match, while its star players were buzz magnets as well. The match's five most-mentioned players — in order, Didier Drogba, John Terry, David Luiz, Ashley Cole and Petr Cech — all suit up for the Blues.
So you're new to this whole social media thing. Maybe you're savvy enough to know your Facebook from your Twitter , your Pinterest from your Spotify . But what about Tagged ? Xing? Futubra? Where do they fit into the social media ecosystem?
Twitter , Facebook and other social media platforms are having a tremendous impact on the sports world for fans, players, teams and sponsors alike. We try to stay on top of that here at Mashable , bringing you stories on great sports memes , moments of unexpected discovery , sophisticated marketing strategies and more. But sometimes a stellar infographic is needed to put things in perspective. This one, from the sports medicine company KT Tape , shows the different ways social media has changed sports during the past few years. More than 80% of sports fans monitor social media sites while watching games on TV, and more than 60% do so while watching live events. Players have capitalized on social media and fueled massive buzz as well.
Social media hasn't only revolutionized sports fans' experiences at the game — it's also changed how they get there in the first place. One in five fans use social networks to invite friends to games, according to a recent report by the Sports Business Journal . Nearly 15% of ticket buyers say their purchases have been influenced by Facebook posts. And engaging fans on social media doesn't just help sports teams reach potential buyers — it literally pays off. According to the same research, fans who buy tickets through social media links pay more than one-and-a-half times as much on average compared to all buyers.
Quickly shooting up the social media pyramid, image sharing network Pinterest has gained a reputation for largely being a repository for photos of wedding dresses and floral arrangements, due to its huge female user base . But a budding trend shows that sports teams are hopping aboard the Pinterest bandwagon . Mashable spoke with marketing and engagement managers who say the network offers new ways to connect with and reward fans and provide different social opportunities. And they insist that Pinterest is not just a flash in the sports marketing pan. "With all the indicators in terms of buzz, I have a hard time believing it won't establish itself as a major player," says Peter Stringer, the Boston Celtics' director of interactive media. Like most teams, the Celtics are very new to Pinterest, joining just in the past few weeks.