The digital world has crept still further into the physical world.
For a promotional ‘social media night’ on February 2nd, 2013, the men’s and women’s basketball teams at the University of Akron were slated to sport special jerseys displaying the team’s Twitter handle.
The redesigned Nike uniforms place the handle @ZipsMBB on the back of the jersey where a player’s last name is usually seen. The idea behind the social-media-driven tactic is to create greater online traffic surrounding the University’s athletics programs, gaining a more prominent position in the national landscape. Unfortunately for Akron, you can rarely control all of the digital content created around your brand. Some of the feedback is bound to be negative or inflammatory, which could lead to unforeseen backlash.
The new black Nike jerseys were originally intended to be a one-night-only promotion, but the NCAA has nixed this plan (as they tend to do with most). The NCAA has informed Akron prior to this weekend’s game that the displays are impermissible according to their guidelines. However, Akron can still display the Twitter handle on their warmup gear, and the concept certainly won’t go away anytime soon.
Will Twitter handles become a permanent fixture on jerseys, especially among pro teams and athletes with larger followings? It’s highly conceivable, considering almost all other aspects of sporting events have been plastered with advertising material.
If so, will the displayed Twitter handles be those of the team/organization, or the individual players? Both could lead to potential conflicts, but actively displaying player handles would make it easier and more convenient to praise and/or attack players individually.
Even with an etiquette guide, the digital, and especially social, sphere is relatively new and still unsolved. Organizations and companies are now trying to wade through the social media minefield, and while athletes are subject to slip-ups on Twitter, will teams hit the same pitfalls? This new idea seems to put the controls more in the hands of consumers, which could be just as, if not more, dangerous.