I’m a little late posting this, I’ve been too carried away with Christmas and my birthday! But as 2016 has drawn to a close, I’ve decided to have a look at some of the biggest sporting stories of 2016 and how PR was used in them.
Sharapova’s drugs charges
So, I’ll start at the beginning of 2016, when the tennis world was shocked at the revelation that Maria Sharapova had tested positive for the banned substance meldonium. The Russian tennis star, who has won each of the grand slam tournaments and been ranked #1 in the world multiple times, had been taking the drug for 10 years due to health reasons and states she did not know it had become a banned substance on 1st January 2016.
Following the news, Sharapova decided to do a live broadcast to explain herself. She explained it was a mistake but still took full responsibility. Many assumed she would announce her retirement during it, but she did not. The broadcast seemed genuine and honest, which helped her keep some credibility and perhaps sympathy from her fans.
Throughout the consequent trial, Sharapova and her PR team kept in contact with fans, mainly through social media, to keep them up-to-date and informed with everything that was going on. Although some sponsors suspended their relationship with the tennis player, many did not. Head, a sportswear company, stuck by her and gave her all their support explaining that they believed it also was an honest mistake.
There are plenty of examples of stories like Sharapova’s which have ended disastrously. She’s seen as a role model for many and it could’ve potentially ended her career. However, they reacted to it very well and acted in a way that helped keep the public on their side.
The magic of the Premier League
I simply cannot write a post about sporting stories of 2016 and not include the absolutely amazing story of Leciester City Football Club doing the unthinkable and winning the league. It was absolutely magical.
They began the season as one of the favourites to be relegated and with odds of around 5,000-1 to win the league. With hard work and determination (and great signings in Mahrez and Kante), they defied the odds and became champions.
Before the title winning season, they had less than half a million followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram combined. Now they have 901,000 followers on Twitter alone. This is very significant in terms of building the club and enabling them to hopefully continue to do well, even if they don’t win again.
Puma, Leicester official kit sponsor, also jumped on the back of the success and boosted their production of Leicester kits by 90,000 units to meet the new demand.
At the moment they aren’t doing too great, sitting way down in 15th in the league, but hopefully they will regain their winning mentality and prove it wasn’t just a one off!
Rio Olympics 2016
Before the 2016 Olympics began, there were huge concerns over safety, pollution, the facilities, the Zika virus and terrorist activity to keep the media busy for months! With stories coming out that some athletes were not even going to attend, it could’ve been a huge PR catastrophe.
Luckily though, Rio was seen as a success! A huge reason for this was due to the fewer restrictions placed on the athletes about tweeting their experiences. A very clever idea, as athletes are followed by millions of people and were able to share their experiences and made the public feel more involved. The official Olympics social media platforms proved they could match the best of them though and had over 7 BILLION views on content they posted. A great example of how using social media in PR is vital.
Rio also set records for global visibility and awareness, which are often objectives for a PR campaign. Of course there were still a few problems (the diving pool turning a nasty shade of green to name just one), but I feel Rio really was a success, especially if you consider the amazing medal haul team GB provided!
Ryan’s Rio robbing story
This is an example of an absolute PR nightmare. I stated in my previous blog post that you will almost always get caught if you tell a lie and Ryan Lochte definitely did.
Lochte is an American swimmer and was competing at the Rio Olympics when he claimed that he was robbed at gunpoint at a petrol station in Rio, alongside his swimming teammates. The story of course spread across the globe and the United States Olympic Committee issued an official statement confirming the story.
However, the story quickly seemed to unravel and it was soon clear that the information had been almost entirely made up. PR crisis mode begins.
So when the news came out that he had lied, Lochte went on one of Brazil’s largest television networks to apologise. However, it did not come across in the same way as Sharapova’s. Many believed him to be insincere and disingenuous.
He was subsequently dropped from his sponsorship deal with Speedo USA and instead they donated a $50,000 portion of Lochte’s fee to Save The Children, a charity for the children of Brazil. Lochte howeverhas donated nothing to charity, which he could’ve done to help boost him imagine after the scandal. All in all, he acted the total opposite to Sharapova and her PR team and therefore audiences are still extremely suspicious of him, this just shows the power of PR.