Social media is fertile ground for celebrities to take control and build their personal brands, but the question remains: Is all social buzz good? In the case of World Cup footballer Luis Suarez, the answer will likely be yes.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, this professional player on the Liverpool team, who also happens to be Team Uruguay’s best player, bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in Tuesday’s World Cup matchup. Suarez got suspended for 4 months, effectively ending his World Cup career.
As if we need any more indications that social media absolutely mirrors worldwide conversations, it went crazy. According to Adobe Digital Index, last week Suarez averaged 46,000 mentions per day. This week he is well over 2 million per day. That’s an increase of 45x in social buzz. He is now the third-highest mentioned player in the group stage, below Messi and Neymar but above Ronaldo. Can you imagine if you got that sort of daily mentions bump against your competition?
Suarez has a longstanding reputation as the bad boy of football (by "football" I mean soccer, if you’re an American like me). Past controversial athletes like John McEnroe and Mike Tyson knowingly use this “all press is good press” technique to build their brands and align with sponsors who celebrate an association with rebellion. Sometimes, as with McEnroe it goes well and others, like Tyson, it does not.
Back in the day, however, bad boy athletes didn't have social media to worry about. Modern athletes have an advantage because they can control their images via social media. Our most recent bad boy moment in sports was Richard Sherman’s throw down interview ripping Michael Crabtree, which took Sherman to superstar social media status overnight. Although the follow-up Super Bowl ring certainly helped, Sherman leveraged his big social media moment to garner new fans and followers and then propelled himself into as many new opportunities as he could:
As a keynote speaker at Adobe’s Summit event in March, 2014 he outlined his purposeful strategy for using controversy as a social media tool and shot this hysterical video with The Onion, making fun of this moment:
Suarez has the same potential to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat if he understands and capitalizes on social media to demonstrate his humanity and to evoke positive emotions through humility or humor. Getting the spotlight can be difficult, but knowing what to do with it makes all the difference.