Social media is often the only media coverage a track and field athlete or discipline will receive. Track and field athletes have made extensive use of social media to bring to light their financial plight and the institutional constraints on their livelihood.
During the London Olympics, #WeDemandChange and #Rule40 were among Twitter’s highest trending tags as some of America’s most decorated and famous track and field athletes protested the blackout restrictions on commercial communications.
Apparel manufacturer and emerging athlete sponsor Oiselle spearheaded one of the most intriguing social media developments of the Olympics. Oiselle posted a list of track and field athletes’ sponsors, and encouraged fans to tweet on behalf of the sponsors during the athletes’ events using the hashtag #bsblackout, to circumvent Rule 40’s restrictions.
This was an individual sponsor with no direct skin in the fight (no Oiselle athletes competed in the Games) igniting the fan base in support of all sponsors and all athletes, underscoring the close relationship between these three communities within the track and field industry.
Social media also offers a great opportunity for professional athletes to connect with recreational runners, highlighting the similarities in the experience of the sport as well as the differences that make them elite.
A professional track and field athlete tweeting the mileage on his morning run is a chance for a potential fan to say “I’ve run that route before!” or “Hey, I actually ran further than him today!”
Athletes can share their post-workout meals, pre-race rituals and training pointers to aspiring youth runners wondering what may await them at the pro level; and to recreational runners seeking inspiration from and identification with the world’s best.
Updates throughout the day, over the course of weeks and months, provide a virtual training log that athletes can share with their fans. As fans identify with aspects of the athletes’ training on a day-to-day basis, over time they appreciate the volume, intensity and dedication required to be a professional runner.