Sportspeople and LinkedIn

Using LinkedIn as a professional athlete

Think of sportspeople and social media, and what usually springs to mind is some form of scandal. It often seems as though Twitter was invented purely for footballers to make fools of themselves, with Peter Odemwingie, Joey Barton, Ashley Cole and Grant Holt just some of names involved with controversy on the micro-blogging service.

However, step away from these high profile examples and you find athletes using social media in a very different way, ranging from Olympians to semi-pros and gymnasts to professional dart players. LinkedIn is not just a way for professionals to stay connected and search for a new challenge, but is also being used by sportspeople to guarantee a successful career away from their sporting career.

This blog examines exactly how athletes use LinkedIn, the products they promote and the challenges they seek.

Only sing when you're LinkedIn

Perhaps unsurprisingly, footballers are the most commonly found athletes on LinkedIn, with a wide range of semi-pro players looking for a new club and potentially their big break. One former League Two player who will remain unnamed eagerly states they are a "prefessinal (sic) footballer looking for a new club", however there are also plenty of examples of the service being used in the right way.

Lee Hendrie made over 250 appearances for Aston Villa during an initially successful career in football, spending more than 10 years in the Premier League and playing in an FA Cup final. However, problems off the field saw Hendrie lose much of the wealth he had obtained from his time at the top of the game, forcing him to turn to other interests. He is now heavily involved in property, with his LinkedIn profile combining his time as a top player with his skills in this new industry.

Plymouth Argyle defender Guy Branston is another footballer who also has a range of additional interests, promoting his website All About Ballerz is a video sharing platform purely for footballers, allowing players to upload clips of their talents and potentially attract new clubs. With Branston himself having played for 21 different clubs during his career, he is clearly well qualified to discuss transfers, with his connections in the game helping to make this website very popular with younger players.

There are countless other footballers using LinkedIn to promote their post-football businesses, with two other notable names including Youl Mawene and Michael Bridges. However, it is not just footballers who turn to LinkedIn, with an intriguing variety of sports represented across the platform.

Not just football

Indeed, search 'athlete' on LinkedIn, and the first result you see is not a footballer at all. That honour is reserved for Angie Winstanley, an Olympian and top level water polo player. She is joined by teammate Rebecca Kershaw, a fellow member of the first ever British water polo team to play at the Olympics. Both women have careers away from the game, with these explained in detail alongside their sporting accomplishments.

The example of these leading water polo stars further demonstrates how the connections made in a sporting setting can be used elsewhere, with Rebecca Kershaw currently working for GreaterSport and having been involved with a project led by Rebecca Adlington, one of the most successful British Olympians ever.

The world of rugby is also well represented, with Rob Miller of Sale Sharks and Leicester Tigers player Neil Briggs using the service to demonstrate their talents and considerable experience in the game, perhaps looking to build connections to help them once their playing careers come to an end. Darts players John Scott and Andy Brown also feature, with many players in this sport turning to second jobs to stabilise their uncertain darting income.

A connected sporting world

It is not just the players themselves who advertise their services on LinkedIn, with an extensive range of individuals with sport related jobs to be found. These include agents Paul Garner and Jonathon Booker, who list details of the clients they represent and the services they offer, including contract negotiation and securing image rights.

These agents are joined by many well-known broadcasters, including Jacqui Oatley, Bianca Westwood and countless more. Clearly, LinkedIn is where the well-connected athlete goes to ensure their future success, without having to tweet in a car park to demand a transfer, a tactic made famous by Peter Odemwingie in January 2012.

With more and more sportspeople turning to this service, how long will it be before we see the first LinkedIn transfer hit the headlines?