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In the era of social media, it only takes a few seconds for a picture to change the world. Photographs shared on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest can shape public opinion in seconds, which has huge implications for politics, marketing, and social campaigning.
Last week, amongst the many iconic images doing the rounds on people’s timelines and newsfeeds, one from the world of sport stood out: the shots of Jose Bautista tossing his bat after hitting a game-winning home run in the Toronto Blue Jays’ 6-3 win over Texas Rangers.
The image at the top of this article summed up the passion and emotion that are hallmarks of Bautista’s style of play, and drew attention to the fantastic entertainment that the Blue Jays’ campaign in the American League Championship Series has provided for millions of loyal fans.
Anyone who glimpsed the photos and dug a little deeper into the backstory would have learned of Bautista’s brilliant performance in a do-or-die game for the Jays. The contest was full of drama and controversy, disputed calls, crucial errors, and brilliant baseball.
In countries like the UK, where baseball barely registers on the radar of most sports fans, moments like this can be pivotal. All of a sudden, legions of sports fans sit up and take notice of what’s happening overseas, and some of them fall head over heels in love.
All it takes is a performance like Bautista’s to send sports fans into action. Some of them will be slow burners, taking note of the Blue Jays’ progress over the years before gradually developing into full-blown fans. Some will use their newfound interest in baseball as part of their sports betting strategy. Sports betting is huge in Europe, and many avid gamblers relish the opportunity to gain an advantage over bookmakers and place bets on the less-talked-about sports at online destinations like Bet365 and others.
Then, there are the sports fans who will take drastic action when they discover a new sport that they enjoy. These are the superfans who will go straight to the Blue Jays’ online store, immediately buy themselves a jersey, and then book themselves on the next available flight to Toronto in time to catch the very next game taking place at Rogers Centre.
Sports tourism is a huge industry, and was cited as the fastest growing sector in the global travel and tourism industry back in 2008, accounting for $600 billion – or 10 per cent – of the international travel tourism market.
Sports clubs and franchises have cottoned on to this, and are employing marketing managers who are wise to the power of social media to gain new fans overseas and bring them flocking to the stadiums and stores where they will spend their money and contribute to the club’s coffers.
Baseball is some way behind sports like football, which have been successfully exported to Europe through initiatives like the International Series, which sees a number of NFL games played in London each season.
Europe lacks the stadiums and infrastructure to support a similar export of baseball, but that certainly won’t stop clubs like the Blue Jays from reaping the benefits of the new fans who will support the club from afar if they continue to send powerful messages around the world via the web. For the Silo, Keith Allison