Olympians discuss social media

Social media has drastically altered the landscape of athletics.

From improved connection with the fan bases of athletes and the increased role of sponsorships, athletes are always under the microscope.

This was the focus of the Boise State chapter of PRSSA’s keynote event of CommCon 2014, Social in Sochi.

The Social in Sochi event included a panel of U.S. Olympians with ties to the Boise area.

The panel was composed of bobsledder Nick Cunningham, a former captain of the Boise State track team, biathlete Sara Studebaker, a 2003 graduate of Boise High School and alpine skier Erik Fisher who originally began skiing at Bogus Basin.

All three spoke on how social media has affected their careers, as well as their experiences in Sochi.

While all agreed that social media can be a great tool for career advancement, gaining sponsorships and connecting with fans, they spoke of the dangers associated with social media.

“Social media can either build your career or kill it,” Cunningham said. “It’s like a car wreck.”

Cunningham went on to say how important it is to stop and think before hitting send on a tweet or Facebook post. Once it is out in the Internet, it’s there forever.

With the nature of their respective sports featuring long, continuous months of travel to competitions, social media provided each an outlet to connect with the fans and
the media.

Cunningham regularly held Q & A sessions on Twitter during the duration of the Sochi Olympics. The opportunity to open so many people to the culture of Russia was a responsibility Cunningham took upon himself.

Studebaker recounted an experience during the panel where social media was able to benefit herself.

After a poor performance during the biathlon, Studebaker received an outpour of support from fans from all walks of life through social media.

Cunningham attested as well to the support he received from fans after his crew in the bobsled “flat out choked.”

“The amount of support from people all over was amazing,” Cunningham said. “It really brought me back.”

There are both negatives and positives associated with social media. The ability to connect with fans and gain sponsorships is a great asset for athletes. If caution is not exercised however, social media can ruin an athlete’s career.

About the author  ⁄ Nate Lowery

Nate is currently surviving his freshman year of college coming from Elk Grove, CA. He is an English major with a Writing-Rhetoric/Communication emphasis. Nate was a featured columnist for BleacherReport covering Oregon Ducks football as well as the Pac-12. He covered high school sports for the Elk Grove Citizen also during that time. When Nate has free time, he can be found shooting hoops at the rec, running or riding his bike along the greenbelt, or watching Netflix. Nate hopes to work for ESPN, Sports Illustrated or a major newspaper one day.