Twitter and the art of sports electioneering, by David Owen, for InsidetheGamesbiz

David Owen is one of my favorite writers on the politics of sport. He has been one of my favorites for several years, but moved up the food chain for recently quoting George Orwell’s note that sport is war without the bullets. The advent of social media is another weapon in this battle for sport supremacy and sports marketing dollars. 


Seb Coe and Sergey Bubka, photo by

But do not be confused. 

Raw numbers mean little. Sports Politics is every so challenging in this day and age. But influence is king, and if one had 1,000 twitter followers who were key influencers as opposed to the six million followers of a popular, whose followers are looking for a train wreck, then, one could defeat the person with raw number superiority. 

Actions speak louder than tweets.  

The battle for the IAAF Presidency is much, much closer than one could imagine. Truth be told, the votes for either Mr. Bubka or Mr. Coe will be won or loss with personal visits. The social media world is a great PR gesture, but this is a true battle of great athletes and sports politicians. 

Discount either at your own risk. Both Coe and Bubka have skill sets that are fascinating. Both men are at their very best in one on one situations. Both possess an elegance and a gift of conversation. And both want the job very, very much. 

But note this, Bubka and Coe know how to play well together. Without the work of both of them, the World Champs coming to the US would never have happened. 

If they are not saying it now, by 2012, members of the IAAF will recognize that have an outdoor World Champs in the US not only opened doors to American marketers but may be the catalyst for American TV to give track and field its properly deserved coverage as one of the worlds’ most prestigious and historic sports. 

David Owen: Twitter and the art of sports electioneering

David Owen

It being general election week here in the United Kingdom, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at the two high-profile electoral battles currently being waged in the world of sport, via the medium of the candidates’ Twitter feeds.

Not because I judge this likely to offer great insights into the identity of the eventual winners: the sports officials in whose hands the outcomes lie are assuredly far too high-minded to be swayed by anything as trivial as social media.

But for the lessons such an exercise can teach about how such new-fangled tools can most effectively be pressed into service.

Plus for any clues regarding the candidates’ preoccupations, interests and character.

To be clear, I am talking about a) the heavyweight contest between Sebastian Coe and Sergey Bubka for the Presidency of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), and b) the four-way tussle for the leadership of FIFA, world governing body of football, the planet’s biggest sport.

Three general points to begin with:

1.  While I genuinely don’t think Twitter is a good way of assessing the likely winners of such contests, it would actually be little surprise if the finishing places in both elections corresponded with the number of followers that each candidate has.

For the record, at my cut-off point of noon on May 7, the situation was as follows: Coe 92,700 versus Bubka 5,750.

And Sepp Blatter 2.67 million, Luís Figo 1.14 million, Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein 191,348 (split between two accounts) and Michael van Praag 14,700.

To read this exceptional piece by Mr. Owen, please go to:

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