How sports heroes are changing the news media industry

By Pit Gottschalk

Funke Media Group

Berlin, Germany


Manuel Neuer is just 29 years old and no rock star at all, but he’s one of those guys who can competes with you for your son’s attention. He smiles like a teenager whenever a camera turns on, is polite to anyone, and is probably the one and only guy a father would let his daughter go out with on a date.

Neuer is the goal keeper of the German football team and the Bundesliga club Bayern Munich (OK, for the Americans: soccer!). He became the FIFA world champion in 2014. And, he’s richer than any of my readers here.

As a media brand, he’s even stronger than many publications in sports journalism worldwide.

Manuel Neuer has a personal brand media companies envy.
Manuel Neuer has a personal brand media companies envy.

On Twitter, he has nearly 3.5 million followers, and, on Facebook, 8.7 million fans. Whenever Neuer publishes news on his social media channels, a huge audience of sports fans consume his postings. Big companies like Sony, Allianz insurance, Adidas, and Coca-Cola wanted to benefit from his impact on sports fans all over the world and signed contracts that have pushed his yearly salary above US$15 million.

All of this influences our work in the media industry.

  • Neuer absorbs time and attention from readers of our newspapers, magazines, and online channels.

  • Neuer doesn’t need journalists as a bridge between him and his fans anymore.

  • Neuer takes money directly from our potential advertisers, who don’t promote their testimonials in newspapers’ advertising space the way they did some years ago.

  • Neuer has staff to avoid any trouble in terms of public relations and can correct misunderstandings within minutes.

In other words, Neuer is a media brand, too. Thats a phenomena you can observe in any sports in any country. In India, the national cricket team attracts more than 22.7 million fans on Facebook. Check out how many people like your Facebook right now.

We have no chance of stopping this development.

Every time we report on the achievements of these sport heroes, we strengthen their statuses and become an important part of their brand building. To get interviews, we have to play this game. The little chance we have to escape from the loop is to strengthen our own brand as an independent voice that helps readers understand what is going on in the world.

But, who can afford independence?

About Pit Gottschalk

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