What can sports marketers’ learn and apply from the new Netflix documentary, ‘the social dilemma’?

Netflix’s new documentary, the social dilemma, attempts to exploit the methods which technology leaders have utilised human behaviours and emotions to influence how we act. In this era of ‘digitalisation’, it’s prominent that AI, technology and social devices are several steps ahead of the human mind which leaves the future of our society in an intriguing position. Despite the unprecedented fear this docu-drama has injected in our veins, we can still continue to utilise social media (SM) to our advantage, particularly as a sports marketer. Here’s how.

Data, data, data!!!

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The social dilemma revealed that the data stored on SM mediums are applied to create a psychological profile of their consumers. This profile is then utilised by SM companies to sell the user a concept, which gradually builds a slight change in behaviour and perspective, which is how organisations in that space accumulate revenue. However, in the football industry, hardly any of their income is produced through their online fan engagement activities. This is precisely why the sector has experienced such a deficit throughout COVID19 due to the lack of match-day revenue.

According to Goran Milošević, founder of fan engagement tool, FANNECTOR, discovered that majority of football clubs digital marketing efforts are focusing on capturing match-day content.  Approximately only 10% of football clubs digital content is fixated on engaging with their fanbase. It’s easy to think with thousands of likes, comments and shares across football content that clubs are doing a great job at interacting with their fans. However, they’re practically anonymous supporters to the club

How does a sports marketer move forward with this issue? They must encourage their teams to become proactive in collecting and owning data to form personalised psychological profiles of their supporters progressively, to better target each supporter with personalised content affiliated with the club. E.g. If fan X usually drinks a Corona Extra beer while watching the game, that club can target that supporter with various forms of targeted advertising, to ensure they’re optimising that fan to have the best experience possible. This will result in a higher likelihood of securing a strong commercial return and a better connection with their overall fanbase.

Redefine the meaning of Corporate Social Responsibility

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The docu-drama also demonstrated multiple reasons to stay ahead of the fast-growing SM curve, particularly with its influence across Generation Z which has worried parents significantly. Generation Z consists of those that are popular media users that were born between the late 1990s and early 2010s. Due to the increasing prominence of digital media representing value towards an individuals life, it has created a distorted perspective amongst young people. This includes most tech-savvy youngsters feeling insecure about the number of followers they have, whether they have an ‘attractive’ physical figure and taking risks due to the value of others opinions holding more weight in this ever-more digitalised era.

The social dilemma has been proactive on this issue, it has not only raised awareness of this problem, but it has established resources on its website to educate parents and their children on how to combat this manipulation. Sports marketers should begin thinking more creatively about the sports industry’s purpose on ‘Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)’. As well as supporting communal causes surrounding education, health and gender, the industry should consider reinforcing its predominantly young audience of being aware around social media safety and stopping them falling into the trap of digital manipulation.

Why does this matter for the sports industry? Well, The average age of sports fans is getting younger year on year, plus, the sports sector reaches over billions of its consumers daily meaning it has a significant influence on the majority of the worldwide population. Sports marketers are integral to symbolising the image of the sports industry, whether they represent a team, an agency, a charity etc. Applying a similar principle to what the social dilemma has done to support parents will not only improve the reputation of sport, but provides society with a powerful tool to combat the drawbacks that social media has brought into the world.

Establish a stronger relationship with the third and education sector

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Mental health issues have unfortunately risen amongst Gen Z, with more young people experiencing anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. BBC News has reported Instagram to be the worst SM platform relating to its impact on young peoples mental health, primarily aged between 14-24.

This demographic is likely experiencing social pressures from their peers in and out of school, resulting in the above issues occurring more through SM’s exploitation. The sports industry must continue to work closer than ever across their community foundations, charities, schools and health sectors as these organisations specialise towards supporting such under-represented audiences.

What would this need to look like? Further investments towards sports clubs and teams charitable foundations, to ensure they have enough facilities to continue delivering effective communal interventions. Collaborative projects amongst each sector should have a definitive focus on the impact SM has on mental health. Schools and other educational institutes must pursue formal qualifications for young people to take around SM’s role in society. Sports marketer’s fit into this picture from applying innovative thinking to raise the profile of sports teams charitable foundations to a broader audience, continually expand the sports content landscape to follow the algorithms that attract audiences across education, health and non-profit.


The influence of SM is ever-growing, particularly within sport, meaning sports marketers’ have a vital duty to ensure the industry utilises this tool from a positive standpoint. Are you a sports marketer who’s seen the social dilemma? If so, what have you taken away from it to apply throughout your work?

Published by Ashwyn Lall

I'm a First-Class Graduate in Sports Business Management who has worked across Local Government, Sport and the Third Sector. Throughout my career, I've developed a thriving passion to promote sport being used as a tool to bring positivity to the world we live in. This ethos has inspired me to create a website which champions this value through comprehensive online content for you to gain value from. Join me on this journey of discovering what sport can do to enhance society.

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