Every four years, they get a chance. The spotlight shines on them quickly, before disappearing for another four years. Yet that’s what makes the journey of Olympic athletes so fascinating. More than 10,000 Olympians will descend on London this summer and the vast majority won’t run as fast as a lightning Bolt, be multi-millionaire basketball players or have 14 gold medals. Marketing moments aren’t hard to come by when you’re Michael Phelps.
Now with the Games fast approaching, some lesser-known athletes are using social media to polish their online presence for primetime. Swimmer Amanda Beard has used a variety of platforms to become a New York Times Best Seller. Lolo Jones has showcased incredible wit and self-deprecating humor to build up a Twitter audience of nearly 48,000 followers — an awful lot for a hurdler. And Ricky Berens has gone from never replying to fans, to the most engaging U.S. swimmer on Twitter.
Berens is a Spiracle Media client, so the previous statement isn’t really an impartial one. But during the past year, fans and most importantly, sponsors, have noticed what he’s been doing. In the landscape of mainstream sports, Berens isn’t a “name.” He’s trained the past four years for what will likely be just a few minutes in the spotlight in London. But in his world, the swim world, he’s a big deal, and he’s capitalized by turning his social media efforts into endorsements.
As he prepares for London, Berens recently took a break from his training in L.A. to chat with me, via Skype.
CLICK BELOW to hear how Berens has turned his social media efforts into “a business,” why he truly enjoys replying to so many fans and who won in a race between him and his Olympic gold medal-winning girlfriend, Rebecca Soni.
If you want to skip around, here’s a rundown of where you can find specific parts of the conversation:
1:00 — Why Berens has upped his social media game
1:43 — Examples of how he’s engaging with fans
2:24 — Why he was originally hesitant to reply to fans
2:55 — How social media helps him reach younger swimmers
3:50 — How his social media efforts have attracted sponsors
5:17 — Video he posted of the race against his gold medal-winning girlfriend
6:14 — How he’s turned social media into a business
7:08 — His reasons for being more active than other swimmers
8:52 — What he thinks about social media restrictions at Olympics
9:55 — Examples of behind-the-scenes posts, if there weren’t restrictions
11:42 — How he’s built online relationships with fans