Sports Management major analysis offers important insights for industry professionals

Nicholas Demichele ’22 analyzed the social media accounts of the world’s top athletes and their ability to reach and connect with their fans. What he found could impact everything from sponsorships to what athletes post on their Instagram accounts.

September 10, 2021

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Nicholas Demichele ’22, a sports management major at the University of New Haven.

When Nicholas Demichele ’22 was a kid, he used to review sports stats in the newspaper every Sunday. He has loved sports for as long as he can remember, and he also loves – and is good at – math. He has now found a way to bring these interests together in a way that could impact the business of the sport.

A sports management graduate, Demichele recently began working as a social media consultant for NorthStar Solutions Group, a Pennsylvania-based business management solutions group. Tasked with analyzing a list of the top 50 athletes in terms of social media influence, he carefully scoured each athlete’s social media. He researched patterns, paying particular attention to posts that weren’t about sports, as he noticed those posts in particular seemed to resonate the most with followers and fans.

“Some athletes have posted about social justice issues or LGBTQ+ rights, and athletes such as gymnast Simone Biles and tennis player Naomi Osaka have posted about mental health,” said Demichele, an underage in business analysis. “I found a strong correlation between top athletes and posts about their passions, issues that matter to them, and their families.”

“People react to things that interest them”

The list he reviewed, which included three women (Biles, Osaka and soccer player Ashlyn Harris) as the top three influencers, assigned each athlete an “influencer score” based on five weighted metrics: frequency, reach , engagement, fan demographics and fan attractiveness.

Demichele paid close attention to athlete demographics, such as age and background, and ranked what they posted. Noting that nearly all of the top 50 influencers posted about sponsorships, he also found that categories such as athlete families, social justice issues and other sports they play were also popular among athletes. .

“People react and are attracted to things that interest them,” he explains. “If, for example, LeBron James posts a video of him diving, that’s cool, but people identify more with issues and things that they can relate to.”

By analyzing the data, Demichele realized that the most marketable athletes are ready to change and adapt. He found that it’s not just the number of followers that matters for an athlete’s influence, but who those followers are and how engaged they are that matters.

Eager to learn more about what this could mean for athletes, Demichele used Zomph, a digital measurement platform, to better understand athlete followers and what it could mean for them – and for businesses.

“You can put an athlete’s Twitter account and it will tell you how many of their followers are also following someone or something else, like a company like Starbucks,” he explains. “Companies that have a large mutual following with an athlete but don’t sponsor them might find that they should.”

“This wouldn’t have happened without Nic”

Frank Gregory, social media intelligence practice leader for NorthStar Solutions Group, says Demichele’s work has already had a significant impact, and he looks forward to working with him on several more projects.

“Nic has been integral to the success of NorthStar’s analysis of SportsPro’s list of the World’s 50 Most Marketable Athletes,” he said. “When we first saw the list, Nic immediately dove in, analyzing the social media content topics each of the top 50 athletes frequently posts on.

“This led to several data points that we were able to find in our thought leadership article,” he continued. “These data points were so compelling that NorthStar got a call from BBC Global News wanting to tell us about it in their prime time coverage, and it wouldn’t have happened without Nic! We look forward to the next two projects on which he’ll be working with NorthStar this fall (SportsPro’s 50 Most Marketable Brands in the World and the World’s 50 Most Marketable Sports Properties), which we’re sure will lead to more visibility for us in the industry.

“A New Perspective on Athletes and Marketing”

Demichele says that through his time at the University, he felt confident in his ability to work with NorthStar as a consultant and as an intern with the Connecticut Sports Management Group.

“My classes taught me to be a professional and to adapt,” he said. “This project could have been overwhelming, but my teachers prepared me well, especially with the soft skills.”

He credits Ceyda Mumcu, Ph.D., Chair of the University’s Sports Management Department, for helping him build his confidence, and is especially grateful for her support.

“Nic impressed me with every turn we took,” Dr Mumcu said. “His work ethic and professionalism are second to none. It is impressive to watch a senior student make an impact in the sports industry by gaining insights through social media analytics and collaborating with innovative organizations.

Demichele, who aspires to work for a professional sports team and help them succeed, says he hopes his work will have a significant impact on the pitch.

“I hope it gives athletes and marketing a new perspective,” he said. “Before social media, you couldn’t expect three female athletes to be the top three influencers in the world. I hope that by helping to bring this to light, it will have a positive impact on the ground.

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