English | Autor: Hilska Mika

Why not be a star?

It's not just about how you play floorball anymore. Also being able to market yourself and the sport in floorball can be quite an assist for yourself, your club and the whole concept of floorball. In Finland, floorball players' social media activity has been one of this season's hot topics.

Why not be a star? Social media activities were a hot topic this season in Finland. (Picture: Salibandyliiga)

"Can a floorball player get a better contract if he or she is also a name in social media", the question at this spring's play-off press conference sounded. "Of course", World Champion Joonas Pylsy answered without a flinch. Joonas Pylsy became a bit of a social media figure as he touched the sucject in an interview for Urheilulehti, Finland's biggest sports weekly. That part of the story was not big but the interesting part was about how Pylsy did not hesitate to tell how he has not been afraid grow himself a status of a social media personality as an elite floorball player.

"Actually, the interview might have overdone my activity a bit but yes, I am working to be active especially in Instagram where I have fa... well, followers from all around the world", Pylsy said after hearing some say he does not participate in e.g. twitter conversations. "I want to show them what my everyday life as a floorball player is and actively answer questions. On the other hand, I do not have strong opinions or much to say in daily topics as players like Jussi Piha do. Instagram is a good place to open my life in a neutral way".

Could one even talk about a personal brand named "Joonas Pylsy" being built here? "At least I see no harm for my future if done in a professional way. I want to give a professional impression and choose the things I publish carefully. Also, I want my posts to be internationally as so many of my followers are from abroad, so a lot of what I post is in English.

Forget the quiet modesty
Among Finnish floorball players, Jussi Piha has been dominating social media for a while now actively posting his opinions and feelings in YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Miko Kailiala and Peter Kotilainen might jump in a Twitter conversation to express their opinions about hot topics often in a way that may start flames.

Tyttösalibandy (Girls' Floorball) is a Finnish campaign promoting floorball for girls and recently Finnish stars playing abroad like Veera Kauppi and Oona Kauppi, Mia Karjalainen and Laura Manninen, My Kippilä and most recently Sanni Nieminen have had the opportunity to take over Tyttösalibandy's social media channels for a week to tell fans about their lives as floorball professionals or semi-professionals.

Former Salibandyliiga player Lasse Riitesuo today works as business designer for a Finnish marketing company called Brande. Joonas Pylsy's interview inspired Salibandyliiga to invite Riitesuo to tell players and managers about the opportunities social media activity opens for the sport. Most of all, Lasse Riitesuo encouraged floorball stars to forget their Very-Finnish quiet modesty and not hesitate to boast their successes. Being a floorball star is in no way anything less than being a football or a hockey star.

"I remember when I scored a lot of goals but still hesitated to be publicly proud of it. It thought something like 'well, maybe Henri Johansson is going to score even more next week anyway so why bother", the co-owner of Salibandyliiga's most goal in a match (9) says. "When you think about how much time we invest in floorball, it would not make sense to have our social media posts just include our holiday trips or meals or pets", Riitesuo pointed out.

"And with play-offs now starting, I would not like to hear any of that 'shut down your social media and just concentrate in the games' crap. This is the time of the biggest, hottest games and the best time to make the whole world hear about them. There's no need to be shy about social media posts. If one of them did not make it, it also means no one really noticed if it happened to be bad."

Being up on the podium, Riitesuo also took the opportunity to point out Finnish teams' habit of right after the final buzzer gathering in front of their goal to huddle in a minute or two's team moment with their backs turned to the rest of the world.  And to the audience. "I understand the team will want a quick moment for themselves after a lost game but especially after a victory at home, why not immediately face your fans and enjoy the moment together with them?"

Players become brands
Finnish floorball megaclub EräViikingit's marketing manager Olli Lähdesmäki points out why players' social media activity is important for all of us. "Any message coming from a player, living person instead of a club or federation is so much more interesting and gets noticed.  Also, it is a lot easier for a player to comment colorfully and even controversially than for an organization that must be more careful.

Lähdesmäki also points out how an active player is also more valuable for his or her club. "If I were the one signing out player contracts I would greatly emphasize the things players do outside the rink. Like Adidas does not pay Leo Messi a lot of money for fun because they want to support his hobby."

Lasse Riitesuo puts it even more bluntly. "If there are two equally skillful players to be signed, it is definitely the right choice to choose the one with 50,000 social media followers. Players are more and more becoming brands that are of interest to companies especially if the companies sense they share their values. Up here, I'd say 2,000 or more followers in social media is an amount with commercial value."

Its is not just the player who profits. "In Salibandyliiga, Westend Indians from Espoo have numbers about how their players promoting their home games in social media affect the number of spectators. It certainly does", Salibandyliiga's marketing director Toni Nikunen points out. "We have a big game tomorrow, come see us, Valtteri Kainulainen posts and more will come. Also, you do not even need to be your team's best player to make an impact in social media. Even a fourth-line winger can be the funniest or most interesting personality online".

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