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 affect everything from sponsorship to what athletes post on their Instagram accounts.
September 10, 2021
Nicholas Demichele ’22, a sports management major from the University of New Haven.
When Nicholas Demichele was ’22, he checked the sports stats in the newspaper every Sunday. He’s been into sports for as long as he can remember, and he likes – and can – math well. He has now found a way to bring those interests together in a way that could affect the sports business.
Demichele is a sports management major and most recently served as a social media consultant for NorthStar Solutions Group, a Pennsylvania-based company management solutions group. Tasked with analyzing a list of the top 50 athletes for their social media impact, he carefully went through each athlete’s social media channels. He looked for patterns and paid special attention to posts that weren’t about sports, noting that those posts in particular had the most resonance with followers and fans.
“Some athletes have posted about social justice or LGBTQ + rights, and athletes like gymnast Simone Biles and tennis player Naomi Osaka have posted about mental health,” said Demichele, an underage business analyst. “I found a strong correlation between top athletes and contributions about their passions, issues that are important to them, and their families.”
“People react to things that interest them”
The list he examined, 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, fandemography and attractiveness of the fans.
Demichele paid special attention to athlete demographics, such as their age and origins, and he categorized what they post. He found that almost all of the top 50 influencers posted about sponsorship, and also discovered that categories like athletes’ families, social justice issues, and other sports they practice were popular with athletes too.
“People react to and feel attracted to things that interest them,” he explains. “For example, if LeBron James posts a video where he’s immersed, that’s cool, but people identify more with problems and things they can relate to.”
By analyzing the data, Demichele found that the most popular athletes on the market are ready to change and adapt. He found that not only is the number of followers important to an athlete’s influence, but also who those followers are and how engaged they are.
To learn more about what this could mean for athletes, Demichele used Zoomph, a digital measurement platform, to gain a deeper understanding of athletes’ followers and what this could mean for them – and for companies.
“You can put in an athlete’s Twitter handle and it will tell you how many of their followers are following someone or something else, such as a company like Starbucks,” he explains. “Companies that have a large fan base in common with an athlete but don’t sponsor them might see they should.”
“It wouldn’t have happened without Nic”
Frank Gregory, Social Media Intelligence Practice Lead at 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 was instrumental in 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 popped in and analyzed the topics of social media content that each of the top 50 athletes frequently post about.
“This resulted in several data points that we were able to get hold of in our thought leadership article,” he continued. “These data points were so convincing that NorthStar received a call from BBC Global News to speak to us about it in their prime time coverage, and that would not have happened without Nic! We’re looking forward to the next two projects he’ll be working on with NorthStar this fall (the SportsPro 50 Most Marketable Brands in the World and 50 Most Marketable Sports Properties in the World) that are sure to lead to more visibility for us in the industry. “
“A new perspective on athletes and marketing”
Demichele says that thanks to his time at university, he felt confident working with NorthStar as a consultant and intern with the Connecticut Sports Management Group.
“My classes taught me how to become a professional and how to adapt,” he said. “This project could have been overwhelming, but my professors prepared me well, especially with soft skills.”
He credits Ceyda Mumcu, Ph.D., chair of the university’s Sports Management Department, for helping him build his confidence, and he is especially grateful for her support.
“Nic impressed me every step of the way,” said Dr. Mumcu. “His work ethic and professionalism are second to none. It’s amazing to see how a college graduate influences the sports industry by gaining insights through social media analytics and working with innovative organizations. “
Demichele, who aspires to work for and successfully build a professional sports team, hopes his work will have a meaningful impact on the field.
“I hope this opens up a new perspective on athletes and marketing,” he said. “Before social media, you couldn’t expect three female athletes to be the top three influencers in the world. I hope it will have a positive impact on the field by helping to highlight this. ”