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All Blacks social media blackout – PR stunt or legitimate pre-cup policy?

All Blacks social media blackout – PR stunt or legitimate pre-cup policy?

 

As you may have heard, The All Blacks have imposed a blanket ban on their players using any form of social media during the upcoming Rugby World Cup.

This ban is a step up from the All Blacks’ previous position of “advising caution” when it comes to using social media, and has been brought in by Head Coach Graham Henry.

Facebook, Twitter, Newspaper columns and Blogs have also all been crossed off the list, with the teams stated justification being that players need to be fully focused on the job in hand.

Now you might think this is probably fair enough, but the cynic in me thinks that this is purely a PR stunt ahead of the tournament – a tournament which, lets not forget, the All Blacks always seem to stuff up, usually bottling it at the quarter final stage against France.

Rugby Union is far and away the most popular sport in New Zealand, and everyone knows that the All Blacks are the best team in the world, and yet their record on the biggest stage is very underwhelming.  This is what leads me to think that this is just a PR stunt from the management team to reassure the public that they are doing everything in their power to prepare properly.

But it all seems so token to me.  Is this really the reason behind this move?  If so, why stop there? What are the chances of the All Blacks management banning all pre and post media player interviews? Or what about banning any advertising with the players in from being shown? In fact, go the whole hog and just ban anything that isn’t directly related to improving the performance of their players during the tournament.  No playstation, no swimming, cards, iPods, etc.  Just turn them into Rugby playing drones.

Now obviously that’s ridiculous and I’m exaggerating for effect, but I honestly don’t believe that this ban serves any real purpose.

For me it has far more to do with fear.  Fear from the management that one of their players will say something stupid and inflammatory after a game. Fear that someone will twitpic the players out being drunk.  But fear is simply not a good enough reason to just outright ban something, that’s an extremely reactionary measure and one which sets itself up for failure.

As I’ve mentioned on here and twitter countless times, the correct approach is education and setting guidelines.  If teams, coaches and trainers followed the lead set by brands and corporations then they could easily remove this fear, and make positive strides in engaging with the life blood of any national sport – the fans.

Outright bans won’t solve anything, all they do is punish players, but more importantly, they punish the fans.

What do you think? Is this just a PR stunt? Are fans missing out or is this justified?

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Joe Weston is a Sports and Social Media blogger from the UK writing regularly on his Blog.  He has blogged since the ‘Social Media Week London: Sport and Social Media’ event in February of this year after concluding that respected voices in this sector were few and far between, especially in the UK.

In his professional career Joe works as a Sports Specialist for leading Word of Mouth Marketing Agency 1000 heads, working with a number of sporting clients, including both brands and sporting bodies.  In the past he has worked with some of the biggest sporting celebs in the UK, as well as the largest technology company in the world in his time in the PR industry.

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