Romelu Lukaku, the Belgium superstar, appears to be well-versed in social media. He has 1.25 million followers on his Instagram account, and a “retweet” is credited for a 1.5 million increase in page views.
While many footballers boast such massive followings, there is an uncommonly high demand for access. The logistics of the employment market demand so that players are expected to be available at whatever hour a sponsor or corporation needs them. Every player, therefore, can be expected to offer up a glimpse of their everyday life.
Lukaku, it appears, has his own agenda for the upcoming World Cup in Russia. In an open letter published on Thursday, he urged the top executives of companies like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat to provide more access to footballers for use in adverts.
“FIFA can’t just close itself in the Kremlin, where fans have been barred from watching the World Cup,” Lukaku wrote in the letter. “Football is a global brand. Most of its teams play in some of the richest countries in the world. And not only in the big ones. In China, the Middle East, Europe and the USA, football is a mega-hobby. You know what they say about ‘new markets: take care of the old ones first’. “Right now, football players who are worth millions of euros are deprived of the most important asset: a glimpse of the new market, the young ones, the marketing potential. So I’d like to remind everyone: our social media is the biggest influence in our lives, the one thing we touch most – photos, words, gestures, likes – and the things we provide the world with. “And many of the benefits [in using social media] are free: marketing campaigns, endorsements, branded products, deals, brand imagery, TV shows, billboards and campaigns with all the major players in the industry. Football players have always been aware of this, but we are still tied up with old regulations and conditions, at a different time when some [corporations] are taking advantage of the new technology. We have been given new rights and powers, new protocols, new freedom to set our own terms, but more is necessary: ‘nuzzling’ social media, with quality and quality only, while the companies control and keep all the data. “We want to see a more democratic position for footballers who are able to be part of, and have access to, the new technologies that have made the world bigger, for everyone. We are tired of all this pressure from above, from ourselves and from our sponsors. It’s time to take decisions and discuss them.”
Lukaku’s passionate plea for better access for footballers is a plea for greater freedom for users. Access to social media has become the norm for many users, but there is a scarcity of good, independent, highly-edited and usable material. According to Lukaku, he and other footballers should have the power to decide when or how they give media their blessing. He has started a campaign on Twitter and Instagram for the players and corporate users of the social media platforms to meet.