Lebron James, one of the NBA's biggest stars, got himself into an interesting predicament a while back. While playing in a pick-up game with some other NBA players, as well as college players, Lebron got dunked on.
Not by another NBA star. But by a college kid.
Lebron is in a league of his own. He was drafted straight out of high school and had a tonne of hype around him before he even set foot on to a professional league court. Ever since, he's been a franchise player, smashing records and getting his team to the Eastern Conference final.
King James, as he's called, is a superstar.
Right after he got dunked on, his biggest sponsor asked for all tapes of the event be turned over to them. Attempt to make sure the world doesn't see a superstar get posterized by a college kid? Please, it's 2009. That clip was on Youtube within seconds and word spread pretty fast with the help of Facebook, Twitter and the other social networking tools.
Professional athletes have an image to develop and protect. But the image needs fans to exist. Millions of dollars are spent by sponsors to sell products and athletes to fans and consumers. And a lot of energy is spent on protecting that image. This really demonstrates how fans are now controlling that image. As a collective, they can create the image and destroy it.
A lot of this is due to the fact that social networking tools and easy-to-use technology is readily available to anyone with a computer.