Three ways Mario Balotelli has shaped his own narrative

“Why always me?”

Those three words will forever be associated with footballer Mario Balotelli and in truth, few footballers have created as many headlines as the maverick striker over the previous decade.

From clashes with teammates to setting off fireworks in his house, he’s received his fair share of negative press, but is also astute at setting the media agenda himself.

As traditional newsrooms shrink in size and circulation figures decline, shared and owned media is playing an increasing role for individuals and brands.

Owning your story allows it to be told exactly how you would like and makes up a key part of the paid, earned, shared and owned (PESO) model.

While Balotelli may not be perfect, he certainly understands the value of digital and social media and these three examples show how the enigmatic Italian has used storytelling effectively to own his narrative.

1. Making a statement

Balotelli has suffered vile racist abuse in his career, and many were fearful that he may be a target at UEFA Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.

Prior to the tournament, he came out with an emotive statement underlining the need for racism to be stamped out of the game.

Despite the fears, Balotelli behaved impeccably throughout the tournament and finished as the competition’s joint-top goalscorer as Italy reached the final.

He showed the importance of being proactive and making a bold statement during a time of unrest.

Letting his football do the talking on the pitch drew attention away from issues out of his control and he was painted in a different light by the media as a result.

2. Derby day delight

Many people associate Balotelli’s three-year spell at Manchester City with the “why always me?” shirt that he wore in the club’s 6-1 drubbing of Manchester United at Old Trafford in October 2011.

After receiving numerous negative headlines for his antics on and off the field, it was the perfect riposte to his critics and ensured he wrote the media’s script that day.

Balotelli had been perceived as arrogant and aggressive, but this act showed another side to the then 21-year-old that helped adhere him to the City fans.

His actions helped fans and the media to focus on the positives and show more empathy towards him.

Balotelli certainly created more crises than he averted, but this iconic celebration showcased the effectiveness of managing your narrative before anyone else.

Companies should apply the same principle when dealing with their own reputations in an era of instant shareability.

Ensuring your crisis communications playbook is up to date and that your messaging is clear and transparent will avert future challenges down the line.

3. Instagram Stories selfie

Balotelli’s strike against Saint-Etienne last Sunday night was his fourth goal in six matches since joining Marseille, but few people outside of France would have taken much notice.

That was until the 28-year-old took to Instagram to video his celebration with teammates and share it on the site’s Stories feature.

The clip had over 2.4m views within a day of it being posted and once again showed the power of social media.

To put that into perspective, the official Ligue 1 Instagram account has 1.2m followers, less than half the audience that viewed Balotelli’s post without considering how often it was reposted.

While the majority of brands cannot boast millions of existing followers, it shows how to own your story and the impact of shareability on social media.

The video had been shared across the world before the match had finished and Balotelli ensured the headlines were about him once again.

While he may not always be the model professional, few can doubt Balotelli’s ability to put himself at the forefront of the story and ensure he consistently makes the headlines.

Judging by his recent celebrations he has found happiness at Marseille and it’s unlikely that this will be the last that we hear of Balotelli.