Instagram as Exemplar: Examining the Presence and Likability of Subjects and Statistics in March Madness Posts

in International Journal of Sport Communication
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While many sport fans gravitate to new media, questions remain regarding what they are consuming. Specifically, this study addresses a nascent gap in sport communication research by identifying the presentation form and subject portrayals of 443 Instagram posts during 2018 college basketball tournaments and measuring subsequent likability of such depictions. Results yield 4 important findings. Primarily, in contrast to early exemplification research, evidence suggests that some audiences “like” base-rate information. In addition, while Instagram is known as a photo platform, posts in this population were most often videos, and memes were liked more than any other presentation form. Next, while this content analysis identifies an old problem in a new domain—that female athletes are shunned in favor of male athletes—it demonstrates that likability in this medium emerges as equal for male and female subjects and sports. Finally, related to subject demographics, findings demonstrated racial disparities and concerning statistics for likability of minority subjects. Implications for exemplification theory and social media producers in sport are discussed along with limitations and directions for future research in this burgeoning arena.

The author is with the Dept. of Film, Television and Digital Media, Bob Schieffer College of Communication, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, TX.

Address author correspondence to dustin.hahn@tcu.edu.
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