Do Fans Care About the Activist Athlete? A Closer Look at Athlete Activism Effect on Brand Image

in International Journal of Sport Communication

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Sarah M. BrownSouthern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, USA

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Natasha T. BrisonTexas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA

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Gregg BennettTexas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA

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Katie M. BrownTexas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, USA

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U.S. professional athletes increasingly have engaged in athlete activism. Such actions have elicited a wide range of responses from sport fans, calling into question whether an athlete’s activism can impact their brand image. This research explored whether attitudes toward athlete activism, activism message, activism communication style, or fan identification level affect an activist athlete’s brand image. This research utilized a 2 × 2 experimental design of activism type (safe vs. risky) and activism effort (high vs. low). A focus group determined both activism effort and activism type. Activism type did not significantly affect fans’ perception of athlete brand image, but perceived athlete attractiveness decreased when the athlete engaged in risky activism. Individuals’ attitudes toward athlete activism significantly influenced their perception of an activist athlete’s brand image. This paper fulfills an identified need to understand the effects of athlete activism on the athlete’s own brand.

S.M. Brown (smbrown@smu.edu) is corresponding author, https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9224-0439

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