Using Stewardship to Cultivate Fandom Online: Comparing How National Football League Teams Use Their Web Sites and Facebook to Engage Their Fans

in International Journal of Sport Communication
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Social-media consultants and strategic communication firms have promoted the use of social media by organizations because of their supposed advantages for developing relationships and online communities around the brand. However, critics have challenged these supportive voices because of organizations’ limited control over the sites’ design and the lack of demonstrated return on investment for social-media endeavors. Using the 26 National Football League (NFL) teams with an official Facebook presence, this study compares how public relations practitioners use the NFL teams’ Web sites and Facebook pages to cultivate relationships with fans using stewardship strategies promoted by public relations literature. Results indicate that the NFL teams overwhelmingly favor their own Web sites for relationship-building endeavors over Facebook for 27 of the study’s 33 measures. Explanations for the divergence from consultants’ advice are discussed and grounded in new-media and sports communication research from various scholarly perspectives.

The authors are with the Dept. of Communication, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.