Facing Off on Twitter: A Generation Y Interpretation of Professional Athlete Profile Pictures

in International Journal of Sport Communication
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  • 1 St. John’s University, USA
  • 2 University of Western Ontario, Canada
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This study investigated how professional athletes present themselves in their Twitter profile pictures and how athlete self-presentation is interpreted by a Generation Y audience (N = 206). Goffman’s theory of self-presentation guided the analysis with a specific focus on the notions of front- and backstage performances as they relate to impression-management strategies. Participants assessed a sample of profile photos of the most followed male and female athletes on Twitter by providing their first impressions of each athlete’s image and then evaluating photo favorability and effectiveness. This research provides evidence to suggest that individuals invest meaning in the social cues provided in athlete profile pictures. Athletes who highlighted a sport context were consistently ranked most favorably and effectively and were linked with positive word associations. These findings underscore the importance of a strategic alignment between social-media profile content, profile photos, and the brand established by athletes.

Lebel is with the Div. of Sport Management, St. John’s University, New York City, NY. Danylchuk is with the School of Kinesiology, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada. Address author correspondence to Katie Lebel at lebelk@stjohns.edu

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