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When Sports Fans Buy: Contextualizing Social Media Engagement Behavior to Predict Purchase Intention

Emil Steiner, Matthew Pittman, and Brandon Boatwright

While sports fandom and social media advertising have been widely studied, and all major, professional teams use social media campaigns for direct sales, there is surprisingly little research on the relationship between fans’ social media engagement behavior (SMEB) and their purchase intention (PI), and none that differentiates PI across different platforms and sports contexts. This study addresses those gaps by exploring (a) how different kinds of fans engage their teams’ advertising on various social media and (b) how those different behaviors predict PI in different contexts. To do so, we utilized an SMEB framework to interpret survey data (N = 452) of U.S. sports fans’ social media engagement with their favorite teams over six popular platforms for two situations—in-game and out-of-game. Regression analyses determined the extent to which those behaviors predict PI across different sports and platforms during and outside of games. Our results show that fan SMEB varies by sport, platform, and situation. Furthermore, we found that information-acquiring social media behaviors—such as checking scores—best predict PI in-game, while fan-identity cultivation social media behaviors—such as posting—best predict PI out-of-game. In addition, PI predictability varies across platform and game situation, but not across age, gender, or even level of fandom. By contextualizing the relationship between fan SMEB and PI, our study lays a foundation to address these lingering gaps in the sport communication literature while providing actionable insights for teams and brands seeking more effective sales campaigns across an array of social media.

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

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Black Lives Matter to the NBA: The Impact of Sport Fanship and Political Affiliation on the Perception of the NBA’s Racial Justice Initiatives During the 2020 Playoff Bubble

Kenon A. Brown, Nicky Lewis, Matthew Barnidge, and Courtney D. Boman

The NBA’s (National Basketball Association’s) racial justice initiatives during the 2020 Playoff Bubble are considered an act of corporate social advocacy and provide an exemplary scenario to explore this intersection of sport and politics. Based on this observation, the purpose of this study was to explore how one’s level of identification with the NBA and his/her identification with a political party can impact one’s perception of the NBA’s racial justice initiatives. Specifically, the researchers wanted to determine if outrage toward the NBA and one’s perception of the NBA’s reputation is influenced more by one’s political identity or one’s fanship for the league. A survey was conducted using a national convenience sample of 518 participants recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk. Results showed that while both fanship and political identity had effects on one’s outrage toward the NBA and one’s perceived reputation of the NBA, the stronger factor differed between Democrats and Republicans.

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Interview With Jenny Johnston, Assistant Director, Communications, USA Basketball

Grace Berger

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Role Model or Quitter? Social Media’s Response to Simone Biles at Tokyo 2020

Steph Doehler

During the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Team USA athlete Simone Biles withdrew from several gymnastics events midcompetition, citing mental health issues. Biles, one of the most recognizable stars of the Games, faced intense scrutiny from both the world’s media and the general public in the immediate aftermath. The purpose of this study was to analyze the Facebook narrative surrounding Biles’s withdrawal within the theoretical context of framing, as crafted through user comments on various public high-profile Facebook pages. A total of 87,714 user comments were collected and analyzed using the qualitative software Leximancer. The themes emerging from the data suggested a polarizing narrative, with many users supporting Biles, engaging in the wider discussion surrounding athlete mental health, while others condemned her action, suggesting she quit on the biggest sporting stage.

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Volume 15 (2022): Issue 4 (Dec 2022)

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Championship and Sponsor Analysis in Intercollegiate Athletics: A Case Study Examining the Effects of Identification, Expectations, and Game Outcomes on Event Sponsorship Evaluations

Natalie Brown-Devlin, Michael B. Devlin, and Vincent Peña

To examine the relationship among identification, fan expectations, and sponsorship outcomes, this study examined Alabama and Clemson fan expectations and responses to the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) football championship game outcome. This case study sought to understand how fans of winning and losing teams evaluated a sporting event’s sponsor following the conclusion of an event, positing that highly identified fans would demonstrate a halo effect, and report favorable attitudes toward the sponsoring brand as suggested by previous research. However, there is a lack of theoretical evidence regarding consumer expectations when applied within the context of sport. Thus, using the theoretical framework of identification and expectation violation theory, the authors inquired to what extent the outcome of the game and one’s expectations of the outcome influenced their evaluation of the event sponsor. The results support previous research regarding potential halo effects, but also add nuance to earlier work demonstrating that a halo effect is not unilaterally applied for all fans. Given the unpredictable nature of sport and the increasing cost of sponsoring sporting events, these findings help explain the extent to which violations of one’s expected outcome affect subsequent evaluations of a sponsor.

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We Did It: A Content Analysis of Australian and New Zealand Online News Media Coverage of the Bid Process for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup

Eleanor Crabill, Callie Maddox, and Adam Beissel

The purpose of this study was to examine online news media coverage of the Australia–New Zealand joint bid to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Following neoliberal feminist theory and a postfeminist framework, the meanings and discourses of women’s empowerment produced in, and disseminated by, Australia and New Zealand’s popular online news media were explored. A content analysis was used to examine 77 domestic online news media articles published in response to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup bid and hosting announcement. The findings revealed that the popular online news media centered on three themes: opportunities for women and girls in sport, legacy outcomes, and commercial benefits. However, there was a clear lack of critical engagement from the news media over the bid’s initiatives, claims, and promises. Only 2.5% of all online news media coverage engaged in meaningful discussion, analysis, and critique of the purported social and economic impacts of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. This study raises critical questions about the role of Australian and New Zealand (sport) media in (a) serving as a prominent forum through which the As One 2023 bid committee could circulate strategically crafted, preferred narratives regarding the event’s legacies and impacts to manufacture consent and public support for event hosting and (b) propagating a postfeminist celebration of women’s sport mega events that uncritically circulates specious claims of women’s empowerment, participation growth, and commercial benefits of the event.

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Sport Fan Motivation: A Comparison of Local, Nonlocal, and Distant National Basketball Association Fans in the United States and China

Sitong Guo

The aim of the current study was to examine the sport motivations of three types of National Basketball Association fans based on their geographic proximity to the team: local fans (i.e., U.S.-based fans of a local team), nonlocal fans (i.e., U.S.-based fans of a nonlocal team), and distant fans (i.e., China-based fans). The author used the psychological continuum model to measure level of psychological involvement with the team in order to determine whether fans were casual, moderate, or loyal. Using one-way analyses of variance and factorial analyses of variance, the author found that Chinese distant fans reported the highest motivation for seven of the nine types of motivation measured. Results also show that geographic locality predicted significant motivational differences among casual and moderate fans but not among loyal fans. The findings have both theoretical and applied implications and call for stronger focus on the influence of locality in the sport industry.

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“They Just See Guys as Bodies”: Assessing Credibility of Injury Communication in the National Football League

David Cassilo and Joseph McGlynn

This study examined interviews with former National Football League (NFL) players to better understand the role that source credibility plays in concussion and injury communication. The NFL has a complex history with concussions and other injuries, yet has made some recent attempts to improve player safety. Researchers interviewed 10 former NFL players about concussion and injury communication that is league-based, team-based, and teammate-based. The researchers performed a thematic analysis of those interview transcripts with a focus on source credibility and injury communication, finding that while the NFL has attempted to make the game safer, players still struggle to trust the league, which impacts their willingness to accept health information. These findings indicate that NFL players may never find the league truly credible or neutral toward injuries. Further, injury education programs that include greater involvement from teammates may be successful strategies to increasing awareness within the locker room, as players indicated that fellow players can be viewed as more trustworthy sources of information.