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SportsCenter: A Case Study of Media Framing U.S. Sport as the COVID-19 Epicenter

Travis R. Bell

When COVID-19 enveloped sport, it presented SportsCenter, ESPN’s primary news vehicle, with an unexpected and ironic form of “March Madness,” with basketball as the sporting epicenter for a pandemic. This case study applied an ethnographic content analysis to examine how the cancellation or postponement of sport as a result of COVID-19 was framed across 22 episodes of SportsCenter from March 8 to 14, 2020. More than 134 min of coverage was devoted to COVID-19-related stories, and 268 unique types of stories were produced. Descriptive statistics suggested that COVID-19 was framed as having a direct impact on U.S. men’s professional sports leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament. When considering news format characteristics, SportsCenter produced its coverage through convenience and relevance to ESPN, not sport. Even during a “breaking news” pandemic, SportsCenter retained its long-standing news process of gender bias and nationalistic favoritism. The visual difficulty of how to “show” coronavirus also presented a production challenge, but the messages and cues embedded in the visuals depicted a rapid shift in discourse that focused on basic reporting without health or global context. Instead, SportsCenter overwhelmed viewers with how sport was ripped away from (U.S.) American society.

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A Tale of No Cities: Analysis of Premier Lacrosse League Fan Identity and Fanship

Samuel D. Hakim

The present study examined the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) and fans’ identity and fanship. The PLL boasts a uniqueness many sports fans are unfamiliar with—non-geographically affiliated teams. Using socialization theory, social identity theory, and fan identity, the author sought to better understand the fan qualities of the PLL, especially surrounding athlete importance. A Qualtrics survey was distributed through reddit.com/r/lacrosse and major lacrosse forums with the goal to assess fanship toward favorite players, favorite teams, and PLL media consumption. Statistical analyses revealed that those who have a previously constructed lacrosse fan identity, consume more lacrosse media, and have been following a professional or college lacrosse athlete in the past are more likely to embrace the PLL. In a league where geographical affiliation is currently absent, research suggests that encouraging fan adoption of a favorite player is key to creating fans who begin to feel investment, loyalty, and increased team identity.

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Professional Team Sports Organizations’ Corporate Social Responsibility Activities: Corporate Image and Chosen Communication Outlets’ Influence on Consumers’ Reactions

Cindy Lee, Hyejin Bang, and David J. Shonk

As professional sport teams’ involvement with corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities are prevalent and expected by the public, there has been more attention on the factors that can influence consumers’ reactions to CSR activities. This study investigated the influence of two factors—corporate image and organization choice of communication vehicle—on individuals’ responses, perceived motive, and change of attitude to a professional team sports organization’s CSR activities. A total of 225 usable surveys were collected from a university located in the southern region of the United States for data analyses. The study showed that corporate image had a main effect on perceived motives, M unfavorable = 5.07, M favorable = 5.60, F(1, 216) = 6.38, p < .05, η p 2 = .03 , and attitudes, M unfavorable = 4.64, M favorable = 5.49; F(1, 216) = 18.34, p < .05, η p 2 = .08 , toward the team due to CSR activities, while there was no main effect for the professional team sports organization’s chosen communication vehicle, F(2, 217) = 1.09, p > .05, for their CSR activities. The importance of building good corporate image and communicating CSR activities to the fan base are also discussed.

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Volume 14 (2021): Issue 1 (Mar 2021)

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What We Do When We Watch Live Sports: An Analysis of Concurrent Viewing Behaviors

Nicky Lewis, Walter Gantz, and Lawrence A. Wenner

Using an active audience perspective, this study examines the wide-ranging in-person and second-screen behaviors that occur while viewing live sports. A national sample of participants (N = 630) was surveyed about their live sports viewing behaviors while watching a normal game, a close game, and one where the outcome was clear. Viewers concurrently engaged in a variety of game-related and unrelated activities, many involving additional screens and a social dimension (e.g., talking about the game with others in person and through media, hanging out with family/friends). Games that were not close encouraged more activity than games that were close. Sports fanship was positively associated with game-related behaviors but not unrelated behaviors. In all, live sports viewing involves a wide array of simultaneous in-person and second-screen activity, with some of that activity focused on the sporting events themselves, and other activities focused on meeting the responsibilities of daily life.

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Examining Engagement With Sport Sponsor Activations on Twitter

Terry Eddy, B. Colin Cork, Katie Lebel, and Erin Howie Hickey

Research on sport sponsors’ use of social media has begun to emerge, but, to date, limited research has examined how sponsors are using social media as an activation platform to engage with followers. Thus, the purpose of this research was to examine differences in follower engagement with regard to sponsored Twitter posts from North American professional sport organizations, based upon the focus, scope, and activation type of the sponsored messages. This manuscript consists of two related studies—Study 1 employed a deductive content analysis, followed by negative binomial regression modeling, to examine differences in engagement between message structures defined by focus and scope. Study 2 featured an inductive content analysis to investigate differences in engagement between different types of activations. The findings suggest that, in general, more passive (or less overt) forms of sponsor integration in social media messages drive more engagement among followers.

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State Versus Professional: A Case Study of How Chinese New Media Construct Elite Female Athletes

Qingru Xu and Peggy J. Kreshel

In this case study, the authors examined media representations of two Chinese female athletes—state athlete Ding Ning and professional athlete Li Na—in China, a nation undergoing social transformation and a sport-reform initiative. Analyzing stories from two Chinese web portals (i.e., Sina and Tencent), the authors analyzed how (a) gender, (b) nationalism, and (c) the individualism–collectivism continuum entered into media representations of these two female athletes. Notable differences emerged in all three conceptual areas. A fourth theme, which the authors have identified as the commercialized athlete, also emerged. Possible explanations and implications are discussed.

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For Sport Journalists to Count and Report Major Championships in Golf: Per Coherent Definition and Conventional Classification, Nicklaus Has 20 Majors

John F. Gaski

Over the past 3 decades or so, some variation and revision have been introduced into the recording, reporting, and interpretation of the prime historical benchmark of individual golf achievement: number of established major tournaments won. In the interest of accuracy, consistency, and even equity, some analytic record-keeping suggestions are proffered here, based on coherence and logic, toward presenting the history of golf’s major championships in the fairest possible way. Idiosyncrasies of that historical sequence mean that the resolution is not obvious and more taxonomic work remains to be done. However, acceptance of the principles and conventions proposed herein may move the golf history culture and even basic golf chronicling closer to advantageous closure. One competitive implication of this reanalysis applies, significantly, to the total of “majors” won by historical greats Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones, and Tiger Woods.

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Media Portrayals of Athlete-Perpetrated Intimate Partner Violence: An Examination of the Social Ecological Model, Race, and Communication Perceptions

Jennifer A. Scarduzio, Christina S. Walker, Nicky Lewis, and Anthony M. Limperos

This study examined how participants responded to incidents of athlete-perpetrated intimate partner violence in two separate contexts: one featuring an athlete from a league that is at peak popularity among sports audiences (National Football League; NFL) and one featuring an athlete from an up-and-coming league that currently has a lower standing in professional sports (Ultimate Fighting Championship League; UFC). The authors used the social ecological model to qualitatively analyze participant perceptions about athlete-perpetrated intimate partner violence composite news packages. For the purpose of this study specifically, they centered on 1,124 responses to one of the open-ended qualitative questions asked in a larger quantitative experiment. The authors found that the participants most frequently attributed the perpetrator’s behavior to either individual or relationship-level reasons and that there were differences in the level attributed for participants of different races and ethnicities. They also determined that the participants were more likely to ascribe the violence to the suspect’s job (i.e., athlete) if they were a UFC fighter than an NFL player. Theoretical extensions of the social ecological model and practical implications for journalists, the media, and fans are offered.

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Batting Average and Beyond: The Framing of Statistics Within Regional Major League Baseball Broadcasts

Zachary W. Arth and Andrew C. Billings

This study analyzed the frequency with which the regional broadcasts of the 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) teams featured traditional and modern/advanced statistics. To understand these portrayals, 60 games, two from each MLB team, were coded. The coded content consisted of any on-screen graphic featuring one or multiple baseball statistics, as well as any comment from the broadcasters about statistics. The results indicated a clear spectrum of teams, with some featuring a high level of advanced metrics in their graphics and commentary, while some were substantially more traditional. Through the lens of framing, potential ramifications for statistical knowledge within different fan bases were discussed.