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“Be a Good Fan During the Good, the Bad, and Even the Ugly”: Exploring Cultural Boundaries Through Sport Fan Discourses on Twitter

Katherine Sveinson and Larena Hoeber

While sport fandom can be assumed to be inclusive, a deeper exploration of discourses around fandom exposes alternative perspectives. Using the frameworks of cultural boundaries and critical discourse studies, we explored how sport fans use Twitter to create, maintain, and transform cultural boundaries of sport fandom. We used tweets from a season of the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team as a case. Data were collected via Visual Twitter Analytics software focusing on tweets containing #LetsRise and #BlueJays. From the larger data set, we selected 172 tweets to examine using critical discourse analysis and ideological structures of discourse. Findings demonstrate that discourses of loyalty, consumption, and unity have plural meanings and are used to draw boundaries that are simultaneously fluid and rigid. Thus, we argue that fans engage in an active process of determining who is and is not included in fan cultures through Twitter use.

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A Critical Analysis of Coaches’ Perceptions of Athletic Department Involvement in Team-Related Social Media Activism

Natalie Bunch, Beth A. Cianfrone, and Lauren Beasley

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) coaches are among the most visible leaders on campuses. With recent calls for diversity efforts, coaches are faced with decisions regarding supporting or promoting their teams’ and athletes’ racial justice actions on team social media accounts. However, sport information staff often manage the team’s social media strategy and may not reflect the coaches’ goals. Framed by the theory of racialized organizations, we examined NCAA coaches’ attitudes toward their athletic department’s role in social media activism on their team pages. We surveyed 174 coaches across divisions and investigated differences based on coaches’ gender, race, and division. Findings suggest that coaches supported activism but were less confident in the role of the athletic department in posting about racial justice on team accounts. Interpreting results through the theory of racialized organizations, coaches, specifically White coaches, may view their college athletic departments as race-neutral organizations. There is opportunity for those managing team platforms to further promote social justice messaging to demonstrate organizational support.

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Cyberbullying in Sport

Ellen MacPherson and Gretchen Kerr

Despite over 30 years of scholarly attention devoted to bullying and cyberbullying behaviors in school settings, research related to these experiences in the sport context remains limited. Yet, numerous anecdotal examples and preliminary evidence suggests cyberbullying exists in the sport domain and must be addressed given the potential adverse psychosocial outcomes for athletes. This commentary reviews research related to bullying and cyberbullying in the sport literature. To advance our understanding of cyberbullying in sport, recommendations are made to clarify conceptual issues around the central defining features (i.e., power, repetition, intent) commonly used to operationalize these experiences. Further, methodological issues to be addressed are discussed, including, the use of more diverse methods; adoption of an intersectional lens to all research; and the development, implementation, and evaluation of interdisciplinary evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies. Only through a research base that addresses these conceptual and methodological challenges, will empirically-informed prevention and intervention strategies be developed to advance safe, healthy, and inclusive sport environments.

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Dynamic Social Media Content in Sport Communication Research

Galen Clavio

Research focusing on social media usage in sport communication and its related media has made significant strides in the last 2 decades. Researchers have provided key insights into how social media content is created by sport entities and media members, how sport fans and consumers feel about social media content, and how aspects of social media content inform public perception of matters pertaining to race, gender, ethnicity, politics, and other key cultural areas. However, the changing natures of social media technology and user preferences for content have often moved faster than the body of research surrounding them. This commentary highlights a gap in published sport communication studies focusing on dynamic social media content and provides suggestions for addressing a key present, and future, need for scholarly inquiry in the field.

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Opportunities for Advancing Relationship Marketing and Social Media Research

Rebecca M. Achen

Since the creation of social media platforms, sport researchers have used relationship marketing as a conceptual and theoretical framework for studies on social media in sport. While many of these studies have contributed to our understanding of relationship building on social media, there is much room for advancement. This special-issue commentary provides a brief overview of the scholarship on relationship marketing and social media in sport and then suggests areas for advancement. It ends with specific recommendations for moving from using relationship marketing as a framework to testing the theory in sport social media research and expanding on its application to understanding relationship building on social media in sport.

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A Review and Research Agenda for Brand Communities in Sports

David Wagner

Research on brand communities has burgeoned over the past 2 decades. Today many, if not most, sport organizations are entertaining dedicated brand communities. This article traces the development of community thinking in the field of sport management and marketing. Key articles on brand communities in leading journals in the field are identified, reviewed, and their core contributions distilled. By drawing on literature from adjacent fields, seven areas of future research are proposed: make or buy community, getting value from community, building a community capability, solving the community engagement puzzle, focusing on effective community engagement practices, analyzing the full community life cycle, and community for Web 3.0. The article provides a number of recommendations for future research on brand communities in sport management and marketing, enabling scholars to advance knowledge for both research and practice.

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Social Media Scholarship in Sport Studies and College Athletes’ Name, Image, and Likeness Opportunities

Edward M. Kian and Matthew Zimmerman

The passage of name, image, and likeness (NIL) laws in individual states within the United States has provided intercollegiate athletes opportunities to potentially profit from their personal NIL in a free marketplace. Concurrently, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) also allowed college athletes to utilize their NIL rights. Thus far, most college athletes’ NIL deals for payments are for posts on the athletes’ own social media channels for products, including their own self-promotion in relation to brands, or promotion of brands such as fast food and auto dealerships. Notably, published scholarly work on NIL itself is sparse since it was not until 2021 that the NCAA enacted NIL rules for college athletes. Published scholarship on NIL and social media is even rarer. Therefore, this commentary provides recommendations for potential future scholarship related to NIL and social media, focusing on three potential frameworks: (a) agenda setting, (b) relationship marketing, and (c) personal branding.

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The State of Quantitative Research and a Proposed Research Framework in Social Media

Thilo Kunkel, Heather Kennedy, Bradley J. Baker, and Jason P. Doyle

Social media has changed how sport organizations and individuals in the sport industry communicate and conduct business. The increase in the number, complexity, and capabilities of platforms provides ample opportunities and data for researchers to employ quantitative research methods. In this article, we provide an overview of the state of scholarship by conducting a scoping review of sport social media research published between 2010 and 2022 with a focus on articles based on quantitative data. We then critically discuss four areas that present opportunities for improvement—scope, theory, data collection, and data analysis. Based on these four areas, we introduce the social media research framework to guide future social media research in sport. Within the social media research framework, we outline three focal areas of research—people, spaces, and technologies—and suggest examining these areas simultaneously, rather than in isolation, as well as their intersections in the sport industry.

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The Use of Social Media in Sport Doping Enforcement and Control

Kerry Fischer and Genevieve F.E. Birren

The increased prevalence of social media in organizational communication suggests that it is only a matter of time before it is used in sport doping prevention and control. This commentary intends to highlight not only how antidoping organizations and individual athletes are using social media to promote awareness to clean sport competition but also how the relationship between social media and various sport stakeholders may develop in the future. In particular, it focuses on three main areas in the intersection of social media and doping prevention: agenda-setting by antidoping organizations via formal social media campaigns, social norm control by athletes when they post on social media, and social media use by athletes and fans as a form of framing. Prospective research directions, as well as probable future uses of social media in doping enforcement and control, are also discussed, including using social media to monitor athlete whereabouts and to communicate directly with athletes in doping matters.

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I “Like” It: The Effects of Social Media Platform and Message on Consumer Engagement Actions

Rebecca M. Achen, Ashley Stadler-Blank, and John J. Sailors

The academic literature reports mixed evidence on how social media platform and message impact consumer engagement. We investigated the effects of three platforms (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) and three message themes (sales, informational, and relationship building) on six consumer engagement actions (comment, like, search, share, talk about, and purchase) in a lab experiment. College students responded to social media posts featuring their National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I women’s basketball team. Results for platform show that participants were more likely to comment on Facebook and Twitter (vs. Instagram) and more likely to purchase on Twitter (vs. Instagram). Results for message theme show that participants were more likely to comment, like, and share informational and relationship building posts and more likely to purchase after sales posts. Results for message theme vary by gender for search and talk about (with others). These results can help sport marketers develop social media content that drives specific engagement actions.