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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.

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Volume 16 (2023): Issue 2 (Jun 2023)

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Examining the Intersection of Sport, Social Media, and Crisis Communication

Evan L. Frederick and Ann Pegoraro

The purpose of this commentary is to present the state of sport, social media, and crisis communication research. Existing crisis-communication research involving athletes and coaches; collegiate institutions; teams, leagues, and governing bodies; journalists; and other sport entities are discussed. The commentary concludes with a discussion of directions for future research, including (a) interviewing industry professionals, (b) employing survey design to examine user response, (c) employing experimental design with social media manipulations, (d) validating and developing frameworks, and (e) examining additional social media platforms.

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Social Media and Athlete Welfare

Emma J. Kavanagh, Chelsea Litchfield, and Jaquelyn Osborne

While the topic of athlete welfare has gained significant attention in academic literature, to date there has been a primacy placed on physical settings and their ability to augment or thwart the welfare of athletes. The discourse has, therefore, neglected the advent of social media spaces and their potential to have a significant impact on athlete welfare. Social media platforms are now a vital component in the lives of athletes who are increasingly reliant on maintaining an online presence and following. In this commentary, we consider the scope of social media and its potential impact on the welfare of athletes, particularly female athletes. In doing so, we identify and discuss some of the positive health and well-being outcomes associated with increased online communication and self-representation in social media spaces. We examine the scholarship concerning the threats posed by social media spaces, consider power in virtual environments and its impact on welfare, and finally suggest some future directions for scholarship in this field.

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Big Data and Innovative Research Methods

Yoseph Z. Mamo

Big data and innovative research methods are two rapidly evolving trends that are transforming how we conduct research in sport management. Considering the natural relationship between social media, which is widely recognized as a major big-data source, and sport, this commentary centers on contemporary research method applied to social media data. In doing so, it discusses contemporary innovative techniques for social media data, focusing on exploring ways to access social media data, the natural language-processing techniques used, the challenges they address, the strengths and limitations of different techniques, and the ethical and privacy considerations associated with their use. Furthermore, the commentary demonstrates that using sentiment-analysis tools (e.g., Syuzhet, Bing, and AFFIN) is appropriate and efficient in analyzing sport’s social media data. Thus, a rigorous application of contemporary innovative techniques can significantly shape the future of sport management research. However, researchers must exercise caution when considering the source and preprocessing of the data prior to applying advanced analytical techniques.

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“In Soccer, We Have the Opportunity to Call Attention to Certain Things”: An Examination of Media Framing of Activism for Human Rights in German Sport

Yannick Kluch, Evan L. Frederick, and Nina Siegfried

The goal of this study was to extend the contemporary athlete activism literature by (a) exploring athlete activism beyond a strictly North American context and (b) examining how athlete activism at an organizational/institutional level (i.e., sport organization) may be framed differently than activist efforts at an individual level (i.e., athlete). By examining two examples of activism in German soccer, we show that the framing of both athlete-enacted and organization-enacted examples of activism highlighted the importance of speaking up when human rights are violated, called for the display of solidarity, and discussed the broader political implications for such protests. Additionally, framing of both examples of activism included voices of criticism regarding the sport organizations governing global sport. As calls for accountability of sport organizations suppressing athlete expression are becoming increasingly common in global sport, this study adds to a shifting focus of activism research targeting the sport institutions that often perpetuate the various injustices individual athletes call attention to.

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Social Media and Consumer Behavior

Andrea N. Geurin

The topics of social media and consumer behavior are inextricably linked. Since 2008, scholars in sport-studies fields such as sport communication and sport management have increasingly focused their research on social media use by sport entities and consumers. This commentary provides an overview of sport social media and consumer behavior scholarship to date, including prominent and growing topics such as consumers’ uses of social media, social media engagement, user segmentation, and user-generated content. A scoping review was conducted to illustrate the current state of research on social media, sport, and consumer behavior. Future research priorities to advance this area of inquiry are also discussed, including more qualitative research resulting in rich and descriptive analyses, the need to better understand Gen Z as sport social media consumers, and the need to understand the connection between social media consumption and purchasing behavior. Finally, the commentary encourages scholars to expand their research focus in geographic contexts outside of North America, on underrepresented groups, such as women’s sport and disability sport, and to adopt new theoretical frameworks for such research.