This case study analyzes the crisis response strategies used by the National Football League (NFL) in its external communications to address the concussion crisis spanning 2015–2020. The analysis focuses on describing the crisis communication strategies and tactics used by the league. Situational crisis communication theory provides the theoretical framework for analyzing the NFL’s crisis response strategies. A qualitative thematic analysis was conducted of 25 publications published by the NFL on nflcommunications.com, with findings indicating that the NFL focused on the primary crisis strategies of rebuilding and diminishing while employing tactics such as organizational change and shared responsibility. The findings revealed in this case study also highlight a discrepancy between the theoretical ground of situational crisis communication theory and the application of crisis response strategies in a real-life organizational crisis facing a professional sports league.
Vitor Sobral, Sheranne Fairley, and Danny O’Brien
Event portfolios are a useful way for destination managers to holistically manage their community’s collection of events and, through strategic integration and common objectives, more effectively produce benefits. However, regular sport events such as those played by professional sport teams in a sport league have received little attention from event portfolio managers and researchers. Understanding the value and utility of sport team event assets can inform the successful integration of these events into event portfolios. This research used qualitative methods to examine how team asset components can contribute to achieving event portfolio objectives. The results have significance for event tourism researchers and practitioners and demonstrate that contributions are largely founded on the focal professional sport league structure, which provides constant content and regular communications with key target markets. Analysis of the findings led to the development of a model on the utility of including team events in an event portfolio.
Aaron C. Mansfield, E. Nicole Melton, and Matthew Katz
Scholars have begun to explore the interplay between the multiple identities within a sport fan’s salience hierarchy, noting fandom may compete with other central roles. Researchers have also recently emphasized well-being outcomes for fans, with increasing focus on physical health. Though sport consumer behavior and health consciousness have concurrently emerged, the social psychological connection between the two is unclear. Thus, we aim to clarify this relationship. We leverage an emerging quantitative approach: polynomial regression and response surface methodology. Our findings indicate individuals who value both fandom and health consciousness (i.e., demonstrate high fan identity and health consciousness congruence) experience identity conflict, with men reporting higher levels of identity conflict than women. Thus, we contribute to literature on the potential negative sides (or challenges) of fan identity. The food and sedentarism common to fan culture appear to prompt psychological turmoil for health-conscious individuals. Fan identity may naturally integrate with other social roles, yet our results indicate fandom and health consciousness are often viewed in conflict.
Jared F.K. Monaghan and Claudio M. Rocha
This study used a quantitative content analysis and a qualitative thematic analysis to explore how the Olympic Games were framed in print media prior to two Canadian Winter Olympic referendums. Content-analysis results showed that the salient topics and the tone of newspaper articles were framed more positively prior to the successful Vancouver 2010 referendum compared with the unsuccessful Calgary 2026 referendum. The thematic analysis indicated four themes. First, news discourse emphasized the importance of Olympic vision that is congruent with host city needs. Second, the prominence of health promotion through sport as a reported theme was more associated with a successful bid. Third, the communication and quantification of intangible benefits were reported to be increasingly important so that the value of the Olympics can be assessed fairly against the ever-burgeoning hosting costs. Finally, the Olympic brand has been deteriorating, at least over the last 15–16 years according to print media. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.
Zachary W. Arth, Mackenzie P. Pike, and James R. Angelini
This study assessed the time on camera dedicated to men and women athletes at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. An analysis of all of NBC’s Olympic programming, consisting of both the flagship prime-time broadcasts and the additional content on their network, yielded nearly 230 hr of Olympic content to code. In the 62 hr of prime-time coverage, women received 57.95% of the time on camera. During the non-prime-time coverage, which spanned 167 hr, women again received the majority of clock time, accounting for 55.22%. In addition, differences by sport were uncovered with the major differences occurring in gymnastics and beach volleyball, both of which saw much more hours dedicated to the women’s competitions. Utilizing agenda setting as the theoretical framework for this study, ramifications for these broadcast trends and differences are discussed.
Sada Reed and Jennifer L. Harker
This content analysis builds on past studies done on media coverage, rhetorical analyses, and journalistic role enactment by examining American and Russian news publications’ (N = 422) coverage of American and Russian doping scandals between 2013 and 2016. This time frame was selected because it was the height of Lance Armstrong and Major League Baseball doping coverage in the United States and the height of Olympic track-and-field doping coverage in Russia. It also fell between the time the World Anti-Doping Agency ratified its third code, which gave the antidoping organization the authority to conduct independent investigations. The study investigates media framing from the midpoint of the scandal, after the sports persona or sports entity denied using performance-enhancing drugs. Whether American and Russian coverage differ in the use of episodic and thematic frames, where blame is placed, and whether episodic or thematic framing predicts blame placement were all examined. Furthermore, the study investigates both nations’ coverage of “their own” athletes and of athletes from the other nation and analyzes whether or how the rhetorical posture of denial leads to adversarial journalism as a role enactment in coverage of sport-related scandals.
Danielle Sterba, Jessie N. Stapleton, and Winston Kennedy
Options for athletes with disabilities to participate in sport have risen and, with them, supercrip representation. Supercrip is defined as a stereotypical representation of individuals with disabilities that highlights their accomplishments as inspirational stories of defying or overcoming their disability to succeed. With little consensus on how to represent disability in sport, it is imperative that this representation be investigated. The purpose of this commentary is to broadly examine assumptions of the supercrip model as a mode of representation for athletes with disabilities, explore its connection to able-bodied hegemony, and propose next steps in facilitating research and discourse around representation for athletes with disabilities. We conclude that able-bodied hegemony is the root of the supercrip model and that participatory action research, with stakeholders at the center, is necessary to fully evaluate the supercrip model.
Daniel Read and Daniel Lock
Events such as player protests can create image crises that require sport organizations to engage in political issues. In this manuscript, we blend image repair theory with the social identity approach to leadership to advance knowledge about how sport organizations communicate in response to crises. Applying a discursive social psychology framework to analyze 21 NFL communications and interview statements, we explored how the NFL’s rhetoric evolved in response to the 2016–2020 national anthem and Black Lives Matter protests. The NFL augmented its traditionally militarized patriot identity as the crisis progressed, to address the social change issues raised by protestors. We show that sport organizations use rhetoric to mobilize support for their version of events to manage threats to organizational image. Accordingly, we provide theoretical and managerial implications arguing that apolitical identities are increasingly untenable in sport.
Vivien Schibblock, Joanne Hinds, Martin Kopp, and Martin Schnitzer
Social media sites are rich communication and marketing tools used by athletes to promote their “brand” and interact with fans. Indeed, the proliferation of social media has led to athletes promoting themselves across multiple platforms. This study examined how the world’s top 10 professional alpine skiing athletes used social media to present themselves and engage with fans during the 2017–18 World Cup and 2018 Winter Olympic Games. The data for the latest Winter Olympic Games in 2022 (organized under changed circumstances because of COVID-19) were not available for this study at the time of finalization. Guided by self-presentation theory, this study used a content analysis to examine how athletes presented themselves in social media photographs. The results demonstrated that athletes employed similar posting patterns across the social media platforms (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). The posting distribution per athlete and channel was different, as some athletes used the same posts across all channels. Twitter boasted the highest posting frequency. Based on the coded social media posts, athletes’ self-presentation mainly focused on business life content. Thus, they appeared as dressed but posed, a finding that aligns with Goffman’s notion of front-stage performance. This case study extends the literature as it involves an analysis of self-presentation across multiple channels, comparing two international events while using a sample of one sport.