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Brody J. Ruihley, Jason Simmons, Andrew C. Billings and Rich Calabrese

On the first Sunday of the National Football League’s 2016–17 season, a technical issue caused ESPN’s fantasy-football website and mobile application to fail. ESPN’s product failure is no small problem and represented a major organizational crisis; with 7.1 million unique users, ESPN represents the largest provider of a multi-billion-dollar fantasy-sport industry. This case study examined ESPN’s organizational communication strategy, as well as the stakeholder responses surrounding the failure of ESPN’s fantasy-football website and application on the most anticipated day of the fantasy-sport season. Using content analysis and partnering with a social media data insights company, the study examined social media messages from both the organizational and consumer side of this fantasy-sport product failure. Through ampling 1,542 social media messages from a population of 11,881 unique comments via Twitter, the reactive nature of ESPN’s messages and the direct responses from its consumers was ascertained.

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Dustin A. Hahn, Matthew S. VanDyke and R. Glenn Cummins

Although scholars have examined numerous facets of broadcast sports, limited research has explored the use of statistics in these broadcasts. Reference to statistical summaries of athlete or team performance have long been a component of sport broadcasts, and for some viewers the rise of fantasy sport has led to even greater interest in quantitative measures of athlete or team performance. To examine the presence and nature of statistical references in sport broadcasts, this study examines National Football League telecasts over time to identify changes in the frequency, type, and presentation form of statistics. Findings revealed an emphasis on individual player statistics over team statistics, as well as an increase in on-screen graphics over time. The study also revealed a simultaneous decrease in statistical references relayed orally by broadcasters. These findings illustrate the importance of statistics as a storytelling tool, as well as reflecting technological innovations in sports broadcasting. In addition, they suggest a possible evolution in audience consumption habits and desires.

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Amanda Kastrinos, Rachel Damiani and Debbie Treise

The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, thrust potential Olympians into the midst of the unprecedented outbreak of the Zika virus. Because parasocial interaction theory purports that athletes can have tremendous influence on fans’ attitudes and behavior, particularly in the context of public health, it is important to understand how media framed athletes’ response to their risk of contracting Zika at the Games and the possibility of a global epidemic. To understand how athletes’ safety concerns were portrayed by news outlets, the authors conducted a framing analysis of articles reporting on the intersection of the Olympics and Zika published in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post between January and November of 2016. This analysis revealed that media employed three main frames in their coverage of athletes: Athletes perceived the risk of Zika as small compared with potential Olympic glory, the decision to participate in the Games is an athletes’ personal choice between family and career, and athletes used Zika concerns as a convenient excuse to pull out of a troubled Games. The combination of these frames painted a contradictory portrait of athletes’ risk perception, both emphasizing and downplaying the threat of contracting the virus at the Games and an ensuing worldwide outbreak. These conflicting athlete narratives could have created uncertainty regarding the actual safety risk of the Zika virus and the Olympic Games for the fans who admire the athletes.

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Joseph H. Moore

Much research has been conducted relating to uses-and-gratification theory and how audiences select their news medium and message. Research has examined how newspapers, television stations, and social media outlets such at Twitter present news. However, no research has examined from which medium the audience retains the most information. Through the lens of uses-and-gratification theory, this exploratory study used a 4 × 1 experimental design to fill this gap. A convenience sample of 285 students at a large Midwestern university was invited to participate. A total of 122 responded to the invitation (N = 122). While most reported getting the majority of their sports news via television, participants who were presented news in print scored significantly higher on a retention test than did their counterparts who consumed news via television or Twitter. Avid sports fans retained more information, and the presence of links and images in Twitter did have an impact on how much news was retained. Implications for further research are also discussed.

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Alex C. Gang

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Qingru Xu and Andrew C. Billings

At the World Tour Platinum China Open in 2017, 3 leading Chinese table tennis players and two coaches withdrew from the Games to protest the sudden removal of Head Coach Liu Guoliang, triggering unprecedented public uproar online. Applying gatekeeping theory, this study explored how mainland Chinese media controlled information flow during the crisis. A thematic analysis uncovered 3 primary gatekeeping behaviors: repetition, selection, and manipulation. Findings suggest that the party-state, not media institutions, was the dominant gatekeeper in mainland China. The Chinese media system and sports system were both subject to strict government control during a crisis that challenged authority.

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Stefan Walzel, Jonathan Robertson and Christos Anagnostopoulos

Professional team sports organizations (PTSOs) are highly influential in our society. They can both positively and negatively shape the public discourse around responsible norms of behavior. The purpose of this article is to describe and critically review the literature on PTSOs’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) to develop a comprehensive understanding of current and future research directions in the field. Our analysis reviewed articles on CSR within PTSOs and identified publication year; geographical dispersion; journal type; sports contexts; social issues investigated; research approaches and methods; and how CSR was conceptualized, defined, and theoretically supported. The findings indicate that CSR within PTSOs has primarily been investigated in community programs, using qualitative research methods and pragmatically conceptualizing CSR on the basis of return on investments to the organization in European and North American contexts. Our discussion provides a critical review of the literature before outlining avenues for future research and practice.

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Kwame J.A. Agyemang, Brennan K. Berg and Rhema D. Fuller

How people reflect on and discuss protests at sporting events is a relevant question of interest to sport management scholars. This article uses qualitative data to understand how institutional members reflect on and discuss a disruptive act that violates institutional rules and norms. The authors study the historical case of Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ silent protest at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. Relying on interview data from Smith and Carlos’ teammates (59) on the 1968 U.S. Olympic Team, the study highlights the connections between institutional maintenance work, institutional logics, and institutions. Specifically, the authors argue that when institutional logics align with actors’ institutional maintenance work, acts seen as disruptive to the institution will not change the institution. Identifying multiple institutional logics within the Olympic Games, the authors also find that institutional logics do not always have to be competing as suggested by much of the literature. Instead, tension may be temporarily allayed when rival logics are threatened by an action (i.e., protests) that would disrupt the institution. The authors refer to this as an institutional cease-fire and discuss their findings in relation to the preservation of institutions.

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Christopher Rumpf and Christoph Breuer

Current knowledge on the behavioral response to sponsorship is to a large degree based on field studies measuring self-reported purchase intentions. In an effort to provide more solid evidence for the impact of sponsorship-linked communication on brand choice behavior, a controlled lab study was carried out. A fictitious brand was created and virtually embedded into real sport broadcasts serving as stimulus clips. To measure the cognitive, affective, and behavioral outcomes, multiple methods such as eye tracking, a brand feeling scale, and a spontaneous choice test were applied. Compared with the control group, participants in the stimulus group were significantly more likely to choose the fictitious target brand. Moreover, the study finds that brand choice behavior is sensitive to changes in brand feelings. The results can be regarded as a next step in predicting the behavioral outcomes from sponsorship as the basis to calculate its financial return.

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Julia S. Glahn