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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.

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Examining the Digital Pitch: A 3-Year Examination of Social Media Metrics From Men’s Professional Sport

Alyssa Scalera and Michael L. Naraine

Although research in the social media and sport domain continues to uncover key insights related to content, there has been a push toward identifying the social media metrics that serve as the antecedents to relationship marketing engagement. Along that vein, the purpose of this study was to analyze social media activity (i.e., impressions and engagements) from all teams in a given professional sport league over a 3-year period. Contextually set with Major League Soccer teams for the 2017, 2018, and 2019 calendar years, 66,745 Instagram posts were retrieved using MVPindex and parsed for focal social media metrics (i.e., impressions and engagements) for each team using a temporal lens (i.e., by month and by day). Findings of this study align with past work indicating the need for sport properties to focus on posting outside of game-day windows, harnessing the ongoing, instantaneous nature of social media.

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Are Soccer Organizations More Resilient in Crisis Situations? A Scholarly Commentary on the Audiotape Scandal of Real Madrid’s President

César García

In July 2021, numerous audio recordings dating back to 2006 through 2012 were leaked. In them, Real Madrid’s President Florentino Pérez was heard insulting some of the most beloved legends of Real Madrid fans, including celebrity Cristiano Ronaldo. Despite his lack of manners, the seriousness of the president’s insults, and the lack of a formal apology, the images of Pérez and Real Madrid barely suffered because of this incident. This scholarly commentary examines the variables of culture and country as well as the specific characteristics of the soccer industry and fandom that explain the lack of public accountability when a top executive of a soccer organization commits verbal excesses in form and substance, as in the Pérez case.

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Role Models and Athlete Expression at the Youth Olympic Games as Impactful Sport Communication Practices

Jannicke Stålstrøm, Marina Iskhakova, and Zack P. Pedersen

This study investigated athlete expressions and the impact that Olympian (OLY) role models have on athletes participating at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG), with a focus on the YOG educational program. The YOG educational program was created in 2010 and has not yet garnered extensive scholarly examination. Therefore, the aim of the current investigation was to develop an understanding of the impact that OLY role models have on YOG athletes and the communicative practices young athletes use to express themselves. This study used a mixed methodology (i.e., survey and interviews) and drew on three theories (i.e., social learning theory, role model theory, and communicative theory of expression) to better understand the aforementioned impact of OLY role models on YOG athletes. An examination of the communicative expression practices of OLY role models, through the mixed methodological approach, produced novel findings pertaining to YOG athlete perceptions of the structure and benefit of the educational program.

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“This Isn’t a Sports Story … This Is a Life Story”: Elite Athletes and Myths About Mental Illness in Sport

Scott Parrott

Athletes face unique mental health stressors, including internal/external pressure, time displacement, and physical injury. In addition, athletes who experience mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety reference the role of social factors—specifically stigma—as barriers to mental health. The present study draws on 37 testimonials from The Players’ Tribune in which athletes disclosed mental illness. A theoretical thematic analysis pinpointed themes within the testimonials of athletes who elucidated and refuted myths concerning mental health in sport. Through disclosure, the athletes challenged stigma by protesting myths that discourage help-seeking behavior in sport. The analysis identified six themes in the myths concerning (a) professional success, (b) strength, (c) identity, (d) the sports story treatment of mental health, (e) sport as escape, and (f) isolation. Implications are discussed in relation to changing social norms in sport.

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The Anticorruption Effects of Information and Communication Technology in Sport Organizations: The Role of Organizational Health Mediation and Organizational Transparency

Sajjad Pashaie and Popi Sotiriadou

This study addresses a topic neglected by the sport management literature: the impact of anticorruption effects of information and communication technology (ICT) in sport organizations on the role of organizational health mediation and organizational transparency. This study analyses this topic by presenting and testing a comprehensive theoretical model. This quantitative, descriptive survey uses structural equation modeling methodology. Data collection was carried out by employees (N = 384) working at the Iranian Ministry of Sport and Youth. The results of the study were processed using LISREL 8.80 software in the model and hypothesis testing, and the study found support for the theoretical model. The results show that (a) ICT is an effective tool for reducing administrative corruption of officials, and (b) in terms of both organizational health (variance accounted for = 0.40) and organizational transparency (variance accounted for = 0.39), ICT has a mediating role in reducing administrative corruption in sport organizations. This study fills a gap in the literature by addressing both personal and managerial perspectives, thus allowing directors of sport organizations to consider ICT a useful and practical management tool for reducing corruption among officials in sport organizations, as an adjunct to traditional methods such as administrative reform and law enforcement.