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The New Wave of Influencers: Examining College Athlete Identities and the Role of Homophily and Parasocial Relationships in Leveraging Name, Image, and Likeness

Yiran Su, Xuan Guo, Christine Wegner, and Thomas Baker

This article brings together scholarship on communication theory, influencer marketing, and personal branding to examine a new type of social media influencer—the college athlete influencer. Previous research in the field of sports has not specifically explored the distinct characteristics of college athletes that contribute to their effectiveness as marketing influencers. By adopting a sequential explanatory mixed-methods approach, this study provides a comprehensive understanding of the source of college athletes’ influence via social media. Quantitative results indicate that projecting an athletic identity on social media enhances the influencer’s credibility and increases the likelihood of consumers purchasing the products they endorse. Furthermore, qualitative findings indicated that the shared school identity acts as the ultimate impetus for the bond between the influencer and the consumer, which subsequently impacts the consumer’s purchasing decisions. This study provides actionable implications for schools, colleges, and brands seeking to build compelling sponsorships in the name, image, and likeness era.

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Social Media and Sport Studies (2014–2023): A Critical Review

Gashaw Abeza

Building on the foundational study conducted by Abeza et al., this work extends the investigation by critically reviewing social media research in sport studies published from June 2014 to June 2023. Methodologically, the review involved an examination of 153 original research articles from five prominent journals in sport communication and sport management, namely the International Journal of Sport Communication, Communication & Sport, Journal of Sport Management, Sport Management Review, and European Sport Management Quarterly. The study identified the research streams, platforms, theories, and research methods that have garnered attention in the social media research community. The findings reveal several key insights that contribute to the ongoing dialogue in the field, stimulating further exploration and advancing knowledge at the intersection of social media and sport.

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Special Issue Introduction: Name, Image, and Likeness and the National Collegiate Athletic Association

Steven Salaga, Natasha Brison, Joseph Cooper, Daniel Rascher, and Andy Schwarz

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Determinants of Consumers’ Adoption of Mobile Ticketing via Self-Service Technology

Sanghoon Kim, Kwangho Park, Jun-Phil Uhm, and Hyun-Woo Lee

The purpose of this study was to examine the determinants of sport consumers’ mobile ticketing adoption by the technology readiness constructs and quality–satisfaction–behavioral intentions framework. A total of 295 participants were included in the analysis. Data analysis was performed using structural equation modeling and PROCESS macro. A content analysis was conducted to provide further insight into the proposed model using open-ended responses. The findings indicate that consumers’ technology readiness alone was not a positive driver of mobile ticketing but suggest a role for technology readiness in promoting mobile ticketing, combined with service quality, satisfaction, and online ticket purchasing. The importance and originality of this study are that it confirms the sport context as a unique and effective vehicle in advancing existing knowledge of consumers’ ticket consumption behavior via self-service technology across various disciplines. Also, the findings can be used to set out recommendations for policy or practice aimed at facilitating and sustaining mobile ticketing consumption.

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Exercising Power: A Critical Examination of National Collegiate Athletic Association Discourse Related to Name, Image, and Likeness

Jonathan E. Howe, Wayne L. Black, and Willis A. Jones

Although name, image, and likeness policy officially changed on July 1, 2021, actions leading up to this policy modification provide insight into the desires and perspectives of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Feeling pressure from individual states and federal legislators, the NCAA engaged in discussion regarding name, image, and likeness in Fall of 2019. In response to newly introduced name, image, and likeness policy changes, the NCAA listed their official statements on the Taking Actions: Name, Image and Likeness webpage. These statements (n = 10) were analyzed using critical discourse analysis methodology underpinned with a Foucaultian perspective. Using critical discourse analysis, we extrapolated three overarching themes related to power dynamics: (a) Establishing Control While Undercutting Oppositional Power, (b) Power Shifts Away from NCAA, and (c) Power Reinforcement. We conclude by discussing the importance of examining discourse within organizations and implications for policy and practice.

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Critiquing the Social Media Scholarship in Sport Studies: Looking Beyond Content and Adopting Critical Approaches

Jimmy Sanderson

Social media and sport research has produced a significant corpus of academic literature. This work has enhanced our understanding of the influence of social media in various areas of the sport industry. This work, however, has often glamorized social media and its benefits, leading to a normalization about social media that obscures its negative effects and impacts in sport. This commentary reflects on how social media and sport research has evolved over time and calls for more consideration to be given to critical approaches to social media research that look beyond analysis of social media content. The commentary specifically addresses areas of inquiry around athlete welfare and social media, social media and young athletes, and social media professionals and their work environment. The commentary aims to encourage more critical perspectives related to social media that will enhance the inclusivity of the social media and sport literature.

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“Like Ships in the Night” and the Paradox of Distinctiveness for Sport Management: A Citation Network Analysis of Institutional Theory in Sport

Mathew Dowling, Jonathan Robertson, Marvin Washington, Becca Leopkey, Dana Lee Ellis, Andie Riches, and Lee Smith

A central issue within sport management is the extent to which the field should develop a distinctive theoretical knowledge base. This paper empirically investigates the connectedness within (intrafield) and between (interfield) management and sport management disciplines in one specific knowledge domain—institutional theory. We utilized a database of 188 sport-related institutional studies and conducted a citation network analysis of the aggregated reference lists from these articles. We argue that the fields of management and sport management act like “ships in the night.” That is, as the field of sport management has become more distinctive, the field is becoming less connected with general management literature and contemporary theoretical discussions. Potential implications for sport management scholarship and understanding the nature of the field are discussed, along with how it may be possible (if desired) to bridge the gap between sport and management research.

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Social Media Scholarship in Sport Studies and the State of Cultural Studies

Ryan King-White

This commentary provides a brief critique of current research on social media from a critical pedagogical and sociological perspective. It discusses how social media has become important for communities to congregate and share views, beliefs, and culture. Then, it describes how social media research in sport studies has developed in recent years, paying particular attention to how critical sport scholars view and evaluate this form of communication differently than traditional sport management academics. Following this, the commentary describes the ways that marginalized and privileged subcultures have utilized social media in ways that serve to amplify their voices in the crowded social mediascape and how the progressive possibilities of the two subcultures are in constant conflict with each other. Finally, the commentary describes theoretical, methodological, and empirical possibilities for future research by making the suggestion that more nuanced reception studies and/or praxical social media, as it pertains to sport, can be utilized toward progressive ends, despite the fact that those in power (read: upper class, heterosexual, White, and male) will incessantly fight to maintain their hegemonic position in society in and through the social medium.

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The Influence of Personal Branding and Institutional Factors on the Name, Image, and Likeness Value of Collegiate Athletes’ Social Media Posts

Adam R. Cocco, Thilo Kunkel, and Bradley J. Baker

Most collegiate athletes in the United States monetize their name, image, and likeness (NIL) through social media influencer marketing. This provides an opportunity to examine the factors that impact their social media NIL value. Therefore, we investigate the effects of personal branding factors (quality of Instagram biography, posting frequency, and account verification status) and institutional factors (competition level, university brand, and sport gender) on the social media NIL value of men’s and women’s college basketball athletes (N = 907) in California while controlling for local market characteristics. A linear regression analysis shows significant relationships between social media NIL value and competition level, university brand, sport gender, posting frequency, and account verification. Our results offer new theoretical and practical understandings of the relationships between brands in the sport brand ecosystem and the NIL value of sport influencer’s social media posts.

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“I’m Obviously a Sucker for Punishment”: Responses to Audience Interactions Used by Women Working in Sports Media

Niamh Kitching and Aoife Sheehan

The gendered experiences of women working in sports media have been the subject of growing research, particularly in the United States, but cases are emerging in other contexts. This paper examines the strategies used by seven women working in sports media in the United Kingdom and Ireland to deal with undesirable audience interactions, both online and in person. With emotional labor as an overarching framework, semistructured interviews interviews were conducted and reflexive thematic analysis was used to construct two themes: internal and external responses. The study reveals the additional self-regulated emotional burden carried by women working in sports media and the strategies used to cope. Women in sports media publicly downplay their mistreatment and have not yet embraced the reporting of gendered practices in the workplace. The findings contribute to a growing body of literature that sheds light on the experiences of women in sports media and offer insights for women working in the industry and their employers.