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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.

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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.

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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.

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Amanda Palladino, Minkyo Lee, and Xiaochen Zhou

Olympic mascots are important marketing tools for the Olympic Games, as they can communicate the meaning of the games. However, there is limited understanding on how to effectively design Olympic mascots as a marketing communication tool. This study focused on understanding how design elements of Olympic mascots influence fans’ perceptions, attitude, and purchase intention. An online experiment, featured in a 2 (design types: anthropomorphic animal, abstract) × 2 (Olympic brand cues: presence, absence) mixed subject design, was conducted. The results showed that animal mascots received significantly higher ratings than abstract mascots in terms of design perception, attitude, and purchase intention. This study demonstrates how the visual design of Olympic mascots influences consumer perception, attitude, and behavior. Our research has bridged this gap by exploring the effects of Olympic mascot design and Olympic symbols as an important marketing communication tool.

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Damien Whitburn, Chelsey Taylor, Paul Turner, and Adam Karg

Little research has investigated gender bias of organization communications, effects of bias on consumer perceptions and intentions, and resulting behaviors. A data scrape of social media and website content and a member survey of Australian not-for-profit sporting organizations provided data for this study. Variances were identified in content and consumer perceptions of messaging, with this shown to be related to gender. Influence of consumer perceptions on satisfaction, relationship quality, behavioral intentions, and consumer behaviors was observed. This highlights that gender bias impacts perceptions of organizational communications, presenting a barrier to engagement. In addition, gender-balanced messaging was shown to lead to greater participation, increased consumption of media, longevity of tenure of sport membership, increased instances of engagement, and higher levels of volunteerism. As such, strategies displaying gender equity can assist organizational efficiency and effectiveness in addition to providing community and participant benefits.

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Johnny Capra and Sara LaBelle

Each year, thousands of athletes suffer from sport-related pain and injury, with many of these individuals reporting playing through this pain or injury. In order to garner a better understanding as to how youth athletes view these behaviors, as well as the communicative factors that may play a part in the formation of these beliefs, college student participants responded to an online open-ended questionnaire based on the theory of planned behavior. Participants’ (N = 64) retrospective responses were analyzed according to thematic analysis, and results revealed several distinct themes related to their held behavioral, normative, and control beliefs. This research furthers the study of playing through pain and injury in youth athletes, helping to shine a light on some of the motivating forces behind these beliefs and behaviors, as well as indicating several potential paths for the future of this research.

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Claudia Benavides-Espinoza and Amanda Wheeler Gryffin

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Ben Larkin, Janet S. Fink, and Elizabeth Delia

Researchers have found highly identified sport fans exhibit almost unwavering loyalty. Such loyalty has been exhibited by fans basking in reflected glory (BIRGing) following team wins, but not cutting off reflected failure (CORFing) following team losses. In short, they stick with the team through thick and thin, and thus would not be construed as fair-weather fans (those who associate with the team when they are winning, but disassociate when they are losing). Despite their presence, little is known about fair-weather fans, including the roots of their fandom. In the current study, we explore the role of collective narcissism—a type of in-group identification characterized by an insecure self-esteem—in predicting BIRGing and CORFing patterns. We find collective narcissism to be a predictor of BIRGing and CORFing patterns characteristic of fair-weather fandom. This extends research on collective narcissism, BIRGing, and CORFing, while also providing actionable insight for practitioners seeking to combat fair-weather fandom.