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Social Media and Sport Research: Empirical Examinations Showcasing Diversity in Methods and Topics

Jimmy Sanderson and Gashaw Abeza

This commentary introduces the second of two special issues in the International Journal of Sport Communication centered on social media and sport. The empirical studies presented in this issue illustrate both the diversity of topics and methodological approaches utilized by researchers working at the intersection of social media and sport. Research articles in this issue analyze topics ranging from sport consumer behavior to online fan communities to coaches’ perceptions of activism-related content posted on team social media accounts. The research presented here also employs a variety of methodological approaches including experimental design, critical discourse analysis, rhetorical analysis, and applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Collectively, these studies offer a foundation on which future research in social media and sport can build to continue to enhance our understanding of social media’s impact on the sport world.

Open access

The Roles of Perceived Safety Climate and Innovativeness in the Performance of Sport and Recreation Organizations

Minjung Kim, Han Soo Kim, Brent D. Oja, Jasamine Hill, Claire Zvosec, and Paul Yuseung Doh

The recent COVID-19 pandemic created an unpredictable environment regarding the safety operations of sport and recreation organizations. This study was designed to examine how safety climate and organizational innovativeness could promote preferred organizational behavior outcomes in college campus sport and recreation centers. A total of 227 sport and recreation employees were recruited through the National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association. With the collected data, we employed structural equation modeling to assess the research hypotheses. The results indicated that safety climate and innovativeness positively influenced job engagement, therefore leading to enhanced safety compliance and employee innovativeness, which ultimately resulted in higher levels of organizational performance. Peer safety compliance was also found to be a moderator in the relationship between job engagement and safety compliance. In this study, the authors offer new insights into sport organizational performance by emphasizing safety and innovation.

Free access

Organizational-Level Factors That Influence Women Coaches’ Experiences

James P. Strode, Heidi M. Parker, and Shannon Kerwin

The purpose of this study was to identify the supports and barriers women coaches experience at the organizational level and to determine how those factors influence interpersonal- and individual-level factors within their coaching context. Nine women who coach high school basketball were interviewed at two time points and asked to reflect on organizational-level factors relative to their coaching position and how those factors have shaped their coaching experience over time. Based on the results of the interviews, two organizational-level factors were identified as barriers for participants: navigating inconsistent hiring practices and hypermasculine culture within school sport. The participants described organizational-level factors as influencing their experiences at both interpersonal (e.g., support from mentors, barriers related to the athletic directors) and individual (e.g., age, experience, sexual orientation) levels. The findings provide empirical support for specific organizational factors that contribute to interpersonal- and individual-level coach experiences. The power structures embedded in these associations are defined and discussed.

Free access

An xG of Their Own: Using Expected Goals to Explore the Analytical Shortcomings of Misapplied Gender Schemas in Football

Sachin Narayanan and N. David Pifer

Although professional women’s football has benefitted from recent surges in popularity, challenges to progress and distinguish the sport persist. The gender-schema theory explains the tendency for individuals to hold female sports to male standards, a phenomenon that leads to negative outcomes in areas such as media representation and consumer perception. One area in which schemas have a more discreet effect is player and team performance, where the assumption that technical metrics developed in men’s football are transferable to women’s football remains unfounded. Using expected goals, a metric synonymous with the probability of a shot being scored, we highlight how variables important to shot quality and shot execution differ across gender, and how attempts to evaluate female footballers with models built on men’s data increase estimation errors. These results have theoretical and practical implications for the role they play in reframing schemas and improving the methods used to evaluate performance in women’s sports.

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“What Have I Learned … ” and How Did I Get There? Reflection on a Research Journey

Marijke Taks

Receiving a lifetime award allows one to pause and reflect on one’s research journey. In the spirit of Earle Zeigler himself, I reflect on: “What I have learned … ” on my research journey, and more specifically on how I got there. My research has always focused on the interaction between sport, economics, and society and evolved: “From socio-economic impacts on sport participation to socio-economic outcomes of sport events.” To cover 40 years of research, I am highlighting how: (a) “triggers,” (b) “influencers,” and (c) “lessons learned” intermingled to push my research agenda forward. This reflection proved to be a very gratifying exercise. I can highly recommend it to all researchers. Perhaps, this can become a stepping stone to be promoted to the rank of Prof. Emeritus or Emerita. Either way, sharing our experiences may trigger, inspire, and advance the learning of future generations of sport management scholars.

Free access

Assessing the Social Media Landscape in Sport: Evaluating the Present and Identifying Future Opportunities

Gashaw Abeza and Jimmy Sanderson

This article introduces a special issue of the International Journal of Sport Communication containing insightful commentaries by distinguished scholars in social media scholarship in sports studies. By inviting 25 scholars in the field, who contributed a total of 16 scholarly commentaries, the issue benefits from their extensive knowledge of the interplay between social media and sport. The scholarly commentaries address current trends, critique methods, challenge theories, and propose fresh approaches to understanding the impact of social media in sport. These scholars offer unique perspectives, innovative methodologies, and engaging writing that caters to a diverse readership. The articles provide valuable critiques; shed light on critical issues, controversies, and gaps in knowledge; and identify future directions for sport and social media scholarship to traverse. Importantly, the diverse perspectives presented in this issue stimulate academic dialogue and foster productive discussions within the field of social media in sport studies.

Free access

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.

Free access

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

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

Free access

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.

Free access

I “Like” It: The Effects of Social Media Platform and Message on Consumer Engagement Actions

Rebecca M. Achen, Ashley Stadler-Blank, and John J. Sailors

The academic literature reports mixed evidence on how social media platform and message impact consumer engagement. We investigated the effects of three platforms (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) and three message themes (sales, informational, and relationship building) on six consumer engagement actions (comment, like, search, share, talk about, and purchase) in a lab experiment. College students responded to social media posts featuring their National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I women’s basketball team. Results for platform show that participants were more likely to comment on Facebook and Twitter (vs. Instagram) and more likely to purchase on Twitter (vs. Instagram). Results for message theme show that participants were more likely to comment, like, and share informational and relationship building posts and more likely to purchase after sales posts. Results for message theme vary by gender for search and talk about (with others). These results can help sport marketers develop social media content that drives specific engagement actions.