The purpose of this case study was to determine what image-repair strategies the University of Louisville employed immediately after the announcement of an FBI investigation involving multiple universities and college coaches taking bribes in order to steer high-profile recruits to certain agents. Specifically, this case study examined the image-repair strategies used on the University of Louisville’s official Facebook page and the comments made to those posts to gauge public reaction to the university’s image-repair strategies. The University of Louisville primarily employed the image-repair strategies of transcendence, bolstering, stonewalling, and a newly identified strategy referred to as rallying, or unifying and “moving beyond” the scandal. Three themes emerged from an inductive analysis of users’ comments, including support, rejection, and scandal. The high volume of support indicates that many users were receptive to the university’s attempt to reduce the offensiveness of the scandal through the use of bolstering and transcendence.
Evan Frederick and Ann Pegoraro
Mark Lowes and Christopher Robillard
This scholarly commentary draws on existing sport communication literature in an exploration of social media’s role in, and impact on, sport journalism practices and the production of sport news. Of particular concern is the emergence of a form of citizen sport journalism that usurps the traditional role of sport journalists as gatekeepers of the relationship between the sports world and its multitude of audiences. It is argued that social media are providing audiences with more opportunities to create the type of mediated discourses they want to experience by eliminating the scarcity of time and space that once privileged the gatekeeping status of sport journalists. Consequently, sport reporters are becoming social-media content creators and curators while competing against spectator sport-news content creators. Whereas these changes might have a negative connotation, the authors conclude that sport coverage in digital culture offers more opportunities for journalists to step outside the confines of traditional sport journalism work routines and news-production practices.
Bastian Popp, Chris Horbel and Claas Christian Germelmann
This study investigated social-media-based anti-sponsor-brand communities and their impacts, not only on the sponsoring brand but also on the sponsored club and the sport itself. Guided by balance theory and social identity theory, the authors conducted a qualitative study of 2 distinctive, prototypical Facebook-based anti-sponsor-brand communities of teams from the German Football League (Bundesliga). The results reveal common findings for both cases, including members’ motivation to oppose a sponsor and, at the same time, to protect the sport. However, the communities differ in terms of their members’ relationships to the club. This results in different consequences for the sponsor and club brands, as well as for other actors in the sponsorship network. To managers of clubs, sponsors, and sport-governing bodies, the authors suggest concerted strategies like image campaigns and interaction with anti-sponsor-brand communities as responses to different community motivations.
Travis R. Bell and Karen L. Hartman
In March 2016 the highest-paid women’s athlete, Maria Sharapova, called a press conference to announce a failed drug test. Sharapova relied on the crisis communication strategy of stealing thunder to present the information to media and break the story. The authors analyze how the press conference and her strategy were portrayed in traditional and online media and how Sharapova promoted and broadcast the press conference to defend herself. Using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) software and textual analysis, the authors argue that Sharapova’s use of the stealing-thunder strategy successfully influenced media narratives about her suspension and should be considered by athletes in crisis situations.
Elizabeth A. Taylor, Jessica L. Siegele, Allison B. Smith and Robin Hardin
Women’s participation in collegiate sport has increased dramatically since the passage of Title IX, but there has not been a corresponding increase in the percentage of women in administrative positions. Women have, however, been successful obtaining leadership positions in conference offices, as more than 30% of National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I conference commissioners were women in 2016. This research used career construction theory as a framework to explore the experiences of these women. Findings revealed that participants constantly negotiate time spent on personal and professional obligations, and relationships created in the workplace turned into organic mentorship relationships. Participants felt that there were limited amounts of sexism in the workplace, but all discussed experiencing instances of sexism, indicating a culture of gender normalcy. Women may experience increased success in leadership positions at conference offices, compared with on-campus athletic departments, due to limited direct interaction with football and donors.
Hunter Fujak, Stephen Frawley, Heath McDonald and Stephen Bush
Sport consumers and markets have traditionally been thought to exhibit unique behaviors from traditional consumer products, particularly in respect to perceptions of loyalty. Yet, despite sport landscapes becoming increasingly crowded, there has been scant research measuring consumers’ repeat behavior in the context of the dense sports market. Through this research, we address this gap by applying Dirichlet modeling against the behaviors of 1,500 Australian sport consumers. Two questions are explored: First, do sport attendance markets exhibit purchase characteristics distinct from typical consumer markets? Second, do consumers treat sport leagues as complimentary or substitutable goods? The results provide evidence that consumer patterns within the sport attendance market are consistent to other repeat-purchase consumer markets. This finding further diminishes the long-held notion that sport requires unique methods of management. Furthermore, it was found that fans consume sport teams as complimentary products. As sport teams largely share their fans with other teams, practitioners must reorient their expectations around fan loyalty.
Brendan Dwyer, Joshua M. Lupinek and Rebecca M. Achen
Women represent the fastest growing demographic for the fantasy sports industry, making up approximately 38% of fantasy football participants. To help understand this growth, this study was an attempt to explore why women play fantasy football. Themes and statements derived from qualitative data collected through open-ended survey responses and face-to-face interviews were tested on two samples of female fantasy football participants. In all, 450 unique individuals were studied, and five distinct motive factors were uncovered: Challenge, Enjoy, Enhance, Socialize, and Connect. The first three dimensions mirror the motives of male participants, and the other two are unique to women. While the factors were correlated, the results provide evidence that the factors impact different outcomes associated with the activity.
Yonghwan Chang, Daniel L. Wann and Yuhei Inoue
Through this study, attempts were made to (a) define the concept of implicit team identification (iTeam ID), (b) examine the effects the interactions between iTeam ID and emotions exert on flow, and (c) examine the behavioral consequences of flow in the context of spectator sports. The opponent process and implicit memory theories served as the study’s main theoretical frameworks. An experiment was conducted in which we developed the team identification implicit association test (Team ID IAT) as a measure of iTeam ID and manipulated spectators’ emotions based on their retrospective spectating experiences. We conclude from the findings that anger, fear, and sadness paradoxically enhanced flow experiences and subsequent consumption behaviors for spectators with stronger iTeam ID, whereas happiness was universally appealing regardless of the level of iTeam ID. A recommendation is to strategically create experiences that elicit both positive and negative emotions in spectators to encourage flow.
Brendan O’Hallarn, Stephen L. Shapiro, Marion E. Hambrick, D.E. Wittkower, Lynn Ridinger and Craig A. Morehead
Popular social media platforms have faced recent criticism because of the tendency for users to exhibit strongly negative behaviors, threatening the open, prodemocratic discourse that proponents believe was made possible when social media sites first gained widespread adoption a decade ago. A conceptual model suggests that the microblogging site Twitter, and especially sport-themed debate through hashtags, can still realize these ideals. Analyzing a dataset of tweets about the firing of former Major League Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling by ESPN on April 20, 2016, as well as a qualitative questionnaire given to the users of the hashtag, this study attempted to ascertain how closely the discourse comes to realizing the ideal of the Habermasian public sphere. The findings demonstrate that although users draw value from participation in the discussion, they are less inclined to desire interaction with other hashtag users, particularly those who disagree with them. This suggests that Twitter hashtags provide an open forum that approaches the participatory requirement of the public sphere, but the lack of back-and-forth engagement suggests the medium is not ideal for the generation of deliberative public opinion.