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Gashaw Abeza, Norm O’Reilly and Jessica R. Braunstein-Minkove

Relational perspectives have influenced marketing theory and practice over the past 40 years, with a volume of relationship marketing (RM) research accumulating over this time. In sport management specifically, a number of RM research articles have been published since the late 1990s. Although an influx has been seen, a review of said literature informs us that RM is a diverse field with no single best explanation, no clear domain and scope, and no universally accepted definition and that, most particularly, the literature is a melting pot of various concepts. This circumstance creates frustration and confusion among new researchers. Additionally, as strategic communication strategies rely on clear and consistent messaging, it is pivotal to holistically address the issue. Therefore, adopting an integrative literature review approach, this commentary revisits the RM scholarship to present, brings attention to the complex nature of the RM literature, and identifies a point of departure for researchers attempting to find a fitting “home” for their research.

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Elaine Chiao Ling Yang, Michelle Hayes, Jinyan Chen, Caroline Riot and Catheryn Khoo-Lattimore

Contemporary sport culture is characterized as highly masculinized, where female athletes are continually marginalized in traditional media. Despite evidence suggesting that media representation of athletes has a meaningful impact on social outcomes and participation rates of women and girls, little is known about gendered representations of athletes on social media and in the context of mega-sporting events. This paper examines the gendered representations of athletes on Twitter during the 2018 Commonwealth Games using framing theory. A total of 133,338 tweets were analyzed using sentiment and word-frequency analyses. Results indicate gender differences concerning athlete representation on Twitter, albeit marginal. In particular, the findings reveal that seemingly neutral words (e.g., “dedicated,” “talented,” and “hard working”) could carry gendered connotations. Recommendations are provided to guide stakeholders to advance a more inclusive sport culture through the strategic use of social media during mega-sporting events.

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Henk Erik Meier, Jörg Hagenah and Malte Jetzke

As Hutchins and Rowe have emphasized, digital plenitude will fundamentally affect sports broadcasting. In particular, niche sports will be confronted with a more difficult media environment in which the chances of being telecast may increase, while the chances of finding an audience are likely to decrease. Therefore, niche sports face the need to further submit to a media logic. The current research is a case study involving an analysis of the 2018 European Championships from a mediatization perspective. While the findings show how aggregation helped to revitalize audience interest, the case study reveals that the future of niche-sport broadcasting is uncertain, because the audience habits that the European Championships exploited are fading.

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Patti Millar and Julie Stevens

Past research has demonstrated that human resource training often results in improved individual and organizational performances. Yet, the focus has been on whether or not training has an impact on performance, rather than the nature of that impact. The purpose of this study is to investigate the nature of training-related outcomes in the context of one training program within the Canadian national sport sector. Interviews were conducted with key representatives from 12 Canadian national sport organizations. Findings showed the manifestations of performance change that occur as a result of training, revealing a new way of thinking at the individual level, a new way of doing within group and organizational processes, and a new way of being across organizations. Three theoretical perspectives—interpretation, learning, and institutional—are used to frame the discussion of the findings. Implications for practice and future research are presented.

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Gashaw Abeza, Jessica R. Braunstein-Minkove, Benoit Séguin, Norm O’Reilly, Ari Kim and Yann Abdourazakou

This study explored the practices and strategies of ambush marketing via social media (SM) during the 2014 Sochi, 2016 Rio, and 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games. An observational netnography method was adopted to investigate direct industry competitors’ (of the Olympic sponsors) use of SM for the purpose of ambush marketing during the 2014, 2016, and 2018 Games. Data were gathered from the official Twitter accounts of 15 direct industry competitors over the three most recent Games. Despite a series of SM guidelines released by IOC for the 2014, 2016, and 2018 Games, the findings showed that the practice of ambush marketing via SM was evident during each of the Games. Direct industry competitors were found employing four specific ambush strategies, namely, associative, values, coattail, and property infringement. Theoretical and practical implications, as well as an impetus for future research, are suggested.

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Dae Hee Kwak and Sean Pradhan

Three experiments explore how sport consumers respond to sponsor advertisements featuring a team that lost a pivotal game. Drawing from social identity and appraisal theories, the authors hypothesize and find that high identifiers experience stronger negative emotions but less identity threat than low identifiers following their favorite team’s loss. When an advertisement features the losing team, low identifiers show less favorable evaluations toward the brand, whereas high identifiers report more favorable assessments. The results demonstrate that the tendency to hide and escape from the source of threat (losing team) among low identifiers is evidenced in processing marketing communications, whereas high identifiers display more positive evaluations toward the brand when the advertisement acknowledged the loss. The study findings provide implications for sponsors to consider different messaging strategies depending on the level of team identification with the losing team.

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Nathanael C.H. Ong

Singaporean footballer Ben Davis applied for deferment from national service (NS) in order to pursue his dream of playing in the English Premier League. However, his deferment request was rejected by the Ministry of Defense, and there was a sizable national debate on whether Davis should be granted the deferment. The study sought to use the Ben Davis saga as a case study to provide an exploration of public opinion toward various issues relating to sport and society. A total of 14,093 comments were extracted from various news sources on Facebook, and a randomized sample of 1,875 comments was used for the final analysis. The constant comparative methodology was used to conduct a thematic analysis of the comments. The analysis produced four higher order themes: (a) sport in Singapore, (b) role and relevance of NS, (c) national interest versus individual choice, and (d) perception of new citizens and foreign talent.