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Playing to Win: Sports, Video Games, and the Culture of Play

Michael L. Naraine

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Casing Sport Communication

Michael L. Naraine

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The Blockchain Phenomenon: Conceptualizing Decentralized Networks and the Value Proposition to the Sport Industry

Michael L. Naraine

The sport industry has experienced significant technological change in its environment with the recent rise of Bitcoin and its underlying foundation, blockchain. Accordingly, the purpose of this paper is to introduce and conceptually ground blockchain in sport and discuss the implications and value proposition of blockchain to the sport industry. After a brief overview of blockchain and the technology stack, the mechanism is conceptually rooted in the network paradigm, a framework already known to the academic sport community. This treatment argues that the decentralized, closed, and dense mesh network produced by blockchain technology is beneficial to the sport industry. Notably, the article identifies blockchain’s capacity to facilitate new sources of revenue and improve data management and suggests that sport management and communication consider the value of blockchain and the technology stack as the digital footprint in the industry intensifies and becomes increasingly complex.

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Leadership in Sport

Michael L. Naraine

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“Birds of a Feather”: An Institutional Approach to Canadian National Sport Organizations’ Social-Media Use

Michael L. Naraine and Milena M. Parent

The purpose of this study was to examine sport organizations’ social-media activity using an institutional approach, specifically, to investigate the main themes emanating from Canadian national sport organizations’ (CNSOs) social-media communication and the similarities and differences in social-media use between the CNSOs. An exploratory qualitative thematic analysis was conducted on 8 CNSOs’ Twitter accounts ranging from 346 to 23,925 followers, with the number of tweets varying from 219 to 17,186. Thematic analysis indicated that CNSOs generally used tweeting for promoting, reporting, and informing purposes. Despite the organizations’ differing characteristics regarding seasonality of the sport, Twitter-follower count, total number of tweets, and whether the content was original or retweeted, themes were generally consistent across the various organizations. Coercive, mimetic, and normative isomorphic pressures help explain these similarities and offer reasons for a lack of followership growth by the less salient CNSOs. Implications for research and practice are provided.

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Place Your Bets: An Exploratory Study of Sports-Gambling Operators’ Use of Twitter for Relationship Marketing

Emily Stadder and Michael L. Naraine

Worldwide, sports gambling is a multibillion-dollar industry. Despite the industry’s size and success, little research has been conducted on sport-gambling operators (SGOs), and no research has examined their presence on social media. As such, this exploratory study aimed to examine the social media habits of SGOs through a relationship-marketing lens. To do so, 16,466 tweets were collected from the Twitter accounts of six Australian SGOs, with descriptive statistics from tweets presented and Leximancer performing automated thematic analyses. Results indicated that SGOs are discussing professionalized sport, influencers, and subbrands, as well as extensively making use of hashtags and mentions. Given these results, the strategies that SGOs are using to communicate and interact with their consumers focuses particularly on a North American professional-sport and horseracing context. This research contributes to the growing understanding of social media stakeholders in sport and provides an initial starting point for future research on SGOs given the recent legalization of sports gambling in the United States.

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Examining the Digital Pitch: A 3-Year Examination of Social Media Metrics From Men’s Professional Sport

Alyssa Scalera and Michael L. Naraine

Although research in the social media and sport domain continues to uncover key insights related to content, there has been a push toward identifying the social media metrics that serve as the antecedents to relationship marketing engagement. Along that vein, the purpose of this study was to analyze social media activity (i.e., impressions and engagements) from all teams in a given professional sport league over a 3-year period. Contextually set with Major League Soccer teams for the 2017, 2018, and 2019 calendar years, 66,745 Instagram posts were retrieved using MVPindex and parsed for focal social media metrics (i.e., impressions and engagements) for each team using a temporal lens (i.e., by month and by day). Findings of this study align with past work indicating the need for sport properties to focus on posting outside of game-day windows, harnessing the ongoing, instantaneous nature of social media.

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Off the Court: Examining Social Media Activity and Engagement in Women’s Professional Sport

Megan C. Piché and Michael L. Naraine

Sports organizations’ use of social media (SM) has become a key strategy in the coverage and promotion of sport. Although research has been done on the success of digital marketing for men’s professional sport, little is known about the impact of such in women’s sport. This study aimed to examine the SM activity and engagement with fans of the Women’s National Basketball Association. All posts from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the 2019 calendar year were collected from all 12 Women’s National Basketball Association teams and analyzed, in aggregate, for their SM metrics. Results indicated that there was a high level of interaction on SM during the in-season competition months, whereas engagement during the off-season period declined. Given these results, the Women’s National Basketball Association should create strategies to increase fan engagement when there is decreased interactivity to perpetually promote women’s sport. This research provides a starting point for future research on women’s sport involving SM metrics.

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Optimizing Social Media Engagement in Professional Sport: A 3-Year Examination of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter Posts

Michael L. Naraine and Jordan T. Bakhsh

Although social media has gained significant notoriety, there remains a “missing link” in examining engagement in the sport context. While the why, what, and whom have been explored, the where and when have received considerably less uptake. Accordingly, the purpose of this study was to examine social media engagement for professional sports teams to determine optimal when and where points of user engagement, and the relationship between impressions and engagement. Over two billion data points from 108,124 Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts were collected from four professional sports teams between 2017 and 2019. Findings from a regression analysis indicate that both when and where variables significantly predicted impression, and findings from the correlation analysis indicate that impression and engagement are nearly identical. These findings show fan engagement in the context of professional sport teams, prompting scholars to consider the impacts of time and platform, and encourage practitioners to rethink posting on Twitter, the least engaging of the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter platforms.

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Illuminating Centralized Users in the Social Media Ego Network of Two National Sport Organizations

Michael L. Naraine and Milena M. Parent

The purpose of this study was to examine national sport organizations’ (NSOs’) social networks on Twitter to explore followership between users, thereby illuminating powerful and central actors in a digital environment. Using a stratified, convenience sample, followership between the ego (i.e., NSO) and its alters (i.e., stakeholders) were noted in square, one-mode sociomatrices for the Fencing Canada (381 × 381) and Luge Canada (1026 × 1026) networks on Twitter. Using social network analysis to analyze the data for network density, average ties, Bonacich beta centrality, and core–periphery structure, the results indicate fans, elite athletes, photographers, competing sport organizations, and local clubs are some of the key stakeholders with large amounts of power. Though salient users, such as sponsors and international sport federations, are also present in the network core, NSOs seem better able to increase visibility of their content by targeting smaller scale users. The findings imply managers may wish to reflect upon how these advantaged users can be incorporated into their social communication strategies and how scholarship should continue examining followership as well as content in online settings.