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Yiran Su, Bradley J. Baker, Jason P. Doyle, and Meimei Yan

As COVID-19 lockdowns force most sport leagues into hiatus, engaging fans has emerged as a key challenge confronting the sport industry. While navigating social distancing protocols, athletes are experimenting with new ways to connect with their fans. Alongside established social media platforms (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram), TikTok, a short-form video-sharing platform, has gained prominence in terms of registered users and shared content. Yet, little is known about the utility of TikTok as an athlete branding tool. This study uses a netnographic approach to explore the use of TikTok among athletes (N = 10) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings reveal that athlete-generated TikTok videos are characterized as playful and authentic. While athletes are recent adopters of TikTok, this emerging social media platform can be profitably integrated into their online branding strategies. Communicating via TikTok presents opportunities for athletes to foster existing fan relationships, promote branded content, and appeal to new fan segments. Overall, athletes and sport practitioners can leverage these findings to create content for an audience that is attracted to novelty and the activities of athletes extending beyond game highlights or interviews.

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Bradley J. Baker, Thilo Kunkel, Jason P. Doyle, Yiran Su, Nataliya Bredikhina, and Rui Biscaia

Despite consistent interest in sport brands and the multitude of brands in the sport ecosystem, extant knowledge remains fragmented and unstructured. The purpose of this study is to integrate and synthesize extant sport brand research, appraise the current state of knowledge, and suggest future research directions. Following structured literature review guidelines, we coded 179 peer-reviewed articles published in four leading sport management journals between 2000 and 2020. Results reveal increased publications in sport brand research within the four examined journals, as well as opportunities to increase theoretical and methodological rigor. Based on the mapping and critical review of extant literature, we introduce the Sport Brand Ecosystem and Environment and discuss two distinct and complementary areas related to theory and research designs and topical domains to address existent concerns and guide future research directions.

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Anthony D. Pizzo, Yiran Su, Tobias Scholz, Bradley J. Baker, Juho Hamari, and Leah Ndanga

Esports, or competitive video gaming competitions, bring together aspects of sports, business, leisure, technology, and digital media, appealing to academics across multiple disciplines. Yet, esports scholarship remains highly fragmented, with scholars operating within traditional academic silos and forgoing opportunities to build on esports’ interdisciplinary nature. The purpose of this integrative review is to synthesize esports scholarship from across disciplines, identify critical scholarly issues, and develop a pragmatic, interdisciplinary research agenda. We find that extant esports scholarship is categorized by literature seeking to conceptualize and legitimize esports via sport parallels, with a focus on the consumers and culture of esports. Scholarly issues include researchers examining esports in their respective academic silos, omitting opportunities to connect conceptually similar streams of literature. Overall, we synthesize esports scholarship, bridge chasms between disjointed streams of literature, and outline a pragmatic research agenda which could benefit from interdisciplinary inquiries based on a shared understanding of esports.