This article brings together scholarship on communication theory, influencer marketing, and personal branding to examine a new type of social media influencer—the college athlete influencer. Previous research in the field of sports has not specifically explored the distinct characteristics of college athletes that contribute to their effectiveness as marketing influencers. By adopting a sequential explanatory mixed-methods approach, this study provides a comprehensive understanding of the source of college athletes’ influence via social media. Quantitative results indicate that projecting an athletic identity on social media enhances the influencer’s credibility and increases the likelihood of consumers purchasing the products they endorse. Furthermore, qualitative findings indicated that the shared school identity acts as the ultimate impetus for the bond between the influencer and the consumer, which subsequently impacts the consumer’s purchasing decisions. This study provides actionable implications for schools, colleges, and brands seeking to build compelling sponsorships in the name, image, and likeness era.
The New Wave of Influencers: Examining College Athlete Identities and the Role of Homophily and Parasocial Relationships in Leveraging Name, Image, and Likeness
Yiran Su, Xuan Guo, Christine Wegner, and Thomas Baker
Fan Engagement in 15 Seconds: Athletes’ Relationship Marketing During a Pandemic via TikTok
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.
Esports Scholarship Review: Synthesis, Contributions, and Future Research
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.
Remapping the Sport Brandscape: A Structured Review and Future Direction for Sport Brand Research
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.