Without exception, all professional sport teams in North America use social media to communicate with fans. Sport communication professionals use Twitter as one of the strategic tools of engagement, yet there remains a lack of understanding about how users are motivated and gratified in their Twitter use. Drawing on a specific sample from the Twitter followers of the Canadian Football League, the researchers used semistructured in-depth interviews, content analysis, and an online survey to seek an understanding of what motivates and satisfies Twitter followers of professional sport teams, measured through the gratifications sought and the fulfillment of these motives through the perceived gratifications obtained. The results add to the sport communications literature by finding 4 primary gratifications sought by Twitter users: interaction, promotion, live game updates, and news. Professional sport teams can improve strategic fan engagement by better understanding how Twitter followers use and seek gratification in the social-media experience.
Chris Gibbs, Norm O’Reilly and Michelle Brunette
Marion E. Hambrick, Jason M. Simmons, Greg P. Greenhalgh and T. Christopher Greenwell
The online social network Twitter has grown exponentially since 2008. The current study examined Twitter use among professional athletes who use Twitter to communicate with fans and other players. The study used content analysis to place 1,962 tweets by professional athletes into one of six categories: interactivity, diversion, information sharing, content, promotional, and fanship. Many of the tweets fell into the interactivity category (34%). Athletes used Twitter to converse directly with their followers. Those with the most followers had more interactivity tweets. A large percentage of tweets (28%) fell into the diversion category, because many of the tweets involved non-sports-related topics, and relatively few of the tweets (15%) involved players discussing their own teams or sports. In addition, only 5% of the tweets were promotional in nature, indicating that professional athletes may not be taking advantage of the promotional opportunities Twitter may provide.
Jeffrey W. Kassing and Jimmy Sanderson
This case study examines how fans can experience a major sporting event (cycling’s Tour of Italy) through a particular new communication technology platform—Twitter. To explore this possibility the authors tracked the “tweets” sent out by a selection of American and English-speaking riders during the 3-wk race. Their analysis of these texts revealed that Twitter served to increase immediacy between athletes and fans. This occurred as athletes provided commentary and opinions, fostered interactivity, and cultivated insider perspectives for fans. These activities position Twitter as a powerful communication technology that affords a more social vs. parasocial relationship between athletes and fans.
Chris Gibbs and Richard Haynes
This article uses the phenomenological method to explain how Twitter has changed the nature of sport media relations. The research was based on semistructured interviews with 18 Canadian and U.S. sport media professionals having an average 16 yr of experience. This exploratory study uses the lived experience of sport media professionals to identify 3 clusters that help explain how Twitter has changed the nature of sport media relations: media landscape, “mechanical” job functions, and sport media relations. The results of this research are significant because they help explain how the practices and norms related to the role of sport media relations are changing as a result of Twitter. This research presents a new argument: that Twitter has flattened the sport hierarchy and could be considered the most influential social-media platform in sport today.
Evan L. Frederick and Galen Clavio
The purpose of this study was to explore self-presentation among highly ranked high school football recruits on Twitter. The top 10 athletes in the ESPN 300 were selected for analysis. Specifically, an inductive thematic analysis of the athletes’ tweets was conducted using grounded theory and constant-comparative methodology. Tweets were analyzed from the beginning of the football season through national signing day on February 5. Five self-presentation categories emerged from the data analysis including the personalist, interactivist, promotionalist, culturalist, and vocationalist. Overall, the high school athletes in this study were more likely to use Twitter to engage in backstage (i.e., candid) self-presentation than front-stage (i.e., calculated) self-presentation. While these athletes did use front-stage self-presentation, the performances were characterized by a highly personalized approach to communicating. The candid nature of these athletes’ use of Twitter suggests that proactive education of how to properly use social-media platforms is essential.
Galen Clavio and Ted M. Kian
An Internet-based survey was posted on the Twitter feed of a retired female athlete to ascertain the demographics, uses, and gratifications of her feed’s followers. Analysis of the data revealed that followers were predominantly White, affluent, educated, and older than prior research into online audiences has shown. The perception of the athlete as being an expert at her sport was the most salient reason reported to follow the Twitter feed, followed by affinity for the athlete’s writing style. Analysis of variance uncovered 5 significant differences in item salience between male and female followers, with women more likely to use this Twitter feed because of affinity for the athlete and men more likely to use it because of perception of the athlete as physically attractive. Factor analysis uncovered 3 dimensions of gratification: an organic fandom factor, a functional fandom factor, and an interactivity factor.
Matthew Blaszka, Lauren M. Burch, Evan L. Frederick, Galen Clavio and Patrick Walsh
Sport organizations, teams, and athletes are growing constituencies that use socialmedia platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to engage in dialogue with their respective audiences. The purpose of this study was to examine Twitter hashtag use during a major sporting event. Specifically, this study analyzed #WorldSeries during the 2011 World Series. The study employed a content-analysis methodology to determine who was using the hashtag and how it was being used. Using systematic sampling, 1,450 tweets were analyzed. The results demonstrated that #WorldSeries was being used predominantly by laypersons to express fanship, as well as interactivity. When individuals were being interactive with this hashtag, they were doing so mainly with MLB/league officials and other laypersons. Most of these interactive tweets were also expressions of fanship. The implications of these findings are discussed further.
Katie Lebel and Karen Danylchuk
This study investigated how professional athletes present themselves in their Twitter profile pictures and how athlete self-presentation is interpreted by a Generation Y audience (N = 206). Goffman’s theory of self-presentation guided the analysis with a specific focus on the notions of front- and backstage performances as they relate to impression-management strategies. Participants assessed a sample of profile photos of the most followed male and female athletes on Twitter by providing their first impressions of each athlete’s image and then evaluating photo favorability and effectiveness. This research provides evidence to suggest that individuals invest meaning in the social cues provided in athlete profile pictures. Athletes who highlighted a sport context were consistently ranked most favorably and effectively and were linked with positive word associations. These findings underscore the importance of a strategic alignment between social-media profile content, profile photos, and the brand established by athletes.
Katie Lebel and Karen Danylchuk
The innovations of social media have altered the traditional methods of fan–athlete interaction while redefining how celebrity athletes practice their roles as celebrities. This study explored gender differences in professional athletes’ self-presentation on Twitter. Content analyses were used to compare male and female athletes’ tweets relayed by all professional tennis players with a verified Twitter account. Profile details and messages were scoured for themes and patterns of use during the time surrounding the 2011 U.S. Open Tennis Championships. Goffman’s seminal 1959 theory of self-presentation guided the analysis. While athlete image construction was found to be largely similar between genders, male athletes were found to spend more time in the role of sport fan while female athletes spent more time in the role of brand manager.
Nicholas Watanabe, Grace Yan and Brian P. Soebbing
From the perspective of economic demand theory, this study examines the factors that determine daily changes in Twitter following of Major League Baseball teams as a form of derived demand for a sport product. Specifically, a linear regression model is constructed by taking consideration of factors relevant to fan interest: team performance, market characteristics, scheduling, and so on. The results reveal specific determinants that have significant relationship with Twitter following. From a team management perspective, factors such as the content of social media messages, certain calendar events, and postseason appearances can be used to enhance fan interest on social media. In so doing, it brings together communication inquiries and economic literature by delineating a comprehensive and nuanced account of interpreting sport social media from a consumer demand perspective.