Points of attachment on social media: exploring similarities and differences between Chinese and Western National Basketball Association fans

Recently, I was able to work with Dr Bo (Norman) Li and Dr Steve Dittmore on a paper to uncover how Western and Chinese sport fans, particularly those following the Los Angeles Lakers NBA team, ecome attached to the club. This study will be published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Sport and Social Science’s forthcoming special issue on Sport in China.

The full paper is available here: from the publisher, academia.edu, or researchgate. The full abstract appears below.



Given the availability and usage of Twitter, professional sport organizations attempt to embrace this emerging medium to engage with sports fans around the world. While many sports fans use Twitter globally, Chinese sports fans primarily embrace localized social media platforms, such as Weibo, to follow their favourite teams because many international mainstream social media services are banned in China. This study aimed to investigate the similarities and differences between Chinese National Basketball Association (NBA) fans and Western NBA fans in terms of their social media usage and points of attachment to a team with a global presence. The results revealed that Chinese digital NBA fans expressed higher dependence on using social media in their daily life compared to Western counterparts. In terms of sports fans’ points of attachment, Chinese NBA fans had higher associations with basketball, NBA players, and the NBA than Western counterparts, while Western fans perceived a higher attachment to the team.


World Congress of the Sociology of Sport Conference abstract

This post is a copy/paste of an accepted abstract that will be presented at the 2013 International Sociology of Sport Association’s World Congress of the Sociology of Sport Congress in Vancouver, Canada (See: http://issa2013.org/).


TITLE: Nationalism and the National Basketball Association finals: An analysis of announcer discourse

AUTHORS: Olan Kees Martin Scott & Dwight Zakus

ABSTRACT: One of the key themes of contemporary media is to entertain the audience;  a central “function of the media [is] for diversion and enjoyment, in which the media provide stories, features, music, and films to make audiences laugh, cry, relax, or reflect rather than gain information” (Wilson, Gutierrez, & Chao, 2003, p. 40). Through the framing of sport broadcasts, which become the individual scripted storylines, commercial media seek to generate a large viewership as possible in order to on-sell viewers to advertisers and sponsors. Entman (2007) suggests that framing is a “process of culling a few elements of a perceived reality and assembling a narrative that highlights connections among them to promote a particular interpretation” (p. 164). As such, this study seeks to uncover how the concept of nationalism was portrayed by commentators during the broadcasts of the 2011 National Basketball Association finals. Further, the scripting tactics will be uncovered that were employed by sportscasters to possibly enhance the salience of storylines to viewers through a post hoc reconstruction of scripts. While a wide body of literature exists on nationalism and sport, this research analyses a series of events not often studied, an NBA finals. A content analysis of announcer discourse will be conducted to uncover how American (N=22) and international (N=8) professional basketball players were portrayed by announcers. A reliable and validated 15 category taxonomy (Scott, Hill, & Zakus, in press) will be used to analyze and evaluate the frames that were used by announcers to depict NBA players.

Sponsored vignettes during MediaSport telecasts: A case of the 2007 and 2008 National Basketball Association (NBA) finals.

This is a copy of the abstract I submitted to SMAANZ 2011 and will present the findings on Friday 25 November 2011 at 8:30 AM at the MCG in Melbourne.

Olan Kees Martin Scott a, Dwight Zakus, Brad Hill b, Heather A. Muir c, & Sue Brown a

a University of Ballarat, b Griffith University, c Bowling Green State University

Advertisers suggest that the general public views over 3,000 brand names and logos per day. From the brand name on an alarm clock to the many logos on a car, society is exposed to many marketing messages on a daily basis. How, then, does a television network attempt to ensure that broadcast sponsors’ names and logos are seen by viewers? Often, a television network will embed marketing messages into the live coverage of the event, which has been found to be a successful method of marketing to a captive audience (Wenner, 1989). For example, companies may sponsor segments of a telecast, such as the halftime show or the “players to watch” element. This study uncovered how one television network, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), embedded marketing messages into the play-by-play commentary of two end-of-season series, the 2007 and 2008 National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals.

According to Condry (1989), the business of a television broadcaster is not the selling of advertisements, programmes, or goods and services, but the selling of audiences: “people in very large numbers who have little else in common except that they are all ‘tuned’ in at the same time” (p. 23). This has led television organisations to move away from viewing their audience as reactive individuals “who passively watch one game[or show]after another, doing little but ingesting food along the way” (Gantz & Wenner, 1995, p. 70) to “engaging and involving their viewers” (Livingstone, 1998). Once a viewer is attached and engaged with a programme, that individual is more likely to become, and remain, cognitively and emotionally absorbed, and continue to consume other media programming (Livingstone, 1998; Wann, Grieve, Zapalac, & Pease, 2008). Once a broadcaster is able to provide the audience with reasons for television watching, it is able to mediate the audience and sell this captive population to advertisers and sponsors. A common method for promoting third party goods and services is during the advertising breaks during MediaSport (Wenner, 1998) coverage (Abelman & Atkin, 2002). However, a newer phenomenon is the inclusion of sponsored messages during the description of the game.

According to Mullin (1983), there are three broad ways in which a broadcaster can embed marketing messages into the telecasts of sport. These are: promote third-party goods and services, promote the participation (i.e., playing) of sport, and promote the future viewing of network programmes. A content analysis was conducted on ABC’s live telecasts of the NBA Finals to uncover how the ABC commercialised its broadcasts. Two salient themes emerged. First, ABC promoted the NBA online store. Second, many segments of the Finals were sponsored. In both of these categories, third party companies were incorporated into the coverage of the Finals. Examples of the ways in which sponsors were incorporated into the coverage of the NBA Finals will be presented at the conference.

Implications of this study include an increased valuation of advertising and sponsorship due to the announcers’ comments and the use of sponsored vignettes. Since these marketing messages occur during the event, rather than during advertising breaks, this may lead to greater audience viewership of the vignettes. Second, through the use of sponsored vignettes, advertisers are able to market to a captive audience (Wenner, 1989), as more viewers will watch these segments that are aired as part of the live coverage.

Stream: Sport and media

Keywords: sport media, advertising, sponsored vignettes, framing, and basketball

NASSM presentation

This is a copy of the abstract that forms the presentation that I will be doing on 4 June 2011 at the North American Society for Sport Management Conference in London, Canada.

It is also available from NASSM’s website

2011 North American Society for Sport Management Conference (NASSM 2011)
London, ON June 1 – 4, 2011. Page 11-12
Scripting the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals: An Analysis of Announcer Discourse and the Portrayal of Race
Olan Scott, University of Ballarat
Dwight Zakus, Griffith University
Brad Hill, Griffith University

Communication Saturday, June 4, 2011 20-minute oral presentation

Abstract 2011-216 4:05 PM (Room 9)

During sporting broadcasts, the media use frames to create discourse. Through embedding messages, the media are able to create a scripted telecast that ensures that only selected aspects of a communication message are salient to viewers. The media select aspects of its communication or discourse and enhance the salience of these messages (Entman, 1993). Through framing a telecast, the media build, capture and maintain audience numbers by ensuring that its communication is salient to the greatest number of viewers. Rowe (2004) notes that it is insufficient for a media company to focus solely on the sight and sound of a sporting event. Thus, framing allows a television network to create a broadcast that embeds multiple storylines into the coverage. To uncover how an event is framed by the media, the 2008 NBA Finals was analysed to uncover the framing function of the

The NBA Finals series features the winners of the Eastern Conference taking on the Western Conference champion in a best-of-seven-games format. This series takes place each June. This study compared announcer discourse surrounding the 2008 NBA finals based on the race of the player: black or other. This study builds and adds to the existing body of knowledge regarding media bias during sporting events (e.g., Alabarces, Tomlinson, & Young, 2001; Billings & Eastman, 2002; Larson amp; Rivenburgh, 1991; Tudor, 1992). While a wide body of literature around race and sport exists, this study looks at a discrete event not often studied, a National Basketball Association Finals series, to analyze and evaluate the frames employed when commenting on the racial origins of the competing players. This study sought to uncover how the concept of race was portrayed by commentators during the broadcast of the finals.

The theoretical framework that this study employs is agenda-setting. McCombs and Shaw (1972) noted that the media play an important role in the “shaping of … reality” (p. 176). Entman (1993) comments that the amount of coverage an issue receives is indicative of its importance, which aligns with Cohen’s (1963) maxim that the press “may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers [and viewers] what to think about [original emphasis]” (p. 13). Through framing and scripting the coverage of an event, the media are able to set an agenda that its announcers will follow to ensure that its encoded discourse is correctly identified and decoded by viewers. This study seeks to uncover how the portrayals of race are framed by the American Broadcasting Corporation during the 2008 NBA Finals, which will uncover the agenda-setting function of the media.

In particular, this study breaks ground in analysing a finals-series based around the concept of ethnicity. Often, global events, such as the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, and various sporting world cups are featured in media analyses focusing on bias of race, nationality, and gender. However, annual events, such as league finals or various sporting world cups are less often the site for analysis. Furthermore, the mediation of an audience and cultural influence of viewers may be more salient as these events are on television more often than an Olympic Games or world cups, such football/soccer. Thus, there might be a more sustained and continued mediation of viewers through broadcast discourse.

All six of the 2008 NBA Finals games featuring the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics were included in the sample for investigation. A content analysis was conducted based on the ABC’s live telecasts of the series. Only ABC employee discourse was included in the study. Analyzing a finals series allowed for the study of frames and the change that scripts may undergo as there is at lease one day between each game. Thus, the ABC can alter its series frame to cater for any changes in the series. In this study, each game was transcribed verbatim. Then, the transcription sheets were coded using a fourteen category taxonomy, which was used to record (a) the announcer uttering the phrase, (b) the race of the player, and (c) the resultant descriptor code. In addition, 20% of each game was coded by a second trained researcher to ensure inter-coder reliability, which was conducted using Holsti’s (1969) coefficient of reliability. Inter-coder reliability exceeded 86% for each game, indicating a good level of reliability among the two trained coders. The fourteen categories were: (a) athleticism, (b) appearance/looks, (c) background, (d) motivation, (e) skill, (f) history, (g) work ethos, (h) leadership, (i) mentality/composure, (j) creativity, (k) speed, (l) experience, (m) negative descriptors, and (n) positive descriptors.

Overall, there were 1519 total comments in this analysis. Of this total, 1288 or 84.79% were about black players, while the remaining 231 or 15.21% were discussing players of other races. These data were analysed using two expected scores: overall game commentary and player percentage. Thus, in the overall game commentary, the expected scores were 84.79% and 15.21%. In the third analysis, the expected scores were 73.33% and 26.67%, as 22 of the 30 players were black.

In the analysis at the overall percentage of commentary, which was 84.79% for black players and 15.21% for other ethnicities, there were two significant chi-square results. These were: leadership (df = 1, n = 80) = 11.00, p < .001 and negative descriptors (df = 1, n = 135) = 82.55, p < .001. In the second analysis of the 2008 NBA finals based on ethnicity, player participation ratios were used. These ratios represented the overall participation of this series, as 22 of the 30 players were black. At these expected scores, there were eight significant chi-square results, which were: background (df = 1, n = 214) = 17.51, p < .001; motivation (df = 1, n = 51) = 11.27, p < .001; skill (df = 1, n = 208) = 30.93, p < .001; history (df = 1, n = 246) = 32.61, p < .001; leadership (df = 1, n = 80) = 26.43, p < .001; mentality (df = 1, n = 157) = 8.21, p < .001; negative descriptors (df = 1, n = 35) = 15.143, p < .001; and positive descriptors (df = 1, n = 336) = 16.18, p < .001.

This study was successful in uncovering that announcer discourse overwhelmingly favored black players. The ratio of commentary between black and other players was 5.6:1. Thus, the coverage of the NBA Finals was framed by the ABC to feature black players more in the commentary. In addition, black players received an unequal distribution of comments as this group represented 73.33% of all players but received 84.79% of commentary. Therefore, the ABC set its broadcast agenda to favor black players and set an agenda through the framing of its telecast to ensure the audience decoded broadcast discourse in the manner intended (Hall, 1973; McCombs & Shaw, 1972).

Furthermore, black players were significantly portrayed as more effective leaders. In addition, more negative comments were provided to this group. Thus, players of other races were characterised less negatively. The results of this study underscore the fact that black athletes received far more comments than expected, based on commentary percentage, but it was found that this group was described more negatively. Thus, viewers may have been provided with a skewed view of this group, which aligns with Billings and Tambosi’s (2004) notion that television networks have the ability to “culturally influence perceptions” of reality.