Using self-categorization theory to uncover the framing of the 2015 Rugby World Cup: A cross-cultural comparison of three nations’ newspapers

In the context of international sporting contests, which typically attract great interest globally, the coverage of these events by newspapers help to define, influence, and sometimes reflect mainstream beliefs. Although media consumers have no influence over how stories are framed, editors and journalists can construct their narratives and stories to attract, maintain, and foster continued media consumption (Scott, Zakus, & Hill, 2014; Vincent & Crossman, 2012). Informed by framing theory, this study strove to investigate how two nations’ coverage of the Rugby World Cup (RWC) was characterised. Framing occurs as the media actively select certain aspects of an issue to report, affecting the understanding of the message people receive (Entman, 2007).

We conducted a content analysis of the newspaper coverage of the 2015 RWC in New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia and have recently had it published in the International Review for the Sociology of Sport. This study is currently in press at this journal and is available from the publisher,, and researchgate.


Segmentation of a professional sport team’s social media community



Katherine Bruffy (Unitec Institute of Technology)

Olan Scott (University of Canberra)

Michael Naylor (AUT)

Anthony Beaton (University of Canberra)

The relationship people have with sport teams ranges from the very casual (those who might view parts of matches on television when their schedule suits) to being an avid fan and organising one’s life around the activities of the team. The varying strength of this connectedness has been captured in Funk and James’ Psychological Continuum Model (PCM; 2001).  Four stages of increasingly deep connection were proposed (Awareness, Attraction, Attachment and Allegiance), and have now been explored thoroughly with Beaton and Funk (2009) developing an algorithm that relies on facets of the involvement construct (Beaton, Funk, Ridinger & Jordan, 2011) as a staging mechanism for placement along the PCM.

One way in which sport fans now connect to the teams they follow is through social media.  With the proliferation of social media, consumers are able to connect to teams more easily and more often. As early adopters of social media, organisations within the sports industry have embedded social media into marketing (Eagleman, 2013), communication (Thompson, 2013), and public relations (Sanderson, 2010) mix.  The purpose of the current research is to explore a professional sport team’s social media community and segment based on connectivity.

Data (n = 311) for the study were collected online over several days during the second half of the New Zealand Breakers’ most recent ANBL season. The sample was predominantly female (58%) and the mean age was 36.  Most respondents reported using Facebook (98%) and Twitter (42%) at least once a week, while a significant majority of respondents (77%) reported engaging with the Breakers’ social networking sites at least “a few times per week”.  Exploring the underlying psychology and behaviours of a professional sport team’s social media community using the PCM and involvement construct represents an important contribution to sport management literature.  In addition to questions that generated the above demographic and behavioural profile, individuals were also asked to respond to questionnaire items designed to measure the involvement construct (Beaton, et al., 2011) and resistance to change (Pritchard, Havitz & Howard, 1999).  The involvement construct dimensions (Hedonic Value, Centrality, Symbolic Value) and resistance to change were measured with three items each.  These items were included so that data could be fed into the staging algorithm that was to be used in subsequent analysis.

A larger than expected segment (40%) of those within the Breakers’ social media community who completed the questionnaire were placed within the Attraction stage of the PCM.  This finding has significant implications for those working to enhance the depth of the relationship between a professional sport team and its fans.  Indeed, important processes like attitude strengthening and the development of relationship meaning are believed to be ongoing at this stage so social media can be used to nurture that growth.  Less than 15% of questionnaire respondents were placed in the Allegiance stage.  These findings may help to dispel the myth that social media is nothing more than an additional means to connect with already deeply loyal and identified fans.

Rugby World Cup 2011

During the September semester break, I was able to head off to New Zealand (NZ) and spend some time on the North Island, while also taking in a Rugby World Cup (RWC) match in Napier-Hastings at McLean Park on 27 September 2011. This was an unplanned trip that I booked while I was attending the EASM2011 conference, as I thought it would be an once-in-a-lifetime experience to attend a World Cup of any kind.

NZ was really pumped up and excited for the RWC (based on talking to kiwis and seeing all the billboards in support of the All Blacks) and I was lucky to see the All Blacks play from the fan zone on the viaduct in Auckland on the 24th. I tried to get tickets to see the match between the NZ All Blacks and France (I even went to Eden Park to buy some), however, there were too costly as I’m not a lottery winner. 1 ticket was NZ$460*. And that was a category 1 ticket (i.e. the most expensive). All the other categories were sold out. So I went back downtown to the fan zone to watch the game. It was such a spectacle though that the fan zone was at capacity, which was 20000 people, so I had to watch part of this game in a bar before my second attempt at entry was successful!

The next day I drove to Rotorua, which is famous for the thermal springs and boiling mud. The reason I travelled to Rotorua was to try to get tickets to see the match between Russia and Ireland. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful. I was told that the Ireland bandwagon was full because Ireland beat the favoured Australian Wallabies team 15-6 in its previous match. Some Irish supporters with whom I spoke told me that they stayed longer in NZ because of the team’s success which left me to watch the game in an Irish bar with the other faithful souls who couldn’t get tickets either. Nonetheless, there was lots of drink to be had and a great time. On a fun positive note (not that this post needs more positivity) is that I stayed at the same hotel as team Russia. Nonetheless, after the 61-12 Irish win, the Russians didn’t make an appearance in the hotel bar where many people watched the end of the Scotland-Argentina match.

After a greasy breakfast to quell my hangover, I headed to the Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal pools, where I was able to enjoy a great sunny morning and see the boiling water and the boiling mud for which this area is famous. I’d been to the geothermal pools before on my first trip to NZ, but thought it would be fun to go again. I was right; it’s such a novelty, that my delight was equal to the first time. Next, I drove to Napier to get ready for the Canada-Japan game the following day. It was a great drive to Napier with a stop in Taupo for lunch and a short walk. The rest of the drive had some wonderful sights and great weather to make the drive go by very quickly. In Napier, I went to its information centre, the I-Site to book my accommodation and get some information on the city where I would be spending 30 hours or so.

Once checked in to the hotel, it was time to find the stadium and get my tickets from the office. I was highly successful with the first task, as the stadium (McLean Park) was within a ten minute walk from my hotel and the Canadian team was practising when I got there. It was a closed practise, but I was able to watch behind a fence. I felt like a 10-year-old child waiting for the sporting hero. I, then, decided to wait by the team bus to wish the team luck and say hello. By doing this, I got to meet two of the Canadian players (one of whom was Taylor Paris) and its coach (Kieran Crowley) before the team left for its hotel. All three were very nice and appreciative of the support that they’d been receiving in NZ.

The next day, I took in the nice weather and enjoyed the sights and sounds of Napier before getting my costume on for the game (jersey, face tattoos, wig, etc). There were many people decorated in their team’s colours of red and white (both Canada and Japan’s colours). So one didn’t readily know which team the red/white person was supporting until you saw the shirt or spoke with them. There was much to do in the CBD of Napier, from a rugby themed jumping castle to viewing the art deco buildings for which Napier is famous. About an hour before the game, I went to the stadium to find my seat, take in the atmosphere, and enjoy the sights and sounds. I got lucky again, as I was able to see the Canadian team enter the stadium off of the bus and the players greeted the fans very nicely and politely, which was great.

The game was a great experience, with Canada easily outplaying Japan on the set pieces, but the final score did not reflect this, as it ended in a 23-all tie. It was a great back and forth game, with neither side able to secure the win. All in all, it was a super experience at the Rugby World Cup except what happened after the game, which was a 5.5 hour drive to Auckland to catch my flight back to Melbourne.

* Note: all figures are in New Zealand dollars unless indicated. Click here to convert NZ dollars to your home currency.