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.


A multi-stage exploration of social media strategy in professional sport: The case of the New Zealand Breakers

This post is a copy/paste of an accepted 20-minute presentation that I co-authored with Katherine Bruffy of Unitec and Michael Naylor or AUT that will be presented at the 2013 SMAANZ conference in Dunedin, New Zealand.


Katherine Bruffy (Unitec)

Olan Scott (ECU)

Michael Naylor (AUT)



Social media has transformed the way in which sport organisations and consumers can connect. Historically, communication between sport organisation and consumer has been through the traditional/mass media (e.g., newspaper, television) which situates media organizations as gatekeepers to, and editors of content (Arsenault & Castells, 2008). Further, communication has typically been one-way, thereby disconnecting the consumer from sport organisations (Mahan & McDaniel, 2006). With the proliferation of social media sites, consumers and sport organisations have a new platform for interaction.  Both iterative communication and gatekeeper bypass are possible (Mean, Kassing, & Sanderson, 2010).

Social media is therefore an increasingly important tool for sport organizations to communicate with various stakeholders (Scott, Bradshaw, & Larkin, 2013) and the fit of social media within wider strategic processes in sport is of interest. Various social media sites are now widely used to communicate promotional offers, news, and as a public relations tool (Hambrick, 2010; Lowe & Laffey, 2011).  While Instagram, Youtube and other social media sites are gaining traction, Facebook and Twitter remain the focus for most sport organizations in attempts to engage fans.

A four stage, twelve month project was conceived and has commenced focusing on the New Zealand Breakers (NZB) social media strategy for the 2013-2014 season:

  1. Reconnaissance
  2. Strategy Formulation
  3. Strategy Implementation & Content Analysis
  4. Strategy Evaluation & Fan Feedback

The four stages sit within a mixed method, action research framework in which the implementation and evaluation of the strategy are the result of collaboration between the research team and the sport organisation.  The project has been designed to explore, inform and evaluate the NZB’s social media strategies.  The social media of interest are Twitter and Facebook.

Stage one (June/July 2013) is a reconnaissance intended to synthesise past NZB social media activity, the activity of other sport organisations in New Zealand and around the world as well as relevant scholarly and practitioner literature.  During stage two (August, 2013), the reconnaissance stage findings will be used to inform the 2013-2014 season strategy.  For the duration of the season (stage three; October to April 2014) the strategy will be implemented and monitored.  Finally, the fourth stage (May, 2014) represents an evaluation in which data will be gathered from fans, sponsors and Breakers marketing staff through a questionnaire and interviews.  The focus at this stage will be evaluating the effectiveness of the strategy implementation.

We propose to review stage one and two as well as progress to date through stage three at the 2013 SMAANZ conference.

Exploring the use of Twitter in university classroom settings: The case of #SPM2122

This is a copy of the submitted abstract to the annual SMAANZ conference co-authored with Alicia Stanway from Edith Cowan University in Perth, Western Australia.

NB: The proposed presentation was accepted without changes on 13 August 2012

Abstract proposal: SMAANZ academic programme, 29-30 November 2012

Name: Olan Kees Martin Scott & Alicia Stanway

Institution: Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia

Since 2008, Twitter has become increasingly popular for many industries to use to communicate promotional offers, company news, and as a public relations tool (Hambrick, 2010; Lowe & Laffey, 2011). Twitter is a micro blogging service where users can send messages, known as Tweets, of 140 characters or less. Twitter enables users to follow other users or companies, which makes content from the author automatically visible to one’s followers.

Several studies have found that the use of social media in a university setting can enable the instructor to develop a community of co-creators of unit (course) content (Retelny, Birnholtz, & Hancock, 2012), enable instructors to bring real-world examples into the unit (Lowe & Laffey, 2011), and foster enhanced engagement with a university unit materials (Junco, Heibergert, & Loken, 2010). This study sought to uncover how university lecturers can effectively utilise Twitter in a classroom setting and whether the use of Twitter leads to positive learning outcomes and enhanced engagement with unit materials.

To test whether the use of Twitter led to enhanced engagement with unit materials and positive learning outcomes, students anonymously completed a questionnaire that included items on whether respondents felt Twitter was an effective university assessment item, how often students had used the Twitter service during the semester, and whether students felt their engagement was enhanced through the use of Twitter. Participants were a purposeful sample of students enrolled in a third year sport marketing unit. The group consisted of primarily full-time (90.7%), domestic students (79.1%). The majority of participants had an existing social media account that they used at least once a month.

The relationship between Twitter as an effective learning resource and unit engagement was investigated using Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient. There was a strong positive correlation between the two variables (r = .70, p < .01), with high levels of unit engagement associated with higher levels of perception that Tweeting is an effective learning resource.

The current research suggests that Twitter can be used as an effective university assessment item. Further, relevant findings and their implications for university units will be presented at the conference in Sydney as well as suggestions on how to effectively use social media in a classroom setting to develop co-creators of content, use real-world examples, and foster increased engagement with unit materials.

When the home team is not featured: Comparison of two television network commentaries during broadcasts of the 2006 FIFA World Football Cup

This is an excerpt from an article that I co-wrote with my master of sport management supervisors and was published in Sport Management Review in February 2012.

The authors are:

Olan Kees Martin Scott – University of Ballarat
Brad Hill & Dwight H. Zakus – Griffith University

I have only included the abstract, introduction, and implications.

A link to the full publication is available from SMR and

The full reference in APA format is:

Scott, O. K. M., Hill, B., & Zakus, D. (2012). When the home team is not featured: Comparison of commentary between two television networks’ broadcast of the 2006 FIFA World Football Cup. Sport Management Review, 15(1), 23-32. doi: 10.1016/j.smr.2011.05.003


Broadcast commentary of sport contests is often seen as biased or ‘‘one-eyed’’ for the ‘‘home team’’. This study sought to determine if this labelling was correct. Two different broadcasts of the national Dutch team’s games during the 2006 Federation Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) World Cup in Germany were compared. Both the Dutch Nederlandse Omroep Stichting (NOS) and Australian Special Broadcast Services (SBS) networks each televised this team’s matches, together providing eight matches for analysis. First, the framing strategies used by each broadcaster were identified through a fourteen category thematic scale derived from the data. Secondly, a Chi-square analysis of the results revealed significant associations for the types of themes employed by the home network (NOS) and those of a neutral broadcaster (SBS). Results also revealed associations for the use of nationalistic themes in the commentary. These results have salience for sport management and sport media studies as audience size and therefore revenue generation is of import.


Since the beginning of the 20th century, the sport media relationship has constantly evolved. From simple printed game reports to the current interactive, on-demand electronic formats sport and media have become dependent on one another for success; what Jhally (2006) labelled the sport-media complex. The symbiotic relationship between these two institutions generates a large portion of the revenues necessary for each aspect of the complex to survive financially (Rowe, 1996, 2008), among other ways, as revenues are predominantly achieved through audience creation and through sponsorship. Interwoven within this relationship, however, was the media’s ability to effect cultures and societies through the mediation of the audiences’ consciousness. It is through the use of intentionally scripted ‘‘frames’’ (Eastman, Brown, & Kovatch, 1996) that this occurs. Moments of televised sport, such as the ‘‘black power’’ protest salute by American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos during the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games, are regarded as ‘‘a moment that would have heavy consequences for all it chose to represent’’ (Bass, 1999, p. 3).

The ability of commentators to culturally influence perceptions of television audiences is related to embedding of framed themes into network broadcasts scripts that often include topics that appeal and seek to maintain viewer interest. A key theme typically employed by networks was the ideological use of nationalism (Guo, Cheong, & Chen, 2007; L’Etang, 2006). The use of nationalism in media broadcasts allowed networks to connect with audiences through dialogue that promotes a viewer’s home nation. The use of scripted dialogue in commentary of mega-events using nationalism to capture television audiences was logical as networks typically focus broadcasts on aspects of an event that involved their home country (Larson & Rivenburgh, 1991). Through their participation in the Olympic Games numerous countries obtained abundant ‘‘home country’’ content that is used to align sport competitions to their respective national audiences.

Yet, as a global media mega-event, the format of the FIFA World Football Cup is limited in terms of the number of participating nations; only 32 nations compete in this event. As a result, many networks holding national broadcast  rights do not have home country content to telecast. Even so, these networks still have to generate television audiences to obtain revenues to cover costs of their broadcast fees, production, and to enhance their own investments.

Such restrictions on ‘‘home team’’ content demands that many networks have to differently frame their broadcasts to generate audiences. This study sought to understand how two national television networks framed their broadcasts of the Netherlands’ 2006 World Cup matches to their respective home audiences; particularly, in this case, when one network’s broadcasts did not involve their own national team. While understanding how broadcast content is scripted is worthy of study in its own right, this study included a focus on: how broadcasts not including a ‘‘home team’’, thereby reducing the use of nationalistic themes, were scripted; how thematic cross-cultural mapping occurs; and whether or not scripts served a purpose in such broadcasts. This study examined all of the games of the 2006 World Cup that the Netherlands played, cataloguing and contrasting the discourses used by two television networks broadcasting these same matches to their respective nations. Differences in discourse by Netherlands’ NOS and Australia’s SBS television networks allowed nationalistic biases to be identified. In addition, quantitative comparisons were made both within and between broadcasters, allowing for cross-cultural and linguistic differences to be revealed.


Even though it was expected that networks broadcasting home country content such as NOS would use nationalistic themes, what was not expected was the use of nationalistic themes from countries competing in that broadcast by the SBS network. Typically, broadcasters rely on the use of home country content from sport events to connect to their home audiences. This finding that SBS used nationalistic themes of Dutch history and Dutch fans ritualistic celebration in commentary significantly more than NOS network to connect to their Australian audiences was surprising. In fact, these findings are counterintuitive as it is expected that Dutch commentary would favour the use of their history and their fans’ ritualistic celebration and not SBS. Dutch fan support at matches, with their flag waving and wearing of the Dutch colour orange, should be an important theme to promote in capturing, building, and maintaining Dutch television audiences. Yet, SBS commentary focused on the use of theses themes significantly more than NOS.

Inspection of language in themes of Dutch history and ritualistic celebration used in SBS commentary reveals Dutch history is educational, while ritualistic celebration appears as educational, descriptive, and emotive in nature. Most SBS commentary was additional to the actual visual imagery of ritualistic celebration being pointed out and focussed on by the commentators at various moments in the broadcast. This style of commentary broadens the scope of material broadcast in attempts to appeal to multiple viewers and maintain audience reach. Providing educational, descriptive, and emotive material that is additional to the visual imagery of the football match allows the commentary to cater for audiences who may not be interested in the game itself, but are attracted by the content about the countries, spectators, and other non-game related elements.

Reference to Dutch crowd support in SBS commentary, even though not promoting nationalism toward Australia, may elicit just such an emotional attachment between spectators and viewers, increasing entertainment value and enabling SBS to better capture and maintain audience interest. Tzanelli (2006) indicated that displays of ritualistic celebration broadcast at major sport events were attempts to stimulate passion and emotion in viewers connecting them to broadcasts and to sports. Highlighting the passionate support Dutch fans displayed toward their country and making reference to their ritualistic celebration within SBS commentary might also have been an attempt to assist in the enculturation process of football/soccer in Australia. Focusing on the ritualistic celebration of Dutch fans in SBS commentary might have been a tactic to positively influence the knowledge, belief, and value structure of Australian sport consumers to aid their adoption of football/soccer.

Billings and Tambosi (2004) noted that commentators have the ability to ‘‘culturally influence perceptions’’ (p. 163) of television audiences. The focus on ritualistic celebration by SBS broadcasts suggests that this may have been the case. SBS commentators might have taken the opportunity for not being able to broadcast home country content to influence cultural perceptions of viewers about football/soccer in Australia as stereotypes or beliefs held within these viewers’ minds would be limited with respect to the Dutch and their opposition teams. In this way SBS broadcasts promoted areas of interest they felt would better connect audiences to their broadcast content and at the same time advertise the entertaining and exciting elements of this sport encouraging viewers to increase their involvement.

When little if any home country content is available for networks to broadcast, it appears they use telecasts as a promotional platform for other regular prime-time programming which, is consistent with findings from Billings, Eastman, and Newton (1998). In attempts by SBS to both build and maintain audiences for the month in which the World Cup was shown, references to Australia and its football team the Socceroos were made during commentator discourse of broadcasts.

With a heightened focus on football in Australia and higher viewer numbers watching, SBS was provided an opportunity to also increase ratings for its other programs that it more regularly airs, along with the football programs. However, what was not expected was the limited frequency of use of this theme and the manner in which it was employed. Inspection of dialogue revealed that SBS used this theme primarily to promote upcoming matches involving the Australian team. No comparisons were made within commentary for the Australian Socceroos football team and Dutch team being shown, which limited the possibility for any discussion of a nationalistic nature. Even more interesting is the lack of reference to the Australian team’s coach during the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Guus Hiddink, who is Dutch. Thus, SBS did not frame telecasts involving the Dutch team and their opponents with analysis of the Australian football team. Telecasts of sport events are more than sight and sound with themes used in scripting and framing the ‘‘glue’’ that provides entertaining theatre keeping audiences watching no matter their interest level in that sport. Understanding that media commentator’s use various key themes in their broadcasts dependant upon their audience can assist sport managers to develop or maintain relationships with networks. Sport managers can assist networks to identify these various relevant themes for their market ensuring networks are continually provided with content that will create large audience size and revenue generation.

The full article is available from SMR and

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