Analysing the water cooler: Conversation analysis of the University of Canberra Brumbies’ social media users

Analysing the water cooler: Conversation analysis of the University of Canberra Brumbies’
social media users

Olan Scott, Ann Pegoraro, Jerry Watkins

This paper describes a conversation analysis of social media activity by fans of the University of Canberra Brumbies, a professional rugby union team based in the capital of Australia. Although sport only makes up a small percentage of overall television programming, around half of all content posted to Twitter in 2013 was related to sport (Neilsen, 2014). Facebook, Instagram, blogs and other social media are also extensively used by sport organizations, athletes and consumers. Therefore it is increasingly important for sport organizations  and athletes to prioritise these platforms in their marketing, communications, public relations, and management strategies (Hambrick, Simmons, Greenhalgh, & Greenwell, 2010); as social media give these actors an unfiltered voice in an increasingly cluttered marketplace (Wallace, Wilson, & Miloch, 2011; Scott, Bruffy, & Naylor, in press).

Historically, communication between (sport) organizations and consumers was one-way through the mass media. With the advent and proliferation of social media, the media landscape has been changed like never before (Pegoraro, 2013). Social network sites (SNSs) allow individuals and organizations to “(a) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (b) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (c) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system” (Boyd and Ellison, 2007, p. 211). Through the creation of SNSs, the gate-keeping role of the media has diminished as organization and consumers have a vehicle they can use to disseminate an unfiltered message to their key publics (Arsenault and Castells, 2008; Scott, Bradshaw, & Larkin, 2012).

Sport fans are avid users of technology (Kelly, 2013) and express themselves and access information online using multiple devices at the same time. For example, fans may follow their team on television while using their computer, tablet, or smartphone to view real-time statistics of the game or communicate with other fans watching the same contest.  This is termed second-screen consumption and can often also include the use of SNSs such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.  The popularity of second-screen viewing and simultaneous engagement through social media, justifies the incorporation of SNSs into broader marketing strategy.  Many sport fans no longer wait for the media’s post-match analysis; instead social media allows sports fans to create and share their own narrative during the game.

Social media can enhance the communication strategy of sport organizations by creating additional opportunities to connect with the sport consumer. But the substantial time and expertise required to manage successful social media activity – including rapid response to fan posting and multiplatform content moderation – can present a significant barrier for smaller sport organizations. This exploratory study will create a conceptual model for planning the desired performance of social media within the overall communication strategy of a small- to medium-scale sports organization. This model will allow identification of the ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ of social media activity within the organization’s communicative ecology (Hearn & Foth, 2007). A communicative ecology can be composed of three conceptual layers:

  • Who: the social layer of users or people, and the social modes which organise those people e.g. athletes, fans and coaches.
  • What: the discursive layer of content of communication e.g. the ideas or themes that distinguish the social interactions within the ecology.
  • How: the technological layer of enabling devices and connecting media.

Focusing on the social and discursive layers, this project will test conversation analysis (CA) software as a means to capture and analyse the structure, information content, and inter-mode relationships of sport fan communication in order to inform effective social media strategy. To date, much of the research in social media has had its focus on content analysis of social media consumer posts through content analytic methodologies on Facebook (Evans, 2010; Scott et al., 2012), Twitter (Blaszka, Burch, Frederick, Clavio, & Walsh, 2012; Frederick, Lim, Lim, Clavio, Pedersen, & Burch, 2014; Pegoraro, 2010), and blogs (Clavio & Eagleman, 2011; Kwak, Kim, & Zimmerman, 2010). The proposed study will build upon this line of research by analysing the conversations of publically available Twitter content. The MUSTT (Multiple User-defined Search Terms on Twitter) process refers to the collection of data from Twitter based upon a delineated set of key words for the purposes of academic research. This process enables researchers to extract tweets using search terms similar to the process of seeking newspaper articles from an online database (e.g., Naraine & Dixon, 2014). The MUSTT process of tweet extraction is able to provide useful information that researchers could utilize in addition to the user-generated content itself. This data will only be collected from open, public pages, constituting freely available public data.

Once data are collected using the aforementioned processes, they will be analyzed separately using manual techniques and the thematic analysis software tool, Leximancer. This is a qualitative automated tool which extracts textual data and detects key concepts that are clustered and displayed in a visual concept map (Sotiriadou, Brouwers, & Le, 2014). Given that Leximancer has been reported to be reliable in its reproducibility of results (e.g., Smith & Humphreys, 2006), as well as capable of analyzing large amounts of data (e.g., Penn-Edwards, 2010), it has gradually become more utilized in sport management research in recent years (e.g., Shilbury, 2012). Thus – with scholars indicating that social media research requires methodological enhancements (cf. Hutchins, 2014; Pedersen, 2014; Sanderson, 2014) – Leximancer was chosen to present meaningful analysis in a timely manner while also negating issues pertaining to (intercoder) reliability that a manual parsing of the data would bear.

The main outcome from this study will be a strategic communication model which forms the basis of applied research collaboration with the University of Canberra Brumbies rugby union team. Social media data collection and analysis via MUSTT and Leximancer will be supported by in-depth interviews with University of Canberra Brumbies staff marketing and social media staff, which will provide insight into the team’s existing communication strategy and the intended contribution of social media to this strategy. It is intended that the strategic communication model produced by this study will be useful to other small- to medium-scale sport organizations which seek to understand and track the social media conversations of fans.

This paper will be presented at the 2015 NASSM conference held in Ottawa, Canada


Online lecture topics for 8 October #spm2122

Live Tweet topics for 8 October 2013 that starts at 1230 (12:30 PM) Perth time.

The topics will all be listed below with relevant links, but the questions will remain secret until the live chat.

The rationale for this classroom assessment item is:

-To uncover whether the use of social media can be used to foster student engagement in university classroom settings

-To analyse whether a micro-blogging service could enhance:

-the co-creation of unit content,

-enable real-world examples to be brought into the classroom, and

-foster engagement with unit materials

SPM2122 has two textbooks that are used. They are:

Shilbury, D., Quick, S., & Westerbeek, H. (2009) Strategic sport marketing (3rd ed.). Sydney: Allen &

Unwin. See:

Smith, A. C. T. (2008). Introduction to Sport Marketing. Sydney: Elsevier. See:

All questions will come from unit (course) materials that were discussed in seminars from week 6 to week 10. Please review the relevant chapters from our reading list, which was:


Week 6 please read Chapters 5 and 9
Week 7 please read Chapter 11
Week 8 Please read Chapter 13
Week 9 please read Chapter 14
Week 10 please read Chapter 15 (also live tweet lecture)

Topic 1:

Shilbury et al (2009) suggest that there are four levels of a product (core, facilitating, supporting, and augmented product), which help consumers to satisfy a need or want through consumption (for example, buying season tickets to one’s favourite team).

In our online lecture, we will discuss only supporting products that can add value to the core product and aid to differentiate it from competitors (i.e. membership benefits to season members, access to special events, discounted team merchandise, and many others).

You may be asked to discuss and/or give examples about:

  1. Supporting products that add value to products for people to do sport (i.e. running shoes, a basketball, etc. (these are only examples)
  2. Supporting products that add value for people who purchase season memberships to sport


Topic 2:

Distinguished sport marketer Lawrence Wenner (1989) noted that “If the broadcasters [or sport marketers] have done their job well, the sports fan will be attentively viewing when a commercial message appears” (p. 15), which formed part of our discussion in week 7 on sport media and marketing. During our discussion on television, we discussed the ever-increasing avoidance of commercials (during ad breaks) through zapping, online streaming, and digital video recorders.

In our online lecture, we will discuss how contemporary media embed marketing messages into the coverage of sporting events to ensure that a sport fan is “attentively viewing” the marketing message when it appears on screen.

You may be asked to give examples about:

  1. New ways in which sports marketing message appear during game play of sporting events/matches
  2. Listing different ways in which you see marketing messages during sport events/games


Topic 3:

In week 7, we discussed the construction of commercial media stories and stories needed to:

  • Contain information to attact public interests
  • Contain some newsworthiness, relationship or meaning to publics
  • “Sell” stories to attract viewers or readers to make money.

Because, the commercial media’s main objective is to attract as large a market as possible to on-sell viewers to advertisers and sponsors in the form of ratings. In our discussion, we focused on how stories needed to connect to the viewer and we watched that clip from Seinfeld to illustrate this. The focus of our online discussion may be and you may be asked for examples of:

  1. How the broadcasts of sport matches contain many varied storylines to attract viewers
  2. How stories are personalised to enable consumers to connect with them


Twitter Lecture topics for 27 August 2013 #SPM2122

As many of my readers know, I actively use twitter in my university classroom teaching. In particular, I use it most in my Sport Marketing unit (tagged #spm2122). Twice during the semester, a lecture is replaced by an online discussion on Twitter. The focus of the online lecture is the content from the four weeks prior.  Here are the four topics that will be discussed in a QandA fashion on the 27th of August 2013 that starts at 12:30PM Perth time.


Live Tweet topics for 27 August 2013 that starts at 1230 (12:30 PM) Perth time.

The topics will all be listed below with relevant links, but the questions will remain secret until the live chat.

The rationale for this classroom assessment item is:

-To uncover whether the use of social media can be used to foster student engagement in university classroom settings

-To analyse whether a micro-blogging service could enhance:

-the co-creation of unit content,

-enable real-world examples to be brought into the classroom, and

-foster engagement with unit materials

SPM2122 has two textbooks that are used. They are:

Shilbury, D., Quick, S., & Westerbeek, H. (2009) Strategic sport marketing (3rd ed.). Sydney: Allen &

Unwin. See:

Smith, A. C. T. (2008). Introduction to Sport Marketing. Sydney: Elsevier. See:

All questions will come from unit (course) materials that were discussed in seminars from week 1 to week 4. Please review the relevant chapters from our reading list, which was:

Week 1 please read Chapters 1 and 2 from the Shilbury et al text

Week 2 please read Chapters 1 & 2 from the Smith text

Week 3 please read Chapter 3 from the Shilbury et al text

Week 4 please read Chapter 4 from the Shilbury et al text


Topic 1:

The Smith textbook outlines two streams of sport marking, which is unique to the sports industry. “Sport marketing is the application of marketing concepts to sport products and services, and the marketing of non-sport products through an association to sport. Sport marketing therefore has two key features. First, it is the application of general marketing practices to sport-related products and services. Second, it is the marketing of other consumer and industrial products or services through sport. Like any form of marketing, sport marketing seeks to fulfil the needs and wants of consumers. It achieves this by providing sport services and sport-related products to consumers. However, sport marketing is unlike conventional marketing in that it also has the ability to encourage the consumption of non-sport products and services by association” (Smith, 2008, p. 3). In our online discussion, we will discuss both of these concepts and apply them to sport marketing using social media.

You may be asked to give examples about:
-Marketing of sport on social media
-Marketing through sport on social media using a sport team’s account


Topic 2:

Smith (2008) suggests that “the idea of branding is closely linked with positioning. A brand is like an identifying badge, often reinforced by a name or a logo that helps consumers recognise a product or an organisation. A brand becomes linked with consumers’ opinions and perceptions of a sport product and organisation” (p. 115). In week 2, we discussed positioning strategies of various brands.

In the discussion of this topic, you will be asked to give examples of brand attributes “(aspects of the brand that are defining, unique and special to each organisation)” (Smith, p. 118) of several sporting teams. On page 118 of the Smith text, there is an interactive case that might help you in preparing for this topic.

You may be asked to give examples of:
-Unique elements of your favourite sports team
-Distinctive partnerships between a company and an athlete
-Unique elements of a sport company (shoes, bats, media, etc.)

Topic 3:

In week four, we discussed three ways in which sport organisations can collect data. These were: General market data, individual consumer’s data, and competitors and/or participants’ data.

General market data include all the information which relates to the broad environment in which the sport operates. Individual consumer’s data concerns their attitudes and behaviours related to a specific sport product or service. A third source of information for sporting organisations relates to competitors and their participants. It is critical that sporting organisations not only be aware of who their competitors are but also know the consumers of a rival’s products or services (adapted from Shilbury et al., 2009, p. 65).

In our discussion on this topic, we will tweet about the different methods that contemporary sport organisations use to collect data and use new media examples

You may be asked to give examples about:
-How sport teams can incentivise consumers to fill in all items in a form
-The tactics sports organisations use to accurately data mine


Topic 4:

The Big 5 Sport Motives represent  a comprehensive view of major psychological inputs that represent core benefits consumer receive from engaging in sport consumption (adapted from Shilbury et al., 2009, p. 49). Various research (Beaton et al., 2007; James et al., 2006) has found that there are “five main psychological benefits that sport consumers desire from a sport experience” (Shilbury et al, 2009, p. 48). These are: Social interaction, performance, excitement, esteem, and diversion.

In our discussion of this topic, we will discuss how sport marketers use the Big 5 sport motives in an attempt to persuade individuals to consume a sporting experience.

You may be asked to give examples about:
-Ads that feature one or more of the Big 5 sport motives to entice consumers to attend a sporting match
-Ads that use the Big 5 sport motives to entice viewership of an event
-Ads using the Big 5 sport motives in an attempt to get people to participate in sport

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.

Problem is seen in the seating

This is a copy/paste of an article I wrote for the Joondalup Weekender newspaper that was published on 13 June 2013.


THE WA Government recently released formal plans for the stadium to be built in Burswood and it appears that the planners of this stadium are taking the “if you build it, they will come” approach.

This line, from the movie Field of Dreams, suggests that the Barnett State Government just wants a stadium built that will easily host AFL and cricket matches.

However, the reality is that fans of rectangular field sports, such as soccer and rugby, will continue to have the same poor sightlines that the Subiaco stadium offers.

It is surprising that the new Burswood stadium will not have retractable seating, similar to Melbourne’s Docklands stadium that makes watching rectangular field sport more appealing. I made the mistake of attending the Wallabies versus Springboks match at Subiaco last year and could hardly see the action.

Viewing soccer or rugby matches at the Docklands arena is a much more pleasant experience compared to the Subiaco stadium.

The first tier of seats can be brought forward to enable seating close to the action and, naturally, justify the cost of higher category seating.

The Burswood stadium’s measurements, announced on May 7, indicate that its dimensions will be smaller than Subiaco’s in a nod towards housing rectangular sports more effectively.

However, there will still be significant space between the edge of the field and the first row of grandstand seating.

Is this move just a token gesture?

It remains to be seen if the WA Government will spend the extra money to build retractable seating, which will attract top-level sporting events to Perth and fans to the stadium.

Only time will tell if the “if you build it, they will come” analogy will turn out to be true.Problem_seen_in_the_seating