Kim, D. H., Kwon, E. S., Song, Y., & Sung, Y. (2015).
Connecting to the elusive sports fan: Sports fan relationship management in Facebook.
Journal of Advertising and Promotion Research, 4(1), 77-108.
With growing income and assets, professional sports have become one of the world’s largest industries. Considering sports fans not only function as core elements of the sports industry, but also represent the industry’s invaluable assets, sports teams’ need to build and maintain strong relationships with their fans remain vital. How do the various leagues and teams go about achieving this? To answer the question, the current research examined a total of 37 official Facebook fan pages of NFL and MLB teams. Unlike traditional media, Interactive new media such as websites and social networking sites (hereafter SNSs) can enhance the fan relationship by interactive communication such as sharing opinions and reactions. By employing Stafford and Canary’s relationship maintenance strategies, the current study examined how professional sports leagues (NFL and MLB) used their SNSs for fan relationship. Based on Stafford and Canary’s strategies, a total of six strategies (positivity, openness, networking, shared tasks, team investment, and fan investment) were developed and used in the current research. A total of 37 official Facebook pages (20 NFL and 17 MLB) were selected and 50 posts from each of 37 teams that yield 1,850 posts were analyzed. Among the six relationship-maintenance strategies, positivity and openness are the most frequently used strategies. Also, when posts contained URLs and video links to official web pages, fans tend to give significantly fewer “likes” and “comments,” but pictures generated more action. For an ever-changing media environment, the findings from the current research can provide managerial implications on how to encourage fan relationships via Facebook.