Copyright © 2017, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.
Volume 4 • Issue 1 • January-March 2017
Ann Pegoraro, School of Sports Administration, Institute for Sport Marketing, Faculty of Management, Laurentian
University, Sudbury, Canada
Olan Scott, Department of Sport & Exercise Science, Faculty of Health, Research Institute of Sport and Exercise,
University of Canberra, Bruce, Australia
Lauren M. Burch, Division of Business, Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus, Columbus, IN, USA
Social media provides a strategic means for non-profit organizations to build and maintain strong
relationships with consumers. The purpose of this study was to apply branding theory and frameworks
to the use of Facebook by National Olympic Committees in two countries, Australia and Canada
over specific time periods related to three Olympics Games. These Facebook pages were examined
to determine the types of brand-related post content and communication style utilized as well as the
consumer response to these posts. The two organizations generally used Facebook to broadcast product
related brand attributes such as information about athletes and teams. There was also a significant
difference in Facebook post use and focus by two organizations indicating some international
differences in using Facebook for branding a sport organization. The results also provide practical
implications for non-profit sport organizations using Facebook to build positive brand images, promote
fan engagement and ultimately create brand ambassadors.
Brand Management, Non-profits, Social Media, Sport
The rise in use and popularity of the Internet has dramatically changed the way sport organizations
communicate with their stakeholders (Pedersen, Miloch, & Laucella, 2007). Social media (SM)
platforms such as Twitter and Facebook provide a central location for social engagement and a
means for sport organizations to disseminate their messages directly to mass audiences (Pegoraro,
2010). A SM usage survey of sport fans found that 40% report that SM has made them bigger fans
of their respective teams (Broughton, 2011) confirming findings from an earlier study that 61% of
Major League Baseball (MLB) fans and 55% of National Football League (NFL) fans considered
themselves bigger fans of the leagues since they started following their favourite teams on SM platforms
(Broughton, 2010). Additionally, 51% of MLB fans and 43% of NFL fans reported spending more
time watching the league as a result of following their favourite team on SM (Broughton, 2011).
Therefore interacting with sport organizations or other fans on SM can increase a fan’s level of
identification and loyalty.
As SM use has grown marketers have come to see it as a viable medium grow brand awareness
(Dittmore & McCarthy, 2014), which is a key component of building brand equity for a sport
Volume 4 • Issue 1 • January-March 2017
organization, as without awareness the consumer cannot form a brand association. Research has
established the link between brand awareness, association and brand identity to enhanced loyalty
among consumers and sports fans (Aaker, 2007; Bauer, Stokburger-Sauer, & Exler 2008; Gladden
& Funk, 2001; Keller, 1998; Ross, 2006). Brand loyalty involves building a two-way collaborative
relationship through communication and interaction between organizations and their consumers or
fans in the case of sport (Wallace, Wilson, & Miloch, 2011).
SM use by sport organizations is largely driven by two key factors: the relatively inexpensive cost
of SM when compared to traditional marketing tools and the ability to connect with millions of fans
with ease (Dittmore & McCarthy, 2014). SM allows for interaction, providing a unique channel of
communication that shifts communication from one-way (e.g., television advertisements) to a more
interactive method. SM is a cost-effective tool for building brand relationships through interactive
dialogue between sport organizations and fans (Williams & Chinn, 2010).
National Olympic Committees (NOCs) are one segment of the sport industry that could greatly
benefit from SM, as these organizations are not-for-profit and operate on rather limited budgets
when compared to those of professional sports. NOCs are responsible for development of sport and
athletes in their respective countries and are largely funded through government and sponsorship
revenue. While all sport organizations stand poised to benefit from SM, most NOCs and the sports
they represent do not have budgets allowing for full utilization of traditional marketing outlets such
as paid television, radio, print, internet, and outdoor advertising (Eagleman, 2013). Many Olympic
sports can largely be considered niche sports, or those that do not receive mainstream media coverage
on a daily basis (Greenhalgh, Simmons, Hambrick & Greenwell, 2011). Niche sports are relatively on
their own and therefore they must create their own publicity, their own market share and fan base in
order to survive (Greenhalgh et al., 2011). Eagleman, Pedersen, and Wharton (2009) found that while
mainstream sports like men’s football and basketball in the United States, enjoy a mutually beneficial
relationship with the mass media, it is much more difficult for other sports to generate awareness and
build fan bases, and therefore they must seek channels other than mass media to achieve these goals.
SM is a unique marketing communications tool that niche sport organizations like NOCs can use
to attempt to overcome the challenge of lower budgets, less media coverage, and low fan interest levels.
It could also be used to increase brand awareness, reach more fans and stakeholders, and maintain
public interest in non-Olympic years when traditional media coverage of these organizations is typically
at its lowest (Fernandez Pena, Ramajo, & Arauz, 2014). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to
examine the use of SM as a brand management tool in the context of Olympic Sport Organizations in
different parts of the world. Specifically, this study investigated the use of the SM platform Facebook
by two NOCs, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and the Australian Olympic Committee
(AOC). This cross-country comparative case study analysis examined the Facebook pages of these
two NOCs to determine how this SM communication tool was utilized to build relationships with
fans thereby increasing brand loyalty. Ultimately such a case study provides a unique exploration
into the various stages of the use of SM as a branding tool over time, and in two parts of the world.
There is a growing body of literature surrounding the use of SM in sports, much of the focus to date
has been on the use of various forms of SM by athletes, teams and leagues in professional sport
(e.g., Ballouli & Hutchinson, 2010; Pegoraro, 2010). Many scholars argue that the issue of SM is so
prominent for sport organizations that researchers and practitioners can no longer ignore this under
researched topic (Ballouli & Hutchinson, 2010).
Stavros, Meng, Westberg, and Farrelly (2014) examined fan’s motivations for using NBA
teams’ Facebook pages finding four key motivations: passion (i.e. team-directed displays of strong
17 more pages are available in the full version of this
document, which may be purchased using the "Add to Cart"
button on the product's webpage:
This title is available in InfoSci-Journals. Recommend this
product to your librarian:
Towards Healthy Public Policy: GIS and Food Systems Analysis
Julie Yang (2015). Public Affairs and Administration: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools,
and Applications (pp. 900-917).
Women and Health in Japan: The Rise and Obstacles of Gender and Sex-
Hiroko Hara (2013). Healthcare Management and Economics: Perspectives on Public
and Private Administration (pp. 203-207).
The Politics of Health Finance Reform in Hong Kong
Raymond K. H. Chan (2011). International Journal of Public and Private Healthcare
Management and Economics (pp. 17-25).
Understanding E-Governance: A Theoretical Approach
Muhammad Muinul Islam and Mohammad Ehsan (2015). Public Affairs and
Administration: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications (pp. 1811-1823).