Institute of Sports Science

04/21/2020

New insights on crisis communication in sports

In an interdisciplinary research project, Sonja Utz, Felix Otto, and Tim Pawlowski make use of the early elimination of Germany during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in order to explore the effects of (crisis) communication on Facebook.

Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram are playing an increasingly important role for the management of professional athletes and teams. These platforms allow for two-way interactions with fans, which can be used to build parasocial relationships. For this reason, it has been proposed that using social media may be an effective strategy for crisis communication.

In a mixed-method study, Sonja Utz (Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien and University of Tübingen), Felix Otto, and Tim Pawlowski (both University of Tübingen) focused on the early elimination of Germany during the 2018 FIFA World Cup to explore the effects of (crisis) communication on Facebook. They examined emoji reactions and used data from a two-wave panel to explore the changes in evaluation as well as parasocial relationships and perceived authenticity as potential mediators.

The findings suggest that the sender of a crisis communication matters: the (partly identical) posts by the individual players received fewer angry reactions than the posts from the team account. Only the team was evaluated more negatively after the World Cup than before. Moreover, a mediation analysis reveals the relevance of parasocial relationships when using social media as a communication channel.

The research paper was recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Sport Management.

Utz, S., Otto, F., & Pawlowski, T. (2020). “Germany crashes out of World Cup” A mixed-method study on the effects of crisis communication on Facebook. Journal of Sport Management, forthcoming.

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