Journalism and Mass Communications, College of


Document Type


Date of this Version



Published in International Journal of Sport Communication, 7(4), 516-532; doi: 10.1123/IJSC.2014-0022


© 2014 Human Kinetics, Inc. Used by permission.


This study used a case study approach to develop an understanding of how social media strategy is developed and deployed in Big Ten Conference athletic departments and to explore the issues associated with it. Based on in-depth interviews with department officials, the following six themes emerged: connecting with target audiences; varied approaches in coordination of postings; athletic communications as content gatekeepers; desire to incorporate sponsors and generate revenue; focusing on building fan loyalty through engagement; and challenges of negativity and metrics. The social media strategy in Big Ten Conference athletic departments appears to be driven by athletic communications/sports information departments as opposed to marketing departments. The greatest benefit of social media has been the ease of engagement and instantaneous connection between fans and the teams they love, which can lead to building greater loyalty to a team. Some of the challenges departments face include having to deal with the reality of crises and negative attention around programs more quickly than with traditional media and to measure social media success accurately.