Hwang, Geumchan. (2017). An Examination of Crisis Response in Professional Athlete Scandals: A Sport Fan’s Perspective. International Journal of Crisis Communication, 1(2), 64-71.

Summary
This study investigated the influence of athlete celebrity scandals on a sport fan’s attitude and behavioral intention, and a sport fan’s reaction to athlete celebrity’s media response after the scandal. Athlete celebrity scandals have become important theme in sport management for several decades. According to Gorse and Chadwick (2011), more than 2000 illegal or unethical activities (e.g., doping, match-fixing, and misuse of inside information) occurred in international sports over the past two decades. Athlete celebrities’ transgressions negatively affect sport fans’ attitudes toward the athlete celebrities as well as athlete’s images. Because of this, individual athletes, sport teams, and sport organizations strive to protect images from athlete scandals by establishing scandal response strategies via media. Understanding sport fans’ reaction to athlete celebrity scandals is important to establish fan relationship strategies for sport teams and sport organizations as well as individual athletes. In addition, it is also important to understand the different impact of media use for responding to athlete scandals on sport fans because information credibility is affected by types of communication channels (e.g., traditional media or social media). In this sense, this study aims to examine 1) the influence of athlete scandal on a sport fan’s attitude and behavioral intention, and 2) a sport fan’s perceived credibility of response to athlete scandal according to different type of communication channels, press conference and social media.

Method
An experimental survey was conducted through online survey and total 308 samples were collected from professional sports spectators in stadiums in the United States. Fictitious information, including fictitious name of the athlete and fictitious athlete scandals, on-field (doping) and off-field (sexual misconduct), were given with specific description of the survey questionnaire. After the introduction of the survey, each participant was asked to answer questions about sport celebrity scandals and how they evaluate effectiveness of scandal responses according to type of communication channels, press conference or social media. Data was analyzed through Pearson correlation analysis and regression analysis.

Key Findings

  • Responding to the athlete scandal via press conference was more reliable and effective response strategy than responding to the athlete scandal via social media
  • The influence of the athlete celebrity scandal on a sport fan’s attitude toward the athlete affected a sport fan’s negative behavioral intention (e.g., revisit intention) regardless of types of scandal, off-field scandal (sexual misconduct) or on-field scandal (doping).
  • Athlete celebrity’s high performance was an effective factor to recover fan loyalty after the scandal
  • Athlete celebrity’s sincere apology via press conference positively influenced recovering fan loyalty after the scandal

Implications for Practice
This study provides practical information regarding how marketers and public relations managers in sport organizations should cope with athlete celebrity scandals to maintain positive relationship with their fans. Sport PR managers should develop specific media response strategies according to types of athlete scandals, and should educate athlete celebrities regarding the effective way to deliver credible messages using non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, body movements, or nuances of the voice. Sport marketers should consider the fact that sport fans’ attitudes toward the sport celebrity involved in athletic scandals negatively affect their behavioral intentions such as revisit intention.

Article Location
The full article is available at: http://www.lifescienceglobal.com/independent-journals/international-journal-of-crisis-communication/volume1-number-2/134-abstract/ijcj/3075-an-examination-of-crisis-response-in-professional-athlete-scandals-a-sport-fan-s-perspective

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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