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Jeffrey Ross
MCOM 110: Intro to Mass Communication
October 30, 2014
Convergence: a Game Changer

In the world of public relations, there has been a huge change in the past ten years. This
change has come in the form of many different forms of media converging and advancing to aid
in an information revolution. This revolution has made it much easier for individuals, companies,
and teams, to reach out to a much bigger target audience. Specifically in the sports industry,
convergence has allowed for vast improvement across the table. Convergence is the coming
together of media on different technological devices. America seems to think that convergence is
beneficial to our growth as people, and feel it will actually contribute to our development1.
Professional sports teams are making more money than they ever have before, and this is
not out of the blue, this is because of the advancements in technology that have been made.
1 Janna Anderson, and Lee Raine. The Future of Social Relations. Washington D.C.:
Pew Research Center, 2010. Accessed October 24, 2014.
http://www.pewinternet.org/2010/07/02/the-future-of-social-relations-2/.

Before the invention of the internet and television, professional sports teams simply had to rely
on word of mouth, newspapers, and radio to reach their consumers. Prior to television, public
relations for professional sports teams were not very effective. Teams were not able to reach out
to their fans in any form close to the way they can now. A long chain of inventions and
developments that contributed to the amelioration of the public relations industry is as follows:
the invention of the television in 1923, the invention of E-Mail in 1972, the invention of the
World Wide Web in 1991, the invention of Facebook in 2004, the invention of Twitter in 2006,
and in 2011 nearly half of mobile subscribers have smartphones2
These facts show why it has been made possible for the professional sports industry to
grow as much as it has over the last 10 years. The amount of game-changing technology which
has been invented in the past decade is breath-taking. Specifically for the public relations of the
professional sports industry, social media has been the driving force behind the improvement of
the fan experience, allowing direct communication from the team to the fans, and vice-vers; and
enabling fans to establish connections with players. However, not everything coming from social
media convergence is beneficial; there are many pitfalls. Dealing with live streaming message
boards, there is now a danger of event attendance slipping. Also, teams sometimes lose a grip on

2
Joseph Turow. Media Today: Mass Communication in a Converging World. 5th ed.
New York, NY: Routledge, 2014.

their brand, or lose track of their long term goals. All this taken into account, I still believe that
convergence in social media has benefitted public relations for professional sports teams, which,
in turn, enhances the fan experience.
Professional sports teams use public relations to communicate with their fans and other possible
consumers. Before the invention of social media, teams would release statements and keep their
fans updated through the newspaper or on television. These were the only ways to interact with
clientele outside of the teams events. You can imagine how uninformed most fans were back
then.
Nowadays, professional sports teams can use social media to post updates on the team
and activities related to them. Also, these social media outlets can be used to receive critical
feedback from fans. As stated in an article by Internet Research covering a similar situation in
Europe with soccer clubs,
Clubs agreed that further development of social media strategies had potential to deliver
interaction and engagement, community growth and belonging, traffic flow to official
web sites and commercial gain. However, in developing their social media strategies they
had two key concerns. The first concern was the control of the brand presence and image
in social media, and how to respond to the opportunities that social media present to fans
to impact on the brand. The second concern was how to strike an appropriate balance

between strategies that deliver short-term revenue, and those that build longer term brand
loyalty3.
In this article, it appears that the same positive effects of convergence in social media that I
discussed earlier in my paper are brought to light; however, the article brings up two great
downfalls of convergence in social media for professional sports teams. These are: that control of
brand image falls out of the hands of the team and into the hands of the fan; and that teams
become blinded by short-term revenue as opposed to long term brand loyalty.4 These are both
valid arguments, and in addition to these there is also an obscure downfall of convergence in
social media, and this is the live streaming message board. These allow for users to interact with
other users in live messaging which shows up right underneath the live streaming video of a
3

Jeff McCarthy, Jennifer Rowley, Catherine Jane Ashworth, and Elke Pioch.
"Managing Brand Presence through Social Media: the Case of UK Football
Clubs." Internet Research 24, no. 2: 181-204.

McCarthy 182

game or event. These are becoming increasingly popular nowadays, and pose a threat to event
attendance.
First, professional sports teams now (thanks to social media) have a way to communicate directly
with their fans and consumers. This is the most significant development which convergence in
social media has contributed to public relations in sports. Instead of having to schedule a time to
have a press conference to make statements on television, players and teams are able to release
statements within seconds, and the fans will have access to these statements instantaneously also.
Now, teams have Facebook and Twitter pages where they are able to simply take polls, gauge fan
necessities and preferences, and discuss what is successful and what is problematic. The team is
able to take the feedback they receive off these social media sites, and implement changes to
improve the fan experience. This is so easy now that fans and their information are one click
away. As we always hear in the news, people have their information floating around on the
internet, and teams are able to simply pay a data collector to have access to millions of peoples
information. With this information, teams are able to see what preferences people have, such as
what stores they like to shop at5. This information helps teams shape what they want fans to
experience at their events.

Gil-Young Song, Youngjoon Cheong, Kihwang Lee, Heuiseok Kim, Kyung-Yong Chung,
and Hae-Chang Rim. "Multiple Categorizations of Products: Cognitive
Modeling of Customers through Social Media Data Mining." Personal &
Ubiquitous Computing 18, no. 6 (August 2014): 1387-403.

The topic of information collecting has caused a fair amount of uproar from fans. Many people
feel as if these teams are violating privacy rights, and handling information which should not
even be in their hands. Teams are able to trade information freely to almost anybody. It is not
uncommon for teams to be selling this data to companies in totally separate industries such as
Apple. Apple would use this data in an effort to align their business strategy with current
preferences of their target market. The issue of data sharing has gained some more attention
recently from the information leaks happening at major companies such as Target. Through these
leaks, hackers are able to get their hands on personal information, and sometimes even credit
card numbers. People are fearful that their information will fall into the wrong hands.
In addition to contributing to the increase in communication between professional sports
teams, convergence in social media allows for fans to develop a so-called companionship, with
players they follow. For example, I follow Kevin Durant from the Oklahoma City Thunder on
Facebook. He posts silly photos and statuses regularly, which make me feel as if I am friends
with him in real life and know his personality. These posts offer fans a little peek into the world
of the athlete. This type of online relationship is something becoming increasingly popular;
Derek Jeter is even making a site which is reserved for direct contact between players and fans.
In an article in Forbes Kurt Badenhausen describes Derek Jeters view: His idea of providing
athletes with a platform to communicate directly with their fans and the world at large is a forum
that we [Badenhausen and fans] are excited about.6 This site (which will be available on
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computers, television, tablets, and phones) is another huge step in the direction of providing fans
with even more companionship with professional athletes. It is this kind of convergence that
integrates fans into the professional sports experience, and makes them feel like part of the team.
What is really intriguing is that there are not many foreseeable solutions to the issue of live
streaming message boards as of now. Fans simply get what they want through social media blogs
and video streaming. Specifically, in the first Amendment of the Constitution of the United States
of America, the freedom of speech and press is protected, so it would be almost impossible to
shoot down these legal blogging streams (such as ESPN). With the convergence of technology
the streaming of live events legally is possible on all sorts if devices such as: televisions,
computers, tablets, and smartphones. In social media apps such as ESPNs Watch ESPN, the
game is streamed and there is a conversation on the bottom ticker, where the viewer can post his
thoughts. A solution to this issue is additional regulation by the government, where they would
ban live streaming of any game in the area if it is not sold-out. This happens for sports events on
the television and is called a blackout game. This solution only partially diminishes the
problem because people actually pirate live streams of games that should be blacked out. Due
to the convergence of technology and this odd form of social media, fans may just stay home and
use live stream message boards to view their favorite teams for free.
Another foreseeable issue is the possibility of losing loyalty to the team brand and long
term goals. With all of the hustle and bustle, and all the requests and messages from fans hoping
to alter their experience at team events, it can get difficult to make adjustments and stay locked

Badenhausen, Kurt. "Derek Jeter Launches New Media Business for Athletes."
Forbes, October 1, 2014.

down to the team values. With the newly found availability of social media due to convergence,
fans are bombarding teams and players; it is difficult for people to stay true to their original
traditions and foundations, when so many people are pushing the team in the opposite direction.
An example of this is the New Jersey Nets changing their jerseys, logo, colors, mascot, and
overall identity, due to pressure from fans to modernize the team and make them more urban.
The Nets, who had not changed any of the previously mentioned things for decades, changed the
franchise in a matter of months. The Nets received suggestions from fans and implemented them
This is just part of the reason why convergence in social media can be detrimental to players and
teams.
Overall, there are many problems left for professional sports teams to handle due to the
convergence of social media. Teams will have to look out for a drop in attendance due to live
streaming message boards, although, there is not much they can do to help that situation at this
point. Contrary to popular belief, there has not been a drop in attendance for professional sports
games. Also, teams must not let themselves be drawn away from their roots, due to radical
requests and preferences by fans, teams must keep their eyes looking to the future. As
represented in the Winnipeg Suns Top 10 World Series social media moments ,there are so
many great ways fans are using social media to enhance their experiences and above all, social

media acts as a great unifier amongst fans (as shown by the Oscar Tavares post (the first one)) 7.
There are many benefits these teams will experience and build off of in the future due to the
everlasting convergence and advancement of technology. I believe that professional sports teams
will keep using convergence to improve the fan experience as time progresses.

QMI Agency. "Top 10 World Series Social Media Moments." Winnipeg Sun (Winnipeg),
October 29, 2014.

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Bibliography

Anderson, Janna, and Lee Raine. The Future of Social Relations. Washington D.C.: Pew
Research Center, 2010. Accessed October 24, 2014.
http://www.pewinternet.org/2010/07/02/the-future-of-social-relations-2/.

Badenhausen, Kurt. "Derek Jeter Launches New Media Business For Athletes." Forbes, October
1, 2014.

McCarthy, Jeff, Jennifer Rowley, Catherine Jane Ashworth, and Elke Pioch. "Managing Brand
Presence through Social Media: the Case of UK Football Clubs." Internet Research 24,
no. 2: 181-204.

QMI Agency. "Top 10 World Series Social Media Moments." Winnipeg Sun (Winnipeg), October
29, 2014.

Song, Gil-Young, Youngjoon Cheong, Kihwang Lee, Heuiseok Kim, Kyung-Yong Chung, and
Hae-Chang Rim."Multiple Categorizations of Products: Cognitive Modeling of
Customers through Social Media Data Mining." Personal & Ubiquitous Computing 18,
no. 6 (August 2014): 1387-403.

Turow, Joseph. Media Today: Mass Communication in a Converging World. 5th ed. New York,
NY: Routledge, 2014.

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