BU professors study passion-driven sports media

Baylor fans raised their right hands in a “sic ’em” cheer at a home game against OSU on Sept. 24, 2016. Photo credit: Lariat File Photo

By Megan Rule | Staff Writer

Social media use during sporting events is completely driven by passion, which is different than excitement over the sporting event, according to a study done by Baylor professors,

“When we say passionate, we mean you devote your heart, mind, body and soul,” said Dr. Kirk Wakefield, executive director of the Center for Sports, Sponsorship and Sales at the Hankamer School of Business. “The question is: to what extent can you live without it? You can say you love something, but you aren’t really passionate about it unless you allot time to spend with that person or that thing, so we measured how much time is prioritized to measure NASCAR in this case.”

Wakefield said he was interested in how sports fans interact and what the various levels of excitement are among sports fans. The study was done at a NASCAR event in 2012 and was published in 2016. Surveys were handed out after the event asking about Facebook and Twitter usage, in particular, in order to draw a conclusion between passion and posting frequency.

The study was co-authored by Kirk Wakefield his wife, Dr. Robin Wakefield, associate professor of information systems at the Hankamer School of Business. The study’s conclusion said that the growth of social media suggests that the question of whether individuals will use technology is changing into a question of how individuals will use different types of technologies.

“Passion is a much better predictor of all those behaviors than anything else previously used, so fan identification or involvement,” Kirk Wakefield said. “Just being involved is a good predictor but is not nearly as good as passion, and that’s fairly new in sports.”

The study showed that social media use is driven by something that is particularly important to the user – in this case, passion. Something can be exciting, but if there is no connection or care, then there will be no post, Kirk Wakefield said. Fans are consistently driven by passion and accelerated by excitement. Kirk Wakefield said this study explains the posting behaviors of fans of pretty much anything, but it primarily focuses on sports.

“Past research had said if you get really excited about something, you’ll post about it, but not so fast,” Kirk Wakefield said. “I have, on occasion, watched golf finals, and it is pretty exciting at the end. But did I post about it? No, because I’m not passionate. So it’s not just that something’s exciting or distressing.”

As Kirk Wakefield said, the most frequent users of social media in a sporting scenario are those who are passionate, digitally engaged and the ones that are re-posting and telling “friends” where they are. Passionate fans are not the ones posting about commercials or external factors, they’re the ones posting commentary about the game or event and the activity taking place, Kirk Wakefield said.

“Social media has really changed the way fans of the same teams and competing teams interact,” said Mansfield junior Jackson Bollinger. “It’s a fun way to not only show your love for your teams. However, it also serves as a platform for engaging in kind-hearted banter.”

With the Super Bowl taking place this weekend, there is no doubt the results of this study will prove to be true, Kirk Wakefield said. Last year, Super Bowl 50 was the most watched broadcast in television history, according to CNN. On a national scale, the Super Bowl is a sporting event that reaches incredibly large audiences, but not everyone who watches is totally passionate, Kirk Wakefield said. Following the theory of the study, people who watch but aren’t completely passionate won’t post about it.

“I like to watch the Super Bowl for the meme potential,” said McKinney junior Marques Jones. “Hopefully, a moment occurs during the game that I can turn into the next big meme on Twitter and get Twitter famous.”