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Understanding sporting social media brand communities, place and social capital – a netnography of football fans

Fenton, Alex and Keegan, Brendan and Parry, Keith (2020) Understanding sporting social media brand communities, place and social capital – a netnography of football fans. Communications and Sport. (In Press)

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Abstract

The emergence of social media and digital channels have expanded communication practices and also created new, virtual spaces where sports fans can interact and communicate directly with each other and with clubs. This article examines the potential for social media brand communities to develop a sense of both community and place amongst sports fans. It explores their influence in placemaking initiatives through the bonding and bridging social capital of a football club’s supporters. A netnographic study of a football club’s supporter networks (five channels) and their interactions with social media brand communities was performed. Data gathered from online sources was underpinned by interviews with 25 members of the community. Findings were analysed via NVivo using bridging and bonding social capital as a theoretical lens. The paper makes two primary contributions to knowledge. It enhances our understanding of the impact of SMBCs and their use in a sporting context – an area that has become increasingly significant during the COVID-19 pandemic enforced lockdowns that have kept fans out of venues and contributes to our understanding of the influence of placemaking strategies upon the social capital of supporter communities.

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