The analytic, the reactive, the social and the personal: A typology of sport audience tweets.

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Sport is among the most popular and widely discussed themes on Twitter. Not least during large sports events, fans and audiences globally are tweeting their opinions, reactions or documenting their experiences whether present live at the event or at home watching it on television. But how can we conceptualize that different ways audiences use Twitter as part of their sport experience? This paper aims to explore this topic by studying the Twittersphere relating to the 2020 edition of the Tour de France that took place over the three weeks during August and September (postponed from July due to COVID-19). Methodologically, data is collected using Twitter’s API.
Even though broadcast television remain central in ‘the sports cultural complex’ (Rowe 2003), all major sport events have become transmedia events (Hepp & Couldry 2010, Bacallao-Pino,2016, Hutchins & Sanderson 2017). With the emergence of social network media such as Twitter, public space have been transformed (van Dijck & Poell 2013, 2015) and new players have entered into the public mediated conversation about sport (Duncan 2020). During Tour de France, Twitter affords a global, heterogeneous audience that includes teams and cyclists involved in the race, former cycling professionals, journalists and fans to engage with the televised race and with other Twitter users with comments, reactions, discussions and analyses. One of the most noteworthy consequences of the emergence of social network media has been the new possibilities for skeptic or opposing voices towards sport events to be circulated, often in contrast to the typically positive coverage of broadcast tv media (Horne 2017).
The tweets referring to Tour de France are examined with special attention to user types (who), content or object of address (what) and, in particular, discursive modes (how). To explore the these questions, the analysis primarily builds upon two theoretical dichotomies. Firstly, mass media coverage of sport are characterized by combining serious journalistic reportage codes and dramatizing entertainment codes (e.g. Rowe 2003). Secondly, social media communication combines affective, backstage-oriented behavior and performative, frontstage-oriented self-expressions. Essentially, tweets concerning sport events are expected to mirror traditional TV coverage on the one hand. And on the other hand, given their person-centered bias, are also expected to frame sport in contexts of subjective or performative experiences. On this basis, the paper presents an analytical tool - a typology of sport tweets – proposing four basic discursive modes: analytic, reactive, narrative and social tweets (Figure 1).
Finally, the typology is applied as an analytical framework to examine the collected Tour de France tweets. This allows for discussions of the typology’s more general usefulness, for instance, for analyzing different ways in which collective, ritual themes on Tour de France embedded in mass media coverage are combined with subjective appropriations of the race within the audience.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date5 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2021
EventVirtual Seminar of the ECREA Temporary Working Group “Communication and Sport”
Duration: 5 Nov 20216 Nov 2021


ConferenceVirtual Seminar of the ECREA Temporary Working Group “Communication and Sport”

ID: 283446586