The good, bad, and ugly of social media in sport will be discussed at Washington State University Pullman by a professor from La Trobe University in Australia, in an open lecture at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2, in Cleveland Hall 30E.

Ashleigh-Jane Thompson’s lecture, titled “Performing in the Spectacle: The 21st-Century Gladiator and the Modern-Day Coliseum,” will discuss the growing importance of social media as a communication tool in sport.

“The strategic use of social media might help sport brands create an authentic connection with fans, and develop social bonds that are not easily copied by competitors,” said Thompson, who directs study programs in Sport Development and Management in the La Trobe Business School.

“Social media’s lack of geographical and temporal boundaries allow fans to feel part of the tournament, even if they are thousands of kilometers away. Fans forget they are communicating with a company.”

Thompson studies the impact of communication between sport organizations, athletes, and consumers.

If used correctly, social media allows athletes to cultivate their image and increase their potential endorsement value. However, when used incorrectly, it can cause irreparable harm.

“Whether athletes want to acknowledge it or not, they are public figures and receive increased attention, and social media enhances this,” Thompson said. “There’s a fragility around an athlete’s playing career – for example, through injury – but there’s also the possibility of athletes destroying their career through posts to social media.”

Thompson is originally from New Zealand, a sport-mad nation that often punches above its weight in global contests. “I’m hoping to share with you a view inside New Zealand’s unique outlook on sport, our idolized stars and the use of social media,” Thompson said about her visit to Pullman.

“Australia and New Zealand are very technologically advanced, and frequent test markets for new digital products,” said Simon Licen, assistant professor of sport management and program coordinator. “Dr. Thompson will introduce us to the ‘tomorrow’ of today’s technologies.”

Thompson has studied a range of sports including elite tennis, rugby, and cricket. She maintains connections within the sport industry and provides guidance to national and international sport organizations and events.

“This presentation will be particularly valuable to people interested in social media and sport in university departments, Olympic sports, and beyond, who cannot count on league mastodons to provide detailed guidelines and rather need to rely on their own creativity and originality when using cutting-edge technology,” Licen said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Thompson will present a guest lecture on alcohol and sport in New Zealand to students in a course on sport and popular culture. She studied alcohol advertisement in rugby and cricket world cups hosted by the island nation.

The event is hosted by the Sport Management program in the College of Education.

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