You are on page 1of 15

Twitter and the Philadelphia Flyers

!
!
!
!
!
!
!
On the Ice, In the Nest: Twitter and the
Philadelphia Flyers Organization!
Alex Dooley!

Wheaton College

Twitter and the Philadelphia Flyers

Dooley 2

!
On the Ice, In the Nest: Twitter and the Philadelphia Flyers Organization!
Twitter is a powerful, effective tool emerging from Web 2.0 culture. It allows its users to create a
user-specific experience surrounding whatever topics may suit their personal interests, and is found
particularly useful by sports organizations in engaging their wider fan base. Corporations and individuals
within that corporation can utilize Twitter in different ways in order to increase feelings of attachment for
fans, which allows organizations to leverage the emotional connection a fan feels about their team for the
purpose of outside promotional opportunities.!

Fans have always desired to feel close to the athletes and teams they choose to
follow, and new ways to achieve this goal continue to arise. The advent of the radio and
subsequent introduction of the television have allowed observers of sport to immerse
themselves in the action of the game firsthand, experiencing the excitement and drama
of a sporting event in real time rather than living it vicariously through newspaper
headlines the next day. New methods and forums for interactive, user-engaging sport
experience continue to rise up, further changing the landscape of fan engagement to
include a certain element of user control and personal relationship non-existent in more
traditional forms of media (Pegoraro, 2010). !
Literature Review!
Web 2.0!
Social media and instant, live reporting have changed the game of sports
broadcasting, journalism, and fan-athlete interaction. Given its prominence in the world
of online, user-engaging outlets for social media, the social networking site Twitter is of
particular interest to many communication scholars (Sheffer, et al., 2010). Launched in
2006 by Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey, Twitter is a micro-blogging site allowing its

Twitter and the Philadelphia Flyers

Dooley 3

users to publish their own streams of original content consisting of pictures, hyperlinks,
and sections of text up to 140 characters in length (Schultz, et al., 2010). Content
published by a Twitter user is pushed to anyone who has chosen to subscribe to the
given users feed, or follow them, allowing both individuals and corporations to reach
massive, self-selected audiences with both ease and efficacy (Schultz, et al., 2010).
According to Twitters official company website, the network has over 241 million
monthly active users, sending an average of 500 million tweets per day.!
Given its vast reach, Twitter plays a major role in the landscape of mainstream
journalism and reporting. Twitter is part of a larger web culture dubbed Web 2.0 by
cultural critics and observers; Web 2.0 marks the transition of internet culture from the
one-way, reader-driven online communication experience of Web 1.0 in which a
company or individual would build and publish a website, then wait for users to visit the
site and read its content (Pegoraro, 2010). Rather than supporting the static, traditional
method of an oligarchy of news networks creating and controlling the news cycle from
start to finish, Web 2.0 allows for and encourages more direct user involvement and
interaction in creating news and social interaction for themselves and disseminating
their experience to their online following (Pegoraro, 2010).!
Twitter and Journalism!
Web 2.0, particularly Twitter, is changing the face of journalism for both
consumers and providers of news media. Traditional gatekeeping roles continue to
erode; journalists, celebrities, politicians, athletes, and consumers alike have the ability
to create their own news experiences and market their own web presence without a
third party being involved at all (Sheffer, et al., 2010). The entanglement of sports with

Twitter and the Philadelphia Flyers

Dooley 4

media and consumerism suggests that athletes themselves would be quite popular
figures on Twitter, and the assumption proves correct. According to TweetingAthletes.com, an online directory of more than 8,700 professional athletes on Twitter,
the top ten athletes on Twitter by follower-count have a current online following of more
than 116 million people.!
Athletes use Twitter for a variety of reasons, but one particularly notable
motivation is their ability to wrest control of their own portrayal in the media (Pegoraro,
2010). Rather than relying on reporters, agents, and news anchors to give an accurate
view of an athletes words, actions, or perspective, the Twitter-capable athlete has the
power to cast their own projection of themselves and capitalize on their own ability to be
self-selective in sharing the details of their lives they desire to share. Controlling ones
identity and image allows the disseminator of information to keep the consumer as close
and as far as desired, giving the manager of a popular Twitter account significantly more
control over their public image than can be had through utilizing traditional media; this
self-journalism of user-controlled content is seen throughout Twitter and other Web 2.0
sites.!
Fan experience drastically changes when the walls of distance and prescribed
content held up by traditional media are dropped. The desire to be an immediate part of
the lives of favorite teams and athletes is one for which Twitter serves as an excellent
solution. Following an athlete on Twitter and getting personal updates on things such
as their training routine, reaction to a win, loss, or other team ordeal, and personal
interests as a human being may satisfy the desire for intimacy and immediacy that
many fans have regarding their favorite athletes (Hambrick, et al., 2010). An athletes

Twitter and the Philadelphia Flyers

Dooley 5

Twitter account paints a different picture of that athlete than is seen at press
conferences, interviews, and news stories Web 2.0 has ushered in an era of
shareable inside information and to-the-minute breaking news that fosters an
environment of interactivity and attachment (Pegoraro, 2010).!
Branding, Advertising, and Promotions on Twitter!
Twitters ability to cultivate exceptionally high levels of fan commitment and
engagement with both team and athlete profiles naturally leads to high levels of
attachment to the team brand with which the user interacts (Hambrick, et al., 2010).
Highly attached fans who identify strongly with a team are more likely to attend games,
purchase team apparel and merchandise, and promote the team brand to their own
networks, both online and offline (Sheffer, et al., 2010; Hambrick, et al., 2011). The
feeling of authenticity fans experience when reading a tweet, viewing a picture, or
browsing an article linked directly by one of their favorite teams or athletes furthers the
feeling of attachment to the brand itself, and Twitters primary user demographic (25-39
year olds) aligns with the primary demographic for heavy sport viewers (Sheffer, et al.,
2010), making Twitter an ideal avenue for promotions, advertisements, and otherwise
monetizing the user experience. Far from their initial fears of Twitter as a threat to the
financial ecosystem supported by sport viewing and fanship, teams and media have
begun to see the potential for Twitter as a powerful cash flow inducer, and many have
started the process of cashing in (King, 2009).!
Methods!
Due to the varying nature of roles held by different members of an athletic
organization, one may ponder how the various official accounts associated with a team

Twitter and the Philadelphia Flyers

Dooley 6

the official team account, players on the team, and sports journalists or broadcasters
associated with the team may utilize Twitter for different purposes. Additionally, the
potential for marketing, advertising, and promotional opportunities that exists on Twitter
causes one to inquire as to whether or not teams, or a specific team, is utilizing their
Twitter presence to its full potential. The research conducted serves to investigate the
following research questions: !
RQ1: How do various members of the Philadelphia Flyers organization !
!

utilize Twitter differently from one another?!

RQ2: To what extent and efficacy are the Philadelphia Flyers utilizing their
!

Twitter presence for marketing, advertising, and promotional !!

purposes?!

The Philadelphia Flyers are a team based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in


the National Hockey League (NHL). Consistently ranking as one of the more
competitive teams in the Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference, the Flyers are
a compelling team to select for studying in this manner. Given their passionate fan base
and strong web presence as an organization, significant data exists to gain insight to the
research questions posed above.!
In order to extract significant data for this study, six accounts associated with the
Flyers organization were followed on Twitter for a period of 30 days ranging from
February 1st to March 2nd, 2014: the official Flyers team account (@NHLFlyers); the
official Flyers community relations account (@FlyersCommunity); broadcaster and
retired player Chris Therien (@ctherien6); and current starters Wayne Simmonds
(@Simmonds17), Scott Hartnell (@Hartsy19) and Claude Giroux (@28CGiroux).!

Twitter and the Philadelphia Flyers

Dooley 7

A total of 622 tweets were analyzed over the 30-day period and were categorized
according to Hambrick et al.s typology for content analysis of athlete tweets. Combined,
the six accounts have a total following of just over 1 million accounts. Several tweets fell
into multiple categories (for example, an athlete may tweet the link to a photo of a family
vacation, but credit a corporate sponsor for providing the means to go on said excursion
such a tweet may fall into both the diversion and promotional categories); any
percentages that may add up to over 100% can be attributed to tweets falling into
multiple categories. Some specific examples of the categories assigned to tweets
observed during the 30-day window are as follows:!
Interactivity: Athletes direct communication with fellow athletes and fans.!

ex. Claude Giroux@28CGiroux - Mar 2 @veronicdicaire when is your !

show in Philadelphia? #stillwaiting!

Diversion: Any tweets with a non-sports message, whether they discussed !


!

friends and families or other personal interests such as video games, music, and !

fashion.!

ex. Chris Therien @ctherien6 - Feb 15 Screw it, I'm watching Rocky IV !

right now. 1750th time.!

Information Sharing: Insight into an athletes teammates, team, or sport, such !


!

as details about practices and training sessions or recent competitive events and !

results.!

ex. Philadelphia Flyers @NHLFlyers - Mar 2 The #Flyers are off !

tomorrow and will return to practice Tuesday at 10:30am in Voorhees.!

Twitter and the Philadelphia Flyers

Dooley 8

Content: Links to pictures, videos, and other websites such as an athletes blog !
!

or a teams official website.!


!

ex. Wayne Simmonds @Simmonds17 - Feb 2 Check out my new website !

& store! Proceeds benefit charity! #simmerdown!

#waynetrain ow.ly/tAsEs fb.me/2WoJpT504bCJz7F!

Fanship: Athletes discuss sports other than their own teams and teammates!

ex. Scott Hartnell @Hartsy19 - Feb 20 Thought about taking a nap-than !

[sic] watched that epic comeback!!!!! Atta go girls!!!! #Gold #Canada!

Promotional: Publicity regarding sponsorships, upcoming games, and related !

promotions such as discounted tickets or giveaways.!

ex. Flyers Community @FlyersCommunity - Feb 11 @Hartsy19 will be at !

@XFINITYLive on 2/24 to read his new children's book.!

Click the image for more details! pic.twitter.com/uARkDXqJjm!


Results!

Examining the data reveals that the most active account, by far, is the official

Flyers Twitter handle. Of the 622 tweets examined, 472 came from the Flyers account
75.9% of all the Twitter activity examined. Of those 472 tweets, 182 (38.6%) fell into the
category of information sharing, most often due to in-game updates regarding the
current lineup, scoring and injury reports, and intermission updates on the games
progress. A typical post-game wrap-up tweet is as follows: @NHLFlyers - Mar 1
#FLYERS WIN! 4-2 over #NYR, with goals from Lecavalier, Couturier, Simmonds, and
L.Schenn. The Flyers 182 information sharing tweets made up 91.5% of the total
number of information sharing tweets examined, skewing the overall percentage of

Twitter and the Philadelphia Flyers

Dooley 9

information sharing tweets in the entire data set; only 17 of the remaining 150 tweets, or
11.3%, fell into the information sharing category. Activity regarding information sharing
behaviors on Twitter suggests that the Flyers take an information-heavy approach in
comparison to their players and broadcasters, which speaks to RQ1. Perhaps the fact
that the Flyers themselves tweet out game results negates the need for players and
broadcasters to feel that they must keep their following informed, as those who follow
individuals affiliated with the team are also likely to be following the official team
account.!
!

The sample size for the Flyers Community page and each of the individual player

pages was relatively small compared to both the official Flyers account and broadcaster
Chris Therien. Therien tweeted a total of 108 times over the 3-day span to add to the
Flyers total of 472, whereas the other four accounts combined for only 42 tweets during
the study. Given this lack of data from the individual accounts, it serves a necessary
functional purpose to combine the individual accounts into their respective categories of
roles served in the organization: official team accounts (@NHLFlyers and
@FlyersCommunity) and players (Simmonds, Hartnell, and Giroux) in order to garner
useful data from the data set and gain meaningful insight into the utilization of Twitter by
various categories of people.!
!

Sharing content via Twitter was a relatively common occurrence during the 30-

day period. The Flyers used 99 tweets, or 21% of their total, to link users to photos,
articles, or the official team website; their community outreach page was even more
prolific in this area: 83.3% of their tweets contained a link to some external photograph
or webpage. Chris Therien, on the other hand, rarely tweeted any content-related

Twitter and the Philadelphia Flyers

Dooley 10

material; only 1.8% of his tweets had reference of any kind to external sources, a total
of 2 tweets over the 30-day period. The players combined for 12 tweets containing
some kind of photograph, article, or link to an external site, 40% of their total activity.!
!

The players used 17 of their 30 tweets to engage in some form of interactive

discussion with other users, a total of 56.7%. Therien sent out 47 interactive tweets for a
total of 43.5%, whereas the official Flyers account only engaged in direct interaction
with other users 23.5% of the time, a total of 111 tweets. This discrepancy may provide
some insight into RQ1. Engaging and interacting with individuals on a team may feel
more personal and authentic to a fan than engaging in interactive behavior with a
relatively non-personal, albeit official, team account. Perhaps engaging in interactive
behavior with players and other individuals affiliated with the team serves the purpose of
helping fans feel connected well enough that the official team account does not have as
great a need to help in this area as the individuals in question.!
!

One area that stayed consistent across the board is diversion-related tweets. The

two official Flyers accounts tweeted 53 diversion messages for a total of 11% of their
tweets during the time period. The players tweeted 5 diversion messages for 16.7%,
and Therien tweeted 17 for 15.7%. This data as it relates to RQ1 indicates that,
regardless of whether the account is associated with a corporation or an individual, it
must make itself seem to be interested in things other than the immediately apparent
topic at hand in this case, hockey in order to remain real and likable.!
!

When combined, the official Flyers page and the Flyers Community page

tweeted a total of 40 promotional messages over the 30-day period, 37 from the Flyers
and 3 from Flyers Community. This accounted for 8.3% of their total tweets, a stark

Twitter and the Philadelphia Flyers

Dooley 11

contrast to the total of 3 promotional tweets coming from the other four accounts just
2.2% of the 138 remaining tweets. The Flyers would often tweet a promotional message
following a victory, ex.: @NHLFlyers - Mar 2 50% off PapaJohns.com today due to
#Flyers win! Promo code FLYERS *Valid @ part. PA/NJ/DE stores @PapaJohns
pic.twitter.com/omGdAQYxpP.!
!

The consistency with which the Flyers utilized promotional tweets after victories

speaks well to RQ2. It seems as though the Flyers themselves take a balanced, yet
calculated approach to promotion on their personal page. Rather than consistently
tweeting out promotions and special deals, selectively waiting until their audience is in a
good mood following a victory allows them to reach an engaged, happy fan base that
may be more likely to act on the promotion. The lack of promotional tweets from other
accounts may speak to a potential lack of corporate sponsorship surrounding Therien,
Simmonds, Hartnell, and Giroux. Perhaps if the observed players were more closely
affiliated with corporate sponsors, the companies would encourage them to both use
Twitter more in general and tweet out more promotional content.!
!

Fanship was another polarizing category, with the Flyers account only tweeting 5

things related to a team or sport not their own (1.1%). The players, specifically Hartnell
during Team Canadas run in Winter Olympic ice hockey, were more prone to express
admiration for teams with whom they were not affiliated, tweeting a total of 4 times for
13.3% of their total tweets during the window. Therien sent out 41 tweets that fell into
the fanship category; these composed 38% of his total activity on Twitter during the
observation period.!

Twitter and the Philadelphia Flyers


!

Dooley 12

The gap in fanship-based tweets also speaks to RQ1. While expressing personal

preferences and loyalties may make players or broadcasters feel more human or more
relatable to a fan, anything that would take away from the Flyers brand itself does not
make sense in the context of the official team account. While individuals utilize Twitter to
relate on a personal level, the Flyers corporation uses Twitter to build the brand;
promoting other brands would prove counterproductive for them.!
Discussion!
!

Summary!

The Flyers official Twitter account serves the unique purpose of promoting and

enhancing the corporate brand. This fact means that the official team accounts will not
engage in the same level of fanship-related tweeting or interactivity that individuals
associated with the team would. The Flyers have a selective, yet consistent method for
promotions on their official page tweet promotions after wins. Individuals observed
who are associated with the Flyers organization do not utilize Twitter for promotional
messages to the extent that they could and that their reach would justify.!
!

Implications!

This study seems to confirm much of the initial research that went into the

literature review for the study. Twitters user-centric mode of communicating provides a
great medium of communication for athletes and fans alike, allowing both parties to be
selective in who they choose to follow, what they choose to put out there about
themselves, and how often they want to say something. Athletes using Twitter are able
to take control of their own perception among their followers. In this case, given their
infrequency of tweets, it seems as though the athletes observed did not want to create

Twitter and the Philadelphia Flyers

Dooley 13

much of a dent surrounding them and their personal image in the social world, but the
instances in which Simmonds, Hartnell, and Giroux did choose to use Twitter align with
the initial expectations based on the research. Connecting with fans in order to enhance
their own personal brand and self-image remained important in the data as it was in the
research, and they disclosed information about their hobbies and interests outside of
their sport by sharing diversion-related messages in order to make themselves seem
more real.!
!

Flyers fans using Twitter are able to enjoy to-the-minute updates during games

from the team account, personal interaction and insight into the lives of individual
players and other individuals associated with the team, and a unique inside scoop
about daily team activities, none of which would be possible through traditional media.
Twitter provides an avenue for immediacy with both the organization and its associated
individuals which leads to higher levels of attachment, giving the organization leeway to
leverage the emotional attachment fans have toward the team by offering promotional
opportunities to outside companies and organizations, such as Papa Johns in this
study. Utilizing the team Twitter account to increase the level of attachment leads to
higher revenues for the team, and the Flyers seem well on their way to reaching
maximum efficiency in this area.!
!

Twitter and the Philadelphia Flyers

Dooley 14

Limitations and future directions!

In order to gain a more full, accurate reading of how players may utilize Twitter in

response to both research questions, a larger sample size of tweets will be needed for
future research. The lack of quantity does not completely discredit the findings of this
study, but in order for the data to be truly meaningful it simply needs to be more
plentiful. Following a team throughout the course of the entire season, as opposed to
just one month, will allow future researchers to observe how a team deals with the more
long-term effects of a season in the NHL: long losing streaks, player injuries, coinciding
schedules with other major sporting events, etc. Observing both team and individual
reactions to circumstances such as these may provide new insight as to how Twitter is
used by different parties and for promotional purposes.!
!

Conclusion!

This study recorded 30 days in the lifespan of various components of the

Philadelphia Flyers organization on Twitter, gathered and examined data regarding the
nature of their tweets, and examined the implications of these findings. Twitter remains
a powerful social tool for improving fan and athlete experience online, and is utilized in
many different ways for various purposes by multiple factions within an organization.
Making efficient use of Twitter creates a better experience for fans, organizations, and
athletes alike, and Twitter will continue to play an impactful role in the worlds of
journalism, advertising, and athletics for the foreseeable future.

Twitter and the Philadelphia Flyers

Dooley 15
References!

Hambrick, M. E., & Mahoney, T. Q. (2011). 'It's incredible - trust me': exploring the role of
celebrity athletes as marketers in online social networks. International Journal Of Sport
Management & Marketing, 10(3/4), 161-179.!
Hambrick, M. E., Simmons, J. M., Greenhalgh, G. P., & Greenwell, T. (2010).
Understanding Professional Athletes' Use of Twitter: A Content Analysis of Athlete
Tweets. International Journal Of Sport Communication, 3(4), 454-471.!
King, D. (2009). Just Don't Twitter About the Ol' Ball Game. Information Today, 26(9),
39.!
Pegoraro, A. (2010). Look Whos Talking Athletes on Twitter: A Case Study.
International Journal of Sport Communication, 3, 501-514.!
Schultz, B. & Sheffer, M. (2010). An Exploratory Study of How Twitter is Affecting
Sports Journalism. International Journal of Sport Communication, 3(2), 226-239. !
Sheffer, M., & Schultz, B. (2010). Paradigm Shift or Passing Fad? Twitter and Sports
Journalism. International Journal Of Sport Communication, 3(4), 472-484.