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Understanding adolescent sport participation through online social media

Norm O'Reilly (School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada)
Ida E. Berger (Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada)
Tony Hernandez (Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada)
Milena M. Parent (School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada)
Benoit Seguin (School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada)

Sport, Business and Management

ISSN: 2042-678X

Article publication date: 16 March 2012




The purpose of this paper is to focus on the potential role and use of online social media to influence sport participation in youth aged 12 to 17 years by responding to two specific research questions: what is the nature of the online “marketplace” among youth?; and what is the nature of adolescent sport behavior as revealed through activities on online social media?


The paper outlines and then implements the research methodology of netnography to achieve its purpose. Netnography involves a researcher joining an online forum, e‐tribe or other open‐source social media to observe and record the discussions for analysis.


The overarching finding is that online discourse related to sport participation among youth is very limited. When discussion does take place, five themes emerge: benefits, advice‐seeking, finding common interests, learning new sports, and challenges.

Research limitations/implications

This research provides impetus for future work in the content area and in the use of the netnography method. It is limited by the lack of online content on the topic area by the target group.

Practical implications

The paper's results provide important understanding, direction and guidance to sport administrators working for government, sport organizations and organizations who market their products and services to youth through sport.


This paper is original in two respects: the use of netnography as the research method in this context, and the focus on social media and sport participation in youth.



O'Reilly, N., Berger, I.E., Hernandez, T., Parent, M.M. and Seguin, B. (2012), "Understanding adolescent sport participation through online social media", Sport, Business and Management, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 69-81.



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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited