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(Dis)Innovative digital strategy in professional sport: examining sponsor leveraging through social media

Brandon Mastromartino (Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, USA)
Michael L. Naraine (Brock University, St. Catharines, Canada)

International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship

ISSN: 1464-6668

Article publication date: 18 June 2021

Issue publication date: 21 September 2022




The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of social media strategies of sport organizations when an unexpected absence of relevant content occurs. The study explored the typologies of Instagram posts of NHL teams and measured engagement of social media content that was not planned in advance.


A mixed methods approach was utilized through a content analysis of 12 NHL team social media feeds. 502 (n = 502) posts were examined from the period of March 12 – May 26 during which the NHL season was suddenly paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Typologies of posts were identified through a qualitative coding process and ANOVA tests were conducted to examine the effectiveness of each typology in engaging consumers.


This study found that social media strategies of the sampled NHL teams is evidence of disinnovation with digital, as opposed to the previously conceptualized innovative properties that these activities bear. Therefore, in order to achieve the consumer engagement outcomes sought to build stronger relationships with fans and deliver on the expected leveraging capabilities for sponsors, sport marketers must reconsider their current, imbalanced approach and whether the more inherently interactive content should be balanced with entertaining content that requires organic consumer engagement.


This study offers a unique application of UGT, highlighting that social media in a sport context is not just about gratifying consumers, but preventing diminishing engagement and exploitation of users through overuse of sponsorship-laced content.



Mastromartino, B. and Naraine, M.L. (2022), "(Dis)Innovative digital strategy in professional sport: examining sponsor leveraging through social media", International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, Vol. 23 No. 5, pp. 934-949.



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