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Do college athletics marketers convert social media growth into ticket sales?

Nels Popp (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA)
Chad McEvoy (Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois, USA)
Nicholas Watanabe (Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management, University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi, USA)

International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship

ISSN: 1464-6668

Article publication date: 2 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between growth in social media engagement, as defined by annual percentage increase in Facebook Likes and Twitter Followers, of US college athletics departments and outcome metrics of attendance and ticket revenue.


Regression models were developed to determine the amount of variance in dependent variables (attendance and ticket revenue) could be explained by several independent variables, including team success, team history, conference affiliation, Facebook Likes, and Twitter Followers. Four years of data were collected for each variable.


The regression models predicted between 53 and 88 percent of the variance among dependent variables. Social media measures, however, were not statistically significant predictors of attendance or ticket revenue.

Research limitations/implications

The number of Facebook Likes and Twitter Followers were used as a proxy measure of social media engagement. While growth in Likes and Followers are a popular and convenient gauge of social media engagement, they represent a single measure of a multi-faceted construct. Also, data were limited to public university athletics departments, which are required to disclose annual ticket revenue. Findings may not be generalizable to other sport organizations.

Practical implications

The findings suggest growing social media interactions may not necessarily achieve marketing objectives related to increasing attendance or ticket revenue.


While numerous studies have examined the impact of social media on sport organizations, no prior studies have attempted to draw empirical connections between social media marketing efforts and revenue measures within sport organizations. This study represents the first to begin to examine this relationship.



Popp, N., McEvoy, C. and Watanabe, N. (2017), "Do college athletics marketers convert social media growth into ticket sales?", International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 212-227.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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