Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

The Effects of Polysemic Structures on Olympic Viewing

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

The Effects of Polysemic Structures on Olympic Viewing

Article excerpt

* Keywords: Events, Olympics, Polysemy, Television Viewing

Executive Summary

A common challenge facing sport marketers is to generate, increase, and maintain awareness and interest in their spot properties. The interest and effort put into viewing sport is enhanced when viewers are able to find personal meaning in the broadcast. The theory of polysemic structures (i.e. structures with the capacity to generate multiple meanings) suggests that spectator interest in sport events can be enhanced by the use of three such structures: (1) multiple narratives (e.g. story lines); (2) embedded genres (e.g. the inclusion of non-sport genies such as festivals and ceremonies); and (3) layered symbols (e.g. logos, mascots, flags). The theory is designed to be useful to event designers and sport marketers, but it has received little testing. Nevertheless there has been substantial work that explores narratives, genres, and symbols in sport. That work suggests the power of each element of the theory.

This paper reports the impact of viewers' interests in these structures in relation to their viewing patterns for the 1994 Winter Olympic Games and the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Eight hundred and forty-five American adults were surveyed after each of the Games (491 post-Winter Games and 354 post-Summer Games). Respondents provided estimates of the hours they watched Olympic telecasts, the effort they made to watch the Games on television, and the number of sources of information they used to follow the Games. They also indicated their interest in two forms of narrative, the genres of sport and spectacle, and the presence of layered symbols. Findings were generally consistent with expectations from the theory.

Statistical analysis demonstrated significant interaction effects for narratives, genres and symbols. Audience interest in each increased their hours of Olympic viewing, their effort to watch, and the number of sources of information they used to follow the Games. The pattern of effects was somewhat different for women than for men. For the Summer Games, there were also main effects for interest in narratives, symbols and genres. Interest in these increased viewing, effort and sources of information used.

It is suggested that sport marketers can enhance the size and commitment of audiences for sport events by purposefully planning their use of narratives, genres and symbols. There is value in identifying and then promoting a varied array of story lines that can be associated with the event. The impact will be amplified if significant narratives are incorporated into the festivals and spectacles that are also designed for the event. Finally, the various symbols (e.g. flags, colours, logos) that can be used or created in an event should be identified, and then positioned to impart a sense of significance to event genres particularly the ceremonies) and event narratives. These activities can help to capture and build audience interest. They can also be used by event sponsors to add value to their sponsorship investment.

The Effects of Polysemic Structures on Olympic Viewing

There has been substantial interest in factors that generate spectator interest in sport events -- whether in order to promote event attendance or to drive up television ratings. The rapid development of our knowledge about spectators (e.g. Slepicka, 1995; Wenner and Gantz, 1998; Zillman and Paulus, 1993) can be expected to improve the ways that messages are targeted, and the nature of the experiences we provide to spectators. The continuing challenge is to develop and test theories that provide frameworks for the design of events and the construction of messages to promote those events (cf Kahle, Kambara and Rose, 1996; Madrigal, 1995; Mahoney and Moorman, 1999).

One useful means toward that end has been to study successful sport events, and to develop models that describe the success of those events. …

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