Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Exploring Internet Marketing in College Sport: A Content Analysis of College Athletics Websites in the United States

Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Exploring Internet Marketing in College Sport: A Content Analysis of College Athletics Websites in the United States

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Due to the numerous benefits, sports industry was one of the industries using the Internet as an interactive marketing tool since the creation of the Internet (Brown, 2003; Filo and Funk, 2005; Kahle and Meeske, 1999; Shank, 2009). From the days of being a supplementary tool for the media, sports websites have grown to a media and marketing giant. Some of the earliest literature on the use of the Internet in sport dates back only barely more than 20 years (Shank, 2009). This rapid growth has been in response to the sports fans' need for information on their favorite team or teams. Because of the similarities that exist between the typical Internet user and the typical sports fan, this rapid growth has happened much faster in the sports industry than in others (Brown, 2003). Sport websites offer many interactive experiences from listening to live audio broadcasts, live video broadcasts, photo galleries, and editorial content from game recaps to player features (Filo and Funk, 2005; Carlson, Rosenberger and Muthaly, 2003).

According to Nielsen's Netratings (2007) for February, 2007 found that Americans averaged more than an hour per day in front of their personal computers and viewed more than 1,500 web pages per month. Some sport websites, such as Nascar.com and ESPN have over 1.5 billion page views and average 2.7 million unique users (Shank, 2009). Having such a captive and interested audience is a dream for sports marketers and explains why the sports industry has remained ahead of the curve when it comes to exploiting new Internet technology in reaching its target market. With this in mind, Brown (2003) surveyed 328 sports organizations in the amount of user activity that came through on their websites. The sites averaged 280,652 hits per week with an average of 1,086 repeat visitors per week. His study also noted an average of 62 purchases through the Website per week with the high end of the sample reaching 800 purchases per week.

SPORT WEBSITES AS A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

With sport websites growing more sophisticated as time has past, research has shown that teams and leagues to not just use the website as an information tool, but to also gain marketing advantage (Brown, 2003; Filo and Funk, 2005). Specifically, Brown (2003) stated that many sport organizations use the website to accomplish organizational goals, such providing information about the organization, creating awareness, projecting a favorable image, establishing an interactive channel of communication, gaining access to previously inaccessible customers, providing an opportunity for feedback from the consumers, and selling merchandise and tickets and generating sales leads. Filo and Funk (2005) also noted the importance of the Internet as a marketing tool that because sport fans spend a significant amount of time on sport websites, the opportunity exists for sports teams to strengthen their brand equity among their fans and establish stronger connections.

With sports marketers realizing the potential that exists in reaching an audience through the Internet, several studies have been conducted on the similar demographics of sport and Internet consumers and how traditional marketing strategies can be applied and used on the Internet. Shilbury and Quick (2004) stated that the profiles of typical Internet users and typical sport fans show almost a perfect match. Therefore, Internet is a place where sport marketers and advertisers can really focus on its target market by finding a website that relates to a specific group of people. Delpy and Bosetti (1998) and Shank (2009) found that the greatest advantage of using the Internet as a marketing tool is a good fit between the profiles of Internet users and sports fans. The typical profile of Web users are male ages between 18-34, while the demographics profile of ESPN SportZone is 90% male and 80% of fans fall into the age range 18-34. Both groups reported to have median incomes in the $50,000 range. …

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