Sport and Media: the many Platforms

2018 has flown into February and the day of the Super Bowl. January has already thrown a lot of ‘curve balls’ and one that I did not anticipate was how busy this year would be in terms of sport mega events. The Winter Olympics, Commonwealth Games and World Cup all feature this year and that creates a lot of attention and chatter about sport for many reasons. But, in what forms, what voices and what ends does this chatter frame the ‘value’ of sport. The very question is being posed at an event I am heading to on Wednesday hosted by SOAS radio for World Radio Day the theme is sport and the panel discussion question is:

Has media forgotten the social values of sport?

I do not think this is a simple – yes, no or maybe – answer. I think it depends what view you have of sport and media, but most importantly values. For example, I spent last night watching the TPC Scottsdale PGA golf, and in complete contrast to the traditional notion that golf is polite, sedate and values a strict etiquette, the 16th hole was filled with over 16,000 people. It is a stadium like atmosphere where the golfers are momentary gladiators duelling with the crowed and a tiny white ball. A record 216,818 people attended the PGA tournament yesterday with the sponsors, governing body and community of Scottsdale embracing the raucous take on golf.

ESPN ‘Golfers feel 16th hole…’

From this platform of ‘modern raucous golf’ the argument can and has been made that the social values of sport have been overshadowed somewhat by the economic value of sport. As the 16th hole at Scottsdale is a strategy to build the brand, consumer base and marketability of golf. Beyond golf this weekend, the Super Bowl (the final of the American National Football League) commands astronomical sponsorship deals and creates gigantic figures of consumption around the game. Adweek have produced a lovely infographic showing how the primary sponsor (US Bank) justified a 20 year, $220 million dollar stadium endorsement deal.  When you consider the money, attention and economic value of sporting events you can see why the social values appear forgotten.

However, as Jose Gigante and Simon Rofe comment in this SOAS radio interview ‘Sports as more than a game’ on Friday there are other platforms that sport are used for. Pertinently for this blog post, there are varying levels where sport has not forgotten its social value. A couple of examples I have witnessed on both a large and small scale this week are to do with Manchester City, my uncle and social media.

On social media Manchester City launched – Same City | Same Passion – a video showcasing that beyond their Premier League team the ladies, youth and community are the same. Using their own brand and media platform the organisation are making a very explicit social statement. If you believe it or not is a different debate, but it is an example of the social value of sport being leveraged above any other. Secondly, in a grassroots context my own uncle is using social media to promote and raise money for a charitable cause; I am sure a number of you have friends or relatives that have done such. Through twitter and Facebook Mark is showing progress of his training for a half marathon to encourage people to sponsor him. Getting fit, completing the race – the sporting value of his endeavour – is secondary to the media based campaign he is cultivating to raise money for a (socially driven) charitable cause.

If you compare the TPC Scottsdale 16th hole, Super Bowl venue, Manchester City Same campaign and my uncle’s half marathon they are all different uses of media and sport. They are all communicating varying sporting, economic, social, political… values. Sport has many platforms. Sport has many values. It depends on the mode, voice and ends to how you perceive it.

An illustration of value in an art context.

When I attend the event at SOAS on Wednesday I don’t want to be persuaded that yes, no or maybe to whether media has forgotten the social values of sport.

I want to hear more examples and experiences the speakers have around media and sport. To then discuss… how can we evaluate the value? What values should it promote?

For me sport throws curve balls. It is not homogeneous, as the raucous golf to half marathon charity runs show, the variety of platforms is one of sports main values for me!


p.s. If you enjoyed this blog today, please click the link below and donate to Mark’s Just Giving page, let’s get him to £1000

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