Professional sports organizations have begun to utilize social media to create an online community for fans. These organizations have partnered with companies to create monetary value for the team and the companies, which has led sponsorship from traditional advertising in the arena or venue of the professional sports organization to their team’s Twitter account. I investigated how fans of the professional sports organization recognized sponsored content on the organizations' Twitter pages concerning the Communication Theory of Identity (CTI). I then compared the sponsored and organic contents' interaction rates to see if there were similarities or differences between those rates. The interaction rate for professional sports organizations' organic content was found to have a higher rate than sponsored content, and fans did not identify sponsors included in the content. Instead, the fans identified the team or athletes comprised in the content. I conducted a content analysis with the help of four axiomatic positions related to CTI. The axiomatic positions of CTI I used to help identify fan identity were identities that have both content and relationship levels of interpretation and have individual, social, and communal properties. Also, identities are codes expressed in conversations and define membership in communities and have semantic properties representing core symbols, meanings, and labels. I found fans do have a follower identity, but a sponsored post does not impact that identity. Therefore, fans looked at the content for face value and did not notice the sponsors.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Twitter--Public opinion; Professional sports--Public opinion; Internet marketing; Professional sports--Marketing; Public relations

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Communication and Media Technologies (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

School of Communication (CLA)


Kelly Norris Martin

Advisor/Committee Member

Duygu Akdevelioglu

Advisor/Committee Member

Ammina Kothari


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes