Graduate Program

Communication Studies

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion

Summer 2020

Thesis Director

Matthew J. Gill

Thesis Committee Member

Angela S. Jacobs

Thesis Committee Member

Claudia Janssen Danyi


Using social media platforms to build identification amongst stakeholders is of increasing importance for a growing range of organizations. Social media represents a powerful tool for marketing and developing business. In sports organizations, the use of social media can build identification amongst a fanbase by using George Cheney’s (1983) rhetorical strategies. The purpose of this study was to explore the content of a regional D1 university football team’s twitter and Instagram platforms, using a content analysis to clarify the organization’s use of rhetorical strategies and design elements to foster sport identification amongst their social media fanbase. Many sports organizations use social media campaigns effectively, and reap the monetary and generational benefits of having fans who support the team by following them on social media actively. An understanding of using rhetorical strategies may facilitate social media campaigns geared towards using sport identification to motivate and retain followers, creating fans. The researcher conducted this exploratory quantitative study from a rhetorical strategy and sport identification grounded perspective. The researcher conducted a purposive content analysis of the Eastern Illinois University football team’s twitter and Instagram platforms and conducted in-depth analysis. This study found that by using consistent and excessive use of rhetorical strategies in social media campaigns, a sports organization can potentially foster sports identification effectively amongst their fanbase. The findings may guide organizations to develop and implement social media campaigns, strategies and initiatives geared towards attracting, integrating, retaining, supporting and motivating fans to be a part of the team’s organization, and follow them on social media. This study contributes to an evolving body of knowledge aimed at understanding how to motivate a fanbase to follow a team, becoming a vested part of the organization.