Master of Mass Communication (MMC)


Mass Communication

Document Type



With more and more sports organizations reaching saturation points in their current home markets, the search for new, untapped, international audiences is on. Reaching out to these new markets has been made much more simple by the digitization of communication, and particularly the global spread of social media. The NFL, as the United States’ most popular sports league has been targeting the United Kingdom as it’s next market since the mid-2000s, and has gone as far as setting up a separate UK branch of their communications division (NFL UK). The NFL faces several challenges in engaging new fans in this fresh and culturally dissimilar market, and therefore their communication efforts need to be highly engaging to help bridge the gaps between the two cultures. This two-part study examines whether Grunig and Hunt’s (1984) public relations models, can be traced from offline communications to online Twitter communications, specifically those of the NFL UK. The study also explores whether another facet of excellence theory, the inclusion of culturally specific concepts, is present in messages targeting a new marketplace, and whether this inclusion impacts the engagement levels with those messages. The findings demonstrate that Grunig’s (1992) assertions that two-way symmetrical messages are the most engaging type, while press agentry/publicity and public information messages are least engaging, are not supported in the case of the NFL UK’s use of Twitter. Instead the results of this study show that it is one-way communication models that receive the highest levels of engagement from new audiences. The findings do, however, support the case put forward by Grunig, Grunig & Dozier (2006), Wakefield (2007), Rhee (2009), and others, that organizations should attempt to incorporate in their messages terms and concepts specific to the culture that is being targeted. This study concludes by discussing the theoretical and practical implications of these findings. Elements of Grunig’s (1992) set of public relations best practices, as laid out in excellence theory, do not easily translate to the world of digital communication, and often do not reflect at all in the messages of certain digital platforms, such as Twitter. An advancement of excellence theory is needed, particularly in relation to public relations best practices for the constantly changing world of social media, as well engaging international audiences. The results of this study also indicate some practical implications; organizations hoping to engage audiences embedded in a culture differing to their own should attempt to incorporate elements of this culture into their messages. In the case of Twitter, instead of focusing on the type of tweet, communications departments should emphasize the importance of diverse but relevant content in their messages when attempting to engage these new publics.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Moore-Copple, Jensen