Sport clubs have been realising that building sustainable relationships with their stakeholders is a crucial step towards strengthening their brand. Abosag et al. (2012:1234) mention Calkins (2003), who proposes that branding has essentially to do with the creation of a perception and positioning in the minds of the consumers. Further they cite de Chernatony (2003), who states that emotional values can potentially represent a source of sustainable competitive advantage.
In their study, Waters et al. (2011) compared how NFL teams use their web sites and Facebook to engage their fans by incorporating elements of the stewardship model by Kelly (1998) in their relationship-building efforts. In this post, we will apply the model used by Waters et al. (2011) to compare how Manchester City FC and Juventus FC use their Instagram accounts.
Waters (2009:114) explains stewardship as follows:
Kelly (1998) first introduced the concept of stewardship in relation to fundraising; however, she recognized the behaviors she prescribed for nonprofits also were practiced in other public relations domains (Kelly, 2001a). Hon and Grunig (1999) listed the four stewardship strategies as symmetrical strategies that organizations should use to foster relationship growth with their publics, and Ledingham (2003) asserted that stewardship was a necessary component of relationship management. Despite being valued as concepts, the four stewardship strategies—reciprocity, responsibility, reporting, and relationship nurturing—have not been tested or presented in any of the other organization–public relationship studies despite Kelly’s argument that stewardship is the second most important step in the public relations process.
The four dimensions of stewardship include:
- reciprocity – recognition of stakeholders and demonstrations of gratitude for their involvement with the organization;
- responsibility – keeping promises made to stakeholders and focus on achieving high standards of organizational management and decision making among its leadership team;
- reporting – provides organizations with multiple opportunities to share information;
- relationship nurturing – actions based on decisions that positively affect the organization and its stakeholders (Waters et al., 2011:165-166).
Comparing how Manchester City FC and Juventus FC use the Stewardship model on Instagram
The comparison analysed posts on the clubs’ respective official Instagram accounts between 1 August 2015 and 11 September 2015. See explanations below the following table.
The first section of the Instagram comparison explores if the clubs publish posts that a) mention partnerships, b) mention stakeholders, c) give information on special promotions, or d) fan-appreciation days. Manchester City FC does a great job at clearly mentioning their main partners such as Nissan and Etihad Airways in several posts. Juventus mainly mentions their kit partner Adidas, however, in a more subliminal way. Senaux (in ed. Beech and Chadwick, 2008:15) summarises stakeholders of a football club as shareholders, players, leagues and federations, local authorities, supports association, supporters, and television. Both clubs mainly mention players and supporters. In regard to special promotions, both clubs did not publish any information in the observed time period. As ‘fan-appreciation days’ we consider dedicated posts that clearly address supporters of the club. The hashtag #globalcityfans gives a platform to Manchester City fans. Juventus fails at doing anything similar.
This section explores posts that give information on a) fan courtesy services, b) staff directory, c) contact info for staff/departments, d) general contact info for team, e) stadium contact info, f) special needs information, g) community relations info, h) team’s philosophy/vision, and i) search engine or site map. Manchester City addresses fan courtesy services by using their #globalcityfans hashtag, Juventus fails at it. Both clubs link their account to their respective official website, where general contact information for the team can be found. In regard to search engine and site map, the clubs do not need to do much, since both features are given by Instagram. All other topics are not covered by either club.
Manchester City consistently publishes information about upcoming matches and events, which include starting players, time of game, and results during and after the game. In addition, they have kept their followers up to date on transfers and other happenings in regard to players and the team. Juventus solely reported about players behaviour on and off the pitch. It needs to be noted that the features online newsroom, e-mail updates, and RSS feeds are not available on Instagram given the limited format of the platform.
Given the nature of Instagram, it offers brands a practical way to nurture relationships. The platform offers – or shall we say, demands – fans to follow (subscribe to) the account. Both clubs mainly provide photos and occasionally videos. Chatting with others happens in the comment section of individual posts regardless of any involvement by the clubs. A link to the respective official website is provided by both clubs in the biography section of the account. Information requests and feedback forms are two features not available due to the format of the platform.
It can be observed that Manchester City FC does a better job than Juventus in regard to stewardship on Instagram. However, I remember Juventus publishing generally more relevant information on Instagram in previous seasons, more in line with the analysed features. Nevertheless, both clubs can improve upon their Instagram efforts.