Perception, structure, and practice: Three dimensions of digital mediatisation in Australian professional sport

Tracie Edmondson

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Sport in Australia matters—economically, culturally, and socially—and it is an integral part of the lifeworlds of millions of Australians, so how sporting organisations communicate with their stakeholders is important. This thesis investigated the question: How is digital mediatisation influencing the communication practices of professional sporting organisations in Australia? This thesis brings together a unique cohort of senior sport leaders and media managers from Australia’s elite sports, through 27 in-depth interviews, to understand the changing nature of media-sport relationships and the ways sporting organisations have adapted to manage storytelling in the ever-evolving media landscape. Digital media has saturated all domains of society and has attracted the attention of scholars and researchers worldwide, but the influence of digital mediatisation on sport communication practices and the everyday role of senior media managers, has received little attention, particularly in Australia. This thesis explores the influence of digital mediatisation on the perception, structure, and practice of communication management in professional sporting organisations in Australia. It also contributes to the conceptual understanding of mediatisation as an important theoretical framework for researching sport communication. The mediatisation approach applied was influenced by Krotz (2017) and McLuhan (1964) and it explores media change in the context of the domain of sport communication practice at micro and meso levels. This study applies a phenomenological approach, drawing on the researcher’s own lived experiences in the field and the attitudes and practices of 14 media managers and 13 senior leaders from 14 organisations across seven professional sports. The framework for this thesis and the research questions that guide it are adapted from Frandsen’s (2015) empirical study of national sporting federations in Denmark. This study adopts the same multi-level structure approach as Frandsen, which in turn explores digital mediatisation through Donges and Jarren’s (2014) “three central dimensions: perception, structure and behaviour”, but because of the focus on sport communication practice, this study adapted behaviour into the term practice. This study shows professional sporting organisations in Australia are in a state of flux as the affordances of digital mediatisation have led them to transform and innovate their communication practices for business success. These changes include prioritising strategic and operational communication, elevating communication management to executive status. Digital mediatisation has disrupted media-sport relationships as sporting organisations can and must act like traditional media entities by producing their own content for communication and commercial benefits. The media-sport hierarchy has shifted and competition for increasingly valuable sporting content and data is contributing to ongoing tension and conflict. Overall, this thesis concludes that, despite the increased importance of digital media, traditional media and media relationships still matter and must be maintained and developed. Sport, media, and technology are intimately connected and, therefore, when one changes it impacts on the others, emphasising the need for a strategic sport communication approach and signalling a new era for media managers. This thesis makes a unique contribution to the academic endeavour in the research domain of sport communication, advancing the mediatisation research agenda and the use of mediatisation as a useful concept for strategic sport communication research.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Communication
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Hyndman, Brendon, Principal Supervisor
  • Holland, Travis, Co-Supervisor
Award date22 Jul 2022
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2022


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