Social Media to Help Others

The invention of social media has changed the way we communicate as individuals. Today we are constantly connected to one another whether or not we prefer to be. Social media has not only been used to keep individuals in contact with other individuals, but as a way for businesses to communicate and connect with their consumers. Social media interactions focus on building customer relations and fulfilling the expectation “that customers expect brands and businesses to be there for them everywhere, across mobile and social media.” 

While for-profit businesses try to drive consumerism behavior, non-profits try to drive behavior towards volunteering, donating, rallying, etc. Social media offers an inexpensive but powerful way to recognize and encourage desired behavior. Social networking sites allow non-profits to quickly announce, update, or reiterate the needs or goals of the organization itself or the publics they are trying to help, to vast numbers of people. This becomes largely helpful in raising awareness of time sensitive or unexpected events, in particular during times of crisis. Whether natural or humanitarian, social media can allow to-the-minute updates of the severity of the situation and the needs of the victims. One recent event in Kenya has proven just how successful a non-profits needs can be filled when using social media.

On September 21, 2013 terrorists with the Islamist militant group Shabab in Somalia (linked to Al Queda) invaded a Kenyan mall. Westgate Mall is a 5-story upscale mall that represents the country’s growth and prosperity. A little before noon the Shabab conducted a double attack on the mall with heavily armed attackers storming into the mall from two different entrances and opening fire on shoppers. The shooting rampage soon turned into a hostage situation as many of the shoppers were trapped inside. As night fell, two special units moved in to try and rescue hostages and stop the attackers. The situation lasted for four days and concluded with over 60 deaths and 175 people injured.

During the Westgate crisis the Kenya Red Cross (KRC) stepped up their game and became a prominent first responding unit. Performing the normal duties of any Red Cross organization they helped to alleviate those involved in the Westgate disaster by holding blood drives, setting up triages, and creating missing persons list, but what the Kenya Red Cross did the best during this crisis was communication.

From the start of the shoot out the KRC began sharing information about the crisis through the social media platform Twitter. As the events unfolded their tweets consisted of calls for blood donations, updates to where people could report and find the status of missing persons, and updates on changing traffic patterns.

example of info & blood tweets

They even tweeted pictures giving Kenyans and people around the world a first look at the crisis.

KRC helping victims people being escorted out of mall

Using Twitter was a way the KRC could not only rally support and share information, but show their role as a non-profit to the world. Unifying the people of Kenya in this moment of crisis was their biggest accomplishment. This success was shown in the turnouts of volunteers and blood donors they received in the following days of the ordeal.

large crowd turnout

Even though the terrorist attack ended days ago the Kenya Red Cross is continuing their efforts to help those affected through the social media platform. They have collected 11,293 units of blood and are reporting the money raised and what it is being used for to the public – all through tweets. Their ability to reconnect people after disaster through Twitter makes them a shining star in non-profit social media use.

The Kenya Red Cross used social media to inform people all over the web of an important issue, as well as what solutions could be offered to help. This represents agenda setting, the theory that the media have the ability to tell people what issues are important around the world. This also involves controlling the topics people discuss and become concerned with, so by using Twitter, the Kenyan Red Cross regulated the conversation of many people who were directly affected by the disaster. An awareness of the situation was presented, therefore the crisis was held at a higher level of importance because of the media outlet that was used.

It is clear through the Westgate Crisis that social media can be used successfully by non-profits that respond and work through disasters.  Social media will prove again and again to be a useful medium to help victims, bring together volunteers and unite the world in times of crisis.

Caroline Robinson, Jade Lester, Meghan Carey, Morgan Jones, Savannah Valade.

“Together We Make Football” and Community

When I think about the NFL, or football in general, my mind immediately goes to large men with helmets running into each other; granted, I am not a big sports fan.  Most people’s minds wouldn’t imagine a little girl as the face of a major NFL ad campaign.  However, tiny Samantha Gordon, a ten-year-old pee-wee football player from Utah, is featured on the first commercial of the NFL’s “Together We Make Football” campaign.


“Together We Make Football” is a contest where football fans of all ages, shapes and sizes are encouraged to share their stories of how football impacts their lives and what it means to them.  The contest narrows down to ten finalists, with five invited to take part in Super Bowl XLVIII festivities.  These stories can be in video, picture or story form and are posted to the “Together We Make Football” website.  The winners are chosen by a panel of judges, and the site’s visitors are invited to “like” the different posts; although these likes don’t have any affect on the contest winners.

So how can I, someone so inexperienced in all things NFL, take an interest in “Together We Make Football?”  By applying it to what I know.  This campaign is a perfect example of how subcultures form and become such tight-knit communities.  The Social Identity Theory of communication states that people have many different versions of themselves depending on the groups, or subcultures, they belong to.  Different social situations are what drive these separate “selves” to behave in certain ways.  The title alone explains why “Together We Make Football” exemplifies this theory.  Defining fans of football as a “we” takes thousands of people and brings them together into a single unit.


Social Identity Theory goes further, saying that people belonging to one group tend to favor others within the group at the expense of others on the outside.  This holds true in the NFL regarding team rivalries in which fans become passionately involved.  Rivalries are like a double-edged sword, bringing together fans of the same team while creating tension with the fans of the opposing team.

“Together We Make Football” reminds us that all fans are the same.  Ultimately, the goal is for their favorite team to win.  The campaign reminds us that all fans have the same goal, though it might be for different teams.  It allows people to share why they love the game so much, which can bridge the gap between rivals.  The different fan groups can become a single football-loving “we” because of the “Together We Make Football” campaign.

- Maggie Dowicyan

Training Fresh with Subway

Athletes today are not only known for their moment of fame on the big screen during game day, but also, for their many appearances endorsing popular products, brands, and, restaurants. Subway is a restaurant chain not only known for their popular array of sandwiches, but, also for the many athletic spokespeople that work to promote their healthy food options. Surpassing McDonald’s in number of worldwide restaurants, Subway is most definitely a force to be reckoned with in the fast food industry.

Being so high on the fast food chain, a restaurant of such magnitude wants only the best to represent their brand. This is why Subway has chosen to use well-known athletes as celebrity endorsements. They have been quick to snag star athletes from a plethora of sports and now appear to be greatly reaping the benefits of their decisions, but, why? How do these athletes help encourage everyday consumers to eat Subway? Easy!

Subway prides themselves on being able to partner with big name athletes such as Nastia Liukin, Michael Phelps, Robert Griffin III and Apolo Ohno, but, they did not pick these celebrities at random. According to Tony Pace, SVP and global CMO of Subway “We choose fans of Subway who just happen to be famous.”

One of Subway’s newest marketing campaigns utilizes their celebrity endorsements by asking them the simple question; what’s your favorite Subway sandwich? Each athletes answer can be found on the Subway website under the “Famous Fans” tab.


The page includes a brief description of each of their fourteen supporters alongside the name of their favorite sandwich. Subway’s slogan is, “Subway, the official training restaurant of athletes everywhere.” This goes hand in hand with their promotion of healthy eating and low-calorie sandwich options. Yet still, many want to know why just the sight of their website or viewing of a thirty-second commercial clip makes us want to eat Subway.

It has to do with the attribution theory, studied in many communication and psychology classes. Viewers of Subway commercials see famous celebrity athletes supporting Subway and attribute their success to Subway and its healthy sandwich options. One of Subway’s newest commercials features the famous Washington Redskin’s quarterback, Robert Griffin III, better known as RG3. Throughout the commercial the narrator makes Comments such as, “RG3 trains hard and smart with low-fat protein-rich turkey breast” and “RG3 always scores with his fav, Subway turkey breast with spinach and tomatoes.” This creates an automatic correlation in the mind of consumers between the success of Robert Griffin III and his decision to eat at Subway.


As we continue to see RG3 and other athletes on Subway commercials, and hear about all of their many accomplishments, we will most likely continue to choose Subway as a top fast food restaurant. I mean, who else wants to eat at the same restaurant as Jarvis Jones, Mike Trout, and Carl Edwards? We do! This healthy promotion is one that has everyone giving Subway two thumbs up and a stamp of approval.

-Caitlin Ford, Kaitlin Bateson, Parker Farfour, Alex Corrigan

NFL Won’t Go Green

The Marijuana Policy Project advocates the use of marijuana for everybody, evidently. An issue arose when they decided to put a pro-marijuana, anti-alcohol billboard right outside the Denver Broncos stadium for the opening game of the 2013 NFL season. The billboard, pictured below, reads “Stop driving players to drink! A safer choice is now legal (here).”

The group gained national attention for their effort, but garnered no more reaction from the NFL than being ignored. No doubt a PR pro in a dark suit stepped out of the limo and calmly said, “We do not plan on changing our policies” to nobody in particular, before disappearing behind the fireworks, blinding stadium lights and logo of his employer to wait for the next NFL public relations hiccup.

But it is on the table now: How will the NFL react if marijuana becomes completely commercialized in America?


The billboard illustrates the cognitive dissonance that must resonate somewhere within the NFL right now, if only within the players who use the drug. Presumably, the NFL doesn’t allow its players to use marijuana because it is illegal, but if we remember, there was a time when alcohol was illegal, and many NFL players love that stuff. Look at what alcohol means to the NFL now. Anheuser-Busch spends hundreds of millions of dollars in NFL advertising every year. No one can watch a football game without seeing groups of guys and gals guzzling beers between plays, commenting on its many boons. Replays are brought to us by Coors Light, Miller, or Bud, and they even pay for “plays-of-the-game” to show after the games are over. Alcohol is imbedded in American football culture as deeply as the National Anthem. Beer is so prevalent in football it could be the background of a video playing the National Anthem at the start of the game, while people stand with one hand over their heart, and another on their bottle, sobbing sudsy tears of intoxicated satisfaction.

But it used to be illegal.

Maybe nobody in the NFL remembers that besides Dan Rooney, but the dissonance must have been there back then. It was probably much easier to deal with, there being so few media outlets and so much less media intrusion into players’ lives.

Alcohol prohibition ended before televisions appeared in about 100% of American households, but it may be deduced that another NFL (or AFL, back then) spokesperson said, in response to letting players drink after prohibition ended, “We do not plan on changing our policies.” But the policies changed. Social cognitive theory, and its application to football and the law, grew new roots and laid down new rules. If the rules change this time around, and marijuana becomes legal, and organizations start letting manufacturers of marijuana advertise, the NFL is going to hop right into that hurricane of dollars to get a piece. Will they do it first? Or will they watch others do it before jumping in? Social cognitive theory, and knowledge of the NFL’s motivators, suggest that they will either lead or be led in adopting the change, but we know they will definitely be a part of it.

If players who have been punished for marijuana are around when that happens, what will the NFL tell them?

Von Miller, a linebacker for the Denver Broncos, has been suspended for the first six games of the 2013 season for diluting a sample during NFL drug testing. The NFL’s substance abuse policy is extensive, but with enough digging, one can find that Miller failed to comply twice in the second stage of intervention, after having tested positive for marijuana. The takeaway message is that Von Miller likes to smoke marijuana. He may even have seen the billboard from the bus, experiencing some cognitive dissonance himself, waiting to go and sit on the sidelines, in his pajamas, for the big game.

Miller, who shows loyalty to the Mile-High city in his public relations efforts, has at least one of the same habits as the Detroit Lions’ players Nick Fairley, Johnny Culbreath, and Mikel Leshoure: smoking marijuana, which is a synonym for what they were charged with, “possession.” According to former NFL offensive tackle Lomas Brown, who played eighteen seasons in the league across five teams, this is nothing new. Lomas says at least half of NFL players are known to take (marijuana) smoke breaks from time to time. He says this is down from the at least 90% who used the drug when he joined in 1985. No one is suggesting that players should be doing bong rips on the sidelines, but is it possible that the NFL ought to revise its policy on marijuana to avoid future complications?

Legislation regarding marijuana is shifting more towards leniency than sanction in many states, and the drug is now legal to use in Washington and Colorado, but it has not fully caught on across the country. If it is legalized in most or all of the 50 states, what is the NFL going to do about it in regards to its players?

The commercial sale of marijuana becomes a reality in Colorado on January 1, 2014, and no one is really sure how it is going to go. But if history is any indicator, it will be picked up by manufacturers, branded, and sold to as many people as possible, like alcohol. When the NFL hears “sold to as many people as possible,” dollar signs flash, jingle, and dance like fire across its eyes, and they start the bidding on air time in their finest suits. What they are now punishing players for, they are likely to embrace if the time comes.

Most of us were not around to see what happened before and after prohibition in the realm of policies and marketing. But if we stay tuned, we might get a good look at what it was like if the NFL, the biggest outlet for advertising in America, is forced to turn the table on its marijuana stance.

Can you envision the day where Bud, Coors, and Miller are replaced by Bud, Cannabis, and Mota during commercial breaks? A day where NFL beer advertising takes a backseat to marijuana advertising?

I can’t imagine it, but some people in the Mile-High city can.

- Chad Darrah

Flacco’s “Lovin’ It”

From his first infamous trip to purchase a 10 piece nugget meal, to now being featured in a full scale McDonald’s advertisement, Joe Flacco is now not only representing the NFL scene, but the fast food scene. Many companies have harnessed and benefitted from the use of the pathos and emotion in their advertising campaigns to attract current and future consumers. McDonald’s has started a new advertisement campaign with Ravens’ quarterback and recent Super Bowl XLVII MVP, Joe Flacco. With the Ravens’ latest win in Super Bowl XLVII, Flacco has become a household name, contributing to a rise in Ravens’ supporters and fans. As the new football season revs up, McDonald’s is appealing to the crazed fans young and old alike who have a passion for their team and what it believes in.

Although Flacco is a respectable and genuine role model who is described by many as humble and “the guy next door,” this is not just a question of the effect of pathos being used in this campaign, but also ethos. By doing the commercial for McDonald’s, which is well known for their appeal to younger consumers, Flacco could be seen as ethically responsibly for the image he puts out for young children. Young boys and girls may look up to him because of his celebrity appeal and athletic status and think they should eat McDonald’s because he does. In the advertisement, Flacco is shown eating McDonald’s new “Mighty Wings” which are (480 calories and  31 fat grams). As a well known sports icon, Flacco is constantly in the limelight. He is a fit and healthy individual, which will create the image of eating McDonald’s as an attractive and healthy option. This may cause misleading perceptions about the health benefits of McDonald’s and in Flacco losing credibility as a professional athlete.

Logic (Logos) may be factored in when looking at the obvious benefits that McDonald’s will gain from having Flacco in their advertisements.  Having a well known athlete sponsor your brand is a sure fire way to bring in revenue and was a good marketing move by McDonald’s.  On the other hand, logic also tells us that McDonald’s does not provide the healthiest food that we can put into our bodies.  The nutrition facts cannot be hidden by a super fit athlete.  Do you feel as though Flacco lost or gained credibility by endorsing McDonald’s?  How do you think McDonald’s credibility has changed or stayed the same, knowing the type of people they feature in their advertisements (particularly athletes)?

We can almost be certain that aside from the ethical questions that this ad brings up, there will be a rise in support of McDonald’s by a deeply rooted Ravens’ fan base. This brings about a win-win situation for McDonald’s and Flacco off the field.  So, who knew that a simple 10 piece nugget meal from McDonald’s would land him yet another win?

-Aaron Love, Kara Zimmerman, Rachel Clay, Rebecca Hobbs

Name Changer

Tailgating, body paint, jerseys, good luck rituals, and an unparalleled fraternity all exist as part of sports fandom. People love their teams – and love anyone else who also loves their team. Such loyalty has become an integrated part of sports culture sociology.

Social Identity Theory states that by wearing team colors, attending games, knowing the players’ names, positions and stats, a fan begins to feel as if they are an integral part of the team – they connect with the team as if they were playing the game themselves. This connection explains why even poor performing teams have avid supporters. However, it is ultimately marketing that fosters fan identity. After all teams are brands; encompassing colors, logos, and mascots.

fans, blog 3

Fan loyalty has elevated sports to become part of our commodity culture; a product to be bought and sold, meaning big bucks for team owners. High-level sport has been transformed into a commercialized, commodified, and massified phenomenon. Therefore, fan identification and brand commitment become two key factors in managing and marketing a team. Building a brand is hard, but building and maintaining a culture of fans is much harder.

As we transition into fall, we know that means one thing in sports,  football is king. With the NFL season in bloom, one team in particular, the Washington Redskins, are off to a rough start. The return of RG III has been very anti-climactic and on top of the team’s poor performance, a greater worry looms in the background: the franchise is under pressure to change the team name.

Many believe the team’s name, “redskins”, is derogatory and racist due to its historical connotation and use to alienate and belittle Native Americans. The acclaimed Peter King from sports illustrated has even decided to stop using the name, saying, “I don’t want to add to the offensiveness.” Pressure to change the team’s name has been mounting for years and this past spring 10 congress members sent letters to the team owner and NFL requesting them to change the name. One Native American group, the Oneida Indian Nation, has started to take action and run ads in D.C. about the offensive name in hopes of rallying up support.

rs logo, blog 3

Whether you are an avid supporter for the name change, an avid supporter of the Redskins, or just don’t care, you can’t deny that team names mean a lot in the sports industry. Which leads us to the question: does a new name mean a new team? Does the team culture change when a team redesigns?

These are exactly the questions the NBA juggled this past summer when they chose to revert the Charlotte Bobcats back to their former team name, the Charlotte Hornets. Coming onto the basketball scene in the ’90s, the Charlotte Hornets created a unique culture. With Hugo the Hornet as the mascot and teal uniforms, the Charlotte Hornets were a recognizable brand. So when the NBA decided to change the team name it was a hard transition for many loyal and devoted fans. Unable to identify with the new team and culture the fans gave up support and the fall of the Bobcat brand ensued.

Reverting back to the original team name rejuvenated Charlotte fans. There was an immediate increase in the amount of ticket sales; quantitative proof that the Hornet name had been sorely missed. By keeping the team name consistent with what the fans wanted, the Charlotte basketball team re-strengthened their brand significantly.

However, Washington, unlike the Bobcats, doesn’t have a sorely missed brand. In fact, the Redskins name is so beloved the proposition of changing the team’s name is being met with great opposition. Owner Daniel Snyder commented he would never change the name saying, “the Redskins’ fans understand the great tradition and what it’s all about and what it means.” Even NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, described the team name as a “unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride, and respect.”

Even if Snyder wanted to change the name it would be hard to change the minds of brand followers who have spent years identifying with the team, purchasing the merchandise, rooting for the players, and most importantly making memories. Ditching the derogatory name may ultimately come to a forced decision but the implications involved are massive. It boils down to a relatively simple equation: fan identification and brand commitment work together to produce the main goal in sport commodity, revenue. So the most important factor to ponder: the fans. How is the team going to remarket and rebrand to get fans to commit to a team they may no longer identify with?

-Savannah Valade, Caroline Robinson, Meghan Carey, Morgan Jones

Paula Deen Deep Fries Her Empire

Upon hearing “Paula Deen” your first thought probably used to be of her traditional Southern food, restaurants, cookbooks, and television shows. However, within the past few months that initial thought has probably changed. Over the summer, accusations of Paula Deen making racist slurs flooded the news headlines. Within days of the incident’s reveal, corporations began to discuss dropping their sponsorship with Deen. With numerous household brands supporting her corporation, her empire was at a serious risk and her PR team was swamped.

After Paula Deen’s racial slurs made national headlines, her initial contact with the media was questionable – she failed to show up for an interview with Matt Lauer and sent out two separate videos apologizing for ditching the interview, claiming she “would never intentionally hurt anyone.” Several days later, during her first interview about the accusations, she turned the events around, focusing on how hard these allegations have been on her and her family making close to no attempt to apologize for her actions. Her initial response was to apologize not only to Matt Lauer and the Today Show crew for ditching them, but to anyone who she may have hurt.  However, she used transcendence, an aspect of apologia that puts the issue at hand in a different context, in the interview when she said “I go into my kitchens and hear what these young people are calling each other. It’s very distressing for me. I think for this problem to be worked on these young people are gonna have to take control and start showing respect for each other.”  She had gone even further to use differentiation, another aspect of apologia, by stating that “The day I used that word was a world ago — I had a gun put to my head.” She is definitely trying to make herself sound like the victim of a much more serious act. What do you think of Paula Deen’s tactics on handling her latest scandal? She initially apologized to everyone for the accusations against her, but days later tried to turn it around to make viewers feel sorry for her.

Sponsors dropped Deen’s brand and months passed with no word from the Emmy Award-winning T.V. chef – until this past weekend. This past Sunday, the “Queen of Southern Cooking” made her first public appearance in Texas since her controversy over the summer. Deen came back with a bang, receiving a ten-minute standing ovation from fans as she walks on stage, almost as if her fans have completely forgotten about the event over the summer. Some people felt that she did not spend enough time out of the limelight, but others say they’re ready for Deen to make her return. Despite her rocky and scattered PR strategy, an online survey conducted by LA. Times revealed that 92% of people are ready to see Paula Deen back on television. No one knows for sure what lies ahead for Paula Deen and her brand. Do you think it’s too early for Paula to make her return?

- Tilson Hackley