Title: I am not loving it: examining the hijacking of #CheersToSochi

Authors: Ann Pegoraro; Lauren M. Burch; Evan Frederick; Claude Vincent

Addresses: School of Sports Administration, Laurentian University, 935 Ramsey Lake Road, Sudbury, ON, P3E 2C6, Canada ' Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus, Division of Business, 4601 Central Ave., Columbus, IN 47203, USA ' Department of Health, Exercise, and Sports Sciences, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA ' School of Sports Administration, Laurentian University, 935 Ramsey Lake Road, Sudbury, ON, P3E 2C6, Canada

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to investigate the nature of the hijacking of #CheersToSochi and the potential impact on the McDonald's brand. A qualitative thematic analysis was conducted on the entire sample of 33,604 tweets, using computer software known as Leximancer. Three key themes were revealed in the analysis including LGBT, Gay, and Sponsors. Seven peripheral themes were also identified in the analysis including Principle 6, Putin, Athletes, send, Equality, #AmericaIsBeautiful, and #CelebrateWithABite. Twitter served as a platform for everyday consumers to control the conversation by utilising a tool (i.e., #CheersToSochi) that was originally designed to be the cornerstone of McDonald's digital marketing initiatives. Furthermore, this hashtag acted as an online soap box where 'normal' citizens could criticise sponsors for their affiliation with a country shrouded in controversy for its discriminatory practices. The loss of message control and ability of individuals to form social groups around a central cause created a perfect storm where the negative associations of Russia's political policies were transferred to the sponsoring organisations, potentially negatively contributing to brand image.

Keywords: social media hijacking; brand management; qualitative analysis; Sochi Winter Olympics; message control; Russia; political policies; brand image; Twitter; online soapbox; politics; criticism; Olympic Games.

DOI: 10.1504/IJSMM.2014.072008

International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing, 2014 Vol.15 No.3/4, pp.163 - 183

Received: 15 Aug 2014
Accepted: 01 Apr 2015

Published online: 28 Sep 2015 *

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