Importance of Media in Sports
Television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and online websites or portals constitute what we know as mass media. Even mediums such as literature and cinema form parts of mass media. Mass media influences the lives and minds of humans in several ways. The psycho-social development of the human mind is influenced heavily by the media. The ‘media effect’ affects and shapes individual views and beliefs, and influences how a person perceives certain things and then opinionates. The overall influence of all forms of mass media has augmented drastically over the years and will continue to do so with time. One could almost certainly say that the media influences human perceptions and opinions massively because we see or know only what they wish to show us. But we probably would not be able to know even what we know had the media not existed!
The primary objective of any form of media is to communicate something to the target audience to expand its periphery of visibility. The relationship between sports and mass media is intimate because media not only carves public opinion but also helps propagate it, thus promoting sporting events. Social media, sports broadcasting, sports journalism, and sports coverage influence and shape public perception of sports. One may start liking a sport just because of the hype that it has gained. One is even made aware of the various sports that they do not know of and athletes that they have not heard of before because of how mass media increases the popularity of sports.
Sports and media have been complexly bound together in an unbreakable relationship for centuries now. Since the late 1970s, the media and media houses have been of immense value to all sports leagues and organisations all over the world, for the number of companies investing in the same has grown dramatically. The media has always demonstrated a considerable capability to influence the character and development of sporting activities that involve money.
Sports, just like education or politics or, in fact, anything under the Sun, has become a big business in the 20th century. Sports, though not in all its forms, have something to sell. All kinds of sports have events, leagues, clubs and organisations. It can make money now and the relationship with the media is central to this very monetising aspect. The media now determines which sport is deemed popular among the spectators. Even in the past, in comparison to other sports, those that are more attractive to the media have gained greater visibility, exposure and attention. The media only encourages the propagation of existing popular sports, thereby sidelining the less popular sports which also deserve public attention. This bias prevails and will continue to prevail till the media stops influencing the views of the audience so expansively.
Often, athletes earn vast amounts of money from the media, aided by agents of sporting companies. The media creates ideal sporting personalities like “idols” to sell their programmes and newspapers. Today, the media, especially television, attracts viewers to different sports and sporting activities by advertising as well as broadcasting, funding, sponsoring, and so on.
Sports leagues and organisations are often very keen to partner with media houses to garner popularity. The media also controls sports leagues and clubs to some extent. The competition for broadcasting often dramatically increases the fees paid to some sporting events or even athletes. Sports organisations have always used marketing agents and companies to get their particular products into the media sports market. Without media, the popularity of sports would wane; media is integral to the promotion of sports because sports have been commercialised.
Media coverage of sporting activities determines the attitude of the audience and the role that the audience has to play. Often, the audience becomes handicapped and cannot make informed choices regarding what they are exposed to. The wishes of the audience are influenced by what the media shows them. Often, people depend on the media heavily to form their opinions and widen their knowledge about sports. For example, a majority of the population prefers Chennai Super Kings to other teams during the IPL because of M.S. Dhoni’s popularity in Cricket. In this way, the media successfully controls the spectators’ demands by determining their demands on the basis of what they are supplied with.
Media coverage is the most significant way of propagating sporting events. Media coverage acts as a positive catalyst in the process of promotion. Media companies pay for the rights and grants to broadcast a sporting event. Furthermore, when sporting activities are telecast or go digital, they generate more sponsorship. For instance, Jio Cinema’s streaming of the IPL, that too for free, increased viewership of the IPL significantly, while also increasing the viewership of Jio Cinema itself. Media coverage has also fostered the promotion of upcoming movies at sporting events by creating a platform for film stars to come and promote their films live in front of a crowd of enthusiastic spectators.
The media increases accessibility by bringing sports to people who may not normally get to experience them otherwise. The media increases visibility and fosters personal connections with sports and sportspersons. Last but not least, watching professionals on television helps one see how specific techniques are performed, and aids in learning and performance. The media cultivates coaching aid for those who have a personal interest in a sport or wish to pursue the same.
Contrary to all the positive effects, the media may interfere with the private lives of the sportspersons who are, at the end of the day, influential celebrities. The media often brings to limelight aspects from the personal lives of the players, thereby invading their privacy. Nowadays, cameras have entered changing rooms and restrooms as well. There is no privacy. This overdramatisation of sports is carried out simply because it sells and garners popularity by creating hype, sometimes unnecessary.
The media often relies heavily on the dramatisation of sports to survive and sustain. It sets up storylines around the sporting events or the sporting personalities involved in such a manner that the script of their story excites the viewers. The media often discusses and analyses scores in advance. Predictions of the outputs and results excite the audience and pump them up. The dramatic effect is created by infusing suspense and conflict because that is what helps it sell in the market.
Oftentimes, when Bollywood creates movies based on athletes or their sports, their infamous penchant for dramatisation becomes distinctly visible. Filmmakers, almost mandatorily, add extra elements to the narrative in order to create the hype which will allow their movies to garner attention from the media houses and become box-office blockbusters. While creating a dramatic climax is very common, cinema also helps in promoting sports and brings sports in front of a greater audience.
Nowadays, social media is the most convenient and the most accessible platform to promote any event and reach the target audience. Videos from matches, if leaked or even uploaded on social media, may go viral in just a few minutes. As soon as any match or tournament ends, the scores are available on social media immediately, thereby creating hype around the same. This increases massive popularity but also invites widespread online trolling, cyberbullying and criticism. Netizens almost always have no job besides pinpointing the mistakes of celebrities.
Social media is probably the best way, in recent times, to promote anything and everything and keep the audience informed. Besides social media; books and magazines written on sports or sportspersons, and films and documentaries on the same; play a vital role in spreading awareness and surging popularity.
The media generally promotes sports through an emphasis on drama, extravagance, flamboyance, and spectacle. The dramatisation of sports is the main reason behind the hype that surrounds most sporting events. While the role of media in promoting sports has both pros and cons, one must focus more on the pros and eliminate the cons. Sports journalism and sports broadcasting should be carried out judiciously and with integrity. The need of the hour is judicious investment of sports organisations in media companies and sound reporting and broadcasting of sporting events by maintaining the integrity of sports at all times.
- Reneeka Chatterjee