Recasting Social Media Users as Brand Ambassadors: Opening the Doors to the First ‘Social Suite’


  • Avery Holton University of Texas at Austin
  • Mark Coddington University of Texas at Austin


social media, SNS, brand ambassadors, MLB, participatory journalism


Professional sports teams have struggled to incorporate social network sites into their existing branding and media strategies, wrestling with issues of access and trust. This case study examines an innovative effort by one organization, Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians, to create a physical space for online discussion about their team. In that space, called the “Social Suite,” local social media users were given exclusive access to watch the team’s games from a suite, along with access to team staff and information. Through in-depth interviews and participant observation this study found suite users saw themselves not as members of the media, but as active participants in the team’s own online marketing efforts. This self-perception corresponded with team executives’ goal to use the suite as a way to reverse negative online discussion about the team by creating a network of influential “brand ambassadors” who spread positive perceptions about the organization. This novel approach—one that illustrates the changing landscape of media and communication practice and theory—may serve as a model for other sports teams and businesses as they work to integrate the public into their digital and online efforts.