Archive for December 29th, 2010

St Kilda Saints Nude Photo Controversy (part 2) : Zac Dawson

Posted by Laura on Wednesday, 29 December, 2010

Part 1: Nick Dal Santo

In writing up the St Kilda Nude Photo Controversy, it became obvious that the best way to approach this was to look at it from multiple perspective: Each athlete and the team. This paper thus has an introduction, four sections and a conclusion. I’m posting this as a draft as I finish each section. When it is eventually completed and fully edited, it will become a chapter in my dissertation. A copy of the complete, current draft of the paper can be found at StKildaChapter.pdf and the data for this paper beyond what is found in the paper and appendix can be found at StKildaData.xls. The paper includes footnotes that are not found in the html version. Some modifications to the introduction have been made since part 1 was posted. These are reflected in the PDF and not in the post.

Zac Dawson

Zac Dawson joined St Kilda in 2009, after playing for the Hawthorn Hawks 2005 to 2006, and Box Hill in the VFL during the 2007 and 2009 seasons. (Zac Dawson, 2010, December 20) In 2010, he played 20 games for St Kilda and played in all three Grand Finals matches that year for the team. (Zac Dawson, 2010, December 20) A December 27, 2010 search on au for “Zac Dawson” brought up 212,000 results. Unlike the other two players involved in this controversy, he is the only one who has a Twitter account, @zacd_6. He is probably the least well known of the players involved in this controversy.

Of the three players who were visible in the photographs, Dawson’s picture is probably the least problematic. Hinch (2010, December 24) described the picture and scene:

Zac Dawson, who has been kept under the radar, is invading Riewoldt’s space, grinning (a little self-consciously) at the snapper and holding what looks like a blue condom wrapper only centimetres from his skipper’s kipper.

This section will look examine the effect that the controversy had on Zac Dawson’s Twitter followers, looking at growth and to see if the controversy changed the profile of who followed him. Beyond that, this section will look at the growth of Facebook fan pages featuring Dawson. The purpose of doing this is to understand how Australian sport fans on Twitter respond when a major athlete if involved in a negative controversy as Dawson is one of several Australian athletes on Twitter to have gotten negative attention as a result of controversy in the past four months. Athlete accessibility on Twitter is seen as a positive by many fans as it removes the media barrier. On the other hand, athlete accessibility is often seen as a negative by clubs and leagues as it can cause public relations and sponsorship issues for them. The other purpose is to understand growth and contractions patterns in response to controversy: Do peripheral players see similar growth or contraction as major players who have a higher profile? How will this situation effect Dawson’s personal brand and how may Dawson’s involvement in this scandal impact St Kilda?

Part of the backdrop to the St Kilda nude photo controversy was the level of fame that the teenaged girl at the heart of the controversy has achieved, with one of those levels of fame being measured by the total number of followers that the girl has accrued on Twitter. This number topped 12,000 by December 25, 2010. (Munro, 2010, December 26) In terms of Australian sport figures and organizations on Twitter, this puts her close to the Australian Open tennis event, Wendell Sailor of the St. George Illawarra Dragons, the Australian triathlete Daniel MacPherson, and the Rugby World Cup. Of roughly 900 Australian sport related Twitter accounts identified, the teenaged girl’s account would rank in the top 20. As the media controversy went on, she continued to update about her feelings and what her actions would be.

It is against the backdrop of the teenaged girl’s action that Zac Dawson’s Twitter account needs to be viewed. Figure 2 shows a screenshot of Dawson’s Twitter updates around the period that the controversy took place.

Dawson's Twitter account

Figure 2. December 29, 2010 Screenshot of Zac Dawson’s Twitter Profile.

Dawson updated and his December 23 tweet could be seen as referencing the ongoing controversy. That he updates, even if irregularly, probably gave navel gazers, fans and haters a reason to follow him while the story continued. For the media, it gave them another possible outlet to get details regarding the story and Dawson’s involvement in it and reaction to it.

The first way that the effect on the controversy as it pertains to Zac Dawson’s Twitter account will be looked at is by tracking his follower growth compared to St Kilda’s official account, St Kilda fansites and other St Kilda players not involved in the controversy. This data can be found in Table 1 for the period between December 15 and December 26, 2010.

Table 1
St Kilda Twitter Account Follower Totals

Date zacd_6 stevenbaker10 gramsy_1 go_saints njbrown17 Robeddy40 RWBFooty Saints_FC stkildafc
15-Dec 1290 2776 352 319 1089 859 142 197 5668
16-Dec 1295 2784 352 319 1092 861 142 197 5682
17-Dec 1296 2790 359 319 1095 863 142 197 5684
18-Dec 1299 2796 426 320 1099 867 141 197 5683
19-Dec 1301 2803 436 321 1104 869 141 197 5688
20-Dec 1301 2807 448 321 1113 870 141 197 5697
21-Dec 1326 2849 493 328 1125 879 142 198 5738
23-Dec 1369 2967 679 356 1144 907 142 203 5906
24-Dec 1380 3000 702 368 1147 912 142 204 5946
25-Dec 1387 3012 707 374 1152 921 142 206 5972
26-Dec 1389 3012 709 374 1154 924 142 206 5981

In the period leading up to the controversy, December 15 to December 20, Dawson saw an increase of 11 total followers. In the period from when the story broke on the 20th until most of the media attention faded on the 26th, Dawson saw an increase of 88 followers. The slope for follower acquisition during the period from the December 15 to December 20 is 2.71. The slope for the period during the controversy between December 21 and December 26 is 12.71. The controversy clearly gave Dawson a bump in the total number of followers. Jason Gram’s slope was 24.2 and 42.2 over the same periods respectively. He has been on Twitter for a shorter period of time than Dawson and has been updating more frequently. Dawson’s slope during the controversy was six times amount of the period preceding it. In comparison, Gram’s slope was only twice that during the controversy. Steven Baker, not implicated in the scandal, had a slope of 6.6 prior to and 33.11 during. His numbers closely resemble that of Dawson’s. Nick Brown and Rob Eddy had slopes of 3.70 and 2.60 before, and 5.77 and 9.03 during it. Thus, of the Saints players identified on Twitter, Zac Dawson’s slope really stands out when compared to his teammates. His total number of new followers also stands out, with only two of the other four having beaten him: Baker and Gram. Most signs point to people having followed Dawson in response to the controversy.

Assuming that the data is right, that Zac Dawson saw an increase in followers as a result of the controversy, the next question worth asking is who is now following him and how did the population following him change from the population that followed him prior to the controversy? On November 18, December 18 and December 28, the script found in Appendix 5 was run. This script got a list of all the followers for Zac Dawson, recorded the total number of followers, follows, lists they have. It also recorded their profile description, language, timezone and user inputted location. The user inputted location was run against an 80,000 plus long list of user created locations and standard names found in Appendix 4. The purpose of this list is to identify what city, state and country Dawson’s followers are from. If a person’s location was unknown or was left blank, an attempt was made to identify their state or country location using their time zone information. For November 18, a city was identified for 578 of Dawson’s 1,223 followers. For December 18, a city was identified for 598 of 1,300 followers. For December 28, a city was identified for 655 of Dawson’s 1,396 followers. After this data was gathered, the total number of followers per city was tabulated. The complete list of city totals can be found in Appendix 13. Table 2 shows the cities that had a follower total change between December 18 and December 28.

Table 2
Twitter Follower by City Location Difference

City,State,Country 18-Nov 18-Dec 28-Dec Difference 18-Nov to 18-Dec Difference 18-Nov to 28-Dec Difference 18-Dec to 28-Dec
Melbourne,Victoria,Australia 346 362 391 16 45 29
Geelong,Victoria,Australia 1 1 12 0 11 11
Perth,Western Australia,Australia 23 25 30 2 7 5
Adelaide,South Australia,Australia 30 32 35 2 5 3
Brisbane,Queensland,Australia 10 10 12 0 2 2
Sydney,New South Wales,Australia 18 21 23 3 5 2
East Devonport,Tasmania,Australia 0 0 1 0 1 1
Geelong,Victoria,Australia 11 11 12 0 1 1
Gold Coast,Queensland,Australia 3 3 4 0 1 1
London,England,United Kingdom 2 2 3 0 1 1
Montrose,Tasmania,Australia 0 0 1 0 1 1
Seattle,Washington,United States 0 0 1 0 1 1
Werribee,Victoria,Australia 0 0 1 0 1 1
Parkdale,Victoria,Australia 3 2 1 -1 -2 -1
Warrnambool,Victoria,Australia 5 6 5 1 0 -1

The difference in Twitter follower by locations does not show any strong patterns of unfollowing. The two cities that saw negative growth were both in Victoria, which could be seen as potentially problematic in that Victoria and the Melbourne suburbs are traditional strongholds for the AFL. If St Kilda has a similar pattern of contraction around the area, then this could signal larger problems that Dawson’s data suggests. Dawson’s growth does suggest national and international interest in the controversy: Dawson gained followers in all states, not including the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory. Dawson also picked up followers from the United Kingdom and the United States. If Dawson’s involvement is what these followers know of the Australian game, it might hinder the growth of the game internationally.

Twitter follower data can also be determined by state, where there are fewer unknown locations. In the case of the November 18 data, state location was available for 728 followers, 764 for December 18, and 820 for December 28. The same methodology for cities was used to get this information for states. In some ways, this data is less useful because it can mask unfollows that take place. Still, it is worth looking at in order to see how the story was received nationally and internationally in terms of gaining or losing followers across a wider population. The complete list of states can be found in Appendix 13. States that saw a gain or loss can be found in Table 3.

Table 3
Twitter Follower by State Difference

State,Country 18-Nov 18-Dec 28-Dec Difference 18-Nov to 18-Dec Difference 18-Nov to 28-Dec Difference 18-Dec to 28-Dec
Victoria,Australia 535 562 596 27 61 34
Western Australia,Australia 42 43 50 1 8 7
South Australia,Australia 42 43 47 1 5 4
New South Wales,Australia 40 45 48 5 8 3
Queensland,Australia 25 26 29 1 4 3
Tasmania,Australia 22 23 26 1 4 3
England,United Kingdom 6 5 6 -1 0 1
Washington,United States 0 0 1 0 1 1

Here again it is apparent that the controversy was picked up nationally and internationally. Most of the additional follows were in Victoria, the AFL stronghold. All states saw an increase in the total number of followers, save the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. These patterns largely support the conclusions based on the city data.

Beyond the difference in location, it is worth looking at how Dawson’s followers use Twitter and if there was a difference in the type of Twitter user follow Dawson before the controversy and after the story was mostly being ignored by the media. The mean, median and mode was calculated for followers, friends, listed and status updates for all of Dawson’s followers on November 18, December 18 and December 28. This data can be found in Table 4.

Table 4
Zac Dawson Twitter Followers Stats

Date Math Followers Friends Listed Status Updates
18-Nov-10 Mean 183.86 307.44 6.99 965.23
. Median 31 160 0 95.5
. Mode 2 61 0 0
18-Dec-10 Mean 184.70 319.74 7.03 911.05
. Median 32 166 0 86
. Mode 2 118 0 0
28-Dec-10 Mean 177.54 312.46 6.61 895.11
. Median 31 162 0 79.5
. Mode 2 33 0 0

Between the period before the start of the controversy and the period after the controversy was largely over, there was a small but significant change in the type of person following Zac Dawson on Twitter. New followers had fewer people they followed, updated less often, appeared on fewer lists and had fewer friends. In social media terms, these are the followers people want: Messages sent on out by those they follow will more likely be read than if the people followed more accounts. Dawson’s new followers are likely the kind that Dawson’s sponsors and St Kilda want as these new followers are going to read what he says. The problem though is if these people are following to see how Dawson responds to the controversy; people looking for negative brand message are not good for Dawson’s or St Kilda’s brand.

The controversy appeared to result in a growth of Twitter followers for Zac Dawson. These followers were located across Australia and internationally. They followed fewer people and updated less often. While these numbers could be construed as positive, against the backdrop of the teenaged girl’s total followers, the numbers suggest navel gazing behavior, which could have long term negative consequences for Dawson’s personal brand and St Kilda’s goodwill amongst fans in the AFL.
Early on the morning of December 21, before the controversy had fully gained steam, a search was done on Facebook to identify Facebook groups featuring Zac Dawson. Thirteen groups were found. From December 21 to December 28, each group had the total membership checked at 7:00 AEST using a script,, found in Appendix 13. The results for the full period are available in Appendix 13. An abbreviated version of the results for the period between December 21 to December 25 are found in Table 5. Groups that had no change were removed.

Table 5
Zac Dawson Facebook Groups

Name Type Url 21-Dec 22-Dec 23-Dec 24-Dec 25-Dec Difference
Give Zac Dawson a FRIGGIN game! Common Interest gid=26587636537 107 107 107 107 106 -1
who is zac dawson? Just for Fun gid=117682938271903 280 280 279 279 279 -1
ZAC DAWSON Sports & Recreation gid=198619550653 292 290 291 291 291 -1
Zac Dawson for All-Australian Fullback of the Century Sports & Recreation gid=22974254446 64 64 64
zac dawson should get facebook Just for Fun gid=159043742851 62 250 250 250 250 188

Of the thirteen groups, three lost members, one switched from public membership to closed membership and another group added 188 members. The latter group, because of the consistent membership totals at 250, was likely done as a result of one person using multiple accounts to get to a specific number. This assumption is made because the total got to 250 and then did not change over the course of a week.

The Facebook contraction indicates that Dawson’s involvement in the controversy was perceived as slightly unfavorable by some of his supporters, who left and thus disassociated themselves from him. Dawson did not see any benefit as a result of increased interest on fan pages and groups that were created by fans. His fan base on Facebook groups was small and overall, was largely not impacted by the event.

As a peripheral player in this controversy, Zac Dawson did not generate a large amount of interest. He only got 88 new followers on Twitter in response to the controversy. The location of his follower growth was spread across the country. The followers that Dawson got on Twitter followed fewer people and updated less often. There was some contraction of Dawson’s fanbase on Facebook. As a non-famous athlete not being focused on as much by the media, Dawson appeared to get more of a free ride by fans that continued on in their lack of interest of him. For other less famous athletes involved in similar situations, this may be good news as they are likely to avoid similar culpability. Dawson’s presence on Twitter did not appear to aggravate the situation, which supports the idea that athlete accessibility is good. Beyond that, there are some minor indicators that Dawson’s involvement may hurt his personal brand and that it may have long term negative consequences for St Kilda’s brand.

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