Exercise Science and Sport Management

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During the COVID-19 outbreak, there emerged on social media an active cohort of sport celebrities, promoting through their messages virus-prevention behaviors. The study tested how people’s intentions to adopt COVID-19 prevention practices were affected by their perceived credibility of sport celebrities, perceived social distance of sport celebrities, and identification with sport celebrities. The study also tested how the message’s power style moderated those relations. The researchers selected four sport celebrities who were active on social media and applied powerful and powerless linguistic styles in developing their social media messages. College students (N = 284) were randomly exposed to one of eight stimuli and asked the questions in the self-administered online survey. The perceived credibility positively affected COVID-19 prevention intentions regardless of the message’s power style. The perceived social distance was effective for intentions only in the powerless message. Identification with sport celebrities was effective regardless of the message’s power style, with the powerless message being more effective than the powerful one. The study provides a theoretical perspective on how people utilize sport celebrities’ characteristics as peripheral cues during health information processing. Also, the study offers practical implications for leveraging social media and sports celebrities to promote virus prevention.

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Communication and Sport

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This article received funding through Kennesaw State University's Faculty Open Access Publishing Fund, supported by the KSU Library System and KSU Office of Research.

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