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Duke University Lacrosse Program Challenged by Massive Fan Buzz

CHARLOTTE, NC - April 12, 2006- According to analysis of online "buzz" regarding the recent Duke University Lacrosse team crisis, a very vocal public is shouting its disgust over what many determine to be the elitist, racist and allegedly criminal behavior of members of Duke's Lacrosse team and the athletic department and the University's handling of the crisis. Public protests, letters and phone calls aside, thousands of people are expressing their outrage via Internet based "Fan-Generated Media™ " (FGM) including on blogs, message boards and the like. Since March 24th, when the allegations of the rape of a black dancer by members of the predominantly white Blue Devils lacrosse team first surfaced, the public quickly jumped to the support of one side or another despite a slow unraveling of the facts. With each new day, Internet buzz continues to escalate. Fan Generated Media™ has continued to grow even when Traditional Media (TM) reported nothing new.

"Despite what has developed into aggressive outreach by the University, the volume of public buzz by Fan-Generated Media™ has mushroomed and public emotions are through the roof. The Internet is providing a rich source of emotional reaction to the events which are undoubtedly affecting the renowned institutional brand," said Kathleen Hessert, president of Charlotte, NC based Sports Media Challenge. According to Hessert, "Our eMonitor service has been mining, monitoring, and analyzing thousands of online word-of-mouth discussions around the clock for three weeks to determine the volume, scope, emotional quotient and influence of those fans and critics weighing in on the subject hour by hour."

Because the situation has touched on so many sensitivities and different constituencies, Hessert notes that the university can't afford to look in one or two directions to get a true sense of the way the crisis is resonating with the public. As society is segmenting itself into different niches, so too must organizations and brands listen to various niche audiences. The eMonitor study identified a series of groups that were relevant and monitored each of them. "You can only determine the real magnitude of the issue when you aggregate all of those niche discussions. To act on the insight provided from the online discussions they have to be broken down again to understand the different viewpoints then tailor the appropriate communication strategy."

eMonitor's proprietary search engine and team of sports PR and marketing professionals have been culling sports-related, feminist, ethnic, academic, social networking and other Internet outlets and collating the results in a proprietary Dashboard Report, to provide cogent, real-time updates. Clients typically use the reports to fuel action based in part on the unaided online conversations. These Dashboard Reports depict results of both FGM and TM sources. The Dashboard reports also separate Fan-Generated Media from Traditional Media results enabling clients to better understand the differences between the two. Duke University is not a client.

Until the DNA results were reported, the public showed little patience or sympathy for student-athletes implicated in the alleged crime and its ripple effects, and chastised the University for allowing a climate to exist that reeked of entitlement and at best boorish behavior. After release of the DNA results, FGM skewed more neutral. Any positive response was muted by inclusion of expert commentary that no DNA results "didn't mean no crime" and news that the District Attorney vowed to continue to prosecute.

Both the volume and tenor of the cyber response is amazing and insightful. Political blogs analyze and debate the legal ramifications. Feminist blogs generally side with the victim, criticize Duke for their "lackadaisical ignorance" and call the lacrosse players elitists. Blogs from Durham locals and North Carolinians debate the racial divide in Durham and explain how these athletes have contributed to past problems. eMonitor, continues to analyze thousands of online discussions about the original incident and its multiple dimensions.

By April 11th, three weeks into the crisis, the most highly trafficked blogs and message forums include lacrosse, political, feminist, Duke, ACC and proactive justice sites, to name a few. Fans are devouring the scandal. In Lacrosse forums there are 40 times more views than there are posts proving fans desire to know more. One political blog, which averages 18,191 unique visits per day, closed comments to new posts because of high volume. The Web site established in defense of the two victims claims to be a "watchdog, information hub, and activism vehicle to ensure the women receive the justice they deserve" and averages 1,500 unique visits per day.

eMonitor provides the newest, most comprehensive way to listen to constituencies on a real-time basis with sports PR professionals analyzing the nuance and providing real-time feedback in Dashboard reports.

"Initial and ongoing reaction from influential consumers and bloggers can provide intelligence and invaluable insight as part of the University's crisis management and communication," said Hessert. "Word-of-mouth opinions and reactions can build excitement around sports brands, it can also cripple them in no time. Collegiate Athletic Departments, as well as pro teams, leagues and corporate sponsors, need to understand what fans, critics and competitors are saying online and manage that discussion effectively."

About eMonitor
The eMonitor service, marketed by Sports Media Challenge Inc. protects and enriches sports brands. It's setting the marketplace standard in mining, monitoring, measuring and analyzing Fan-Generated Media and online word of mouth. Since 1988, Sports Media Challenge has guided more than 100 leading university athletic departments, professional leagues, teams and world class sports personalities protect and enhance their brands through strategic communications consulting and training including clients like, The Universities of Notre Dame, Tennessee, Texas, THE PGA TOUR, The NFL, MLB and NBA teams as well as NFL MVP Peyton Manning, Yankees Captain Derek Jeter, Shaquille O'Neal. eMonitor is the official search engine of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Daily Review. The NACDA Daily Review is distributed by NACDA as an independent provider of links to news articles on college sports that have appeared in newspapers or on the Web. It is distributed to more than 8,000 administrators as an opt-in member benefit to members of NACDA or one of NACDA's nine affiliate associations.

About Sports Media Challenge:
For the last 17 years Sports Media Challenge has built a track record of training and consulting with athletes, coaches and other sports professionals to maximize public exposure while minimizing its risks. Kathleen Hessert, a certified professional speaker, trainer and consultant helps sports clients identify their well-focused message, then communicate it to be understood, believed and remembered. In addition, our work with corporate America through its sister company, Communication Concepts with companies like KPMG, Milliken & Company, ESPN and Coke allows us to bring our sports clients professional business practices that are becoming crucial for today's athletics organizations.

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