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Play within a culture of consumption: Understanding alcohol-related play in virtual consumption collectives

posted on 05.01.2017, 00:36 by Sophie Jane Lindsay
Play has been under-investigated in a marketing context, particularly public policy implications and mechanisms for encouraging and initiating play. Of the play research published to date, most is grounded in an education or psychology discipline, emphasising play as a children’s activity. Further, most research was undertaken prior to the evolution of social media. Thus, play has been largely
considered as a physical, children’s oriented phenomenon. More recently, play has been suggested in the marketing literature to act as an integral bond between consumers who gather on social media platforms. Facebook, in particular, appears to offer brands the ability to encourage play-like
experiences. Alcohol brands appear to encourage and initiate play in their Facebook presence.
  This thesis initially reviews alcohol consumption literature with an emphasis on the Australian cultural context, using the XXXX beer brand. Following this, the consumption collective literature is reviewed with a focus on play and consumption collective theory. Subsequently, a thorough review of play literature is presented. This review reveals inadequate play definitions. Further, because most definitions were developed before social media existed, they fail to acknowledge the way in which play occurs and is understood in a contemporary social media context.
  This thesis develops a new definition of play from the literature related to the contemporary communications environment and tests it with a case study approach. Netnographic methodology is used study Facebook data over a 7-month period along three streams of analysis. Firstly, coding commenced with consideration of the developed play definition and existing play attributes. Secondly, Leximancer data mapping was used to aid thematic analysis. Thirdly, content analysis of YouTube
videos was undertaken. This work showed that play appears in a range of different manifestations.
  This thesis combines and extends play theory and to a lesser extent, consumption collective theory, to increase our understanding of the varying manifestations of play that alcohol marketers initiate and encourage in virtual consumption collectives on social media. The contribution to marketing theory is the development of a new definition of play that encompasses a virtual environment, developed
through observation of virtual consumption collectives engaging with an alcohol brand on Facebook. Play is shown to be a relevant concept in the study of adults as well as children, particularly when adults engage in play in virtual consumption collectives. There are significant practical and public policy implications as well as contributions to theory.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Colin Jevons

Additional supervisor 1

Stephen Saunders

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Faculty of Business and Economics